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Amtracs and Ontos

I arrived in K-Bay in January 1961, and after a month on mess duty I reported to the “tractor park” for training in Amtracs. Across the main road from the tractor park was an area used for our driver training, the brush was around 15 feet high with roads running through it. Coming rapidly around a corner one day I was stopped short by a strange vehicle that also came to a sudden stop about 20 feet away facing me. I was looking down the muzzles of six giant (106mm) recoilless rifles.

That was my first meeting with an Ontos and it was a memorable one. Up the beach from the tractor park was a large landing area complete with bleachers that were used for public viewings of mock landings. The Amtracs would bring the grunts onto the beach then the Tracs would go down the beach, where we would climb on top of the tractors and watch the show. The Grunts would assault a sandbagged bunker built out in front of the stands. In one of these shows a “Rocket Man” came up to about 100 yards of the bunker and put the first round through the embrasure, blowing it into a smoking pile of debris. A “Flame Man” came forward and could only char what remained of the ruined bunker.

This “Rocket Man” was a friend of mine, L/CPL D and the best Rocketeer in the 4th Marine Regiment, the remarkable thing was he wore Coke bottle glasses; he was blind as a bat without them! After this rather anticlimactic demonstration of firepower from the Grunts they brought an Ontos up the beach, it turned and aimed at a group of rocks about 500 yards off shore. They fired about three pops from the .50 cal. spotting rifle and as the third round found the range all six of the 106’s went off with a loud crack, throwing a unbelievably large tongue of flame from the front and a billowing cloud of dust and sand from the back.

You could actually see the rounds flying through the air and they took a rather large chunk out of the rocks with a massive explosion. Impressive to say the least! I remembered those six rifles pointing directly at me from about 20 feet away and just shuddered.

CPL E4 Selders

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Top Pro USMC ’64-’84 - April 2, 2020

The ontos was an awesome weapon to say the least. I remember an occurrence in Santa Domingo, Dom Rep in the spring of 1965 that proved that exceptional power. I was with Hq 4th MAB at the Hotel Embarqador where we would spend off hours watching the operations through binoculars from an excellent location. One day we watched a group of rebels building a MG nest on the upper side of a building. They must have hauled a couple tons of sandbags up to the 3d floor location over the period of several hours. As evening approached and they were finishing by mounting a 50 cal MG, it was evident someone else had also been watching. A Marine ontos rolled around the corner, shot a couple of spotter rounds and then blew off the entire side of the building. Those poor bastards had no idea of what had hit them, but spent a long hard days work only to be obliterated. Later in the ‘Nam the ontos further proved it worth in many ways. Semper Fi!!

David Earl Tyre - April 2, 2020

“Ontos”: Greek translation: “The Thing.” One bad dude !

Mike Christman L/Cpl 1956 1960 - April 2, 2020

In reply to Top Pro USMC ‘64-’84.
During my time in the Corps in 1958 I was transferred to 1ST AT Bn. from ST TK Bn. Camp Pendleton. At the time my MOS was 1841 Tracked Vehicle Repairman. I was assigned to the M50 Ontos at Camp Horno. We use to do crew served weapon’s demo at a range across Baselone Road During one demo someone had the bright idea to stack the used ammo boxes behind the Ontoes . That day we had a bunch of visiting officers from foreign military present. At the close of the demo the last M50 was fired in Auto Salvo which let all 106s go at once. As the debris rained down on the viewing stands scattering all the poor brass. The pieces of wood and metal strapping covered the entire area. I guess some one should have allowed for the wind drift when stacking the old boxes.Needless to say that demo was never done again to my knowledge

1st Lt. Edward L. Dodd, USMC (forever) - April 2, 2020

From the last half of 1960 to the first half of 1961 I was assigned as Maintenance and Motor Transport officer for 3rd AT Bn at Camp Schwab (Sp), even though my primary MOS was 1820 (Tank Officer), but my secondary MOS was as a Wheeled and Tracked Vehicle Maintenance Officer. I served under Lt.Col. Guildo S. Codispotti. We got along great, I ran his maintenance and he was allowed to run his BN (LOL). During this time we spent Christmas and New Years at North Camp My. Fuji. We also had a company of 3rd Tank Bn there for part of the time. One day we ran a friendly contest between the Ontos and M48A1 tanks. First was a cross country race which the tanks easily won since the crews of the Ontos had no protection inside the vehicle from the Ontos flying into the air when going over the rough terrain. Tgen came the shoot-off. It was 106s vrs 90 mm. Yhe Ontos had too small a gun cradle to support the 106s when moving across the rough terrain, They fired off the .50 cal spotting round and then all 6 of the 106s. Each round took off in a different direction. Later on the trounins (Sp) were modified, and lengthened. That night the AT officers bought several rounds for the Tankers.

Jerry LaFreniere CPL 1963-1966 - April 2, 2020

In reply to Mike Christman L/Cpl 1956 1960.
Early in 64 a similar demo was done for the Pentagon brass and Lt. ignored or refused to heed the warning of flying debris from the back blast. Needless to say the back blast sent the ammo boxes flying in pieces, one piece knocked the camera out his hands and the blast knocked him backwards on his butt. It kind of messed up his hair a little, but luck was with him, no further damage. I often wondered if he figured out that he shouldn’t have been standing there.

C. Stoney Brook - April 2, 2020

You will be happy to note the Mechanized Museum at Camp Pendleton has at least one M50 Ontos restored and operational, thanks to the efforts – and scrounging ability – of (ret) Master Gunnery Sergeant Jim King.

Cpl. Fred K Searcy - April 2, 2020

In reply to 1st Lt. Edward L. Dodd, USMC (forever).
I was with the 3rd Anti Tank Btl. in June 1962-May 1963. Was a Mechanic. Enjoyed floates and time spent at Mt. Fuji. Was at Camp Swab, Camp Hanson.

Andrew H. Gardner - April 2, 2020

That Ontos was probably the same one that was there in 1970 when I was with H&S Eng. Plt 1/3. Our Eng bldg was shared with the Amtracs lot. Was there from Jan70 to Jan 71. I guess the “fire power” demonstration for the Sec of Navy must have been a yearly thing. as L/cpl’s John Grubach, O.F “Willy” Williams, and myself set up and executed the demolitions to simulate a mortar barrage, rocket attack on the bunker at the north end of the field, along with a satchel charge attack on the bunker. All this was done while coordinating the the evacuation of the machine gun crew in the bunker before blowing it up. We must have “impressed” somebody because we all got a Certificate of Commendation for this show. I think General Armstrong was just pleased no dirt and rocks were thrown into the bleachers. And as for the Ontos, it was gone one morning in the middle of the summer of ’70.

C. Stoney Brook - April 2, 2020

Andrew – The Ontos at CamPen has quite a history. It was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, used in Hue City/Citadel fight. When Master Guns King and his crew ‘restored’ her, they left the bullet impact dings on the armor and have the correct Tac Marks in place. She’s a beauty, not a ‘Thing’, and it’s great this proud old warrior has a loving, respectful home.

Bob Romano - April 2, 2020

I drove an Amtrac in Okinawa in 1958. They were the old C3s left over from Korea. Taking them out onto the ocean was a bit scary. We finally gave them to the Chinese and got the new P5. They were new and big and could hold a squad of men or a 105.

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