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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  • C. Stoney Brook

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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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