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The Vulcan Combat Test - Thirty+Men/Thirty+Years

Vulcan Team

From October 1968 to April 1969, the U.S. Army sent a cadre of troops and equipment to Vietnam to test their use as an ADA replacement for the ancient M-42A1 "Dusters" and M-55 "Quad-50s". During this period the VCT demonstrated their capabilities admirably and heroically in combat situations. Ironically the senior advisor to the unit CPT John S. Wilson, was the only fatality from the original VCT. He was killed on February 23, 1969 during a rocket/mortar attack on the base at Long Binh. Even more ironic, the only US KIA during actual Vulcan combat was PFC Jeffery T. Sapp, who was on loan from the 5th/2nd at the time. It occurred on the Bien Hoa River. April 11, 1969 when he was riding in the support APC.

The photo above was taken around March 3, 1969 as CPT Wilson and LT Martinez (seriously wounded during same attack that killed CPT Wilson) are not present. Also missing is Lt. Wright (XO). However it does show the three civilian technicians who accompanied the Vulcan units: Steve Clark, Bill Arnold and Loyal Savage. For some of the men, this was not their first tour in Vietnam and for others it would not be their last. Before leaving nearly every man in the VCT would be decorated for either valor or meritorious service. Several would take home the Purple Heart, two posthumously.

For additional history, you are directed to the article on the Vulcans in the August issue of Vietnam Magazine. The author talks with former CPT Jim Hines and SSG Vincent De Santis of the VCT who detail the events of the rocket attack that killed CPT Wilson and the heroism of a Vulcan crew in rescuing a Cavalry unit during an ambush.

Vulcan Combat Test Team Roll Call
Mr. Steve Clark - Lockheed
Mr. Bill Arnold - General Electric Radar Man
Mr. Loyal Savage - Rock Island Arsenal (MECOM)
CPT John Stanton Wilson KIA 2/23/69 (1st/44th) Advisor
CPT Jimmy R. Hines CO (LTC Ret.) (A-5th/2nd)
1LT Ralph E. Ruggero Advisor
1LT Curtis Wright Platoon Leader
1LT Robert S. Martinez
SFC Paul R. Peters
SFC Robert Hoeller (Deceased)
SFC Tommy McNeil (1 Sgt Ret.) (A-5th/2nd)
SSG Abner Lang (Ret.) (HHB 5th/2nd)
SSG Vincent De Santis (CSM Ret.)(A,C-1st/44th)
SSG Randolph Pickett (SMAJ)
SSG Frederick Haddock
SSG Ronald Paschal (Deceased '94)
SSG Peter Papion
SSG Hipolito Padilla (Ret.)
SGT Van Johnson (B-5th/2nd)
SGT Gary Pearson
SP4 Thurman M. Lewis
SP5 Normon Koop
SP4 Frank Klemm
SP5 Terrence Dryden
SP4 Everett Parkinson
SP4 Marvin Kinley
SP4 Christopher Gautier
SP4 James D. Guaze
SP4 Gary B. Neagle
SP4 David E. Neet
SP4 John P. Lavelle
SP4 Leo S. Karaba
SP4 Kenneth D. Smith
PFC Blaso (injured)
PFC Jeffrey T. Sapp KIA 5th/2nd
PFC Denny 5th/2nd

We will put additional photos and stories about the Vulcan Combat Team on the Vietnam Memories Web site. We are not sure if there were other 5th/2nd personnel that filled in as drivers or crewman for the VCT so if you were one or if you have a "first-person" account of the VCT please contact me so we can record the information. If you can put a name with any of the unknowns (?) in the photo please let us know.

Paul Kopsick can be reached at pkopsick@mgfairfax.RR.com or by mail at 4338 Still Meadow Road, Fairfax VA 22032

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