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29 Mar 70 Ivy Leaf

And A Firebase Is Born

Cacti Blue Carving Home In The Boonies

Story and Photos by SP4 Robert Jones

QUICK WORK - A formerly empty hill is transposed into a working center as support weapons are emplaced.

CAMP RADCLIFF -- High on the crest of the wooded mountains 37 miles north of An Khe lies a pair of grass knolls. The mountains are precipitous. There are no roads, no villages. It is the essence of isolation. Yet, it has become the new home of the 4th Division’s 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry.

In a massive helicopter assault, the Cacti Blue airlifted onto the two barren hills to establish a new firebase, Landing Zone (LZ) Hooper. Company B was first assaulted onto the site to secure a tentative perimeter. The rest of the day the sky was filled with sortie after sortie as helicopters ferried in the remainder of the battalion and Battery A, 4th Battalion, 42nd Artillery.

HIGHLAND ARCHITECTURE - Firebase Hooper took shape quickly as is exemplified by this large underground bunker.

The sky Cranes and Chinooks made repeated trips bringing ammunition, building materials, food, water, men and thousands of sandbags. Then the work began--the back-breaking work. A "mini-dozer" dug the holes for the larger bunkers. On the bunker line, the troops used pick and shovel. Sandbags were filled in a continuous stream. The two placid knolls became a beehive of activity.

The glaring sun drenched the soldiers in their own sweat. "Hooks" and "Cranes" whipped the loosened dirt into the air – into the pores of the skin, the hair and the eyes. Take a break—a cool soda. a cigarette. Then fill more sandbags. C-Rations for lunch. 

Labor through the sultry afternoon. Hot meal for dinner. Sleep in the dew-dampened grass. Rise early to fill more sandbags.

Slowly progress is made. Slow only to those doing the work, because scores of coordinated projects bring the firebase into reality in only a matter of days. Actually it isn’t even days, because the base is functional almost from the moment of its inception.

MECHANIZED HELP - A "mini-dozer" saves manhours at the 4th Division's Firebase Hooper in the Central Highlands by digging the larger bunker holes.

RAW MATERIALS - A "Skycrane" begins landing a sling of building elements at the 4th Division's Firebase Hooper.

The artillery and mortar sections continually give support fire. The .50 caliber machine guns stand ready on the bunker line. The Tactical Operations Center (TOC) controls troop movements and operations in the area. It functions before it is built - it is built while it is functioning.

Everybody is underground, or behind thick walls. Essentially the firebase is complete. There is still work to be done, but there is always work to be done. Landing Zone Hooper stands ready.


EGGS BENEDICT - Chicagoan sergeant Steve Palace of the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry, cooks bacon and eggs in a wash basin while two other RTO's await the feast.

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