May 1969 Photos
MRF Summary Report - May 1969
MOBILE RIVERINE FORCE SUMMARY
Mobile riverine forces continued the unyielding pace of operations established in previous months in the delta regions. The Kien Hoa Province Campaign, in support of the U.S. Army 9th Infantry Division, was again the most significant in terms of enemy contact gain and resulted in substantial losses to the enemy. In contrast, the operation in the Twin Rivers area of Chuong Thien Province (enemy base area 480), with the Vietnamese Marine Corps produced little combat as the enemy remained elusive. Approximately 40 river assault craft were assigned to the Giant Slingshot/Barrier Reef Campaign and continued the multi-faceted combined interdiction operations there; contact with the enemy in that area was also less than normal. Training by Vietnamese Navy personnel under the Accelerated Turnover (ACTOV) Program entered an advanced phase as three weeks of on-line training with combined USN VNN crews began on 4 May. The training in support of the 3/60th and 4/47th Infantry Battalion is in connection with the planned turnover of three divisions of assault craft to the VNN in June.
Salvage operations of ASPB 132-3, which was sunk by an enemy command detonated mine on the Song Cai Tu (WR 412 753) in Chuong Thien Province on 29 April, were completed by 1 May soon after CSB-3 (Combat Salvage Boat - a converted LCM) arrived on the scene. The heavily damaged boat was towed to Dong Tam by CSB-3 in company with escort RAC, and arrived on 2 May. The mining incident is described in last month's summary.
The Honorable John H. Chafee, Secretary of the Navy, and the Honorable Charles A. Bowsher, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, visited the Mobile Riverine base at My Tho on 22 May. The dignitaries witnessed a complete river assault landing demonstration from on board a helicopter.
A cease fire was observed by U.S. and Vietnamese forces from 0600 on 30 May to 0600 on 31 May in recognition of a Vietnamese National holiday, Buddha's birthday.
The disposition of River Assault Divisions during May was as follows:
The following table indicates the distribution and employment of river assault craft on a typical day in May:
Task Group 117.1 Operations
The main thrust of TG 117.1 activity in May continued as before in the Kien Hoa Province area of operations. Three excursions lasting up to a week were made by detachments of 6 to 8 RAC into Can Giuoc District of Long An Province, in support of the 5/60th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Brigade, U.S. 9th Division. Attrition against the Viet Cong was again substantial as 947 enemy were killed by mobile riverine forces. In addition to the standard MRF riverine assault, escort, blocking force, eagle float and sniper actions, RAC performed numerous burn/defoliation (by flamethrower), psyops and medcap missions during May. Lift services were also provided at times for Vietnamese Army, Maritime Police and Regional Force units.
An average of 40 combat boat missions and 28 boat mission in support of base defense, MRB transit escort and medcaps were performed each day by RAC of TG 117.1. The MRB was rotated on a frequent and irregular basis between the Dong Tam, Ben Tre, My Tho and lower Ham Luong anchorages.
Twenty-five enemy initiated firefights (ENIFF's) were encountered by RAC of TG 117.1 during the month; in 7 of these instances enemy fire missed the boats completely while at least one boat received a hit on 18 occasions. In most cases damage to the boats was minor or non-existent. Twenty-two sailors were wounded during the month and none were killed due to hostile fire. One sailor lost his life as a result of falling overboard from an ATC in Dong Tam basin at about 2220 on 12 May.
On 2 May, river assault craft of River Assault Division (RAD) 132 encountered three enemy initiated firefights emanating from the area located on the Rach Ben Tre 2 1/2 miles east of Ben Tre (XS 556 298). The first incident occurred at 0945 as RAC were enroute to beaching sites with two companies of the 3/47th Infantry Battalion. One B-40 rocket, small arms and automatic weapons fire aimed at the RAC missed causing no damage or casualties. Fire was returned and suppressed. After landing the troops along the Rach Ben Tre, RAC were enroute back to a fire support base and again were ambushed at 1125, receiving about 6 B-40's, one recoilless rifle (R/R) round and small arms and automatic weapons fire. CCB-132-1 was hit by one R/R found resulting in minor damage but no personnel casualties. Fire was again returned and suppressed. During the afternoon, RAC were underway to backload the troops as they encountered similar and progressively accurate enemy fire from the same ambush site. This time ATC-132-4 and ATC-112-2 received direct rocket hits, causing flooding, which was quickly brought under control, on ATC-132-4, and the wounding of one sailor from shrapnel. Fire was again suppressed. Enemy casualties in all cases were unknown. Waterspouts erupting close aboard RAC during the last two firefights were initially considered as mining attempts but were later evaluated, after shrapnel analysis, as exploding rifle rounds.
The enemy's persistence in use of advantageous ambush sites was again demonstrated on 4 May. RAC, enroute to an extraction point to backload units of the 3/47th Infantry Battalion which had conducted ground operations in Kien Hoa Province, destroyed 12 enemy bunkers with 105mm howitzer fire at the triple ambush site location on 2 May. After loading the troops, RAC received rocket, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from both banks at the aforementioned bunker destruction point. No casualties or damage were sustained. Fire was returned and suppressed with three secondary explosions.
On 2 May, ATC 132-11, with a 6/31st Infantry sniper team on board, reported sighting 5 Viet Cong on the north bank of the Song My Tho near the MRB at 2352. The VC were taken under fire resulting in 2 VC killed.
After extracting "C" company of the 3/60th Infantry, during morning hours on 10 May, 9 RAC were enroute west on the Rach Ben Tre ("rocket alley") when they received 2 B-40 rockets from well concealed positions on the west bank, 5 miles southeast of Ben Tre (XS 589 258). Fire was returned. As firing ceased at 1115, 7 more B-40's were launched at the boats. One rocket hit ATC-92-4 in the port .50 caliber gunmount, wounding both gunners and the boat captain. Two other RAC received shrapnel hits. A total of 4 USN were wounded (two serious) and evacuated by helicopter to Dong Tam.
The TF 117 EOD team was dispatched to assist a 3/60th Infantry company to dispose of a 500 pound bomb in an Army operational area 5 miles northwest of Ben Tre (XS 441 372). The bomb was detonated in place. Later the EOD team assisted 4/47th Infantry units in the field in the destruction of 28 anti-personnel mines (south of the Ham Luong river, 4 miles west of Ben Tre).
The imperative need for the entire spectrum of base and boat defensive measures was reemphasized again this month as several potential enemy swimmer attacks against Mobile Riverine Force vessels were preempted. The first of these incidents occurred just after midnight on 12 May. Tapping was heard on the hull amidships of USS Benewah (APB 35) from 0026 to 0033 while she was anchored in the mobile riverine base (MRB) in the My Tho River in the vicinity of Dong Tam (XS 383 411). Concussion grenades were dropped in the area followed by a hull inspection by UDT personnel. Later at 0125, Whitfield County (LST 1169) also anchored in the MRB (XS 396 414) sighted a possible swimmer ten yards off her bow. Again grenades were dropped as a countermeasure and the hull was inspected, this time by EOD personnel. Results of hull inspections and grenade drops were negative in both cases. On 19 May, at 0035, the stern sentry on Benewah, anchored in the MRB on the Ham Luong River south of Ben Tre (XS 486 282), sighted an enemy swimmer with tanks on his back approaching the stern of the vessel. The sentry fired three shots at the swimmer, who turned and swam away dropping two 18 inch long objects in the process. Base defense boats were alerted and dropped grenades in the area with negative results. The objects were not recovered. At 2149 the same day, ATC-152-3, engaged in normal base defense patrol around the MRB, was sweeping around APL 30 when an object was noticed in the water about 40 yards off the starboard bow of the APL. A grenade was thrown at the object which resulted in a small secondary explosion. Additional grenades and a hull inspection of APL 30 yielded no results.
Six RAC transiting the Rach Vang in Long An Province on 12 May with troops of the 5/60th Infantry aboard received 2 B-40 rockets at 0145 on 12 May in an ENIFF 13 miles south of Saigon (XS 876 692). One of the rockets struck the flight deck of ATC-151-4 and broke apart but did not detonate. Four USN were wounded slightly due to shrapnel and burns. The enemy fire was returned with unknown results. Troops were then landed with negative results.
RAC in Can Giuoc district of eastern Long An Province were conducting a RARE on 17 May after troop landing when they sighted 5 Viet Cong in sampans crossing the stream 11 miles south of Saigon (XS 879 729). The sampans were taken under fire at 1940 resulting in 5 VC killed (2 body count, 3 probable) and two sampans destroyed.
On 24 May, units of RAS 15 and RAS 9 supported a Navy medcap (Medical Civic Action Program) and Dentcap (Dental Civic Action Program) at Tan My Chanh village, on the north bank of the Song My Tho, 2 miles east of My Tho City (XS 533 437). On 6 May, a sailor from the MRB who had fallen overboard, was assisted by the people of this village in reaching safety, and was then provided transportation to the PBR base at My Tho. TF 117 Medical personnel treated 100 patients and Dental personnel treated 25. Captain J.G. Now, Commander River Assault Flotilla ONE, presented an 18,000 piastre reward to the family which assisted the sailor. Numerous articles and gifts were distributed to villagers during the program.
On 24 May, on return from a burn/defoliation mission along an approximate half mile stretch of the Rach Cam in Dinh Tuong Province, RAC were engaged in an ENIFF 7 miles west of My Tho (XS 368 427). Heavy B-40 and automatic weapons fire was received at 1420 resulting in a B-40 hit aboard ATC-92-5 and Monitor 92-2. One crewman was wounded. The units returned fire with all weapons and assisted by a LHFT over head, killed 6 Viet Cong attackers. Artillery called in from Dong Tam destroyed 4 bunkers and 1 structure, damaged 3 structures, and caused a secondary explosion. Twelve additional VC were seen retreating from the area. The RAC cleared the area at 1702.
At 0945 on 31 May, RAC were proceeding to landing sites on the Song Ba Lai with two companies of the 3/47th Infantry embarked when they received five B-40 rockets and one grenade from a position 6 miles southeast of My Tho (XS 555 360). One rocket hit the well deck of ATC-112-4 and wounded 6 Army troops. Fire was returned and suppressed with unknown enemy casualties. All wounded were dusted off, 3 by Army helos and 3 by TF 117 command helo. The RAC then proceeded to beaching sites, and landed troops without incident at 1007.
Imitative deception was experienced on the River Assault Squadron 11 command frequency at about 1100 on 31 May while RAD 112 was operating on the Kinh Gia Hoa 4 1/2 miles northeast of Ben Tre (XS 580 350). The intrusion was monitored and evaluated in CTF 117 joint Tactical Operations Center near Dong Tam and was believed to be a Vietnamese accented voice.