In March 1969 Victor Charlie landed a direct hit on the Dong Tam ammo dump and blew up all of the ammunition stored for the entire 9th Infantry Division. In Dong Tam, mortar attacks occurred more nights than not. I learned quickly to distinguish incoming from outgoing, to listen for the 3 marker rounds (even in my sleep), and to immediately determine if the rounds were walking toward me or away. I could decide in a few seconds if the attack required my going to the bunker. Whether or not a mortar attack was memorable was determined by it's proximity to each person's location.
However, for those of us who lived in Dong Tam, the night the VC blew up the ammo dump will be forever in our combined memories. Without exception, everyone was convinced that wherever they were had taken a direct hit. The concussions of the explosions were so tremendous that the earth literally moved. In the Donut Dollie hooch, things jumped off the dressers and shattered on the floor, dust which had been there since the hooch was built was dislodged from its hiding places. Right after the initial explosions some visiting friends tried to climb the fence to see where the rounds had hit, only to be knocked off the fence by the next concussion.
Everyone had their own way of dealing with and hiding fear in Nam. It was a necessary skill for survival, both physical and emotional. On the night of the ammo dump explosion, I sat in the bunker babbling on and on about how pissed off I would be if the VC damaged my guitar - I babbled on and on until another Donut Dollie looked me right in the eye and said something like, "If you don't shut up about that damned guitar, I'm going to go get it and beat you to death with it." I just started laughing, one of those laughs that has more to do with release of tension than with actual humor, but it helped.
At some point, the MP told us that our hooch was not under direct attack, that the explosions were coming from the ammo dump and that it would take awhile for all the ammo to cook off. Sometime after that I decided, since I was not in imminent danger, I would just go to bed. I had finally managed to get to that twilight stage of sleep where my mind was drifting to better places when another horrific explosion occurred. I don't think I got back to sleep that night.
The next day, a friend who ran the Special Services Club in Dong Tam and I went down to see what was left of the area surrounding the ammo dump and took the pictures on this page. We were in a group that sang around Dong Tam and were suppose to play in the Navy EM Club the night after the ammo dump blew. Somewhere in the carnage of pictures AD2, AD3 and AD4 is what's left of the EM Club. Again I wonder, why them and not me? God rest their souls.
We also picked up a few pieces of shrapnel to bring home as souvenirs. It seemed the logical thing to do at that illogical time.
Several days later I got a call from the Saigon Red Cross telling me to write my Mother. Apparently, the ammo dump explosion had made the Atlanta newspaper and Mother wanted proof I was still alive. No big deal, Ma, it was nowhere close to me. (Let's see a show of hands of those who did not always tell the whole truth in their letters home.)
I realize that the pictures aren't great. It was a bright day and the slides have faded. If you're thinking, "I really can't see that much," well, frankly, there just wasn't much left standing the morning after the VC hit the ammo dump, but if you look closely you can see a great deal of shrapnel scattered on the ground.
So - WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE AMMO DUMP BLEW UP?!?!?!
I have received a number of answers to this question and thought it would be fun to share.