1st 155mm/175mm Gun Battery (SP)

cropped-1st-Guns-TAC-Mark1.gifGun Batteries were independent batteries that were part of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF), typically commanded by a Major and fully capable of performing their own administration, organizational maintenance, and organic supply functions similar to that of a battalion. At the time of the Vietnam involvement there were at least five 155mm Gun batteries in the Marine Corps. Four of them (1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th)  saw action in Vietnam. The other battery (2nd) was assigned to the 2nd Field Artillery Group – Force Troops/FMF ATL and was based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In Vietnam these batteries were often placed under the administrative and operational control of one of the divisions’ artillery regiments (i.e., 11th or 12th). They fired self-propelled 155mm Guns (M53) that had a range of 23,515m (25,715 yds or 14.6 miles) and were unique to the USMC. They were often platooned and deployed with self-propelled 8″ Howitzers (M55) which shared the same carriage. In 1969 the Marine Corps retired the M53’s and converted all the 155mm Gun batteries to 175mm Gun Batteries.

The 1st 155mm Gun Btry (SP) landed in the Republic of Vietnam on 3Mar66 in Danang. It had arrived there as part of 1st Field Artillery Group (FAG) that had been deployed from 29 Palms in California in February. It was placed under the administrative and operational control of the 12th Marines and was initially deployed to a position south of the city but was moved on 27Mar66 to a position closer to the Cau Do river (see aerial view). Some of the radio call signs used by the battery in Vietnam included Peafowl, Ladyship, Hershey Bar, and Selectman.

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The Battery moved from the Danang area to the Phu Bai area in June of 1966. An advance party arrived by convoy on 3Jun66. The Guns arrived in Hue by LCU at 1000H, and the remainder of the battery arrived by “Rough Rider” convoy at 1015H on 6Jun66. The Battery came under the administrative and operational control of the 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines (3/12) at that time. It was located north of the Phu Bai compound near the village of Gia Le.

On 9Jun66 it received 50 – 100 rounds of harassing small arms fire while putting up concertina wire. “A heavy volume of fire was returned” according to the Battalion monthly report but what really happened is that the entire Battery grabbed their weapons and ran off firing in the general direction the shots came from. A sweep of the area the following day found one VC KIA.

On 14Jun66 the Battery CO, Captain N. M. Larimer, was seriously wounded when his vehicle ran over a mine while he was on a mission to establish a location for a platoon needed to support a recon patrol south of Phu Bai. He was MEDIVAC’ed to CONUS as a result of his wounds.

On 6Sep66 the Battery CP was moved again to the southern perimeter of the Phu Bai compound (YD8932712786). It remained there until late 1968.

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On 19Dec66 the Battery came under the operational and administrative control of 4/12. On 30Jan67 a platoon of 8″ Howitzers (2) were moved to PK17. On 6Apr67 the position at PK17 was attacked resulting in 2 Marines killed and 7 wounded. A mortar attack on the following night wounded another Marine. On 1Sep67 the Battery received 8 WIA as a result of VC mortar activity at the Phu Bai base camp. One of the guns, seeing the muzzle flashes of the mortar through its sights returned direct fire and silenced the mortar.

In January 1968 the operational control of the battery returned to 1st FAG, which was attached to the 1st MARDIV. Until that time the Battery had been supporting the 3rd MARDIV. On 4Feb68 the battery received 54 rounds of friendly 105mm fire resulting in 3 WIAs. During that month the battery fired 5 missions and provided an FO team in support of the Battle of Hue in response to the Viet Cong’s Tet offensive.

On 13Mar68 Gun 2 exploded killing 6 and wounding 1. The wounded Marine died of his injuries later in the month.

The battery moved back to the Danang area in Dec68 in order to support the 1st MARDIV. On 28Feb69 it received 175mm Guns (M107) to replace the M53’s and the battery was re-designated 1st 175mm Gun Battery (SP).

On 8Mar69 the Battery CP moved to Hill 34, where it remained until October 1970. Throughout 1969 and 1970 guns were deployed singly, or in groups of 2, 3, or 4 to positions including Hill 55, Hill 65, An Hoa Combat Base, Hill 41, Le My, the Northern Artillery Cantonment (NAC), and several other locations. In some cases these deployments were as short as 24 hours, while some lasted for months.

On 17Sep70 three Guns were sent to An Hoa (AT865471). On 21Sep70 1st guns went into “Stand Down” status at Hill 34 (AT995715) in preparation for departing Vietnam. The battery was deployed to 29 Palms, CA on 10Oct70 after 4 years, 7 months, and 7 days in Vietnam.

The Guns received a total of three Presidential Unit Citations (PUC) and at least one Navy Unit Commendation during its deployment to Vietnam.

This site was created for the benefit of the men who served with the Guns in Vietnam, their friends, and families.

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Bob Simington
bobb@mytrngdept.com