Description of the Ontos
I came into country Oct. 28, 1966. I was assigned to Charlie Company which was stationed on “Finger 5” next to Hill 55, in the DaNang area. I was assigned to 2nd Platoon, which was at An Hoa, where there was a small air strip that could handle planes up to the size of C-123s. Monsoon season made the roads a mire of deep mud that only Amtracks could easily traverse.
For those who don’t know what an Ontos was (they are no longer in service), it’s a nine and a half ton tracked vehicle armed with six 106mm recoiless rifles, four .50 caliber spotter rifles, and a .30 cal Browning machine gun.
Ideally, each vehicle was manned by a crew of three, but some vehicles only had two crewman. The Ontos had half-inch-thick armor, that would stop .30 cal. bullets and below. The Ontos had a top (governed) speed of 25 mph. It was highly maneuverable. It was originally designed as a tank killer.
In ‘Nam, we used HEPT (High Explosive Plastic Tracer) rounds mostly, and some HEAT (High Explosive AntiTank) rounds. When we got the Beehive rounds they were very effective for clearing out treelines of enemy snipers. The 106mm Beehive round contained 9,500 flechettes. There was a variable fuse on the nose of the round that let you set the detonation from “M.A.” (Muzzle Activating), where the fired round would go out 75 meters and then detonate, or the fuse could be set to detonate the round at different distances up to 3300 meters. The M.A. setting was reliable. The other settings were not always as reliable.
We had trouble getting parts for our vehicles, especially the hard rubber tired steel “road wheels” that rode on the tracks. Chunks of rubber would break off these road wheels. In monsoon season, we would take 30 weight oil and paint it all over the 106s, .50s, and the .30 cal. to keep them from rusting.
We went through Ontos Crewman School at Delmar in Camp Pendleton. They told us that the word Ontos is Greek for “thing.” After humping hills at San Onofre at Pendleton in ITR (Infantry Training Regiment), I was glad when they pulled a group of us out after the third week of ITR, and put us in the Ontos school. It sure beat walking, and you could carry more personal items with you in ‘Nam. The one big drawback is that we tended to draw heavy fire.
Fifty calibers would go through the Ontos easily, and several Ontos were taken out with RPGs. We lost one Ontos with two crewman in late 1966 (November) to a wooden “shoebox” mine in an area that had been already swept for mines, by the daily morning mine sweep. I believe this was on Highway 1, “Freedom Road.” It’s been a long time since I talked about this, so excuse the lapses in memory.
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Posted on Feb. 19, 2001