A Tank Ride -- August 1970

by SGT Larry Carr (11B)



In the early part of August 1970, we were once again on a search and destroy mission with elements of the 1/61. As we prepared to move out LT Rees gave the order to load up. He once again told us to stay off the lead tank in case it hit a mine. There was only enough room for maybe two or three people at the most, so I split my squad in half and we loaded up for the ride. If I remember correctly I was on the second or third tank in the column. This time I was going to pay more attention to the movement of the turret. I was not going to have another broken weapon like the last time.

Once again, it was a noisy and dusty ride. We had not traveled far, when all of a sudden there was a tremendous explosion. The tank that I was riding on hit a mine. I was told later that it was a hand detonated 175 mm shell. The explosion was so great that it literally lifted the tank a few inches off the ground. The next thing I knew, I was flying through the air. I landed in a ditch beside the tank and from there on out things are a little foggy as to what happened next. It must have knocked me out for a few minutes because I remember being very groggy and someone talking to me. It had to have been our platoon medic, but I don't remember who. All I know was I could not hear a word he was saying. It felt like my head was going to explode and there was blood coming from my ears and nose. My eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my head. After awhile, I began to regain my senses and began to realize exactly what had happened.

Several minutes went by and I still could not hear anything, but this loud ringing. That's when I began to get scared that I would be deaf the rest of my life. Soon I began to hear a little better because I could understand people asking me if I was alright. I think I told them I was okay. I know I soon got up and did appear to be okay except for some ringing in my ears. That's when I began to survey what was going on around me. I checked out the tank and saw where the explosion had blown off one of the wheels and destroyed the track. The explosion had killed the driver and wounded the tank commander. A medivac came in to pick up the dead and wounded. I did not think my injuries were serious enough to go in, so I stayed with the platoon.

When we finally did go in for our stand down, I was still having some difficulty hearing so I went down to the aid station that was near our company area. A medic checked me out and said that I needed to see a doctor, so I was sent down the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang. There I saw a doctor and he gave me a hearing test. He told me the explosion had caused some nerve damage to my ears and told me that I would probably be hard of hearing from now on. He said there was nothing more he could do, and was sending me back to my unit. I asked, "Doc, why can't you just send me home?" and he replied that my injury was not serious enough. He then proceeded to hand me a set of ear plugs and told me to wear them anytime I was around any loud noises. I thought, "You have got to be kidding me." What was I suppose to do the next time that Charlie wanted to shoot at me or drop a few mortar rounds my way? Yell time out, I've got to put my ear plugs in my ears. Well, needless to say, I threw them away. He did give me some good advice though. He told me that when I return stateside, to go to my local VA hospital for further testing.

After I was discharged, I did just that very thing. The VA determined that I had a 10% hearing loss and later tacked on another 10% for ringing in the ears. That was the VA's numbers. I have been tested by independent doctors over the years and they tell me that my hearing loss is more like 35%, but it has been almost impossible to get the VA to change the rating. They have provided me with hearing aids for many years, so I can't complain too much. During my entire tour of duty in Vietnam, I only rode on two tanks and both times something happened. The moral of the story is "Stay off those frigging tanks!"




Charles  Ames


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