Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 7th Quartermaster Troop Transport Battalion was constituted on 17 June 1943 and was activated at Camp Livingston, Louisiana on 25 August 1943. The battalion was redesignated on 30 November 1943 as the HHD, 7th Quartermaster Battalion (Mobile). The 7th Battalion was inactivated 14 November 1945 at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. For its participation in WWII the battalion received Campaign Participation credit for the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns.
Quartermaster truck units were given to the Transportation Corps following World War II. While on inactive status, the 7th Battalion was redesignated and reorganized as the HHD, 7th Transportation Corps Truck Battalion on 1 August 1946. On 16 October 1952, the battalion was redesignated as the HHD, 7th Transportation Corps Truck Battalion and was allotted to the Regular Army. The 7th Battalion was again activated at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, on 17 November 1952.
The 7th Battalion was redesignated the HHD, 7th Transportation Battalion (Truck) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky on 25 June 1959. There it supported the 101st Airborne Division. The 86th Transportation Company was assigned to the battalion and on 17 October 1962, the advance party of the 151st Light Truck Company arrived from Fort Eustis, Virginia. On 24 October, the 151st Light Truck was transferred from the 27th Transportation Battalion to the 7th Battalion.1
A select number of soldiers from the 151st Light Truck were attached to the 86 Medium Truck Company and sent to Thailand for a training exercise on 31 May 1963. The bulk of the 151st went TDY at Fort Bragg with the 36th Battalion on July 22, 1963 and TDY to Germany October and November 1963.2
During 1964, the Fort Irwin supported Exercise DESERT STRIKE conducted by the US Strike Command. This large Army-Air Force exercise took place in a 12-million acre area of the Mojave Desert in California and Arizona centered on the Colorado River. The total Army troop participation was 89,788. The 86th Medium Truck deployed to Ludlow, California in support of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 506th Airborne Infantry, which played the Opposing Force during Exercise DESERT STRIKE from June through July 1964.3
In 1962, communist insurgents launched a guerrilla war to usurp the unification elections in the Republic of South Vietnam. The United States then sent advisors and helicopter companies to South Vietnam to stabilize the government. In 1965, it became clear that South Vietnam would fall without greater assistance from the United States. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, (MACV) called for an increase in the number of US troops to serve in the combat role against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.
The 151st Light Truck deployed to Vietnam aboard the USNS Gordon and arrived on 2 September 1965 and was assigned to the 394th Terminal Battalion at Qui Nhon. In October 1965, the company was attached to the newly arrived 27th Transportation Battalion. On 26 May 1966, the 151st received orders to move down to Cam Ranh Bay. It sailed in two groups aboard LSTs on 28 and 31 May. The company became operational on 1 June and was attached to the 10th Terminal Battalion then to the 36th Transportation Battalion in August 1966. On 24 October 1966, the 151st convoyed to its new home at Tuy Hoa where it was attached to the Tuy Hoa Subarea Command (Provisional). There it conducted beach clearance from Vung Ro Bay to Tuy Hoa Airbase and supply the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, and the 28th ROK Regiment Combat Team. On 17 November, the company logged in its one-millionth mile since arriving in Vietnam. On 18 November the 564th Transportation Platoon (light Truck) was attached to the 151st. On 1 December, the 151st was attached to the 39th Transportation Battalion. The 86th Medium Truck deployed to Vietnam and arrived on 12 August 1966 and was also attached to the 7th Battalion at Long Binh.
The 7th Battalion, known as the “Orient Express,” left Fort Campbell, Kentucky on 5 July 1966 for Oakland Army Terminal during the second buildup of the Vietnam War. It then sailed out of Oakland on 7 July and arrived at Long Binh, Vietnam on 2 August 1966. The battalion was attached to the 48th Transportation Group until 1971, when it was assigned to the 4th Transportation Command under the US Army Support Command, Saigon. The 7th Battalion initially assumed control of the 163rd Light Truck Company and the 62nd and 534th Medium Truck Companies. On 11 November, the 163rd Light Truck Company was attached to the 6th Transportation Battalion and the 10th, 446th and 572nd Medium Trucks Companies were attached to the 7th Battalion on 13 and 19 November. This arrangement gave the 7th Battalion control over all the medium truck companies and the 6th Battalion the light truck companies.
The two battalions conducted port clearance in the Saigon area, which included the commercial port of Saigon and military ports of Vung Tau and Newport, the latter adjacent to Long Binh. The night shift picked up the loads from the ports and staged the trucks for the day shift. The 7th Battalion supported the 1st, 4th, 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions, 173rd Airborne Brigade, 196th and 199th Infantry Brigades, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, and PHILCAG at Tay Ninh, Lai Khe, Di An, Phu Loi, Phuoc Vinh, Cu Chi, Xuan Loc, Bien Hoa, Vung Tau and Long Binh Area. Most of the short haul runs took only a few hours to reach their destinations. The trucks drove on modern highways and hastily improved jungle roads. The initial threat was sniping and mining. In early 1967, the enemy increased its attacks on convoys and the 7th Battalion had three trucks damaged by mines and three drivers wounded.
The 7th Transportation Battalion also established trailer transfer points (TTP) at Long Binh and Saigon from internal sources until the arrival of the 506th Transportation Detachment from Fort Lewis, Washington on 1 September and the 508th Transportation Detachment from fort Eustis, Virginia on 30 September. The 506th assumed responsibility for running the TTP at Long Binh while the 508th took over the TTP at Saigon. The intention was for the tractors to drop of full trailers and return with empties but units either units did not have the forklifts to offload the pallets or did not bother to unload the trailers. Some hauled the trailers away from the delivery points without authorization and would become lost for days. Some units just painted over the trailer number and stenciled their own numbers on the claiming them as their own. Since each medium truck company was issued two trailers for each tractor, it did not take long for the companies to come up short trailers and the battalion had to send out daily roving patrols of “trailer inventory teams” to hunt down their trailers. The Transportation Management Agency wrote a regulation that would establish it as the central control agency to receive daily trailer reports from all users.
By the end of the first year, the 7th Battalion sent a full medium truck platoon with full company mess temporary duty (TDY) to Tay Ninh to relocate all 1st Logistical Command supplies as well as support forward supply areas from Tay Ninh. In addition it had to find empty trailers for the returning tractors.
When the 443rd and 572nd were attached to the 7th Battalion they were both short one M-62A2 wrecker. The 443rd received a brand new M-543A2 wrecker on 26 May 1967 and the 572nd borrowed one from another company until 12 new wreckers arrived in June.
In late September 1967, the 48th Group in conjunction with the 9th Infantry Division Service and Transportation Battalion needed to send light, fast, armored convoys to run the dangerous road to Dong Tam. Major Larry Ondic, of the 6th Transportation Battalion, had pedestal mounts for machineguns and steel plating put on many trucks for a night convoy to move elements of the 9th Infantry Division. The convoy ran without incident and commander of the 9th Division loved the hardened concept and the 48th Group began running routine night convoys to Dong Tam and Xuan Loc. That was as close to a gun truck as the 48th Group came.4
From 26 September to 22 November 1967, the 534th Medium Truck “Charioteers” Company, commanded by CPT Lynn A. Lentz, and a squad from the 556th Transportation Company moved into the Northern I Corps Tactical Zone. They hauled critical supplies and construction materials from the beach ramp at Dong Ha to the US Marine fire base at Con Thien. The fire base was so close to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that North Vietnamese artillery had the camp zeroed in so a platoon from the thMobile Construction Battalion was building stronger bunkers that could withstand direct impacts from the 152mm shells. Because the enemy guns had the camp zeroed in, the Marine commander would not allow more than two trucks on the hill at a time. The convoy would halt about five miles from the camp at 100-meter intervals then on command, two trucks would race the hazardous five miles to the camp, then negotiate poor dirt roads destroyed bridges to dump their loads on the construction site. This was a race against time to beat the arrival of the monsoon.5
A 48th Group convoy was ambushed on 25 August 1968. It was a typical monsoon season day. The clouds were low, visibility was poor, and intermittent rain drenched the area. The large resupply convoy (81 trucks of the 48th Transportation Group, the 7th Battalion’s parent unit) assembled at Long Binh, near Saigon. The convoy was assembled with reefer trucks in the front, followed by supply trucks, and fuel and ammo trucks in the rear. This configuration was used, so if a fuel or ammo truck were disabled it would not stop the entire convoy and the rest of the convoy could speed out of the hostile area. Convoys resupplied the 25th Infantry Divisions (ID) 1st Brigade camp, daily at Tay Ninh located just seven miles from the Cambodian border in the Tay Ninh province. The famed Ho Chi Minh trail ran near the province. Tay Ninh is located 45 miles northwest of Saigon. This convoy normally took a few hours to complete, because the mandated convoy speed limit was 20 miles per hour.
The convoy proceeded on Main Supply Route (MSR) 1 from Saigon through the village Hoc Mon, west past the 25th ID base camp at Cu Chi, through the village of Trang Bang, across the bridge at Soui Cao Creek (also called Soui-Cide Bridge, because of a large number of ambushes that occurred there) on to Go Dau Ha at the intersection of MSR 1 and MSR 22. The convoy next turned northwest onto MSR 22 through the village of Ap Nhi—about 4.5 miles northwest of the Go Dau Ha intersection. The convoy would be completed after passing through Tay Ninh about 20 miles from Ap Nhi. Road security from the Go Dau Ha intersection was the responsibility of the 1st Brigade of the 25th ID, but that was impossible due to a reduction of force ordered by the Division’s Commanding General. The reduction in force was the result of the feared third phase of the TET Offensive (Vietnamese Lunar New Year). The 1st and 3rd Brigades of the 25th ID usually secured the convoy route, but the 3rd Brigade was pulled back to Saigon to defend the city and its approach routes. From 17 to 24 August, the 1st Brigade fended off thirteen battalion or regimental attacks—including seven attacked on 1st Brigade bases. The 1st Brigade’s Intelligence (S-2) determined that 16,000 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) combat ready troops of the 5th and 9th Divisions accompanied by an anti-aircraft battalion were leading the offensive with two attached VC battalions against the 1st Brigade. This was in contrast to the 25th ID’s intelligence, which believed that Saigon was the target. The 25th ID then striped the 1st Brigade of the 2/34th Armor, moving the unit back to Cu Chi, while still ordering the 1st Brigade to carry out all regular duties and that the “MSR clear and secure” mission should be supplied if time and manning allowed. This was a fatal mistake. The Brigade commander believed he could not defend his own bases let alone the MSR; he informed the 25th ID commander of his concerns. The 1st Brigade was left with three undermanned rifle companies, three undermanned mechanized infantry companies, and two 105-mm artillery batteries—there were no armor or armor cavalry units attached.
MSR 22 was flanked on the sides for about a mile by the Ap Nhi and the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation (known locally as Little Rubber). The Ap Nhi side was mostly farm land while the Little Rubber side had rubber trees growing to fifteen feet of the road. Between the trees and the road were a drainage ditch and an earthen berm. The 88th NVA Regiment elements moved into the Little Rubber on the night of 24 August and prepared to ambush the Tay Ninh resupply convoy. At 1145 hours the convoy entered the sleepy village of Ap Nhi. It was misting and raining and the ceiling was at about 200 feet. The convoy met a column of Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN) soldiers marching along the road. The column was marching on the north side of the MSR adjacent to the Little Rubber. The lead vehicles of the convoy had started to leave the village and the ammo and fuel vehicle were alongside the column when ARVN soldiers opened fire on the convoy. The ARVN soldiers were actually VC and NVA dressed in ARVN uniforms. This was the signal to begin the ambush by the VC and NVA troops positioned in Little Rubber and enemy forces began an intense barrage of rocket, machine gun, and automatic weapons fire. A fuel truck was immediately hit and blown up stranding the remainder of the convoy. Thirty-one trucks in front of the destroyed fuel truck sped away, but 50 trucks were stuck in the mile long kill zone. Later an ammunition truck at the rear of the convoy was hit. The initial assault had hit its mark with those two vehicles—sealing the convoy in place. The next targets were gun jeeps and vehicles with radios. The NVA and VC had thoroughly planned the ambush. The ambush occurred at the southernmost limits 1st Brigade TOAR. None of the 1st Brigade’s available artillery was within range of the ambush. The low ceiling prevented air support from initially being used.
7th Battalion Army Transporter, Sergeant William W. Seay, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the ambush. His citation reads, in part, “When his convoy was forced to stop, Sgt. Seay immediately dismounted and took a defensive position behind the wheels of a vehicle loaded with high-explosive ammunition. As the violent North Vietnamese assault approached to within 10 meters of the road, Sgt. Seay opened fire, killing 2 of the enemy. He then spotted a sniper in a tree approximately 75 meters to his front and killed him. When an enemy grenade was thrown under an ammunition trailer near his position, without regard for his own safety he left his protective cover, exposing himself to intense enemy fire, picked up the grenade, and threw it back to the North Vietnamese position, killing 4 more of the enemy and saving the lives of the men around him. Another enemy grenade landed approximately 3 meters from Sgt. Seay's position. Again Sgt. Seay left his covered position and threw the armed grenade back upon the assaulting enemy. After returning to his position he was painfully wounded in the right wrist; however, Sgt. Seay continued to give encouragement and direction to his fellow soldiers. After moving to the relative cover of a shallow ditch, he detected 3 enemy soldiers who had penetrated the position and were preparing to fire on his comrades. Although weak from loss of blood and with his right hand immobilized, Sgt. Seay stood up and fired his rifle with his left hand, killing all 3 and saving the lives of the other men in his location. As a result of his heroic action, Sgt. Seay was mortally wounded by a sniper's bullet.”
Colonel Paul Swanson commanded the 48th Group beginning in November 1969. At that time, Lieutenant Colonel Orvil C. Metheny commanded the 6th Battalion and Lieutenant Colonel John D. Bruen commanded the 7th Battalion. Metheny went on to become a Brigadier General and Bruen attained the rank of Lieutenant General. Prior to Swanson, battalion commanders served only six-month tours in Vietnam. Swanson believed if combat commanders had to serve one-year tour, then logisticians should too; Metheny and Bruen each served one-year in Vietnam. Their continuity greatly enhanced truck battalion operations in Vietnam for the 48th Group. The battalions ran mostly “Round Robins” meaning they departed in the morning and returned at night. Swanson also rotated companies that performed line haul operations to the Rest and Recreation area. This ensured that all companies could take advantage of the vacation area and were even provided a half of a day off when they delivered to there. Swanson assigned drivers their own truck and allowed the drivers to personalize them. Swanson believed the drivers would take care of their truck if they were allowed to add armor or paint the wheel hubs. Swanson and Metheny did oppose the use of gun trucks. Both believed the combat commander was responsible for convoy security and they did not want to interfere with the infantry’s mission. Swanson told the infantry if they wanted ammunition and rations they had to keep the Viet Cong away from the convoys. Three serious ambushes occurred during Swanson’s command.
The first to respond to the ambush were “Huey C Model” helicopters from the 25th Aviation Battalion. These aircraft were equipped with two door gunners, fourteen rockets, and a mini-gun. A Huey pilot saw friendly forces in the ditch and enemy soldiers were unloading the trucks and carrying the supplies into the tree line. The helicopters had a tough time engaging the enemy. The ceiling was still low and the regular angles of attack were impossible. The Huey’s normally rolled in on the target with a steep dive from about 1500 feet—the low ceiling meant the pilots had to fire rockets flat often over or under shooting the target. It took eight hours for the division ground reaction force to arrive; the convoy was pinned down the entire time. The delay in the response was caused by a communications problem and the remoteness of the ambush location. Thirteen to fourteen transporters lost their lives in the ambush. Following the ambush the battalion installed 30-caliber machine guns on battalion jeeps. The division also began adding armored personnel carriers, tanks, armored cars, and helicopter air support to reinforce the convoys. Up until the Phu Con Bridge was built, convoys had to pass through Saigon. Going through Saigon made convoy travel time too long to return the same day. The bridge made the convoys safer and quicker.
On 17 December, a 7th Transportation Battalion convoy of 39 vehicles divided into two march serials hauled ammunition and provisions from Long Binh to Dau Tieng. 1LT James R. Hammersla, the assistant convoy commander, rode in the lead jeep. About 1100 hours just ten miles from Dau Tieng, the ground opened up and a battalion size North Vietnamese Army force opened fire 15 to 150 meters from the road. The kill zone stretched 1,200 meters. The initial burst of RPGs destroyed Hammersla’s jeep and the truck in front of his. With the road blocked, the drivers dismounted their vehicles and sought cover beside the road to return fire. Realizing that the next march serial would drive into the kill zone, Hammersla sprinted back to his jeep under a hail of small arms fire to radio to warn of the ambush. Although wounded, he returned to his defensive position where he encouraged his men and directed their fire against the enemy. During the fusillade, he was mortally wounded. Not only did his radio warning prevent the other vehicles from entering the kill zone but called reinforcements to break the ambush. Twelve minutes after the ambush began, helicopter gunships arrived overhead and the enemy withdrew. The ambush resulted in the destruction of one jeep, one truck, six tractors and trailers, and seven men killed. 1LT Hammersla would earn the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for his bravery under fire
By 1969, the 7th Transportation Battalion had the attached truck companies:
By 1969, the 7th Battalion supported the 1st Infantry Division at Dian, Phu Loi, Lai Khe, An Loc and Quan Loi; the 1st Cavalry Division at Phuoc Vinh, Tay Ninh and Quan Loi; the 9th Infantry Division at Dong Tam, Tan An, Vung Tau and Vinh Long; the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi, Dau Tieng and Tay Ninh; the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Long Binh, Xuan Loc and Long Giao; the 199th Infantry Brigade, 53rd General Support Group at Vung Tau; the 29th General Support Group at Long Binh; the Long Binh Army Deport; the 4th Terminal Command at Newport and Saigon and the 8th Aerial Port at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.
By 1969, tactical units provided security for convoys in their area. LTC Irvin Hylton, Commander of the 7th Transportation Battalion, spent eleven months studying the pros and cons of convoys escorted by internal gun trucks. He preferred to have the tactical units escort his convoy since they knew the local enemy, routes and terrain better than his drivers. The tactical units were better trained and equipped for the combat mission than the drivers. He admitted the “hardened trucks” might be worthwhile augmentation in certain circumstances, but they were no substitute.
Enroute to Tay Ninh on 4 February, a 5-ton tractor ran over a mine 15 miles south of Tay Ninh and blew out the right rear duals. The driver was not injured. About 1000 hours on 9 February, a 5-ton tractor ran over a mine one mile north of Trang Bing on its way to Tay Ninh. The mine blew off the right front tires but did not injure the driver. On 3 March, a 5-ton tractor from the 10th Medium Truck enroute to Dau Tieng ran over a mine 12 miles west of its destination. The mine totaled the truck but the driver was uninjured.
At approximately 1100 hours on 5 March, a convoy had cleared the check point 12 miles south of An Loc when the lead security element received small arms fire 200 meters from the right side. The lead security element immediately laid down a strong base of fire while the convoy passed with no casualties.
On 11 March, the last four vehicles of a convoy enroute to Dau Tieng received small arms fire and several RPGs five miles south of Dau Tieng. The soldier riding “shotgun” in the command jeep was wounded in the arm.
At 1025 hours on 14 March, the last 5-ton tractor of a supply convoy to Tay Ninh ran over a mine 12 miles west of Dau Tieng. The mine blew away the right rear duals of the trailer but did not damage the truck or injure the driver. At 1205 hours on 17 March, a 5-ton tractor ran over a mine ten miles west of Dau Tieng while enroute to Tay Ninh. The mine destroyed the right rear duals but did not injure the driver.
At 1600 hours on 23 March, the lead MP escort of a convoy received about 15-20 rounds of automatic fire ten miles south of Phuoc Vinh. The fire came from about 50 meters from the south side of the road and ended almost as soon as it started. There were no injuries. While returning from Quan Loi on 24 March, the convoy’s commander trail jeep broke down about 20 miles south of An Loc. While halted, two RPGs were fired at the vehicle and the rounds exploded 40 to 60 meters short of the target resulting in no injuries or damage.
At 1145 hours on 27 March, two 2 ½-ton trucks detonated an anti-vehicular mine destroying both trucks, breaking the leg of the driver of the first truck and peppering the driver of the second truck with shrapnel.
On 20 April, a 5-ton tractor in the Dau Tieng convoy ran over a mine ten miles west of its destination. The mine damaged the right rear duals of the tractor. The driver and shotgun receive lacerations.
In April 1969, the battalion was assigned the direct support mission to the Can Tho/Binh Thuy area in IV Corps Tactical Zone. On 20 April the battalion deployed one medium truck squad with ten tractors and 15 drivers to Dong Tam where they remained overnight and then joined an ARVN convoy to Can Tho the next day. It became operational on 22 April.
While returning from Tay Ninh, a 5-ton tractor ran over an anti-personnel mine approximately four miles south of Trang Bang. It destroyed six tires but did not injure the driver.
At 1515 hours on 29 April, a convoy returning from Tay Ninh received sniper fire near Trang Bang. The MP escorts engaged the enemy while the convoy returned to Long Binh without injure.
Because the drivers did not have a chance to test fire their individual weapons each day, the battalion constructed a small arms test fire bunker in the rear of the battalion area. So before their departure or after their arrival the drivers could test fire their weapons.
During that quarter, the battalion received 85 5-ton tractors, 73 as replacements and ten as initial issue. It also received two wreckers, one as a replacement and the other as an initial issue. Three 2 ½-ton trucks arrived, one as an initial issue and the other two as replacements. The battalion also picked up ten M151 jeeps, four as initial issue and six as replacements.
At 1520 hours on 12 August, as the Quan Loi convoy cleared the check point 15 miles south of An Loc, the lead element of the convoy came under small arms, automatic and mortar fire. Two command detonated mines blew up two culverts temporarily halting some vehicles in the kill zone. The tactical escorts, MPs and truck drivers immediately engaged and repelled the enemy attack back to the wood line. Afterwards, the convoy cleared the kill zone under the cover of helicopter gunships and tactical aircraft. The battle damage consisted of minor damage to one S&P trailer and jeep, three wounded and two killed. Four soldiers received medals for valor for this action.
At 1120 hours on 14 August, the element of the Quan Loi convoy was ambushed as it cleared the check point three miles north of Chan Thanh. It received small arms, automatic and RPG fire from the left side of the road. Two tankers were hit and temporarily blocked the road. The tactical escorts drove off the enemy with the help of artillery, gunships and tactical aircraft. Three Americans were wounded and one killed in the action. Fourteen soldiers of the battalion received valor awards.
While unloading the convoy at Dau Tieng Camp, the camp came under a two-minute rocket attack at 1145 hours on 22 August that slightly wounded one battalion driver when a rocket detonated in the ammunition supply point.
The 7th Battalion began sending convoys to elements of the 1st Cavalry Division in Song Be in IV Corps Tactical Zone. The first convoy of ten 5-ton tractors and S&P trailers with two 5-ton bobtails, control vehicles and security escorts left on 27 August. It was integrated into a larger ARVN convoy and returned the next day.
The battalion established a 20 trailer shuttle system to retrograde the 9th Infantry Division from Dong Tam and completed the move by 27 August. On 28 August, the battalion sent a convoy of eight tractors and S&P trailers, bobtail, 20 2 ½-ton trucks, security and control vehicles in support of the 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry move from Dong Tam to Can Giuce. The officer who served as the 48th Group representative to the 9th Infantry Division returned on 4 September.
On 27 August, the 7th Battalion received the tasking to prepare for the arrival of the 172nd Transportation Company (Medium) from Cam Ranh Bay. The unit equipment arrived aboard two LSTs on 30 August and battalion drove the vehicles from the port. The company personnel arrived the next day and the company was attached to the 6th Transportation Battalion on 1 September. The 172nd was a Nebraska National Guard company that had been activated during the Tet Offensive the year before and would complete its active duty deployment on 27 September.
At 1000 hours on 31 August, a command detonated mine explosion lightly damaged a 5-ton tractor 30 miles from Long Binh. The blast only cracked the windshield.
On 1 September, the 7th Battalion transferred the 543rd Transportation Company (Light Truck) to the 6th Battalion.
At 1310 hours on 6 September, someone fired a clip of ammunition from the brush line at the last two vehicles of the Tay Ninh convoy two miles east of Trang Bang. No one was injured and no one returned fire.
Back on 29 August, the 7th Battalion was tasked to establish a provisional heavy lift unit from assets drawn from the Saigon Support Command. It was finally organized on 15 September with the mission to provide heavy lift on a line haul basis throughout III Corps Tactical Zone.
The battalion continued to send bi-weekly convoys to Can Tho until the mission was cancelled in the middle of September.
On 19 September, the 7th Battalion was informed it would receive another medium truck company and sent a liaison officer to Pleiku to coordinate for move of the 563rd Transportation Company (Medium) to Long Binh. The company did not receive any packing and crating materiel for the move. The company took a maintenance stand down prior to its departure so only one of its 69 vehicles was non-operational when it arrived at its destination. The company only sent one officer and four men as its advance party to prepare quarters, establish an orderly room and prepare for operations. The equipment of the 563rd Transportation Company (Medium) arrived on two LSTs on 29 and 30 September, and the company became operational on 1 October.
At 1130 hours on 5 October, the convoy trail party of the Quan Loi convoy received three bursts of small arms fire at a point three miles north of Chan Thanh. Gunships and ground troops swept the area. No one was injured and no damage sustained.
At 1100 hours on 13 October, a 2 ½-ton truck ran over a contact mine four miles west of the Cam Tam intersection. The vehicle was damaged and required a tow back to camp. The driver and three passengers received minor wounds.
On 5 October, the battalion sent another convoy to Song Be. It was an entirely US convoy that consisted of 24 tractors and 21 S&P trailers. It returned the next day without incident. On 30 October, it sent a large convoy of 66 tractors, 60 trailers loaded with Class II-IV and two 10-ton tractors with one lowboy trailer. These convoys were run on an irregular basis. These convoys exceeded 250 vehicles, which posed serious control problems so they recommended organizing them into march serials of 30 vehicles. They also recommended the escort units bring more security vehicles and engineers clear the vegetation from alongside the road.
On 14 November the 7th Battalion conducted its fourth convoy to Song Be. This one was divided into two march serials. The first consisted of 50 S&P loads of Class I (provisions), II (clothing), IV (construction material) and V (ammunition). This was the first convoy to haul ammunition to Song Be. The second contained 44 vehicles from the 62nd Engineer Battalion. The convoy had adequate security and returned the next day without incident.
On 22 November, the 7th Battalion again sent out another convoy to Song Be. This time the convoy was divided into three serials. The first two were American and the third march serial was ARVN. The first serial had 44 5-ton tractors and two 10-ton tractors from the 7th Battalion. 28 S&P loads hauled Class I, II, and IV, and 21 S&P loads carried Class V. At 1300 hours as the convoy cleared a point six miles south of Bunard Special Forces Camp, the sixth vehicle in the lead serial began to receive small arms, automatic and mortar fire that encompassed the remainder of the first serial and lead elements of the second. The drivers immediately returned fire and those that could drove out of the kill zone. Cobra gunships and tactical air were called in. The 7th Battalion had 31 trucks damaged, nine of which had to be abandoned in the kill zone. One was killed and seven wounded. Four of the wounded belonged to the 7th Battalion. The ambush produced 31 medals for valor.
At 1630 hours on 27 November, a 5-ton tractor was lightly damaged when it struck a concussion mine two miles north of Ap Bau Long. The damage bent the battery box and running board.
At 0950 hours on 29 November, the lead tank escort on the Quan Loi convoy received one round of sniper fire at a point 11 miles north of Lai Khe. The convoy called in mortar fire. No one in the convoy was injured.
On 13 December, the 7th Battalion received the task to provide one officer, 15 drivers and security personnel for two control vehicles, eight 5-ton tractors with seven S&P trailers to a daily peneprime supply mission from Long Binh to Langa River. They finished the mission on 20 December, 11 days ahead of schedule.
On 17 December, the battalion received the task to provide 16 tractors and 14 S&P trailers with two control vehicles to support the move of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division from Minh Thanh to Lai Khe. The convoy returned without incident on 18 December.
The 7th Battalion once again received another mission to send a convoy to Song Be on 27 December. This was a pure US convoy of six control vehicles and 38 5-ton tractors with 18 S&P trailers hauling 18 S&P loads of peneprime, 17 loads of Class V and one pole trailer, and two 10-ton tractors with one lowboy trailer hauling a rough terrain forklift. The 1st Cavalry Division provided the armored security. On the return trip the convoy picked up one damaged tractor and five trailers left at Bunard and FSB Buttons after the previous ambush. They returned to Long Binh without incident.
On 31 December, (more information to come)
At 1100 hours on 31 January, a 5-ton tractor was heavily damaged when it ran over an anti-vehicular mine 8,000 meters from Fire Support Base Colorado. The damaged vehicle was dragged to Highway QL 15 and towed back to Long Binh. The crew received minor injuries and were treated at FSB Colorado and then released.
By 1970, the 7th Battalion added the following units it supported: 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division at Ben Luc, Tan An and Dong Tam; the Royal Thai Army Volunteer Task Force at Bear Cat; the 1st Royal Australian Task Force at Nui Dat and Vung Tau; Vung Tau Sub-Area Command at Vung Tau; the 164th Aviation Group at Can Tho, Binh Thuy, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau, Vi Thanh, Rach Gia, Lon Xuyen, Chau Phu, Chi Lang and Tri Ton; and the 159th Engineer Group at Xuan Loc, Langa River and Gia Kiem.
For the 7th Battalion’s service in Vietnam, the battalion received the Meritorious Unit Citations for July 1968 to March 1969 and April 1969 to September 1969. The battalion departed Vietnam on 29 March 1972 and was inactivated at Ft. Lewis, Washington, on 30 March 1972. The trucks came from three different medium truck companies and returned the next day.
The Commander of 1st Corps Support Command (COSCOM) wanted the command and control of the motor truck companies to fall under a different transportation battalion and not the 46th General Support Group. LTC Paul Hurley activated the 774th Transportation Battalion (Motor Transport) (Provisional) in late 1972 with the idea that it would receive TOE status and adopt the honors and lineage of the 774th Transportation Group. The battalion assumed control of the 126th Medium Truck Company, 546thth Light/Medium Truck Company, 839th Airborne Car Company, Corps (3/4-ton), 403rd Terminal Transfer Company, 140th and 172nd Cargo and Documentation Detachments. Different units at Fort Bragg gave up personnel billets each for the provisional battalion. The 330th Movement Control Battalion contributed 0-5 and CSM billets along with about a dozen other positions. In July 1972, the 330th Battalion was activated to manage the movement of soldiers, equipment and supplies for the XVIII Airborne Corps. The 774th Provisional Battalion answered directly to COSCOM. However, when the 774th Provisional Battalion received its TOE status it would become the 7th Battalion instead. The 7th Transportation Battalion was reactived in conjunction with a change of command ceremony on 21 July 1974. LTC William B. McGrath assumed command of the battalion. The 7th Battalion assumed the responsibilities of the 774th Provisional Battalion.
To curb the expansion of communism in Central America, President Reagan ordered the invasion of the Island of Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury, in the Caribbean in October 1983. The US Marines took the northern half of the island by amphibious assault while the Army Rangers seized the Point Salinas air Port by airborne insertion followed by the landing of the 82nd Airborne Division. The 403rd Cargo Transfer Company provide Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group (A/DACG) and coordinated the flow of air traffic in and out of the tiny island.
The unit deployed soldiers to St. Croix, Virgin Islands following the aftermath of the effects of Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. The 403rd Cargo Transfer Company again provided A/DACG and upon arrival, organized and directed the movement of critically needed supplies and expedited the evacuation of stranded citizens.
Drug indictments against the military leader of Panama, Manuel Noriega, created another US crisis in 1988. Southern Command developed two contingency plans, one for deployment and the other for offensive operations. The deployment plan initially required 96 hours of deployment into country to cover the infiltration of Special Operations Forces (SOF). The offensive plan called for simultaneous strikes at H-hour with the SOF targeting command and control facilities and the Army Forces neutralizing the Panamanian Defense Force (PDF). Essentially the SOF would cut the head off of the snake and the rest would kill the body. Southern Command conducted two deployments in Panama as a response to a coup in 1988 and Noriega’s nullification of the presidential elections in May 1989. On December 19, 1989, Southern Command executed Operation Just Cause. SOF, helicopters and tanks had infiltrated over two days then the Rangers and a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division parachuted in at H-hour. By the time the day was over, simultaneous strikes had caused the PDF to cease to exist.
There were only two C-141 capable airfields in the Panama City area. Since the primary means of deployment into Panama was by air and the US had to have two points of entry. This required the Rangers and 82nd to seize Torrijos-Tocumen International Airport. One platoon of the 403rd A/DACG parachuted in with the 82nd at Torrijos and another landed to run the operations at Howard Air Force Base.
The 7th Battalion sent elements from three units to set up and operate a Transportation Motor Pool (TMP), a Class IX supply point and two A/DACGs. The TMP run by the 126th Transportation Company and Class IX supply point run by the 249th Supply and 612th Quartermaster Companies along with the 129th Postal Detachment directly supported the XVIII Airborne Corps.
Operation Desert Shield/Storm was the next test for the 7th Transportation Battalion’s soldiers. The battalion deployed almost 1,000 soldiers to Southwest Asia in August 1990. The battalion received recognition for its establishment of Log Base Charlie, with the movement of over 300,000 short tons of supplies. Additionally, the battalion ran the Transportation Consolidation Center-North, providing rapid redeployment support to the XVIII Airborne Corps units in a record 21 days and over 500 miles. The battalion drove over 6 million miles during these operations. Finally, the battalion provided rigger support throughout the entire theater of operations rigging in excess of 1,300 tons of supplies and dropped over 130 tons during the ground war.
7th Transportation Battalion riggers deployed to Turkey in support of Operation Provide Comfort rigging supplies for airdrop to the Kurdish refugees left stranded after war. The battalion’s soldiers assisted in the rigging effort which resulted in over 7,000 CDS bundles dropped in a 30-day period. It is the largest humanitarian airdrop mission on record.
Next elements of the battalion deployed to support operations at Guantanemo Naval Base.
Hurricane Andrew hit Southern Florida devastating Dade County on 21 August 1992. It was the third strongest hurricane to hit the United States on record. Elements of the 7th Battalion deployed as part of Joint Task Force Andrew to provide relief in the form of food and shelter for the hurricane victims.
The 129th Postal Company deployed to Somalia in support of Operations Restore. In 1994, elements of the battalion deployed under the 46th Corps Support Group to Haiti in support of Operation Uphold Democracy in 1993.
Other elements deployed to Bosnia in support of United Nations peace keeping missions.
In response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers on 11 September 2001, President George Bush called it an act of war and determined to hunt down those responsible. Intelligence evidence indicated that the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization al-Queda led by Osama Bin Laden was responsible and hiding in Afghanistan. In October, the United States launched air attacks against the Taliban government harboring Bin Laden and sent in Special Forces. They opened up the logistic support base at Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan, known by the soldiers as K2. In late November the Marines seized Kandahar and in December the 10th Mountain Division seized Bagram. These became the Around February 2002, the 530th CSB moved by C-130 and opened up the Bagram APOD. The 7th Transportation Battalion replaced the 530th CSB at K2.
SPC Jason A. Disney, of the 7th Transportation Battalion, died shortly after sustaining injuries during a construction project when a piece of heavy equipment fell on him at Bagram Air Base. He died on13 February 2002.
The 7th Battalion deployed to Camp Anaconda, Iraq, and provided command and control for truck convoys in the most heavily ambushed area in Iraq, the Sunni Triangle.
On 12 January 2004, the 7th Transportation Battalion, commanded by LTC George G. Akin (OD) from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, arrived at LSA Anaconda to replace the 181st Battalion. Both of the 7th Battalion’s 403rd Cargo Transfer Company and 508th Maintenance Company had already deployed during OIF I. The 403rd had a platoon at the SPOD and another at Balad, Iraq, so the Soldiers welcomed Akin when he arrived at Anaconda. The 7th Battalion completed its transfer of authority and replaced the 181st Transportation Battalion on 30 January.6
The mission of the 7th Battalion was to push supplies out to the forward operating bases (FOB) in Iraq, operate the Class III bulk fuel farm and operate the Ammunition Storage Area both located on Anaconda. The 528th POL Company operated the fuel farm and the 609th Ordnance Company operated the Ammunition Supply Point. The Battalion operated for the next 30-60 days with the companies it had inherited from the 181st Transportation Battalion. The transportation mission never stopped as these headquarters organized the relief in place of the following 13 transportation companies to include the contracted Iraqi provisional transportation company:7
During their right-seat ride, LTC Akin liked the way the 181st Battalion operated. The gun truck ratio was one for every five task vehicles and a 25-vehicle convoy was the right size while 35 was too large. At that time, a gun truck was still any vehicle with a crew-served weapon. A recovery vehicle usually followed at the rear of the convoy since convoys did not stop along the side of the road to pull maintenance. Akin saw the importance of continuing the weekly Tiger Team Meetings as a collective forum for improving tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) and sharing ideas. During the welcome brief by the 181st Battalion, they had told the 7th Battalion. “All you have to do here is get the mission done and go home.” It would not as easy for the 7th Battalion as it had for the 181st. Over the next year, the war would change and the 7th Transportation Battalion would bear the heaviest brunt of convoy attacks by the insurgents.8
The most important TTP for security was speed. Convoys still only ran during the daylight hours and at that time, the convoys traveled either down one lane or the other depending upon the location of likely IEDs. The convoys only traveled down the middle lane when there were three lanes of traffic. The emphasis was still not to be a burden on the local Iraqis. Civil Affairs policy was, “We have interrupted their commerce trade. We are not respecting them as a sovereign.” Civilian traffic was allowed to pass convoys and the trucks were not allowed to bump Iraqi cars to get them out of the way. The threat level was still only IEDs and small arms fire from three to four people. 9
Over the next two months, new truck companies arrived to conduct the relief in place (RIP) of the old ones. Akin’s policy was for the replacing unit to drive down to Kuwait, pick up their replacement company and escort them back to Anaconda. The 1462nd Medium Truck actually took fire on the way up and lost one vehicle with one Soldier wounded. The seven-day transfer of authority would consist of a right-seat/left-seat ride to teach the new companies the routes, ROEs and tactics, techniques and procedures. During the RIP/TOA, the 7th Battalion picked up the following companies:10
The 7th Transportation Battalion also inherited the Allied Trade Workshop referred to as the “Skunk Werks” from the 181st Transportation Battalion. Skunk Werks was named after the laboratory in the “Lil’ Abner” cartoon. The welders of the Skunk Works specialized in custom armoring for vehicles resulting in improvised armor more commonly known as “hillbilly armor.”
On 5 April 2004, the radical young cleric Muqtada al Sadr called for a jihad against coalition forces. His objective was to gain control over three towns; al Kut, An Najaf, and Sadr City named after his grandfather. On Thursday night, 8 April, his Madhi Militia dropped eight bridges and overpasses surrounding Convoy Support Center Scania thus severing all northbound traffic into the Sunni Triangle. The next day, Good Friday, his militia ambushed any and every convoy entering or leaving Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). That day, the 724th POL escorted a KBR fuel convoy to BIAP and was ambushed. Eight KBR drivers were killed, one missing, two soldiers were reported killed, and 16 civilians and soldiers were wounded. The KBR convoy commander, Tommy Hamill, was captured but later escaped. SPC Matt Maupin was initially listed as the first soldier missing in action, but his corpse was later discovered in 2008. This was the worst convoy ambush of the war. Operating in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, the 7th Transportation Battalion would lose more truck drivers than any truck unit that served in Iraq.
Improvements were made to armor, and the 13th Corps Support Command (COSCOM) standardized the size of convoys based upon the 7th Battalion standard. Convoys should not exceed 30 vehicles with a gun truck ratio of 1:5. Iraq-based convoys had priority in receiving factory built M1114 up-armored HMMWVs and other experimental armor such as the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) gun box kit for the 5-ton.
The 7th Transportation Battalion summed up their accomplishments:
"From January through December 2004, the 7th Transportation Battalion (Airborne) provided command and control for thirteen companies and mastered the complexities of day-to-day service support operations for the largest ammunition supply point in Iraq, a three million gallon petroleum bag farm, and eleven transportation companies providing transportation, ammunition, and bulk fuel distribution to CJTF-7 and MNC-I units in combat. This joint battalion from Fort Bragg, North Carolina trained, integrated, and synchronized one Navy, two Air Force, and nine Army companies with over 1,548 soldiers, sailors and airmen in the heart of the Sunni Triangle at Balad, Iraq. Undaunted by maintaining span of control for a brigade sized unit with a battalion staff, Orient Express officers, NCOs and soldiers developed a highly performing organization with discipline and integrity. 7th Transportation Battalion conducted an average of 15 combat convoys with 300 vehicles on a daily basis to provide assured delivery while driving 1,000,000 miles per month in the unforgiving desert environment. Despite the blistering OPTEMPO, disciplined soldiers accumulated 11 million miles transporting over 29 million gallons of fuel and 424,000 STONs of cargo while maintaining an incredible 95% equipment readiness rating. Every convoy was a movement to contact, requiring aggressive tactics, techniques, procedures and bottom up innovation. The battalion operated its own add on armor facility with local national welders and procured steel, ballistic blankets, and Mylar Blastguard to outfit 67 gun trucks and 373 M915 tractors to improve the lethality and survivability of all tactical transportation convoys. Orient Express truck drivers’ courage and tenacity became legendary as they fought through over 254 enemy attacks while enduring small arms fire, rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices to deliver critical fuel and supplies to 1st CAV, 1st ID, 1st AD, and I MEF. Despite casualties exceeding one hundred personnel, 7th Transportation Battalion convoys operated day and night to deliver the goods regardless of enemy activity or MSR status. Battalion units have paid a heavy price with the tragic loss of nine courageous soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. At the height of the Sadr Milita uprising in April 2004, it was an Orient Express emergency fuel convoy that traveled over 400 miles, negotiating destroyed bridges, enemy hot spots, and stalled convoys in twenty-four hours to deliver critical class III and prevented the LSA Anaconda bag farm from running dry. The 7th Transportation Battalion sacrificed with honor and professionalism to complete every mission and lived up to its motto of providing "On Time, On Target!" support.11
The 7th Transportation Battalion, commanded by LTC Allen Keifer (QM), had arrived in Kuwait on 12 March and completed transfer of authority (TOA) with the 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry (GA NG) on 1 April 2006. The 7th Transportation Battalion was attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division (1-34 BCT) at Camp Cedar II in southern Iraq. The 1-34th BCT inherited the security force mission with two battalions and organized all the transportation assets under the 7th Transportation Battalion. The 250th and 308th Transportation Companies arrived with the 7th Battalion on the same day. The 1451st Transportation Company arrived at the end of March. The 7th Battalion picked up Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) and Third County National (TCN) contract convoys from theater at Cedar and escorted them to their destinations: LSA Anaconda, Al Taqqadum (TQ), Taji, Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) and the Jordan border to pick up convoys on the western route, ASR Mobile. KBR ran an average of two to three Class III (fuel) convoys a day and Public Warehouse Centre (PWC) ran about the same number of Class I (provisions) convoys. The routes were divided into six zones:
The 1-34th BCT originated the term Convoy Escort Team (CET). A CET had consisted of four Convoy Protection Platforms (CPP) more commonly known gun trucks to the crews. Because of the surge, the white trucks had increased from 20 to 30 vehicles per convoy. This required a reciprocal increase in the number of gun trucks (CPP) to six per convoy instead of four. It was not that the number of trucks that increased as much as the battalion had combined the assets to make larger convoys. More gun trucks provide greater flexibility.
In each zone the IED threat was different. Each zone was divided into boxes of named areas of interest. This threat was identified in the convoy commanders trail book. The convoys were escorted by CETs of four Convoy Protection Platforms each. The white (contract) trucks ran in convoys of 20 vehicles so four Convoy Protection Platforms provided the required 1:10 gun truck ratio for the contract. The 1-34th averaged about ten convoys daily requiring a total of 51 available CETs.
With four Convoy Protection Platforms, one (usually a M1114 up-armored HMMWV) ran out ahead about 300 to 500 meters as a scout vehicle. The other three Convoy Protection Platforms ran front, center and rear of the white trucks. The trail Convoy Protection Platform was called a “herder” because escorting TCNs was like herding cats. By the end of 7th Battalion’s one year deployment, the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) in Anaconda directed that the brigade add a fifth Convoy Protection Platform to the convoy to augment the trail Convoy Protection Platform. This was in response to the enemy changing its TTP again and targeting the trail Convoy Protection Platform. The 11th Transportation Battalion arrived at Tallil to replace the 7th Transportation Battalion on 13 March 2007. The Battalion received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for this deployment.
The 7th Transportation Battalion deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait in the summer of 2010.
The Total Army Assessment for 2010-2015 continued to reduce transportation companies, which reduced the need for transportation battalions. So the 7th Transportation Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina was officially inactivated on 19 August 2011.
1 Lloyd Riggs email to Richard Killblane, February 14, 2008
2 Riggs email, February 14, 2008.
3 Fort Irwin, Global Security.com, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/fort-irwin.htm; and Riggs email, February 14, 2008.
4 Fort Irwin, Global Security.com, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/fort-irwin.htm; and Riggs email, February 14, 2008.
5 “Truckers Help Build Defenses of Con Thien,” Stars and Stripes, 1967; and LTC E. W. Coyne, Letter: Recognition of Services Renders, 7th Transportation Battalion, 5 December 1967.
6 Akin interview.
7 Akin interview.
8 Akin interview.
9 Akin interview.
10 Akin interview.
11 7th Transportation Battalion MUC submission.
Meerbott, LTC J. O., Subject: Operational Report – Lessons Learned (RCS CSFOR-65), Department of the Army, Headquarters, 7th Transportation Battalion (Truck), 9 November 1966.
Meerbott, LTC J. O., Subject: Operational Report for Quarterly Period ending 31 January 1967 RCS CSFOR65, Department of the Army, Headquarters, 7th Transportation Battalion (Truck), 13 February 1967.
Meerbott, LTC J. O., Subject: Operational Report for Quarterly Period ending 30 April 1967 RCS CSFOR65, Department of the Army, Headquarters, 7th Transportation Battalion (Truck), 7 May 1967.
Hylton, LTC Irvin. L., Subject: Operational Report of the 7th Transportation Battalion (Trk) for Ending 30 April 1969 RCS CSFOR 65 (RI), Department of the Army, Headquarters, 7th Transportation Battalion (Truck), 12 May 1969.
Schwarz, LTC Robert. H., Subject: Operational Report – (7th Transportation Battalion) for Ending 31 October 1969 RCS CSFOR 65 (R-2), Department of the Army, Headquarters, 7th Transportation Battalion (Truck), 7 November 1969.