Proud American Guntruck History

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papabear

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Someone recently asked a friend (more like a brother) why we built the Proud American Guntruck Tribute.

My only answer is....after reading about how she came to be and meeting some of her crew...we just had to:

20 February 1971 Richard B. Frazier (right gunner) was killed during an ambush of the gun truck, Satan’s Lil’ Angel near Fire Support Base Vandergriff, South Vietnam.
Chester Israel the NCOIC was severly wounded and medically evacuated by helicopter.
Calvin Bennett (gunner) and Robert Thorne (driver) survived. They were asked by Captain Donald Voightritter (Captain V), Commanding officer of the 523rd Transportation Company, to rebuild the gun truck.
The Angel’s gun box was put on another truck and the work began, with the help of the 523rd welder. There were a few slight changes. With those complete they began gathering

the ammo and weapons that they would need, Thorne would remain the driver and Calvin the rear gunner. Two more crew members were needed and SP4 "Mac" McDonald was chosen as right front gunner along with SP5 Nelson Allen as NCOIC. With everything in place they again began convoy security operations.
The truck would no longer be known as Satan's Lil Angel. Calvin suggested The Proud American.
12 March 1971 a convoy from Khe Sanh returned to Vandergrift, the convoy commander, 1LT Tom Callahan (Tom Terrific), reported to the Battalion Commander, LTC Alvin C. Ellis (Big Al) that they had received fire and in his opinion it would not be safe to run another convoy in that area. Big Al ran the convoy.
The convoy commander was 1Lt James Baird (Pig Farmer) on the gun truck, Proud American. As expected, shortly after leaving Vandergrift the call went out "Contact, contact, contact". Along with the crew and Baird, the truck also carried the 523rd commander Capt. V. The officers and men of the 523rd were as one. There didn't seem to be the separation between the groups as there was in other units.
At FSB Vandergriff, 1LT Ralph Fuller (Ranger Ralph) assembled all gun trucks and the crews monitored the radios. 1LT Callahan had told him about the possibility of an ambush. When the call was received there was no holding any of them back. An engineer tried to stop them saying, "There is an ambush up the road". 1LT Fuller on the ¾ gun truck Daughter of Darkness and five 5 ton gun trucks raced to the scene.
The Black Widow was "dead lined" for having no brakes. Leon Vance the NCOIC was still monitoring the radio and told his driver Mike Eischens. "Let’s go! Those boys are getting hit". Mike reminded him that they had no brakes to which Leon said, "We only have to stop once." A lieutenant tried to stop them but was removed from the running board by Leon. There was no way anyone was going to stop them from going to help. Shortly after the 6 gun trucks rolled in and began lighting up the area, the enemy broke contact.
The Proud American was destroyed only 22 days after being built. The only 523rd Gun Truck never having a name painted on the armor.
Calvin, Baird, and Thorne are again in a major ambush. At first contact an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) hit the truck in the cab on the driver’s side. Thorne does not survive. Baird was at the radio behind his driver and sustained major wounds and lost his left arm. McDonald had a wound to his face and Calvin had a wound to his wrist that he never reported.
Callahan got Baird on a stretcher and Fuller called in a Medivac. The chopper couldn't land on the road. Fuller found a bridge to bring the helicopter close to the ground, and they had to lift Baird up into it. Fuller was heard to tell the Medivac crew to "Take care of him he's a good one" as the helicopter went airborne.
Chester, when he picked his crew for Angel had picked Thorne for his driver because he was a skilled mechanic, but on this day, the last day of his life, it was far more then those skills that he exhibited. It was his skill and awareness as a driver that saved the crew. In his last breath that he took in this world, a steep bank on one side of the road and a deep ravine on the other, he chose to drive into the embankment, saving the lives of everyone else on the truck.
Robert Thorne was removed from his truck and was taken to Vandergrift on the gun truck Black Widow. Thorne was from Denver, Colorado and will always be 20 years old.
 

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swiss

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Paid our respects today to Robert Thorne at the Vietnam memorial

Thank you for your sacrifice and to all the others honored today as our family toured the war memorials.

ImageUploadedByTapatalk1405441092.051017.jpg
ImageUploadedByTapatalk1405441069.185477.jpg
 
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papabear

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Swiss, I wish I'd known you were going, I would have sent you this list so you could have seen all the names of the 523rd Trans guys on the wall:
 

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sandcobra164

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I'm trying to find more pictures of this truck. I know it's history and have had the honor of meeting some of the surviving crew members. I've also had the honor of putting my own marks on this truck, namely a white brush mark from where I very lightly bent a wooden fence on the way home from the 2010 GA Rally. I hate that I was in Jacksonville for the GunTruck Rally in Columbus this year but the IFS excused my absence due to "Real World Missions" so we're still on good terms!!!
 

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73m819

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Yep, I put my mark on it by lightly rubbing a white curb with the front tire, TONY was NOT HAPPY is a under statement.
 

Red523rd

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sandcobra164,, Here is a picture after rebuild before going on convoy,,,then a few of what she looked like upon return.."RED
Proud-American-nb.jpgPROUD-AMERICAN-MAR-12-71-AMBUSH.jpgL-W-188.jpg477-PROUD-AMERICAN-12-MAR-71-AMBUSH.jpgFor What It's Worth,,,,,,,,
Written on right door in the mud....... Thornes' favorite song !!!!! We Gotta Get Out of This Place.... RIP FRIEND....
 
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papabear

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Red, Proud American represented all you guys in fine fashion at the Manchester, Georgia Veterans Parade on 1 November and will do so again on 8 November here in Columbus.

Danny and Teresa will be here on the 8th and Danny is chawing on that "C GAR" in anticipation!

GOD BLESS!!
 

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Another Ahab

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He didn't run in the guntrucks, but check out the recent post about:

- MSG Roy P. Benavidez

These were all of them men of a certain character.
 

baseballump

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Guys As an MP driver of a V-100 that ran convoys in Nam. It was great to know that when things went south you had gun trucks in the convoy. Our Vs and the gun trucks stood our ground time and time again. If one of us ran low on ammo we could count on each other for help.
When things look bad it was great to see the gun trucks coming up the road and taking the fight to the bad guys.

To each and every guy who was a driver or gunner on a Gun Truck everyone on who ran convoys says THANK YOU
 

73m819

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Just found out that LT. Jim Biard was elected to congress as a (R) Rep. from Indiana, as it was once said of him to the medics as he was medi-vaced out "take care of the LT., he is a good one", AND he STILL IS. He lost his arm when the Proud American died after taking a hit from a rpg right behind the cab, killing the driver (A TRUE, REAL DRIVER)

THANK YOU LT. BIARD then AND now
 

papabear

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check this out

View attachment 752704

Proud Americans!
Jim Baird (on the left), lovingly known as "The Pig Farmer" lost his arm when Proud American fell, Thorne, the driver was KIA, and Calvin was wounded but never sought treatment. Later in life Jim Baird was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives and is now in the U.S. Congress doing what he has always done best.... Giving his best for the rest of us.
 

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hndrsonj

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Do you have any status on how the Proud American is or where it is being shown/stored?
 

papabear

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Sadly I do not Jim. I should have stayed on top of it but I failed in my duties. Haven't heard anything in a long time.
 
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