Improvise    verb: used frequently in SF circles

similar in meaning to 'field expediency': "...getting the job done when you don't have the necessary tools!"

Taking a stroll in the boonies

When suddenly...

On one patrol we were doing our 'recon' thing. Things had been pretty quiet when, suddenly, we came under small arms fire. Things were getting intense and we couldn't withdraw from the firefight -- so we radioed for help. We provided base camp our coordinates... as best we could determine.

SFC Wardlow, Weapons Specialist (A-103)
Approximately late 1966/early 1967

Sgt Wardlow, the team's Weapons Specialist, said that we were out of range of the camp's 'four deuce' -- the 4.2 mortar. Since we had plenty of incentive, we were rather insistent that we could use some help!

We were told by base camp to maintain position; they were working on something. After about fifteen or twenty minutes Sgt Wardlow radioed that he was in position and about to fire the 4.2 -- we were to provide fire control info. We heard a faint dull "thump!" and heard the round explode -- behind us! We radioed that this was NOT going to do; the round was short. Wardlow replied that he was at max charge -- 45 sheets.

Another pause followed...

The radio crackled to life. It was Wardlow asking us to let him know how THIS round is. [Slightly louder "thump!" followed by that intermittent sucking sound] The round landed a hundred yards ahead of us.

Yeah!!  "Fire for effect!!" was our next transmission.

By this time the VC knew they were within mortar range -- so they took off. We radioed that the VC had broken off the firefight and that we were continuing with the mission. We never did get the next three rounds. When we got back to base camp, we asked why Sgt Wardlow had not fired the additional rounds. It was then that he told us what he had done.

Wardlow put the four-deuce in the back of the camp truck and driven northwest to where the bridge was out. Since the first round at max charge of 45 sheets was short, Wardlow had to 'improvise'. He put 54 sheets on the test round and poured a soup-can-size can of gasoline down the mortar tube. When he dropped the round and it fired, it cracked the 239 pound base plate of the 4.2 mortar!

He COULDN'T fire any more rounds! Thank God that one was enough!!