Be it ever so humble, there's no place like... LZ Uplift!

Copyright 2002: Dick Guthrie. All rights reserved. (copy permission at bottom)

Webmaster's Introduction Until September 1969 when the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry shifted south to LZ Betty outside Phan Thiet in the far south of II Corps, most Ichiban soldiers endured a love-hate relationship with LZ Uplift. It wasn't brilliant, but it was home. Unlike Camp Radcliff at An Khe, or LZ English (Bong Son) or even LZ Betty, the Army had never tried to make LZ Uplift anything more than it was, a temporary combat base in Charlie's back yard. Largely a tent city, every piece of wood from ammo boxes found a home somewhere. Creature comfort wasn't high on the agenda... we all had our individual jobs to do. So welcome to LZ Uplift!

UPLIFT was not an attractive place when it was dry, but it was a depressing nightmare after a day or two of monsoon rain had turned it into a quagmire. The perimeter, roughly a half-mile across, was outlined by an irregular oval of ramshackle three-man bunkers made of leaking sandbags. Some even had the sandbags on top, while some had only an attempt at shelter from the rain, which deceived the occupants into thinking, they were protected from air mortar bursts. These slumping dugouts were separated, one from the other, by some seventy-five yards of mud, puddles, and litter of every description.

Beyond the bunkers, the outer rim of our defenses was a tangle of concertina wire that in places was three rolls high as prescribed, while elsewhere we took what protection we could get from a single roll stretched so taut and thin that a short man attacking could vault over it without breaking stride. Surprisingly, the perimeter's oval was bifurcated by Route #1, which of course had to be left open for civilian traffic during daylight, and was closed off at dusk with an improvised contraption of wood and barbed wire drug across the road.

The defense of any segment of the perimeter depended on the initiative of the succeeding company commanders who had been responsible for occupying that part. Some no doubt had been there for no more than a few hours. Probably none had defended it for more than a few days at a time, when their priorities were elsewhere. Soldiers from a unit rotating in from the paddies needed rest, hot meals, a shower, and a chance to write a letter or two home. That was what their captain tried to give them. So filling sandbags, clearing fields of fire and digging good fighting positions had been low on the priority list and it showed.

Crammed almost randomly inside this littered space were all the support and service functions needed to keep an Air Cavalry Brigade running. The functional layout seemed no better planned than the defenses. There were Tactical Operations Centers for the Brigade and three battalions, along with eight inch and 155 mm Howitzer firing batteries, medical aid stations, supply dumps of rations and munitions of all sizes, Petroleum, Oil and Lubrication stockpiles, a mobile laundry, and shower unit, helicopter arming and refueling pad, maintenance facilities for aircraft, armored vehicles and trucks, mess tents, Chaplains' offices, a military police unit, and everywhere, a hodge-podge of sleeping accommodations for individuals, squads and platoons.

Radio and microwave antennae of every size and configuration sprouted randomly. Black commo wire, WD-1, ran overhead or underground to nearly every structure. And, even though enemy use of aircraft was virtually unheard of, we had an air defense artillery platoon boasting twin 40 millimeter cannons, and old WWII quad-50 caliber machine guns.

Some of the structures had originally begun as olive drab tents that later were protected from incoming fire by waist-high sandbag walls. Some were "hootches" made of wood salvaged from ammunition boxes, or from forklift pallets and the kits used to make flooring for General Purpose tents that housed a platoon. Tactical Operation Centers (T.O.C.'s) were usually heavily fortified as a matter of priority, since they were the nerve center of the unit they directed. Accordingly, they also sprouted more radio antennae than other structures, so they could transmit and receive with higher and lower headquarters.

Scattered almost at random were the latrines found on all U.S. firebases. They almost all resembled the one- and two-seat privies that had been so common in rural America; ours had one significant difference: the Vietnam model caught the waste in a receptacle fabricated from one third of a 55-gallon oil drum. This tub was kept partially filled with diesel fuel, and each day a couple of disgruntled rear-echelon soldiers had the unhappy but necessary duty of disposing of the day's deposits. They would pull the drum from under the privy, drag it a safe distance away, and light the diesel afire. Nobody who spent time in Vietnam will, I am sure, forget the characteristic stink of the burning contents.
L.Z. UPLIFT was to be our firebase for the entire time I spent with the battalion.

Copyright 2002 Richard Guthrie,

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