On Monday, June 14, 2021, Col. Joseph R. Kurz, chief of staff, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, spoke to Soldiers about the recently refurbished M35A2 truck now displayed outside of the 1st TSC’s Fowler Hall headquarters building in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Kurz said, “I think it is particularly fitting that we commemorate this piece of history, not only on the U.S. Army’s 246th birthday, but during Army Heritage Month.”
Kurz shared honors with Sgt. 1st Class Casey Steiner, maintenance management noncommissioned officer, 1st TSC, who officially opened the display by cutting the ceremonial red ribbon. Steiner managed the process for obtaining and overhauling the truck for 1st TSC.
The newly refurbished truck is a tribute to everyone in the Logistics Corps who used this same model of truck in the Vietnam War, and especially to the two Soldiers who served on one of these trucks when they died, later receiving the Medal of Honor. As is the custom for military vehicles, both of their names are displayed on the windshield of the M35A2.
To understand the significance of this event, it is important to understand why a Vietnam-era cargo truck was chosen as a fitting symbol for the 1st TSC and to honor its heroes.
On April 1, 1965, the unit deployed to Vietnam as the 1st Logistical Command to serve as the logistics command headquarters for all units in the war. The mission included provision and management of maintenance, supply, and transportation. The M35A2 model truck was used to carry supplies and also as a gun truck during the war.
It was here that two Soldiers assigned to the 1st Logistical Command distinguished themselves by receiving the Medal of Honor for their heroism while serving. This truck serves as their tribute.
Alabama native Sgt. William W. Seay, known to many as Billy Wayne, served as a truck driver in the 62nd Transportation Company (Medium Truck), 7th Transportation Battalion, 48th Transportation Group. Seay was only 19 when he died in a battle on August 25, 1968 near Ap Nhi, Vietnam after his convoy was ambushed by North Vietnamese Soldiers.
The convoy was carrying critically needed ammunition and supplies. Seay left his covered position twice to throw back two engaged grenades toward the enemy.
He then killed three approaching North Vietnamese Soldiers, before eventually being shot and killed by an enemy sniper. His courage and valor that day no doubt saved the men around him.
As a result of his heroism, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. He was also awarded the Purple Heart.
Specialist Fourth Class Larry G. Dahl, from Portland, Oregon, was serving as a machine gunner on a gun truck named “Brutus,” with the 359th Transportation Company, 27th Transportation Battalion, 8th Transportation Group when he was killed on February 23, 1971 near An Khe, Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam. Dahl was only 22 when his gun truck was sent to assist in the defense of an ambushed convoy.
After the intense battle, Dahl and Brutus were returning to convoy duty when he saw a live grenade land in the cab. Without hesitation he yelled out a warning his comrades, and threw himself onto the grenade, saving the lives of those in the truck.
Dahl was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice in 1974. His widow Michelle and their six year old son accepted the award.
Kurz described Seay and Dahl’s actions to the large crowd of 1st TSC Soldiers, civilians, and volunteers who attended the ceremony.
He said that Soldiers live by the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
“It is that adherence to these core values that is aspirational and binds all veterans together,” Kurz said.
“It is also their desire to find the best in themselves and give back to their nation through service,” Kurz added. “By honoring them, we ensure their legacy endures.”
Like any worthwhile endeavor, the plan to create a lasting memorial required coordinating on several fronts.
The entire process took several months. Two old M35A2 trucks, often referred to as either a 2.5 ton truck or a “deuce-and-a-half,” arrived in early April to the Boatwright maintenance facility on Fort Knox from Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. One was selected as the vehicle that would eventually be displayed outside the headquarters building of 1st Theater Sustainment Command. The other would become the twin “donor vehicle” or “parts truck.”
The trucks were used to transport supplies throughout Vietnam, eventually being retired in 1988 and replaced with the M35A3 truck. Many of the body parts that were aged, worn, used, and needed replaced were also unusable from the donor vehicle, since both were used during the Vietnam War and retired. The truck also needed new glass.
“The most challenging part of the project was identifying parts and deciding what we needed,” Randy Schinlaub, base operations maintenance supervisor, Boatwright maintenance facility, said. He oversaw the restoration of the M35A2.
Several years ago workers at Boatwright refurbished one of General George S. Patton’s Jeeps and his command post vehicle that are both on display at the Patton Museum here at Fort Knox. Workers at the Boatwright facility have completed many restoration projects and maintenance for units on post. Other projects include refurbishing the tanks displayed at the Brandenburg and Chaffee Gates.
Eric Mathenia, logistics manager, Boatwright maintenance facility at Fort Knox, also monitored the truck’s progress.
“Restoring a truck like this was a real tribute to all of the soldiers who used them in Vietnam,” Mathenia said.
“These veterans know many of the details, including the exact color it was back then, so we had to get it right,” he added. “This was an old, rusty relic of times gone by, and we brought it back to life,” Mathenia concluded.
In keeping with Army tradition, there was an Army birthday cake cutting and celebration after the truck display dedication. The oldest and youngest Soldiers in the unit cut the cake together.
Pfc. Jasean Saunders, casualty operations specialist, 1st TSC, and Sgt. 1st Class Dorris Bobb, staff movements noncommissioned officer in charge, 1st TSC, had the honors of cutting the cake with a sword.y
The Army’s history and that of the M35A2 were celebrated. “We celebrate June as Army Heritage Month to recognize the achievements and contributions of Soldiers, families, and civilians,” Kurz said.