Local veteran to be part of Vietnam documentary
Louis Spear, Rick Kendrick and James Bryant on their gun jeep in 1967.
Submitted photosLouis Spear with "Brutus" at the Transportation Museum in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. He will be part of a documentary on Vietnam which will be aired on The Smithsonian Channel on Nov. 11.
A reunion for for members of the 359th Transportation Unit at Wrigley Field.
La PORTE â" A documentary about a Vietnam veteran from La Porte is due to air on the Smithsonian Channel on Veterans Day.
Louis Spear, tanker driver and gunner for the 359th Transportation Unit, spoke with Beth Garrigal, who put together the documentary about his units' experiences.
âAbout 5 years ago, I was shooting an interview with the Army Transportation Museum historian at Ft. Eustis, Virginia,â Garrigal said.
Garrigal, who owns her own production company, Garrigal Productions based out of New York, was assigned to interview veterans of gun trucks.
âThis project is hands-down the best project I have ever had the fortune of working on due to the relationships that I developed with these veterans,â she said.
Spear served in Vietnam from 1966-67. During that time, he transported JP4 (jet fuel) from Qui Nhon to a 1st Cavalry airfield near the Cambodian border, along with other outposts in the central highlands of Vietnam.
When he was not driving a tanker, he was gunner on a jeep with an M60 machine gun.
Louis and his company decided these "gun jeeps" were not protected enough and didn't have enough firepower. He and others in his unit requisitioned two 50-caliber machine guns off a naval vessel to mount on M54 cargo trucks.
âWe were not authorized by the Army; we had to scrounge for steel and guns,â Spear said. âThere wasn't a gun truck in Vietnam authorized by the Army, but they knew we had them.â
The gun trucks had to be fabricated on the field. Spear was known for his skill as a welder, and went to work on modifying cargo trucks into gun trucks.
Besides arming the trucks with heavier firepower, Spear also welded steel onto the trucks in order to better armor them against mines and RPGs. The reinforced trucks were also better able to haul the weight of the ammunition. Spear said a truck could carry 5,000 rounds, as opposed to the 500 rounds the Jeeps were able to carry.
âThe Jeeps were maneuverable, but unstable and not well protected or armed. I saw a Jeep driven by an MP hit by a mine, it flew as high as the ceiling, then went into a rice patty, its driver killed,â Spear said.
The name of one of the trucks Spear worked on was "Brutus." He was able to weld on double-thick space ar mor, which repelled enemy fire so well the Vietnamese put a $10,000 bounty on Brutus.
The bounty was never collected.
Brutus is now on display in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin, at the Military Veterans Museum.
After the war, Spear put together a reunion in 1987-89 for members of the 359th Transportation Unit at Fort Riley, Kansas.
They now hold yearly reunions in varying locations, from San Francisco to Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Smithsonian Channel is set to air the documentary on Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. (CST).Source: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vietnam