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Gun Truck Will Bring Back Memories For Viet Nam Veteran Wayne

Big Black and Beautiful - the M54 Gun Truck

A Vietnam veteran has booked his passage from America to be re-united with his gun truck at the War and Peace Show.

Or at least a gun truck very like it.

Roger Jerram and Fred Cornwell of the Rolling Thunder Vietnam War re-enactment group have created the replica from an M54 5-tonner, which had stood in a field for five years before they acquired it.

They decided to base their conversion on The Red Baron, a real gun truck that saw action in Vietnam during the 1970s. Its purpose was to guard convoys against attacks from the Viet Cong.

Roger and Fred managed to track down Wayne Dobos, who was a member of the truck’s original crew. He was a non commissioned officer in charge of the vehicle. And it was he that designed the artwork on its sides.

So enthusiastic is Wayne about the Rolling Thunder gun truck that he’s decided to come and see it for himself at the War and Peace Show, to be held at The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, from July 22 to 26.

“Wayne has been invaluable in offering advice, information, anecdotes and even images of the original Red Baron,” said Fred.

“He was sent to Vietnam in 1969 and was attached to the motor pool where he drove a tractor unit. But he’d always wanted to be on a gun truck and eventually joined one called The Saint, which was later given a new identity to become The Red Baron.”

Wayne had been given four days to transform the truck, using paint thinned down with petrol, and sprayed on using the vehicle’s own compressor.

Roger and Fred have taken a little longer, but considering the problems they faced, to have the truck ready in time for the Show is no small achievement.

“We started work on the M54 just before Christmas,” said Roger. “Although we managed to get it running, the brakes were shot, the canvas was in very poor condition and so were some of the tyres.

“When we got it into the workshop we found a lot of rust. At some point it had been sand blasted. Sand had got into the bodywork and swelled, rotting the sills and door pillars.”

While Roger concentrated on the bodywork, a friend Wayne worked on the engine. Fred, who looks after pyrotechnics at the War and Peace Show, set to work to create simulated guns - two M60s, two 50 cal machine guns and a six barrelled motorised Gatling gun.

Working in the winter was far from ideal as filler refused to go off and paint wouldn’t harden. Parts had to be sourced, brakes replaced and armour fashioned from sheet steel.

Today The Red Baron is resplendent in gloss black paint with red artwork outlined in yellow and a yellow trim to the bonnet. It will take its place on the Rolling Thunder display with the group’s other vehicles.

No doubt it will bring back many memories for Wayne Dobos, who is bringing his wife Lorraine to the Show.


More information on the War and Peace Show website

Roger Gerrman and Fred Cornwell with the M54 Gun Truck  



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