A largely forgotten part of the war in South East Asia was the one fought by the U.S. Army’s gun trucks as part of convoy operations through the heart of enemy territory.
While Hollywood would tell you everything moved by chopper in Vietnam, the hard fact of life was that it was truck convoys that schlepped the bulk of the food, fuel and ammo to American and allied units stationed in the countryside. However, these predicable routes became target for enemy ambushes.
One of the worst supply runs was that along Route 19, some 150 miles of winding nowhere that became known as “Ambush Alley” for the motor transportation guys having to make the drive.
The response: hit the scrap piles and, using salvaged steel, sandbags and anything else they could find, up-armor Deuce and a Half and later 5 ton trucks then pile on whatever ordnance they could mount. In some instances, this ran all the way up to entire M113 armored personnel carrier bodies.
While these gun trucks look right out of Mad Max, they predated the movies by generations– and honestly were a magnitude of times better armed. While M60 machine guns and M2 “Ma Deuce’s” were popular, quad .50 Maxson M45 mounts known as meat choppers, which dated back to WWII, were always crowd pleasers.
Then of course there were mini-guns, which are always good for breaking up ambushes from guys whose ballistic protection was only pajama-thick.
The only known remaining Vietnam-era gun truck is Eve of Destruction, which was shipped back to the states before the fall of Saigon and is now restored and on display in the Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Va.
However, the Museum has an online record of more than 90 of these trucks at their website, where the bulk of these images are from.
Of course this concept was later rebooted in later U.S. military experiences in Southwest Asia— but that is the subject of another post.