The 687th Land Clearing Company was formed from the 87th Engineer Battalion starting December of 1968 at DongBaThin, Republic of Vietnam. The company was equipped with 30 new Caterpillar D7E dozers, new ten ton tractor trailers, and four new 548 track personnel carriers with mounted .50 caliber machine guns. The chuck wagon a deuce 1/2 serving as our mobile kitchen. During January of 1969 we spent out time organizing, training dozer operators, etc. On or about February 10ththe company received orders to go clear some jungle, which of course was the primary purpose of our unit. So we loaded up and headed out for BaoLoc, a small village near the II-III corp border. After clearing in and around the village for a week, we convoyed about fifteen miles south to Basar, our first encounter with Sir charles-Charley or otherwise known as VC. Ambush, small arms fire, I recall the incident as though it were yesterday!!! 173rd Airborne running security, the 60 gunner took a round in the jaw. I seen him and I can't forget. We cleared jungle seven days a week for three months. Our first day off was Easter Sunday 1969. Someone ordered beer but forgot the ice. Hot Black Label is not good!! Cold Black Lable is not good either!! Average day was operate tractor ten hours, perform daily maintenance two hours, and stand guard two hours. Long days and hard work. During the work day we encountered numerous obstacles, while on a tractor we had to dodge falling trees, flying snakes(knocked from trees) and stinging ants nesting in trees, explosive mines, and booby traps, plus trying to keep ARVN security awake!!! After four months out in the jungle we came in to PHan Rang, all of us amazed to discover air conditioned movie theaters, popcorn machines, and lots of clubs (music, girls, steak dinners) it was then we decided we all should have enlisted in the US Airforce as opposed to this man's Army!! After receiving new clothes, hair cuts, hot showers, and two weeks of maintenance on equipment we were shipped to PhanThiet. Immediately on our arrival here the second platoon was dispatched to AnKhe, two weeks later the third platoon loaded on LST bound for Da Nang, thus leaving headquarters and first platoon to complete the WagonWheel Cut. In DaNang the third platoon joined up with the marines 7th engineers for Operation Pipestone Canyon. We in the third platoon sure missed our chuck wagon as it was C-rations three times a day. Operation Pipestone Canyon was to clear GoiNoi Island, consisting of 687th third platoon with 10 tractors and marines 7th engineers with ten tractors plus tanks, marine infantry, and a company of South Korean marine infantry. Kudos to the Corps, we needed them!! thanks guys. During the period I served in the 687th (Dec 68-Jan 70) the company lost two brothers, Jerry Nichols and James Casteel, both friends. Rest in Peace. We also had 18-20 WIA. Thank you comrades for your service. The good news is that we are becoming reunited after 36 long years. We endeavor to locate everyone that served with this special unit!!WELCOME HOME BROTHERS!!!! by: Les Longley
E7Donald R. Boxall Platoon Sergeant 2nd Platoon
I was assigned to the 687 Engineer Company Land Clearing joining the unit at Phan Thiet Vietnam. This would be my second tour in Vietnam, the first being in 1965 with the 864 Engineer Battalion Construction.
The most memorable event and one of the saddest would be the morning we arrive at the firebase where one of our Brothers would pay the ultimate price and two other Brothers wounded. This happened on the first cut I would be on in country.
As we started the cut some mines were detonated by the dozer blades and tracks, we continued on and turned our equipment to circle the cut area as we always did, I turned and saw three young men walking behind me enjoying the day. I stopped and spoke with the men saying please walk in the dozer tracks; this area has been mined. They also told me that they would be going home shortly that their tours were about over. Five days I believe. They agreed to walk in the tracks and we continued on. At the center rear of the cut area we came across a hole in the ground and the telltale signs of VC. There was a hammock in the bush, tooth brush and a knife stuck in the tree. As we turned to return to the starting point of the cut, I separated myself from the men and stepped behind the platoons 548 cargo carrier. At that moment I heard the blast that claimed the life of one, severed the leg on another, with the third individual receiving shrapnel throughout his body. This was a sad day then; it is a sad day now for their families, as well as the memories we share here today.
There were many missions that were memorable. There was a village just north of Whiskey Mountain where we set up our NDP then settled in for a nights rest. The following morning as we tracked our dozers on the road to the village the lead dozer hit a mine, don't remember which platoon that dozer was in. All others backed out of the area and we started out through the rice paddies. There, the women of the village attempted to stop us. We lowered the blades and that was all there was.
On the way to our cut we ran into a squad of 101 troopers having their breakfast, under one of the trees sat my next door neighbor from Ft. LeonardWood, small world!!
This was the mission where I found freshly dug holes in the ground, not too deep, and there we found NVA flags. by my count there where 10 of them, not in the best of shape. I believe only one was whole. Also we found the Chi-con mines to be placed with the flags when they were put on the side of the road. Of course we all know what happens next. There were some propaganda flyers with the picture of a soldier and in the back ground a crying wife/sweetheart. I also saw two black pajamas heading back toward the road as we all gathered around our find.
The day we all gathered on the beach to load the equipment on to the LST for the trip north to Phan Rhang. The men were working against time, the tide was coming in and the water was getting deeper as we finished the loading in the nick of time. The crew of the LST, were Japanese, I believe and they gave us candy that looked like paper. Tasted good!!
At Phan Rhang we had it made, buildings to sleep in at long last. The Hilton wasn't a match. The idea was to stay at Phan Rhang for a couple of weeks for stand down of the equipment. Whip it back into shape. That lasted until tomorrow. We were back on the sides of the roads clearing daily. Here they wanted us to clear both sides of the road back 500m, and windrow the trees, not going to happen. Too much time to spend in the area. We would still be there guys if we did it the way higher wanted.
After spending about a week at Phan Rang we headed to Dong Ba Thin, headquarters for the boys who were in charge of the whole operation. We worked out behind the Korean compound clearing for what I don't know. One day the Brigade Sergeant Major came to the equipment pool area and said the Chaplain wanted to go with us and we were not suppose to injure him. So much for that little bit of advice. I don't remember whom he rode with that day but we hurt him not long after we started the cut. He went flying when the dozer went into a hole, wrapping his arms around the only thing available, and hot. The exhaust pipe!! I was summoned to the Brigade Headquarters to report to the CSM and had to explain what happened. If my memory serves me right I think they took him out in a helicopter.
In December 1969 the company got orders to go to Bam Me Thout, this would take us next to the Cambodian border. Since we did not have sufficient equipment to move the whole company in one move the Headquarters and one of the line platoons went on the first lift. It would take a couple of days for the trucks to return to pick the rest of us up.
While the 2nd Platoon waited for the returning tractor trailers, I was called to the 18th Brigade(S3) operations and was told when the tractor trailers came to load us up we were not going to Bam Me Thout. We would be going to AnKhe, a helicopter strip, to clear the surrounding area. This area had a sneak attack, blew up many choppers.
The platoon spent three days on the road before we arrive at AnKhe. I remember at the top of the pass being pulled over by the MPs asking for the clearance to travel the pass. Of course I did not have one so the MP wrote me a DR, which I carefully folded and put in a safe place for later. It was not until we all arrived at the work site that I was finally able to call the Company Commander by phone and let him know where the rest of his company was.
One month later the platoon returned to NaTrang spent a couple of days there and was told by the 864 Eng. Bn Commander to load up and get out of town, NOW! So off we went to BanMe Thout, where we spent the next six months in the field without a break, steady clearing along the highway bordering Cambodia. This was a long and tiresome chunk of work.
On returning to Cam Rahn Bay for the units final stand down, the second Platoon lost one bull dozer in the pass going down to Cam Rahn Bay. The 10 ton truck and trailer took the curve to short causing the trailer to flip over to the hillside of the pass. There we left the bulldozer put the trailer back on the road and completed the trip. When the maintenance technicians returned to bring her home a lot of parts were missing.
The men of the second platoon worked hard to keep their equipment running, helping each other through some tough times.
The 687th Engineering Company (Land Clearing) is a unit of pride, demonstrated by the men and family members who have taken the time to search the United States of America to find and bring together the proud, the brave, the courageous men after 35 years to celebrate Brotherhood-Friendship-Family. To all of you a JOB WELL DONE.
Platoon Sergeant Don Boxall serving our country for 28 years was promoted to Command Sergeant Major. We that served with him commend his honorable service to our nation. Thanks Top!!
by: Charles J. Harper 1st Platoon
I was assigned to the Republic of Vietnam during the period of Jan. 10, 1969 to January 10, 1970 and was with the 687th Engineer Company, Land Clearing, 1St Platoon.
The operational concept of the unit was to operate in the theater with the unit spending two weeks on a project and one week stand down for equipment and personnel repair. This was not the normal rotation for the men of the 687th LCC. We deployed on many projects with the intent to complete the project before rotating to a home base environment. The shortest project was three weeks followed by three months and another by six months without a break from the field with many more in between. this resulted in heavy wear on both the men and equipment.
The unit came under fire on several occasions, resulting in wounding and death of our good friends. Our buddies. As we were combat support personnel, we were under enemy fire during most of our land clearing operations. Our unit, including the dozer operators were always a target for VC snipers, booby traps and land mines. They did not want us to clear the roadside because it took away their cover and ability to ambush convoys that were heading north.
On February 14, 1969 we were ambushed in Bac Loc pass. it was our first mission and we were heading south on QL21. We had the 173rd Airborne Rat Patrol with us that day. One of the guys in the 173rd that was on a M60 got his jaw shot off during the ambush. He had to be taken off the machine gun, he wouldn't quit firing it. His name was Green. Some of our dozers and trucks were damaged. The wounded never came back and we don't know if they lived or died.
On August 18th, 1969 we moved into a VC camp so fast that their rice was still boiling in the VC camp fires. The VC ran and stepped on their on land mines trying to get away from us. Sp5 Larry fuller from Ohio a good friend of ours got hurt from a mine blast. Sp5 Jerry Nichols from Portage, Wisconsin was killed, PFC Danny Hopkins from Kentucky was wounded that day too. One mine killed one and wounded two or our buddies very badly.
On August 18th 1969 North of Fire Base Sherry on QL1 we were moving equipment to a new camp and we came under mortor attack. Some of our men were wounded. A MACV Captain Edward Pennington, US Army was killed. About 30 South Vietnamese were killed and about 30 to 40 civilians got killed. A US Army tank got hit with a mortor also. The South Vietnamese had us dig a mass grave for their soldiers. The first platoon PC took a trailer back to pick up the dead ARVNs and the American Captain. We couldn't leave them for the VC to steal from all the dead. We didn't know the Captain was killed is why we went back,
On August 12, 1969 George Selby from Washington was driving a ten ton truck taking a dozer to a work site. Across from Whiskey Mountain on QL1 when he hit a land mine. He went through the roof of the truck. His truck was a ball of flames after he hit the ground. A chopper just happened to be close landed and picked up Selby. His life was saved we found out 36 years later.
On December 17, 1969 Sp5 Jim Castell of the third platoon from Tennessee was killed in a rocket attack at Dong Ba Thin. Another friend that no one had a chance to say goodbye to.
The constant fear of being the next to be killed or never knowing if we would see our buddies another day seemed unbearable at times, but we had no choice. The carnage of finding our friends dead and seeing them in body bags. Enemies and civilians ripped and torn apart seemed unbearable, but again we knew we had no choice.