In-Country 21 Oct 66
Incident on 27 May 67; dec on 1 Jun 67
Panel 21E, Line 025
MOS 13A10, Age 24
TRIBUTE TO PFC FRANCIS ARB:
I remember the day of the incident very well. We had recently moved our "A" Battery to LZ OD near Duc Pho in the Spring of 1967. We were located on a small mountain saddle which was ideal for our 105mm battery. We had a clear view of the South China Sea and the 3rd Brigade HQ, named LZ Montezuma, which was later re-named "LZ Bronco".
My task at the time was to set up "def-cons" (defensive concentrations) at the cardinal points of our saddle. One of the biggest fears of any artillery unit was that, at any given time, the enemy could mass enough troops to physically "overrun" our position and destroy the guns with satchel charges. To offset this, we plotted defensive artillery concentrations to be fired by our brother artillery units nearby to prevent and discourage overruns.
At the time, I was at the exact opposite end of the location occupied by my battery. I had moved up the hill to the other saddle which was to be the home of the 1st Bn, 35th Inf Regt when the LZ was completed. These same def-cons were designed to protect them also. Our battery was just getting settled in and adjusting fire from the position. I heard a howitzer fire followed immediately by a blast. I knew exactly what occurred: it was a "muzzle burst" (premature detonation). The round that was just fired was defective; as it left the muzzle, it was fully armed but exploded immediately out of the barrel instead of going on its intended trajectory. This is a rare, but very deadly, event.
I ran back down the upper saddle to see what needed to be done. Being at the opposite end, the medics were already there tending to the wounded. PFC Arb was the most seriously wounded with an injury to his upper thigh. He was immediately flown out to a field hospital for treatment. He died a few days after this incident.
My heart goes out to PFC Arb's family and friends. This type of war zone casualty has no pattern or prediction. It just happens.
May he rest in peace in God's hands.
Lt Dennis L. Dauphin
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