Hearing Loss thanks to the M-48 Patton Tank and the 155 mm self-propelled howitzers
The quiet was almost total this morning at 3:00 AM.
There were no crickets, and there was no sound of intruders. I lay in bed listening for a long time, maybe an hour before I drifted off again.
The familiar static was there that is the only sound when there is no noise outside my head. I’m not sure I’ve heard total silence since Vietnam.
During early morning moments such as this, I remember one night in Vietnam when I lost my sight and hearing.
In Chu Lai, Vietnam, I was a field radio operator in the 1st Tank Battalion, First Marine Division.
The M-48 Patton had a 90 mm cannon. The M-48 was separated into three compartments: the driver’s compartment, the fighting compartment where the gunner, loader, and tank commander [TC] fought, and the engine compartment.
Above the main gun was a 1 million candlepower Xenon searchlight. This light had both a white light and an infrared mode. It was bore sighted with the main gun and gun sights so that it could be used to illuminate a target at night.
Hearing those 90 mm cannons firing may have contributed to the static in my hearing today.
However, one night, a battery of M-109 (called the Paladin), 155 mm self-propelled howitzers gets the most credit for that static.
That battery fired a surprise mission.
At two AM, I was standing watch in a hillside bunker above the M-109s, and I was struggling to stay alert and awake.
Without warning, the battery fired.
What little hair I had on my head stood at attention, and the combined flashes left me blind for a moment with dancing spots staying longer, but the loud buzzing in my ears stayed for hours.
My head felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton. All sound was dampened for some time.
By the way, field radio operators did not ride in tanks. We had a jeep with a canvas top. A large radio filled the space behind the front seats.
When we weren’t driving around in old WWII vintage radio jeeps, we hoofed it with a radio strapped to our backs and our old batteries were often dead before we used them.
The radio we arrived with in Vietnam with was a PRC 10. There was no armor to protect field-radio operators in the field. Field-radio operators were usually the first to be shot in an ambush.
The patrol leader was the second priority target.
His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.
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