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War Stories

My Last Door Gunner

SGT John B. McMurtry

Woody Gardner

He came over from the Wolfhounds. He said he needed a cake job, that kind of pissed me off. I told him it was not a cake job. He said it beats walking in the rain , mud and skeeter patch. He also told me how bad the Wolfhounds were.

He told me about his orientation into the Wolfhounds, and that his CO told them there are only 4 ways to get out of this unit. 1. to rotate, 2. to be wounded bad enough to be sent home. 3. to get three purple hearts, (which he had) or 4. a body bag. McMurtry

He told me about his last purple heart, where they were on a search and destroy mission. They came to this village and started checking it out. Thats where the Vietcong or NVA must have sicked a big old water Buffalo on him (John was from Texas). That Water Buffalo attacked him head on, He didn't have time to grab his M16 before the Water Buffalo crashed from the pen. When he got to him John grabbed the horns as the Water Buffalo tried to grind him into the dirt. That Buffalo messed him up. One of the guys with him shot the Buffalo with a canister round from an M79 grenade launcher. He got the purple heart because nobody knew whether he got hit from the M79 or the VC Buffalo. John told me it was the smell of Americans that pissed the Water Buffalo off; we wash to much.

I talked to John for over an hour and explained what his job would be and what I expected. I said "If the guns don't fire, you're fired". I told him to make sure he located the enemy and keep firing. He never froze up.

One day my ship had to go to 725th field maintenance for some time chain components. We had to disarm the ship. Our armament took off the M-5 grenade launcher from the front of the ship. John and I decided to electrically drop the rocket pods, (full of rockets). We had other guys working around the ship and John was to keep everyone clear of the pods. When he said clear, I hit the button. All of a sudden I heard somebody raising Hell behind me. I got out of the seat to see what had happened. John was stuck with his right foot under the end of the pod. We removed it as fast as we could, and watched John do the jig. We finally got him to sit down so we could take his boot off, thats when we found out it had fell on his boot smashing the meat out of the side of his big toe. He was out of a job for about six weeks, and no, he did not get a purple heart for that. If it hadn't hurt so much, we would have given him the Murphy award. When I think back, with 48, 2.75 rockets in those pods we were lucky not to blow ourselves up.

John died in 1973, and I'm sure he wouldn't mind me telling this story. John was a good guy. He just wanted to be a country singer, He could really sing and play that guitar. He's buried in the cemetery in a lonely little place called Texline, Texas. My wife and I stopped on the way to the reunion in Tucson, and placed flowers on his grave.

This is as I remember it. W. Gardner C/E 433
This ends the saga of John B. McMurtry