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DaNang Ammo Dump, April 27, 1969

DaNang Ammo Dump, April 27, 1969

DaNang Ammo Dump - April 27, 1969

On April 27, 1969, I was the OIC of a small communications detachment assigned to 1st MAW in DaNang. That Sunday as I was working in the office, there was a huge boom. The initial explosion caused the fluorescent lights in our small working space to tumble down. One light hit the Gunny in the left shoulder - it was more of a surprise than an actual injury. A series of smaller, but just as dangerous, explosions soon followed. We stepped outside our work spaces (which was actually a small hut that was surrounded by a sandbag revetment) to see what was going on. We could see a billowing cloud of smoke in the direction of 11 o'clock. Some would say it looked like a nuke's mushroom cloud. Suddenly, we saw that a shock blast wave was heading toward our area - and they kept coming. After an hour of this, I finally had no choice but to shut down our comm link with III MAF across the DaNang River. In the meantime and in accordance with our standing procedures, the rest of the detachment all reported in for duty.

The explosions would continue for about 17 hours and the dump wouldn't completely "cook off" for several days. The white phosphorus bombs lit up the night sky. When it was over, millions and millions of dollars of ammo had been destroyed.

It must have been about 10 a.m. the next morning when the all-clear was sounded. "All present and accounted for, Sir!"

The story I heard at the time was that some local hires were burning some brush that got away from them and, as a result, caused the series of explosions in the DaNang ammo dump. It sure did a lot of structural damage!

After getting all affairs back in order and re-establishing comms with II MAF, I headed up to Freedom Hill in the detachment's jeep to check in with the detachment that was assigned to 1stMarDiv, of which Capt. Jim Bolson was OIC. The drive on the way was harrowing - it was like navigating an obstacle course. Bombs, including unexploded ordinances, were littered all over the ground and the damage was unreal. There was shrapnel everywhere and miles of berms were blackened.

When we arrived at Freedom Hill, we found that Jim Bolson's detachment was back up and running. They had suffered some minor damage, but nothing that couldn't be repaired easily. Dog Patch, the civilian makeshift residences outside the 1st MAW compound near the foot of Hill 327, was literally leveled.

Arthur Kidd
Capt Ret

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Doug CABE - August 25, 2023

I was with MWSG 17 Marine Corps Fire Dept. We Rolled to Happy Valley on a grass fire call. As soon as we got around Hill 327/ Freedom Hill. The dump started blowing. We battled that fire for 3 day. It also started the ARVN bomb on fire. I had been in Danang 2 1/2 years was due to leave June 10th. Didn’t think I was going to make it. The Air Force dump did get hit in 68.

Jerry Staggs - August 18, 2023

I was there with the 282nd ASLT helicopter company, watching the bomb dump blowing up

Gary Smeltz - July 28, 2023

I was there that morning. I was with the 1st MAW, MWSG 17 to be exact. I took a patient to the hospital ship that morning. Not long after getting there Someone told us that we should get back to our unit. Because the ammo dump was blowing up. We could see the shock waves coming toward us across the water shaking the hospital ship went hit. Later came the loud booms. Upon arrival back to our ambulance we tried to get back but we were told that our unit had been evacuated to the Air Force side of the Da Nang airstrip. Exact location unknown. We drove until we saw on of our ambulances. What a relief.

Gary Stempin - July 7, 2023

I was at mag 11 clinic, it was blown apart. The shock waves and flying debrie cause severe damage. We had guys in a ward, we tried to get them out before the ceiling fell we were hit by door that blew open and had cuts from glass. We got the guys out. We were told that it was “friendly fire”. Someone started a fire at the bomb dump to burn grass. Didn’t seam smart.

Martino Faggioni DDS - July 3, 2023

I was at FLC Red Beach and I recall the continuous explosions. After a while there was a low ceiling of clouds and each explosion would cause a ripple like an upside down pond with a rock being thrown in it. It seemed to go on forever

Philip Charles warren - June 1, 2023

I was in quansit hut playing cards with a few guys when we noticed a couple of guys walk by a window and one had which we believed was a map and flash light. We called the military police and they came right away and they shot and killed one of them and the other escaped with the map. It was a couple of days later when the ammo dump went under attack. It was just before I was to go back to the states but was held back for three days. Everything in the area was leveled and nothing was saved inside the hut we worked in. I had things I bought to take home but they were all destroyed!!!

Herbert Townsend - May 4, 2023

On may 27/1969 Iwas a L/cpl Flc truck co Heavy plt was in the motor pool bunker when the explosion started. Had just returned from a convoy to hill 55, after the explosion ceased. Sgt Rose informed me I have been assigned to drive for EOD to remove any unexploded munitions to be taken some place along the ho chi min trail. Myself a warrant officer 4 privates to clear and destroy as soon as possible, will sittin up for disposal, we received artillery round on 2 occasions,

Gary Ekonen - April 29, 2023

I was with FLC Supply Bn Mt, we were sent into the dump with portable generator to light up the perimeter with e o d, combat engineers. came under sapper fire , I’m not sure how long after the dump blew, there was some ammo still cooking off. If anybody was on that team that went in , I’d like to here frm them.

Joseph W. Kenneally - March 26, 2023

I was assigned with both VMA-225 & MAG-11 as a Complete Jet Engine Repair Technician. I was also assigned to a Unit called Mobile #1 which was considered First Responders of those day’s. On the morning of April 27, 1969 I had just got through working the night shift at VMA 225 and was playing poker with some fellow Marines when i heard over the loudspeaker a call to Mobil #1 muster. I grabbed my gear and M-16 and hurried to the Unit. As i recall, there were twelve of us. Once together we were told that there was a fire within the ASP-1 bomb dump and that it may have been started by the enemy.

We arrived at the bomb dump and broke into four groups of three and began to search the area and only found several medium sized and sparsely located tall grass fires that were not close to any ordinance. We Were Fooled because in a matter of seconds that fire grew exponentially towards the bomb storage area and within a couple of minutes the first pallet of bombs exploded with the shockwave knocking us to the ground followed by shrapnel bouncing-off our helmets and flack jackets. Going forward, it got much worse with pallets of various types of ordinance cooking-off simultaneously, it was truly HELL. The shockwaves, smoke and shrapnel became non-stop with the smoke so bad that I had to crawl on my belly just to breath. Needless to say, that the twelve of us got separated due to disorientation. At one point I faintly heard a loudspeaker or megaphone telling us to take cover immediately! I remembered passing a large sandbag bunker a short way back, so I got up, held my breath and ran to it and as i entered the approximately 8′×10′ bunker the Mother of all bombs cooked-off hurling me off the rear of the bunker rendering me either unconscious or dazed not sure which but once I regained my composer I noticed that my M-16 was pointed strait at my face. A short time later I heard another announcement to evacuate the bomb dump. I had a sense of my location that was not too far from the perimeter fence, so I followed it and made it to the front gate and waited for the other members of Mobil #1 to arrive.

In summary, we were in this hellish situation for approximately four hours and in the end Twelve of us went in but ten of us came out. One Marine was killed from an exploding White Phosphorus bomb, and I heard the other Marine lost his battle several day’s latter.

In closing, every word of this accounting is true and can be verified via other accountings. SEMPER-FI

Bud Stinson - March 20, 2023

I was there with a detachment of photo recon planes, way more exciting than I would have liked but it was fun to watch

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