|Highlights and Introduction||Game Warden|
|Air Operations||Medical and Dental Care|
|Market Time||Lessons Learned|
|Naval Gunfire Support||Glossary of Terms|
|The RVN Navy and Marines|
Highlights and Introduction
The commencement of another year was
regarded by responsible Americans with a mixture of hope and concern
-- hope that the lull in the bombing of North Vietnam that had
started on Christmas Eve would evoke some reciprocal action on
the part of Hanoi to end the war, and concern for what might happen
In his State of the Union message, the President said that in 1965 there were 300 "private talks for peace in Vietnam with friends and adversaries throughout the world," and that spokesmen for the United States visited "more than 40 countries." He said that our government talked to more than a hundred other governments -- "all 113 that we have relations with, and some that we don't" -- and to the United Nations. He said that we seek neither territory nor bases, economic domination or military alliance, but fight only for the "principle of self-determination--that the people of South Vietnam should be able to choose their own course, choose it in free elections without violence, without terror, and without fear." And then, finally on this subject he continued: "We will meet at any conference table, we will discuss any proposals -- four points or 14 or 40-- and we will consider the views of any group."
Reaction at home and abroad was generally favorable. Cassandras didn't stop wringing their hands altogether, but there was less pressing for fresh actions and more willingness to accept "marking time." Almost all Far East papers joined in approving with enthusiasm those sections of the message that dealt with Vietnam. This included segments of the powerful Japanese press which in past months had been hyper-critical. Specifically selected for praise were the President's promises to persevere for peace, his decision to continue for the present the pause in the bombing, and his firm resolve to protect the independence of South Vietnam.
Tet, a religious holiday based on the lunar New Year, was a period -- 21 to 23 January this year -- in which, by custom, hostilities ceased. It was riot without violations, however, in which six Americans, seven Koreans, and six South Vietnamese were killed; and three score more were wounded. Included in these incidents was the bombing of a BEQ in Saigon housing 85 American soldiers. Tet did provide a "psywar" opportunity, however, to drop ten million "Happy New Year" leaflets along a hundred mile coast of North Vietnam, plus gifts and cards.
Nevertheless, there was nothing in the peace message nor the holiday cease-fire to slow the thrust of the build-up of forces in South Vietnam. By month's end there were 200,000 Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard in the country and more to come. Of these the Navy had over 9,000 ashore and the Marines more than 38,000, which together exceeded one fifth of the total.
Another 50,000 Bluejackets and Marines were offshore in 100 Seventh Fleet ships. The Navy, to man new river forces, harbor defense units, and other activities it was planning for, already had asked for 4,000 more officers and men to fill new jobs.
It appeared that if it had to be a long drawn out war, there would be no shortage of necessary forces. The President said in his message to the Congress: "...Let me be absolutely clear: the days may become months, and the months may become years, but we will stay as long as aggression commands us to do battle."
During January there were five attack
carriers in WESTPAC with three of them continuously "on the
line." They were Ranger, Ticonderoga, Enterprise,
Hancock, and Kitty Hawk.
In spite of the month-long stand-down of air operations in NVN terminating on 26 January, the tempo of operations was high with Navy and Marine sorties amounting to nearly 9,000 as follows:
|North Vietnam||South Vietnam||Laos|
|14 Jan||A4C||Enterprise||RVN||controlled ejection|
|22 Jan||S2D||Hornet||At sea investigating radar contact||2 & 2 Crew MIA|
During January, Seventh
Fleet ships exhibited again their abilities to fire on a variety
of shore targets in any kind of weather and do it rapidly and
accurately. Answering the call were CAG's, CLG's, DD's, DDG's,
DE's, DER's, AV's, APD's, and WPB's, which together fired more
than 13,000 rounds at the enemy at an average rate of 441 rounds
Ellison fired the first gun of the new year in support of forces ashore and was joined by Turner Joy, self-proclaimed "fastest gun in the East," who was concluding her NGFS missions which commenced on 23 September. Turner Joy reported that the superior range with accuracy of the 5"/54 system permitted coverage of targets not always available to other DD's.
Cunningham fired a mission while surrounded by friendly fishermen in their junks. Reported Cunningham:
In curious contrast to the intense alertness of Cunningham's crew at battle stations, was the impassive equanimity of hundreds of nearby fishermen and women making their age-old living from the sea...
Bache reported destroying or severely damaging six caves that harbored VC troops who had previously been unscathed by three days of air strikes. Eleven 5" rounds were fired directly into the mouths of the caves from 500 to 600 yards off the beach. Likewise, Chandler routed a VC company which had ambushed a US infantry unit in the I Corps area. She did this on the anniversary of the death of RADM Theodore S. Chandler, for whom the ship was named. The ground spotter reported that surrounded US troops were enabled to break free because of Chandler's action and continue their pursuit of the VC.
During a mission fired by Hubbard, the cameras of ABC-TV recorded the action for a Navy-At-War documentary. Sperry fired a night illumination mission against a target that had over and over again been used as an emplacement for mortars, machine guns, and automatic weapons. Eversole, commenting on one of her missions noted that "while the firing was going on...Vietnamese children could be seen running and playing on the beach...oblivious to the drama...around them." Rupertus once had to close to less than a mile from her target and fire in waters as shallow as 24 feet, in order to deliver the accuracy required. Shelton, supporting an amphibious marine assault in the Rung Sat Special Zone (RSSZ), fired 175 rounds in close support from a range as great as 17,000 yards. And the oldest active destroyer in the Navy, Nicholas, just six months short of her 24th birthday, effectively demonstrated to the VC that age was no bar to pinpoint fire as she destroyed staging areas and supplies.
The action described above is only a sample of the NGFS effort which has performed daily since May. In tribute CINCPAC said:
Naval gunfire has provided a...worthwhile effort in support of forces ashore... The illumination, harassment, and destructive fire have become essential in our continued actions against the VC.
The RVN Navy and Marines
A daily average of 14 patrol ships, deployed from Saigon, was maintained during the month for coastal surveillance. The state of their training and readiness for patrol was satisfactory, but their effectiveness when on patrol was not. Advisors report that some commanding officers are still lax in their patrol procedures, waste time in port and at anchor, and feel it is unnecessary to search junks diligently and continuously.
RVN junk readiness is considered by Navy advisors to be unsatisfactory. The combination of personnel shortages, austere facilities, lack of trained enginemen, lack of understanding of the rationale for routine maintenance, and indifference of some commanding officers to materiel condition, contribute to the poor state of readiness. Lack of sensors on the junks and slow speed also limit the effectiveness of the coastal forces.
In naval gunfire support the readiness of 18 ships capable of firing is considered outstanding. Utilization is poor, however, as few requests for this support have been made in areas other than the Rung Sat Special Zone. An education program on the merits of NGFS is continually in progress.
An average of two Ships and 35 boats were used on river patrol during the month, as well as 29 River Assault Group (RAG) joint operations. The effectiveness of the RAG's was considered excellent, but the utilization of the river patrols only marginal.
Elements of the Marine Brigade conducted ground operations in I and II CTZ, conducted a three day amphibious operation in the Rung Sat Special Zone, and were maintained on search and clear and static security missions within the Capital Military Region. Except for the amphibious operation, contact with the VC was negative.
GAME WARDEN was planned
in December for operations in river mouths and estuaries of the
Mekong Delta and the Rung Sat Special Zone. Objectives will be
to prevent VC infiltration, interdict traffic and supplies at
river crossings, and isolate the enemy in areas that are bounded
by rivers and canals. By this effort substantial Navy support
would be given to the Vietnamese Navy River Assault Groups.
Forces will be composed of 100 31-foot fiberglass River Patrol Boats (PBR) , 20 landing craft (LCPL) based at eight locations in the Delta, and three LST's anchored in principal river mouths. Operations are planned to be similar to MARKET TIME, but with the added hazard of continuous operations within weapon range of river banks. In-country logistic support will come from two major maintenance facilities at Nha Be and Can Tho, with minor maintenance available at the six other bases plus support from the three LST's.
Medical and Dental Care
On 10 January, the
Danang station hospital was opened at the Naval Support Activity,
operating with 175 of its potential 400 bed capacity. On 31 January
Repose arrived off the coast of Danang with another 755
beds and completely modern equipment. In the rear, hospitals at
Yokosuka and Guam were expanded and an additional 1,087 bed unit
planned for the Philippines. Another hospital was approved for
Guam and a second hospital ship requested. Nevertheless, in spite
of this expanded protection for the wounded, CINCPAC was able
to announce that the casualty rate in Vietnam was lower than expected.
The construction of a dental facility at the Danang hospital was expected to be completed in February. Another was planned for Chu Lai, and a request made for dental trailers to serve the Mobile Construction Battalions deployed in various areas of South Vietnam.
Medical and dental care of the Vietnamese people have opened doors of understanding and contributed measurably to the war effort. One striking example of Navy civic action is the participation with the other services in the Military Provincial Hospital Program. The Navy team consists of three doctors, one Medical Service Corps officer, and 12 enlisted technicians.
Children with cleft lips have received surgery by these teams going into private hospitals, and children sick with illnesses that normally might have killed them have been saved. Orthopedic and neurosurgery have been provided on top of general surgery along with the more routine dispensing of shots and pills.
Reaching the people through dental service has been another natural civic action by Navy doctors and corpsmen, and doing it "after hours" has been the norm rather than the exception. In one case, an oral surgeon was spending twenty-five percent of his time treating local inhabitants. Another, regularly provided care for school children, an orphanage, and a refugee center. Still another dentist regularly lectured to Vietnamese dental students in Hue.
All of these actions added up to considerable involvement by Navy men in ways that make this war different from others fought before it. The best of it, however, is that most of the civic actions cannot be documented. These are the ones that spring from the heart and are performed quietly and unnoticed by modest young men who are grateful for their blessings and wish to share them.
On New Year's night, numerous single page leaflets protesting Us involvement in Vietnam were dropped on the Naval Base at Long Beach by an unidentified aircraft. On one side were pictured the charred bodies of a woman and a child. On the other was a strongly worded message criticizing our involvement.
On 2 January an A4C from Enterprise was lost in South Vietnam on an in-country strike. The pilot's body was reported by an A1 RESCAP to have been placed in an open area about 3/4 of a mile away from the wrecked plane. Since it had the appearance of being "booby-trapped," it was not recovered. Later information revealed that the pilot had been badly wounded in the legs prior to the crash and had lost his instruments. It has been recommended therefore, that all possible means be taken to hurry up the incorporation of appropriate armor plating on the A4.
The Soviets demonstrated their continued interest in the operations of our Navy off Vietnam by increasing their specially equipped trawlers in the South China Sea to two -- one each at Yankee and Dixie Stations respectively, where they maintained a close watch on US carrier operations. This activity was much in line with the Soviet trawler activity off Guam where Polaris submarine departures and B-52 takeoffs have been observed for a long time. Also, a Russian out-of-area group with two "W" class submarines, completed a deployment period in the Philippine Sea.
A survey of about 400 captured VC soldiers and defectors who were interrogated the latter part of 1965, revealed a decline in morale and a belief that Communist forces have lost the war. Puzzlement, however, was also expressed by some villagers from contested areas as to why friendly troops who seemed so powerful, did not remain in the area that they had cleared of VC to keep them from coming back.
A Rand Corporation study believes Communist China is pressing the VC to abandon large-scale military action and repair their political ties with the South Vietnamese people. Defense Minister Lin Piao's speech of 2 September 1965 is interpreted by Rand experts as a lecture to Hanoi and the VC on the nature and conduct of a "people's war." Representatives of our government have equated this speech with Hitler's Mein Kampf. A Columbia University expert on China, however, has called it a rehash of what Chinese Communist leaders have been saying since 1949 with the cardinal point of the message being that the VC and other communist revolutionaries throughout the world must make their revolutions "on their own" and not count on Chinese or other outside assistance.
Pilots report that the VC have returned to one of their old deception tactics of lighting fires after dark several hundred meters from actual encampments to entice our aviators to expend their ordnance on these dummy positions. Similarly, lights have been placed on roads to simulate trucks, but have in reality been flak traps.
COMUSMACV has described the VC as having a limited frogman capability. A camp for 500 to 600 trainees with Chinese instructors has been reported to exist near the Cambodian border. Also, swimmers in other areas have been observed practicing diving techniques. It is also claimed that frogmen, disguised as fishermen, may attempt to destroy shipping by floating baskets filled with explosives to their targets at night.
A member of the Indonesian Air Force Staff College reported a CHICOM aircraft plant at Shenyang which produces 30 to 35 MIG-19 aircraft a month plus all spare parts. Presumably this MIG-19 is an improved model and approaches the performance of the MIG-21.
During the first week of 1966, seven communist bloc ships were tracked in MARKET TIME patrol areas or lanes adjacent to them. This is half the number that were observed in the previous four week period. Also, eight Soviet merchant ships were either in port at Haiphong or near to it. Four Soviet and three East European ships were reported enroute to North Vietnam, and six Soviet and four Polish merchantmen were scheduled for future voyages. A typical cargo for North Vietnam -- aboard the Soviet ship Dmitriy Gulia (11,287 GRT) -- was as follows: two 60' craft described as tow boats, plus 7,250 tons of declared general cargo that included 92 tons of pontoons for two 27 ton bridges, two of 16 tons, and two of 3 tons. Also, there were steel, tires, tubes, 15 five-ton and 17 four and one half-ton trucks, 25 tractors, 4 bulldozers, 15 eight-ton oil tanks, electrodes, and condensed milk.
According to USDAO in Moscow, the Military Attaché from Yugoslavia stated his opinion that Ho Chi Minh is a leader of the pro-Soviet group desiring to end the war on the basis of neutralization of Vietnam. This is opposite, of course, to the pro-Chinese group who desire to continue the war.
Evidence from prisoners, defectors, and captured documents has led to the confirmation of 13,953 communists infiltrating into South Vietnam in 1965 and at least another 5,165 as probably having done so. Most of the infiltrators traveled over the traditional routes through Laos, but some claimed to have continued through Cambodia. The majority were associated with regular North Vietnam army units, but some replacements for VC units also came down from the North. New infiltration strengths by the year follow but with the understanding that 1965 totals will probably increase as more evidence is uncovered:
Command debrief of WESTPAC Deployment from 10 May 1965 to 13 December
1. Problems in coordinating Navy and Air Force strike activity within the relatively small airspace of North Vietnam became acute at times when Seventh Fleet and Second Air Division strike forces had to share the airspace on the basis of a time arrangement. This resulted in a narrow range of flexibility, less than the best employment of forces on strikes, and inefficient peaks and valleys in carrier deck activity. Finally, a geographic subdivision of the airspace was agreed to which permitted continuous Navy strike activity around the clock. In future joint operations, such as in Vietnam, geographic subdivisions of an area would be a better arrangement than trying to share the time.
2. In the complex electronic environment over North Vietnam, close coordination between strike, CAP, and ELINT aircraft has become a matter of survival. New procedures and equipment. now provide SAM identification and warning, the defensive capability around it, early warning of MIG activity, and degradation of enemy radar control of AAA batteries. Continued development and training in this area is urgently needed.
3. In spite of the growing SAM capability, the enemy's most potent weapon against our strikes is his intense and accurate AAA, which must be anticipated around every target of importance. His mobility of AAA was demonstrated in shifts of concentration whenever we developed a pattern of strike activity. He also showed his versatility and discipline, even though his actions were sometimes puzzling. For example, on one day in a heavily defended area, the sky was black with flak, and the next day in the same location, there was no reaction at all. Possibly, there were operational or logistic reasons for these nulls, but as one pilot put it, there was also the possibility "that the enemy just wanted us to think that he had gone somewhere else, and hoped we would pass over tomorrow with a larger force.
4. Ordnance and pyrotechnic design is needed to enable carriage at 600 KIAS instead of 450-475 KIAS.
5. Reliability and operating improvements are required of both mechanical and electrical fuses because of use on high performance aircraft. The mechanical fuses used were of World War II vintage, causing duds and extra hazardous conditions when any malfunction took place due to "less than ample separation between the weapon and aircraft before the weapon was fully armed."
Electrical fusing reliability and arming and delay times must be improved to provide, for example, reasonable delay times which do not risk casing ruptures before explosion.
6. One reason Shrike did not perform well was the enemy's excellent electronic emission discipline and the use of two or more antennae. Another is that missile ranges are so short that prospective targets are obvious. The enemy ceased emitting when the attacker pointed in his direction and radiated when he turned away. Shrike should be modified to enable homing on a FAN SONG radar radiating into a dummy load, and a 25 to 50 percent increase in range would be desirable in both Bullpup models.
7. For night operations, greater quantities and improved reliability of the MK-24 flare are necessary. A near 50 percent dud rate was experienced with this flare. However, it is an excellent pyrotechnic when it works; and the only one that should be used in an AAA environment, because of the delay feature and the enemy's habit of shooting out flares as well as leading the flares in an attempt to hit the aircraft.
8. Over heavily defended areas, it is not prudent to send low or medium altitude reconnaissance forces; and, therefore, strategic high altitude aircraft or missiles must be tasked to do this job.
9. Camouflage paint, recently authorized for USAF aircraft in Southeast Asia, would be beneficial for Navy aircraft in light of increasing MIG activity.
10. As long as we continue to operate in a SAM or AAA environment backed with excellent radar coverage, APR-23 or APR-23B and ALQ-51 are desired ECM equipment in each aircraft.
From VA 42 pilots of the A-6A Intruder airplane who were members of Squadron VA 75 aboard Independence when she was deployed off Vietnam:
1. The capability of the A-GA in bad weather consisting of total darkness, fog, or heavy rain is outstanding. At no time when operating in combat over Vietnam, were radar-significant targets totally obscured. Although it is possible for heavy rain to obscure U target, this did not happen to VA 75 in the monsoonal rains that they experienced.
2. The aircraft's computer proved very reliable, and success in navigating to targets using computer-derived, inertial, and Doppler dampened information coupled with excellent search radar is enough to substantiate the need for this system.
3. AMTI (automatic moving target indicator) in its present form is considered to be unsuitable for the terrain in Vietnam. Here, the roads are usually covered with heavy foliage and are very winding, providing a combination that is difficult for radar pickup and terminal tracking. More R&D work is needed in this field.
4. The track-radar used for terminal tracking and precise feedback of information to the computer has proved unreliable. Even when it was "up" on launch, the target was more often than not reached with the track radar in a "down" condition. This is important, because the A-6A, with its track-radar system operating properly, has a CEP that few pilots can match visually.
5. Although not recognized as an "ECM bird," the ECM capability of the Intruder is excellent, providing the pilot with useful information on radar emitting sectors that he can analyze according to the characteristics of the signal received. This capability alone has saved more than one airplane that was able to take evasive action because of the electronic information warning.
6. The A-6A, if it is to perform as advertised, requires considerable system maintenance and should not routinely be scheduled for both day and night operations. To succeed in its night role, the system must be "peaked" during the day. More aircraft are entering the Navy's inventory requiring mission priority analysis, and this is true of the Intruder.
7. The war in Vietnam has proved the A-6A to be the best "Iron-Sight" bomber in Navy inventory. It is aerodynamically stable, carries a large payload and can range further than any other fighter-bomber in the Navy or Air Force. For example, on missions deep in North Vietnam (north of Hanoi) each A-6A carried 5 MK-84 (10,000 pounds) over 300 miles to its target, returning to its ship over two hours later. Then, it dogged in the pattern overhead while aircraft that had already tanked once, landed due to a lower fuel state. As a pathfinder, no major strike led by an A-6 failed to locate the target on the first pass. In route-recce flights, an A-6 carrying 12 MK-81 bombs (3,000 pounds) and a four-shot ZUNI pod can double cycle and provide a prolonged threat to VC activity, causing them to "keep their heads down."
8. Finally, one squadron member warned against too much faith in statistics alone. For example, "Sorties," he said, "don't tell the truth about the A-6 as they might for some other planes, because we double cycle and stay out twice as long. Talk about the whole plane," he said, "the job it is being asked to do; and talk down statistics which don't have proper comparisons or reveal the whole truth."
Glossary of Terms
BARREL ROLL - US air
operations to interdict infiltration routes in northeastern Laos.
CTZ - Corps Tactical Zone, of which there are four in South Vietnam.
RSSZ - Rung Sat Special Zone, a mangrove area southeast of Saigon encompassing the main ship channels. Many VC inhabit this area.
SIGINT - An inclusive term for communications intelligence and electronic intelligence.
SLF - Special (Marine) Landing Force.
STEEL TIGER - US air operations to interdict infiltration routes in the eastern panhandle of Laos.
TIGER HOUND - A full-time combined US project team at the Second Air Division TACC to oversee air interdiction operations in the SE Laos Panhandle.
This document is part of the Vietnam Command Files, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
26 July 1999