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“For years and years and years people just thought truck driving was driving a truck,” said Sammy Seay, a US Army veteran who helped build the Ace of Spades gun truck. “Well normally it is. Not in Vietnam.”

This month marks the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Much has been celebrated about the Air Force, but in reality war trucks were the real heroes that supplied and protected US soldiers throughout the war. 

Scholars reflect that the jungles of Vietnam and particularly the steep mountain passes presented incredible logistical challenges for the US military. One particular pass became known as Ambush Alley, and fuel lines for the Air Force and supplies for the troops were routinely thwarted by AK-47’s, hand grenades, and rocket-propelled grenades. 

At one stretch, in the pitch of an ambush, 31 vehicles were lost and ten men were killed in just ten minutes.

But in a testament to American ingenuity, troops repurposed trucks that were leftover from WWII, that had been nicknamed the Deuce-And-A-Half trucks. Soldiers upped their fire power on these battle tested vehicles with twin M-60 machine guns and renamed them:

“Eve of Destruction, Instant Death, The Executioner, Blood Sweat & Tires, Brutus, Cold Sweat, The Creeper. The names of Vietnam gun trucks read like a heavy metal setlist,” according to Hagerty reporting.

The trucks were painted black and their new names were emblazoned on their sides. They were mobile combat units– because they saw combat every single day. And these were renegade vehicles, “There wasn’t a gun truck in Vietnam that was authorized by the Army,” said Stephen M. Peters, who provided convoy and nighttime security on the gun truck called Brutus during a tour in 1969. “But all of the brass knew we had them.” 

It took courage because whatever the bravado of a name like “The Creeper” these vehicles were only protected with a lining of wooden two-by-fours and sandbags. 

The decks of the truck were open, and during one fight, a gunner named Dahl lept on to a grenade to protect his fellow soldiers. This gun-truck soldier was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his sacrifice and bravery, according to the Coffee or Die Magazine.

“Every crew was proud of their truck,” said Deeks. “And you loved those guys like brothers. It was a very close camaraderie.”

To learn more about these brave truck-soldiers check out this documentary called Gun Trucks of Vietnam.