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

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!


  • Sgt. Donald Pollard

    In reply to Andrew H. Gardner.
    I’m trying to figure out where this took place . I was with 1st Engn Btl in 1970 Camp Pendleton near 5th Marines . Around San Mateo, and San Onofre


    Two things about Ontos. First Third tank BN in Vietnam had a platoon of them. They were considered the misfits. The Lt that was assigned to them was a lifer. He had been a warrant officer. They gave him hell, including an attempted fragging. Secondly I was told a story that Oceanside California, banned the Marines, for some reason. The Pendleton base commander got pissed, lined up the ontos and fired them all simultaneously, breaking many windows, in the town. I don’t know if that is true, but it makes a good story.

  • Richard E Jenkins

    Hey Selders I got to K Bay March 1960 F/2/4 1st Platoon went Tad to Military Police 1961, 1hen back to F/2/4 3rd Platoon . Left for Camp Pendleton March 1962.

  • Cpl Skinner

    Selders you brought back a lot of memories for me. I was in the same company at the same time at K-Bay. Remember your story well.

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