March 14, 1968, Remembering Tango 7

As I write this from my loft in northern Minnesota on March 13, 2017, it’s already March 14 in Vietnam. Forty-nine years ago this morning, on March 14, 1968, while patrolling the Cua Viet River just south of the DMZ, Armor Troop Carrier 112-7 was mined. I was driving our boat (Tango 112-11) , about fifty yards astern Tango 7. In my Memoir, Muddy Jungle Rivers, I wrote,
“Suddenly Tango 7 was out of the water, sun glittering on the red-brown bottom of the wet hull, her propellers still spinning. A geyser of water shot skyward, the boat hidden for an instant. In a slow motion ballet, Tango 7 became visible as she flipped upside down, the bow lifting up over the stern, the capsized boat returning to earth, settling to the river bottom.”

Six sailors died in that instant.
(Later that day, divers connected a cable from the boat to a a Marine tank retriever and turned it over.)
1968-03-14-tango-7-mined-cua-viet-river
Tango 7 turrets at low tide

Today I remember

03/14/68 – Edward J. Hagl, BM1, McAllister, MT – BC – ATC-112-7 (Quang Tri)
03-14/68 – Frankie R. Johnson, EN3, Toppenish, WA – ATC-112-7 (Quang Tri)
03/14/68 – Ernest W. Wiglesworth Jr., BM3, Greensboro, NC – ATC-112-7 (Quang Tri)
03/14/68 – Eugene Nelson, FN, Lug Off, SC – ATC-112-7 (Quang Tri)
03/14/68 – Robert W. Cawley, SN, Butte, MT – ATC-112-7 (Quang Tri)
03/14/68 – Joseph S. Perysian, SN, Oak Lawn, IL – ATC-112-7 (Quang Tri)

I was the cox’n on our boat. This is the last stanza of a poem I wrote many years ago, as I tried to visualize the cox’n’s last thoughts on Tango 7.

Tabasco camo’d powdered eggs
rise, clog, choke.
Vietnam slime blows up through nose
in a black tumbling squeezing screaming choking
muck inhaled nightmare.
Arms locked tight, legs pinned back,
marl snakes seethe, as toes curl, searching
for a toe-hold
Home free, I lay on sun-warmed sandy bank.
A parts-missing puzzle
divers dismember from mined mangled hulk.

5 Comments

  1. Cheri Hagl-Simonet says:

    I am one of Edward Hagl’s daughters and I thank you for remembering those lost that day. I too would love to get a copy of your book.

  2. Linda Bryan says:

    My brother Pfc Andrew Chowka was killed in Quang tri on March 14,1968 while trying to take a mine apart. Captains chain on his neck or his binoculars hit the mine and 3 of them were blown up. I don’t see anything that would pertain to that day.

  3. Wendell Affield says:

    Linda, so sad that your brother was KIA. You must have been just a child. When I wrote Muddy Jungle Rivers I wrote it from the point of view of a 20 year old sailor—which I was in1968. As with most young enlisted men, I did not know what was going on beyond my line of sight. Keith Nolan wrote an excellent well-researched account of the Marine battles that spring mostly north of the Cua Viet River. I believe the title of his book is Magnificant Bastards—you might find some information about Andrew in that narrative. May you find a measure of peace this Veterans Day as you reflect on your brother’s life.

  4. Mike Flaharty says:

    God bless them all.
    Mike Flaharty, LCU-1624 on Cue Viet and Perfume Rivers.

  5. Gerald Smith says:

    I was there that day. Tango 7 was on our port side dragging mine sweeping gear and we(M-111-1) were also dragging gear just a few yards starboard. I can still see T-7 rising up and flipping over on it topside. We were all in a state of shock and headed to G.Q. expecting another explosion. It never came. I visited each one of the crew while in D.C. three years ago. I think of them often. We spent the evening before the event sharing a few beers with them.

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