RACE WITH DEATH
If you can't outrun a bullet...may you can out-speed it!
Now I've done some stupid things in my life and have often wondered how I have survived so long, but this one was one of the toppers.
At the end of April, 1967, I was assigned as the Battalion Ammo Officer. It was a crappy job for the most part to be honest, but was a bit of a break from being in the field. Fortunately, I only had the duty for about a month. Our brigade base was at Chu Lai at LZ English.
I was given the assignment one day to lead a convoy of trucks to the town of Qui Nhon, down the coast from us. I was to escort it there and then wait and join a convoy from Qui Nhon to Pleiku and return the jeep I was driving to the Division base there. We arrived in Qui Nhon with ease and it was late. After releasing the convoy, I drove into Qui Nhon and spent a night in a local hotel. Rising early the next morning, I went to the supply base there to hook up with a convoy heading to Pleiku. I was informed there were none scheduled to go that day and I would have to wait until the next day to see if one was going then. Well, sometimes I'm impatient. I didn't plan on "waiting" for another day. Bad idea...or just plain stupid.
When the brigade had convoyed over Highway 19 and up Highway 1 to the Chu Lai area, there had been no problems. No signs of VC or anything. I decided that Highway 19 was secure (talk about stupid!) and that there was no need to wait another day. I made sure my M-16 was loaded and ready and took off heading to Pleiku. I drove as fast as that jeep would go. As I went through Mang Yang pass, I was reminded that this is where a French convoy was massacred when they were here. If you've seen the movie "We Were Soldiers", that massacre is depicted at the beginning of the movie. I guess I must have figured that the VC or NVA in that area wouldn't bother with one stupid American GI in a jeep.
Now, I didn't see or have any contact with anyone on that ride to Pleiku but I suspect I set a speed record for a vehicle going from Qui Nhon to Pleiku. I skidded around more than one curve on that ride. When I got to our Battalion base and turned the jeep into the the Battalion Sergeant Major, he asked me what convoy had come over. "What convoy?" I replied. I told him what I had done. I'll never forget the look on his face or what he said at the time. "Lt. Springer, you must be the bravest or stupidest officer in this outfit."
We both laughed and I was not offended. I knew I wasn't the bravest...which left only one other alternative. The Sergeant Major was kind enough not to mention which one he would have chosen either.
I wish Bert Landau (who attacked the Navy LST) had been with me though. I'm sure he would have loved the ride. I don't even think Bert would have pulled this stunt. No offense, Bert.
Lt Gary Dean Springer
Footnote> Just a few months earlier (Jan, 1967) an entire Infantry Company (A/2/35) was stationed on Highway 19 near the Mang Yang Pass due to the constant enemy activity in this area.