East POL at Cu Chi

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Written by   Bobbie Pedigo, LTC AR (Ret)
68th Commanding Officer  -  Oct. 70 — Dec. 70    


I was commander of the 341st Airfield Operations Detachment at Cu Chi from 16 Feb 67-14Feb 68. I built the East POL across the road from the Muleskinners. The four 500 barrel JP4 storage tanks, the refueling facility with the 4" line across the field with 24 nozzles, the three or four helipads of East Re-supply with two nozzles each to fuel CH 47s, and the single point refueling pad for the CH-54 Flying Crane. We pumped an average of 40,000 gallons of fuel per day and I built the pump house that later burned after my departure. I also built the VIP helipad for the CG, the Airfield Operations office down in the corner for PAX. I got the aircraft control tower started before my departure and I built the ammunition storage/rearm point at the south end of the refueling area. The 54th Engineers were supposed to build all this stuff but could never get to it so I got them to scrape the pads for the tanks and we bolted them together ourselves. I could store 200K gallons of JP4 and the greatest amount dispensed in one day was 80K. I received eight tankers every day from the re-supply convoy when all four were built.

I found the tanks at 1st Log Cmd in Saigon and got them one at a time. I went to Cam Rahn Bay to get the first pump, a 6" single stage Gorman Rupp booster pump and then found the Victaulic tubing, couplings, elbows, reducers, gate valves, etc to lay the pipe for the fuel line. The final reducers were 4" to 2" plumbing fixtures with a 2" tee on top. To this I had to find an adapter that would accept the OPW coupling of the hoses. I discovered that the valve coupling elbow of the 500 gallon collapsible tanks fit perfectly with the female end of the 2" tee and provided the OPW fitting for the hoses. I needed thirty valve coupler elbows so I turned to the 1st Log Cmd POL division and traded C Rats for the couplers. My next problem was finding thirty nozzles and sixty lengths of rubber hoses to complete the refueling point. I did this by going to the Saigon Docks at the Fish Market and searching the supply areas until I found what I wanted and then took the NSN, nomenclature, location, and quantity to the Inventory Control Point. (They had no clue what was in the yard). After getting this far I prepared a requisition right on the spot and submitted a priority 5 request. It was approved and I then took my paperwork and vehicle to the yard and obtained the objects I was looking for. (An interesting point here: my supply channel was through the 25th Avn. Bn. [to whom I was attached although I was a 1st AVN BDE detachment], then through the 25th Div and then through their LNO at the Supply Center. I had my own property book and somehow managed to establish a direct account on my own with USARV and could requisition up to Priority 5 material. Division was in fits because I could get stuff in one day and it took them months).

I built my own company area and hooch’s across from the 25 Avn Bn NCO club and my personal hooch was just west of the blue 25th Avn A Frame EM Club. We painted our hooch’s and buildings yellow with brown gables.

I built an arc of pipeline in front of the pump house with three connection points and I could off load a 5,000 gallon tanker in four minutes using the 1200 GPM pump I had. It took longer to hook up than to offload. The pony pump of the tanker pumped only 75 GPM and the drivers had time to eat their lunch atop the tanker but we changed that with the 4" lines and big pumps. Later I also obtained a 2000 GPM pump that was a 6" two stage but we had to reduce it to 4" to mate with the three filters of 350 GPM each. I figured out the manifold configuration so that I could offload the trucks and keep the pipeline charged at the same time by a system of gate valves and reducing the flow into the storage tanks when a flight came in to refuel.

I had a total of 21 personnel, including myself, and we did all the work I've mentioned above ourselves. None of us were engineers but we figured it out. It worked and I helped get construction started on similar projects at Tay Ninh and Dau Teng by helping them lay out the setup and obtain equipment.

After Cu Chi I went to FT Rucker where I was a flight commander in the Fixed Wing Branch with the 0-1 low level navigation branch, Feb 68-Apr 69, then to Ft Knox for Adv Crs 69-Feb70, and back to Bien Hoa in June 70 to take command of 68th AHC when I stood it down and served as XO of 145th CAB (Old Warrior 5). The 145th and 269th traded flags in 70 (trying to keep the 145 in country as the first in and last out CAB) and I brought the 269 colors and a small amount of equipment back to Ft Bragg in Apr 70. I was reroute to Bootstrap at Omaha and I stayed 90 days at Bragg as XO of 269th with my good friend Herschel Stephens. I was in Omaha for six months and snowbird at Creighton University with the ROTC for six months while I worked on my MA at Omaha and waited for the next CGSC class in 72. In 73 I returned to Rucker as ACS Officer and departed for PMS at Univ of KY in 76 then to Ft Knox in 78 as Director of the Senior Officer Courses in the Armor School. I retired in Dec 80 and started working as an Army employee until Jan 2003 when I retired again.

 Addendum I:

The 554th Engr scraped the sites for the 500 Barrel Low Bolted Steel Tanks. After we bolted them together the 554th pushed up a berm around each of the four tanks. They had the task of constructing the tanks but due to their heavy commitment to the Division they could never get to it. The tank berm in the northeast corner took a 122mm rocket into the side of the berm closest to the pump house. It scalloped our a sizeable amount of soft dirt and when I returned in 1970 the scallop was still there but the berm was covered with penta-prime to stabilize it.

The re-arm point was one of their projects that we pushed to get. The berm was pushed up around the ammo storage area by the 554th also.. Initially, the rearm point was on the main airfield on the east side by the crash rescue section. Rockets were stored in a CONEX container and small arms ammo was in another beside the rockets. The refuel points were also on the main airfield by the rearm point and consisted of 10,000 and 2,000 gallon membrane pillow tanks rounded out with 500 gal collapsible tanks (the rubber donuts). We had several refuel points as it took 20-30 minutes to refuel a UH-1 with 250 gallons. It can easily be seen why the East POL was needed. I have timed a flight of twenty birds refueling at the pipeline and it took only 4 ½ minutes to refuel the entire two flights from the time the first nozzle was inserted into the helicopter until the last nozzle was removed.

We were a 1st Avn Bde organization and supposed to be attached to the 269th but initially the 269th was not activated and I elected to stay with the 25th Avn once they were.

When we had to do any work on the pipeline to the nozzles, we had to do it at night after most operations were ended. We sometimes realigned it, put in more points, elevated it out of the water in the wet season, and improved the system after dark and up until about midnight. We were all conscious that we were immediately behind the perimeter bunkers with good fields of fire from outside the perimeter. No one had to tell the guys to hurry up as they were as anxious as I was by being exposed in vehicle headlights working on the pipeline.

Operating the pumps was a one man operation after we got it built but I always sent two men out there at night. They needed the comfort of another body to talk to and pass the time. I had the Engineers to dig a hole behind the pump house for a bunker and the guys would sit on top just over the entrance and when anything happened they would simply slip off the front and be inside with only one step. The berm around the tanks were not completed until Dec 67, just 30 days before TET of 68.

JP 4 consumption in Feb 67 averaged 20K gallons per day, in Jan 68 the average was 40,000 daily. The greatest amount pumped in one day was 80,000 gallons during TET of 68. Each day I took eight tankers from the re-supply convoy from Long Binh and we could suck a 5 K tanker dry in four minutes with the 2,000 GPM pump we had. We would off load three at a time in the half circle off load area we built and by the time the drivers opened the hatches he started closing them again. That is how fast we could unload them.

I have about 1500 35mm slides I took of the construction of the tanks, our orderly room and the pipeline. Some are early in the tour and others just before and after TET.

There are several of the base camp but mostly related to activities in which we were involved.

The Crash/Rescue crew came from B Company, 25th Avn Bn. They were a motley bunch with an E-5 in charge and lived on the airfield in a tent. The tent was located across the street from the 554 Engr. They were the fire fighters for the entire base. I had a fire fighting section in my detachment (three guys) but they were not trained and I had no fire fighting equipment. The “old” guys didn't need them as they rarely had any activity and I did need them to build our orderly room and the fuel tanks. The ammo detail came from A and B Company but worked for me. The ATC guys were from the battalion also. When I arrived there the “tower” was a portable hutch mounted on something slightly above ground level and was located north of B Co Maintenance. I worked with the ATC in Saigon and got priority for a tower to be constructed with a full console and it was built between the East POL and the airfield. I've got some pictures of its construction but TET occurred before it was finished and I am not sure whether it was ever finished or not. I believe it was but not to the original specifications.

Since the 341st AOD had a firefighting mission, the firefighter injured in the rocket attack* you mentioned may have come from them. The AOD may have assumed that mission after we departed and the new guys came in. My unit all PCSed on the same day and when we departed Cu Chi on 12 Feb 67 there was only two persons in the unit, the commander, Major Bob Zion, and one new enlisted man who arrived just days before we departed. Maj. Zion did not stay long as he was looking for an AHC to command and felt the Detachment was beneath his talents. The TOE for the 341st had a LTC for Commander and several of the guys who built the units at Ft Benning with me were replaced by LTCs when they got in country. We had two LTC commanders at FT Benning who moved with us to RVN. They went to Vung Tau and Qui Nhon. There were eleven detachments formed at Benning and I was the “supply” officer for the group. I was a captain at the time and there were two majors and one 1LT with the rest captains. I made Major at Cu Chi in Oct and commanded the unit for a full year, which was unheard of in a combat zone. The command tour length was six months but I got twelve. The former Chief of Staff of 1st Avn Bde was Colonel John Dibble and he was my wing mate in flight school. I stopped by to see him in Saigon before they moved to Long Binh, and asked if it was true that LTCs were replacing the AOD commanders and he told me that two in the Delta were already replaced and I commented that it was a hell of a deal that we did all the work of forming the organizations, obtained the equipment and moved them to RVN only to have them taken from us when the real command began. I knew a captain in the S-1 Personnel shop who had served in Germany with me and asked him to give me as much notification as he could if I was being replaced so I could pick my unit of assignment. He said he would but I was never notified. On my second tour I commanded the 68th AHC at Bien Hoa in the 145th CAB and have the rare experience of having two combat commands.

Before I departed Cu Chi, LTC Smith, Bn CO of 25th Avn, asked me to extend and he would give me the next company to come open in the battalion. The next to come open in about a month was B Company but I declined as it would have meant adding seven months to my tour. I made the correct decision as you know what the next seven months entailed. My wife would have been most distressed if I had extended.

Bobbie G. Pedigo
LTC Retired

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