Ain’t Released Me Yet
Memoirs of a REMF
Copyright© 2016 by Robert B. Martin, IV
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without express written permission from the copyright owner, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. I have attempted to recreate events, locales, and conversations from my memories of them.
The “Mad Minute”
“Peace through superior firepower.” .......John Ringo
We were allowed to take our M-16’s out to the bunker line for target practice almost anytime we wished. I went out occasionally with some buddies and did a little “plinking” with my M-16. We would usually toss a few beer cans out in front of the bunker line and try to make them “dance” by hitting them multiple times. I didn’t always make them dance very long but it was a lot of fun.
A “Mad Minute” was much, much more than just a few guys plinking at cans with M-16’s. A “Mad Minute” was a term that referred to the intense rate of fire that all available weapons could produce from the perimeter bunker line toward every possible target for a period of one minute. The ground in front of the bunker line was termed a “free-fire zone” and anyone out there was in the wrong place at the wrong time. “Mad Minutes” almost always took place at night and were quite a spectacle. It was the Fourth of July and New Year’s’ Eve many times over. The intent of this concentrated firing of all perimeter defensive weapons was meant to discourage any enemy troop movement near the camp. It was also a lot of fun and a good way to blow off a little steam in addition to some of the real estate. Each man took his M-16 and as many magazines as he thought he could shoot during the assigned minute.
In addition to the personal M-16s, there were M-60 machine guns, M-79 grenade launchers, 105mm and 155mm howitzers (if available), dusters (a tank chassis with two 40mm guns in an open turret), and quad 50s (four mounted .50 caliber machine guns that fired simultaneously). The dusters and quad 50s were designed as anti-aircraft weapons but used in Vietnam as anti-personnel weapons.
Claymore mines and fugas (aka, foogas or phoogas) drums were also detonated during the “Mad Minute.” Claymores were small directional anti-personnel mines containing C-4 explosive that fired about 700 small (1/8” diameter) steel balls in a sixty-degree arc out to a little over one hundred yards in front of the mine. It could be detonated either remotely or by trip wire. The words “Front Toward Enemy” were embossed on the front of the mine to prevent it from being pointed in the wrong direction. There were two pairs of scissor-legs attached to the bottom to help support and aim the mine.
Fugas was extremely wicked stuff. It was a concoction of gasoline and some type of thickener that combined to create a flammable, jelly-like substance, very much like “homemade” napalm. Fifty-five gallon drums of this mixture with explosive charges to serve as detonators were placed at intervals out in front of the bunker line and, like the claymore, could be detonated remotely or by trip wire. The explosive charge would spread the flaming substance, which would stick to whatever it contacted. Fugas had a limited “shelf life,” and upon reaching its “expiration date”, it would be detonated and replaced with a fresh batch. It was something to see.
Mad Minutes sometimes included an AC-47 (the military version of the DC-3) gunship known as “Spooky” or “Puff the Magic Dragon.” This was a flying gun platform with three 7.62mm General Electric mini-guns and sometimes a 105mm howitzer mounted to the fuselage and pointed out the left-hand side (pilot side) of the aircraft. The rate of fire from each mini-gun was six thousand rounds per minute, or one hundred rounds per second. The three mini-guns together fired eighteen thousand rounds per minute, or three hundred rounds per second!
The pilot only had to bank the aircraft to the left and fly a fairly tight circle around the target at a specific altitude in order to place all of that combined hell on the target.
Every fifth round was a tracer, which burned brightly, making the bullet visible. Six thousand rounds per minute with every fifth one a tracer meant that twelve tracers per second were fired from each of the three guns. The aircraft itself was generally unseen. All we saw from the ground were three solid red lines, one from each gun, reaching from the aircraft to the ground. It was like watching a laser light show, had we known what a laser was back then.
All of that weaponry firing as fast as possible for one solid minute was both beautiful and frightening, not to mention very loud.
Continued in Chapter 36, Payback is a Bitch…