The Day Room

This is the place for visitors' comments & opinions, questions & answers. Veteran or non-veteran, whatever your status or background, you are invited to send in your items for The Day Room. All submissions must be sent by e-mail to the Webmaster and must be clearly relevant to the chemical mortar battalions of the U.S. Army. Please make your writings as concise as you can. It is also preferable that each submission be focused on one theme only.

The fine print: We necessarily reserve the right to edit submissions for length and clarity. Anonymous items will not be accepted; the writer's full name must accompany all submissions, and will be noted on this page along with the item submitted. No item will be accepted for this page if it is sent by means other than e-mail, or if it is not primarily relevant to the chemical mortar battalions of the U.S. Army, or is political or commercial in nature, or is profane or contains otherwise objectionable material. The latter includes material that is obscene or excessively belligerent, or that is overly critical of individuals by name, or that unjustly maligns the U.S. military or any of its components. We also will not let this page be dominated by any person or group.

What they said...
Stories wanted on Heurtgen Forest battle, Padda Spaans, 12 Jun 2001
Koreans with 4.2 in Vietnam, Ralph Dodds, 15 Apr 2001
We needed every one of them, Bruce Elliott, 5 Mar 2001
The Four-Deuce and its history, Keith Ostrum, 26 Feb 2001
Delivery capability & deterrence factor, Jack Butler, 10 Feb 2001

Stories wanted on Heurtgen Forest battle

I am writing a book about the Heurtgen Forest battle in which my husband, Lt Ralph Spaans, was killed in November 1944, while serving with Co B, 112th Inf Rgmt, 28th Inf Div. I am looking for stories of their experiences from the men who fought there and from their widows, wives and families whose lives were forever changed by this battle. This is not to be a book about which battle took place where and on what date. This is to be a people book.

I would like people to share their experiences and feelings. Specific incidents if possible – sad, funny, frightening, etc. I want this book to touch the hearts and minds of future generations. I want them to know that war is not a parade of handsome young men in smart, clean uniforms marching down Main Street to the stirring sounds of a military band. I want them to know that it is pain and fear and cold and hunger and brutality and despair and loss and shattered lives. That war is ugly but, in the face of all that, men dredge up enough courage to go on and do what has to be done. I want them to also know that to fight in defense of something they believe in is heroic and noble. If people are shy - or embarrassed - about sharing specific stories, they can be used anonymously. They can be credited with some and not others if they so wish.

You can write to me by e-mail at, or by postal mail to 2/13 Leonard Ave, Flora Hill, Victoria, Australia 3550. Many thanks.

—  Padda Spaans, widow of 28th Inf Div veteran, 12 Jun 2001

Koreans with 4.2 in Vietnam

I went to Vietnam in December 1965 and after three months in the First Field Force G3 TOC, was assigned to the Korean First Capitol ROK Div (Tiger). I worked with the division S2 & S4 and the 1st Regt on combat operations. I only saw the 4.2s once on an operation. The platoon was with the regimental Hq on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere. You could shoot in any direction as it was all hostile territory. They never fired except H&I on that operation. This was the norm in Vietnam. Operating in the middle of the enemy, the pucker factor occasionally got a little high. We couldn't have done it without the helicopter, the cavalry horse of the 60s. The Koreans really dug in when they arrived in a position for a night or a week. That habit saved all our lives more than once.

The 4.2 muzzles were below ground level. There was an old one behind our tent in the Div Hq area. The ground level was at least 5 ft above my head. The Koreans were always surprised when a U.S. officer complimented them about some ways they did things. They said, we do it like the GIs taught us. They were never too tired to not dig in. They constantly trained on Tai Kwando (a form of offensive judo) when in garrison and during slack time in the field. I was never afraid of the perimeter guards going to sleep. Discipline was severe for minor infractions. Physical punishment was normal. An army truly to be admired for their skill and spirit. By the time I left Vietnam in Dec 1965, the enemy didn't fool with the Koreans too much.

—  Ralph Dodds, 2nd Cml Weapons Bn (DPG 1953-57), 15 Apr 2001

We needed every one of them

When chemical mortar men, or veterans of any other combat unit, get together, there naturally is a lot of reminiscing. Some goon gunners, or four-deucers as Keith likes to call them, at times tend to embellish the distant past a bit, and sometimes it seems like almost everyone was either an FO or a gunner. Fading memories and the natural desire to feel important help fuel this sort of harmless banter. I have no criticism whatever to offer, but rather want to emphasize that every veteran who served with a CMB in combat should feel important and proud, no matter what his specific job.

It should be fairly obvious to anyone that no gunner could do his job if it weren't for the ammo handler, and no gun crew or FDC or FO party could function if the communication guys didn't do their job. But we should never forget that these front-line crews were totally dependent on the guys who supported them from further back. Moving mortars and ammo was usually done by motor transport, and support by the mechanics and others in company and battalion motor pools was critical to the mission. And how would we have done without the super job our mess personnel did for us daily? The drivers, clerks, supply people, and every one of the others in a CMB were absolutely essential to its success.

Private, non-com or officer – gunner, driver or clerk – FO, mechanic or cook – no matter the rank, MOS or job, every single man in a CMB contributed to the mission and should feel very proud of his part. Every guy in a mortar unit needed every other guy to help him do the job. Every man was equally indispensable. The Army and our country depended on each of us to do our jobs to the best of our abilities, so that a well-functioning team could defeat some of the tyrants of the earth. Goon gunners: whatever your part was, you were very important! Be proud!

—  Bruce Elliott, 2nd, 87th & 97th CMBs, 5 Mar 2001

The Four-Deuce and its history

I have a book entitled Never a Shot in Anger by Col. Barney Oldfield but that is something entirely different, obviously. I still can't stand for a 4.2" mortar to be called a “four-deuce” but, what the hell, they won the war(s) anyhow. We should pay more attention to and help the younger generations who are doing so much to keep the history of the 4.2 and its past users in the memories of present-day individuals.

—  Keith Ostrum, 87th CMB, 26 Feb 2001

Delivery capability & deterrence factor

That is a great article by Eldredge [First Shot in Anger by Walter J. Eldredge]. I printed it and have read it twice. Gen. Porter was a superb leader – he visited the 82nd CMB after the 2nd Battle of Bougainville and told us we would use gas against the Japanese homeland. Evidently, they had used mustard against our allies, the Chinese, so they were fair game. Also, he described experiments on islands off the coast of Panama, in which goats were tethered in bunkers and equipped with the Japanese gas mask. Chemicals fired on the bunkers broke the masks and killed the goats. Taking the mask off a dead goat and putting it on another killed the second.

Porter also described how the Germans were able to continue war production deep in the ground, despite aerial bombardment. The deeper the Japanese dug, the better – the gas would follow them down. Who will deliver gas in a future war against the likes of Iraq, or will we be forced to retaliate with nukes? As Eldredge points out, to create the illusion of chemical capability under one of the other service branches would reduce the deterrence factor.

Let the infantry have the 120mm smoothbore – the Japanese, Chinese and many others have it. Restore the CMBs and the 4-deuce based on the same argument Porter made and the justification of the HE mission to provide the deterrence by having chemical troops trained and available (6,000 yards of range is great). The only advantage I find for the 120mm is its capability of firing at the short range of 200 yards – no reason why the 4.2 can't do the same.

—  Jack Butler, 82nd CMB, 10 Feb 2001

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