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My first Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) mission

By Manuel Beck

On June 28, 1968, B-56 Project SIGMA’s Recon Company moved forward to our new launch site in the 1st Infantry Division (1st ID) base camp at Quan Loi. We set up operations on the airfield, and we lived in a large hay and rice storage barn at the end of the airfield, when we were not on a mission.

It had been raining ever since we arrived, and I mean raining; it was coming down in buckets. With all the water around the area, the rats moved inside the barn. That barn had more big rats than hay or rice. The first night in the barn, we had two SCU soldiers bitten by rats, and they had to be medevacked to a hospital to start taking rabies shots. The rats were so bad we had someone stand guard at night with a flashlight and a .22 caliber pistol with a silencer. The second night we killed six rats. We were not only fighting the VC; we were fighting rats too.We didn’t pull any missions for the first three days because the weather was so bad the helicopters couldn’t fly. This was one big hellhole of red mud. The mud was ten inches deep in places. Quan Loi was one miserable, depressing place.

There was no place to go or anything to do except fight the rats at night and sleep during the day. I couldn’t sleep at night because of rats crawling over my body and artillery firing all night. The 1st ID had Artillery Batteries of 105 and 155 guns just outside our barn. We were also isolated from the 1st ID. We couldn’t leave, and no one could come into our area.On the morning of the third day, our S-2 major gave us a briefing on our missions.

That was the first time I had pulled a Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) mission. I didn’t know what to expect. In the briefing, we were told the B-52s dropped 750-pound bombs in the AO, and each bomb made a crater large enough to conceal a truck. Each plane dropped forty-two bombs, and there were at least three planes in a formation, or there could have been up to twenty planes in one formation. That could be up to 840, 750-pound bombs in one area. That covered an area of two miles by six miles with bombs overlapping each other.One good thing about that, we wouldn’t have to be worried about finding an LZ in the jungle, because each bomb made an area big enough for a helicopter to land. There were six different areas in our AO that had been bombed. However, we only had four Recon Teams, so each team had their area to do their BDA.On the fourth day, the rain stopped.

It was decided to try to get all four teams in on the same day. The first team would be inserted at 0600 hours and the last team should be in by 1900 hours if none of the teams made enemy contact. I would be going in with Sergeant First Class Ed Brannan and four SCU soldiers. We would be Team Three. The mission was scheduled for five days or until we finished the length of the bomb run.As we flew over the area, I could see the damage from the air, and it was an unforgettable experience to see the devastation below. We were inserted at 1300 hours, and up to that time, the first two teams had not made enemy contact.

As we landed, I thought there is no way Charley could survive this, and we wouldn’t find anyone alive. The helicopter hovered over the center of one of the craters, and all six of us jumped off the left side of the aircraft onto the edge of the crater.The helicopter departed, and we took cover in the crater that was half-full of water from all the rain. It had been at least six days since the bombs were dropped, and it had been raining all that time.

We stayed in the crater for thirty minutes waiting to see if there were any NVA or VC in the area looking for us.As we started to move along the path of the bombs, we could see where someone had walked before us leaving boot prints in the mud. However, the prints were full of water, so it had been some time since anyone had been in that area. I couldn’t believe anyone would survive this and would be walking through the mess. We moved several hundred yards, not seeing anything, but we could smell the stench of death all around us. It was very hot, and steam was rising from the jungle floor carrying the stench.It was getting dark, so we decided to move away from the craters into the jungle and set up for the night. It was hard to believe that this was once a triple canopy jungle with no sunlight coming through to the jungle floor. Now it was open, and you could see the sky. We found an area through all the twisted trees where we would spend the night. After setting out our Claymore mines, we got together to eat and get ready for a long night. The stench was terrible, and I knew there were dead bodies close by. I put it out of my mind and decided to open a can of C-ration peaches, my favorite food.I had just opened a can of peaches and stuck my spoon in the can.

I was sitting with my back against a tree ready to enjoy my meal when something fell from the tree above me and landed in my can of peaches. It was a chunk of something black. When I looked up, I could see what was left of a human body hanging in the tree. That was disgusting, and that was the only can of peaches I had.When I told Ed what happened, he started laughing so hard and loud; I thought he could be heard a mile away. In a few seconds, all six of us were laughing. This is a story I have told before, and I always get the same reaction. I guess that is one of those situations where it is so appalling you have to laugh about it. I was tempted, but I didn’t eat my peaches.

I moved a few yards away from the body in the tree and went to sleep hungry that night. We didn’t hear any movement during the night, and that was good. The next morning I heard the Forward Air Controller (FAC) in the air, so I made a radio check with him. He didn’t say, and I didn’t ask, but I guessed all four teams were on the ground without incident.We started moving along the bombing route leaving behind footprints in the mud, and that troubled me, but there was nothing we could do about that. Ed and I didn’t like walking in the open around those craters, so we moved inside the jungle a few yards. That was rough going because of all the twisted trees and undergrowth.We moved for a few hours and didn’t see anything of importance. We could still smell death all around us.

All of a sudden, Pham, the point man, stopped and hit the ground. We did the same. Ed crawled up to where Pham was, and then he motioned for the rest of us to come forward. When I got up to them, I could see foxholes, a long trench line, and bunkers. I could also see body parts everywhere.There were several hundred boot prints in the mud. Again, they appeared to be several days old. As we moved through the area, we found more and more bunkers and trenches.

We also found several underground tunnel openings. We stopped to see if we could hear any movement. After a few minutes, Van, the tail-gunner, said he wanted to go into one of the tunnels to see what was down there. That was fine with me because I didn’t want to go in. Ed gave Van his flashlight and pistol and told him to be careful.A few minutes later, Van came out and said we needed to go down and see what he found. Ed told the other three team members to set up a defensive position in the trench and take the radio with them and if they heard gunfire coming from the tunnel to get on the radio and call the FAC.

We crawled down a two-foot-by-two-foot tunnel entrance for a few feet; then, there were several steps going further down. This led into a room about ten-feet-by-ten-feet with a six-foot ceiling. There was a bench and three chairs in that room. We could see electrical wires on the wall with a light attached. However, there was no power to it. At the end of that very dark room, there were four steps going deeper, and they led to another room about fifteen-feet-by-twenty-feet with tables and chairs in it. That room also had wires running along the wall. At the end of that room, there was a short hallway three-feet wide and four-feet tall.At the end of the hallway, there was a room about ten-feet-by-twenty-feet. That was amazing because, in the middle of that room, there was an operating table and cabinets along the walls.

There were all kinds of electrical wiring running everywhere. This had been an underground hospital, but most of their equipment had been removed. There was another hallway leading somewhere, but we were not going any further. We decided it was time to get out of there. The smell of death hung throughout those rooms. We crawled out of the tunnel and started taking pictures of the area.We could tell this was the back door of the tunnel complex, so we decided to move in the direction we thought the tunnel was running to see if we could find the front entrance. We walked a few yards and found more small holes in the ground. Ed thought they must be air holes to supply fresh air for the tunnels. We also found more bunkers and trenches along the way.

We saw all kinds of trash and equipment, like canteens, empty backpacks, web gear, and clothes. We found several pieces of white cloth used for bandages with blood on them. We followed the trail of bandages to another entrance of a larger tunnel. However, that entrance was made so you could walk down into the tunnel standing up. This was the entrance to the hospital. Just outside that tunnel, I saw part of a boot sticking up from the ground. When I checked it, I found a corpse attached to it. This was a hastily dug shallow grave. As we looked around, we found several more shallow graves.Each of us quickly uncovered the bodies to see if we could find any papers or anything of importance. Most of the bodies had NVA uniforms, but some had nothing on. We didn’t find anything on the bodies. We found several more tunnel entrances, but we only checked a few to see what was inside. Three were used as living quarters, one was an office for someone, and one was used as a Como bunker. We could tell it was a Como bunker because we could see where antennas had been tied down to the ground with wires leading into the tunnel.

Not far from the hospital, we found signs on the ground indicating several vehicles had been parked there, and several electrical wires were on the ground. This was where they had their generators set up to run power to the camp. We also found an area they were using for a Mess Hall and an area where they had been parking trucks and other vehicles.This was a large base camp. I don’t have any idea how big the tunnel complex was, but it was too big for six people to check out. Ed wanted to see if the launch site could send in the Rifle Company to search the tunnels.I got on the radio to see if the FAC was up. I didn’t get a reply from him. I had to wait until the evening radio check. That camp was not close to the area I had been in before, but it was close to where other teams had been, and those teams made contact with the NVA as soon as they hit the ground. I knew part of that camp had been hit by the bombs, but the main portion was intact.It was getting dark, and we moved outside the camp to find a place to Rest Over Night (RON.) I wouldn’t want to be in there if the NVA decided to come back to their home.At the evening radio check, I informed the FAC on what we needed and gave him the location. Because we didn’t have a company at the launch site, it would be at least two days before a company could check the tunnels. We stopped to RON around 2000 hours.To be continued, if you want to read more.The photo is my recon team and me.

CCI New Line of MeatEater Series Rimfire Ammunition

LEWISTON, Idaho – July 30, 2020 – MeatEater’s Steven Rinella relies on high-quality rimfire ammunition to put small game on his plate. That’s why CCI partnered with this renowned conservationist, author and hunter on an exclusive new line of ammunition, featuring CCI’s proven Copper-22, Mini-Mag and Maxi-Mag loads. Shipments of these new products have begun to arrive at dealers.

Copper-22 is constructed from a unique mix of copper particles and polymer compressed into an accurate, potent, 21-grain hollow-point bullet. The time-tested and proven Mini-Mag 22 LR offers peak velocities, and a proven, accurate copper-plated hollow point bullet design. CCI Maxi-Mag is one of the most accurate and fastest 22 WMR cartridges on the market. Its jacketed hollow-point bullet design transfers tremendous energy to the target on impact. All loads feature clean-burning propellants and reliable CCI priming to ensure the most consistent ballistics.

“These three loads are what fills Steven Rinella’s freezer with small game,” said CCI Rimfire Product Director Rick Stoeckel. “His field-to-table lifestyle has made him a household name among hunters from all walks of life. We are very proud and excited to release this new line of special-edition rimfire ammunition to our customers and his fans.”

Features & Benefits
• The official rimfire ammunition of MeatEater
• Copper-22, Mini-Mag and Maxi-Mag loads with new packaging highlighting the partnership
• Accurate, reliable performance on small game and varmints
• Clean-burning propellants
• Reliable cycling
• Surefire CCI priming

Part No. / Description / MSRP / LINK

925CC / Copper-22 MeatEater 22 LR, 21-grain copper HP, 1,850 fps, 50-count / $10.99

www.cci-ammunition.com/rimfire/cci/copper-22/6-925CC 

962ME / Mini-Mag MeatEater 22 LR, 36-grain CPHP, 1,260 fps, 300-count / $28.99

www.cci-ammunition.com/rimfire/cci/meateater_series_mini-mag/6-962ME

958ME / Maxi-Mag MeatEater 22 WMR, 40-grain JHP, 1,875 fps, 200-count / $59.99

www.cci-ammunition.com/rimfire/cci/meateater_series_mini-mag/6-962ME

CCI recently launched a new website which includes a fresh look and design, and a mobile-first approach to meet the needs of today’s consumer. Plus, the new site offers customers the ability to purchase select loads of CCI rimfire ammunition, Blazer handgun ammunition, branded merchandise and more direct from CCI. CCI’s online shopping cart features free shipping on orders of $99 or more. For full details, go to www.cci-ammunition.com.

Protesters Point Weapons At Motorists

In Indianapolis, Black Lives Matter protesters pointed guns at a motorist in an attempt to stop cars from driving on the streets during a demonstration. Indianapolis leaders, including Democrat Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis City-County Council have remained silent.

Other parts of the video show protesters blocking traffic and throwing water on cars. You can see the guns being pointed at the blue pick-up truck at the :35 second mark. The video is from the Indy Star

Video in link

Anyone still think the current civil war hasn’t gone hot yet?

You know how knows what to do in a situation like this?

The Smith & Wesson Model 544 Texas Commemorative in .44-40 WCF

By Luis Vakdes from NewWaveFirearms.com

Smith & Wesson is a name long associated with quality wheel guns going all the back to the Wild West, a company long steeped in traditional big bore revolvers and chamberings like the fabled .44-40 WCF (Winchester center fire).

It was introduced in 1873 by the Winchester Arms Company as a chambering for their then new and now fabled Winchester 1873 lever action rifle (the gun that won the west). The .44-40 in its original load was a bottle-necked casing filled with 40 grains of black powder propelling a .427″ 200 grain round nose flat point bullet at approximately 1,245 ft/s.

By 1895, Winchester introduced a new load with 17 grains of DuPont No. 2 smokeless powder replacing the black powder. It chucked a 200 grain bullet at 1,300 ft/s. Remember, these were out of a rifle. In a revolver, the round usually travelled at just under 1,000 ft/s.

The cartridge became so popular that both Colt and S&W chambered their period guns for it since the Winchester 1873 rifle was incredibly popular. At the height of the Wild West in 1877, Smith & Wesson had their New Model 3 chambered in .44-40 and it sold like hot cakes. In 1891, S&W introduced the .44 Double Action First Model and kept right on making them until 1913.

The cartridge was so popular that’s said to have taken the most deer in North American except for the .30-30 Winchester and put more men, both good and bad, into early graves as the west was being won.

New Model 3

.44 Double Action First Model

In 1907, a more modern design was introduced. The S&W Triple Lock, officially dubbed the .44 Hand Ejector 1st Model ‘New Century.’ It was chambered in .44-40 as well as the newfangled .44 Special.

.44 Hand Ejector 1st Model

But by the eve of WWII, the .44-40 was eclipsed by other more power cartridges like the .44 Special and production ended in 1940. The cartridge was removed from Smith’s catalog at the end of WWII as a chambering option. By that time Smith was looking at the works of Elmer Keith and his .44 Magnum and the .45 Colt was seeing something of a resurgence due to the rising popularity of Cowboy Westerns on both the big and little screens.

A couple of faithful cowboy reproductions were made in .44-40 by Uberti and Pedersoli, but no modern production guns. That is, until 1986 when the Model 544 was born.

The Model 544 is a modern production 5″ big bore N-Frame, square butted revolver. It was built on the same lineage as Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum Model 29. The gun was made specifically for Texas’s 150th anniversary. A total of 4,782 were made and they were dubbed the Texas Wagon Train Commemorative, product code 103195.

The side of the barrel is inscribed with “1836 TEXAS 1986” to commemorate the Texas sesquicentennial.

The lock plate has an outline of the state of Texas with a covered wagon and the dates 1836 and 1986 in a circle.

The packaging was also outside the norm. The Model 544 came shipped in a blue velvet-lined wooden box with artwork depicting Texas and the Sesquicentennial Wagon Train route that traversed the state at the time.

The grips date this gun as being made on May 27, 1986.

The revolver shoots like a dream. The .44-40 fired from a big, honking N-Frame is a (relative) powder puff in terms of recoil. As a self defense cartridge, the .44-40 would certainly do the job today every bit as well as it did back in the Wild West. I may not have to worry about stage coach robbers or cattle rustlers anymore but I bet a home burglar would think twice after looking down the big, gaping muzzle of the Model 544.

Powder River Cartridge Company and Buffalo Bore Ammunition make modern defensive loads in the .44-40. Buffalo Bore states their load launches a 185 grain JHP at 1,150 ft/s at the same pressures as an original black powder load so they’re safe for original Cowboy Era guns.

Powder River claims their load has a 200 grain JHP being pushed out of a 6″ barrel at 950 ft/s. That matches original cowboy era loads too. But now instead of a solid lead slug, you get a modern JHP design, so you get expansion, not just penetration. The same principle applies to the .45 ACP and .45 Colt cartridges today when it comes to JHP loads.

What’s also nice is that since it is .44 N-Frame, speed-loaders for the .44 Special and .44 Magnum will work and aftermarket grips fit. The Model 544 is a gem for someone who wants a big bore revolver with a bit of class and that won’t jolt their wrists.

The Model 544 is a rare bird these days and even folks in Texas have a hard time finding them. But this Florida-born Cuban sure is proud to own one and I must say, it’s a damn shame that the .44-40 isn’t loaded in other modern production guns like, say, the Ruger Redhawk.

If you run across one, don’t let it get away. These are fantastic revolvers. Yes, some folks won’t shoot them, preferring to let live in a dark safe. But I’m not one of them. I’ll baby it, but I’ll sure shoot it, too. Maybe Smith & Wesson makes another run of these in their new Classic Series. Here’s hoping.