MRF Summary Report - November 1968
8 Dec 1968
CONFIDENTIAL -Unclassified upon removal of enclosures
From: Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam
To: Commander in Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet (Code 12)
Subj: U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam Monthly Historical Summary,
November 1968; submission of
Ref: (a) CINCPACFLT ltr ser 1/6925 of 2 October 1967
Encl: (1) Coastal Surveillance Force Summary
(2) River Patrol Force Summary
(3) Riverine Assault Force Summary
(4) Naval Advisory Group Summary
(5) Selected Psychological Operations
(6) USN Statistical Summary
(7) VNN/VNMC Statistical Summary
(8) USN Civic Action Statistical Summary
(9) Operation SEA LORDS Summary
1. In accordance with reference (a), enclosures (1) through (9) are submitted.
2. The data contained in enclosures (6) through (8) is based on information available this date. Any adjustments to enclosures (6) through (8) will be reflected in November's Historical Supplement.
Chief of Staff
COMUSMACV (Hist. Branch, SJS)
Director of Naval History
MOBILE RIVERINE FORCE (TASK FORCE 117)
In the devastating attack on the USS WESTCHESTER COUNTY (LST1167) at 0323 on 1 November, the U.S. Navy suffered the heaviest loss of life to enemy action in a single incident, of the Vietnam war. Eighteen U.S. Navy men died in the attack. In addition five U.S. Army, one Vietnamese Navy and one Vietnamese Army "Tiger Scout" were killed. Seven of the 24 Navy wounded required medical evacuation. Three U.S. Army personnel were also wounded.
After offloading all troops, River Assault Squadron personnel, and their equipment, the WESTCHESTER COUNTY was beached in Dong Tam harbor on 4 November in order to accomplish temporary repairs to make her seaworthy. Just ten days later, on 14 November, the ship got underway - testimony to the professionalism and hard work of the Navy men from the several different units who cooperated in getting the repairs completed expeditiously. WESTCHESTER COUNTY arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, her home port, on 26 November.
The MRF continued the pattern of operations which began with the reorganization of the MRF on 15 October, with MRG ALFA operating in the eastern Delta and MRG BRAVO to the west. Of the five River Assault Divisions assigned to MRG ALFA, RAD 91 supported the THIRD Battalion Vietnamese Marine Corps in operations in Kien Hoa Province; RAD 92 was assigned Base Defense duties; RAD 111 supported the 3/34th Artillery Battalion of the Ninth Division; RAD 112 operated with the U.S. 3/60th Inf. Bn. in Kien Hoa Province; and RAD 151 continued to work with the 3/39th Inf. Bn. in eastern Long An Province, operating out of the Navy base at Nha Be. Of the three remaining divisions which were
assigned to MRG BRAVO, RAD 131 provided for Base Defense, RAD 132 supported SEA LORDS interdiction operations, and RAD 152 supported the FOURTH Battalion Vietnamese Marine Corps. The Riverine Assault Craft also supported other troop units in particular operations during the month.
River Assault Division 151 provided boat support to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team and Harbor Clearance Unit personnel during the period 1-6 November for salvage clearance operations on the Cho
Gao Canal. Four sunken barges had been partially blocking the canal. During the operation 1520 pounds of explosives were used in twelve detonations. A survey following the successful operation indicated a minimum depth of six feet over the former obstructions.
Early on the morning of 3 November operation DELTA RAIDER began when RAD 112 got underway with troops of the 3/60th Inf. Bn. and RAD 91 loaded elements of the 3rd VNMC for multiple riverine and air mobile insertions designed to locate and engage units of the Viet Cong 516th Main Force Battalion and several Viet Cong Local Force Companies which were operating in Kien Hoa Province. The operation lasted until 10 November, netting more than 100 Viet Cong killed. On the last day of the operation RAD 91 was ambushed twice while transferring Vietnamese Marines from the Ben Tre River to assault landings on the Ong Huong Stream. In the first ambush two monitors were hit as about 30 rounds of recoilless-rifle fire, with small arms and automatic weapons fire, were directed at the craft. One Navy gunner was killed on M-91-2 and three were wounded. Z-92-2 took a rocket hit in the second ambush but there were no personnel casualties.
Enemy swimmer/sappers again struck the MRF the night of 15 November. The Light Lift Craft FOUR (YLLC-4), and LCU converted to salvage work by the addition of a large boom and miscellaneous salvage and diving equipment, was mined and sunk while at anchor on the Ham Luong River near the entrance to the Ben Tre River. Two explosions within seconds of each other were observed and the craft sunk by the stern almost immediately. Two sailors were killed and 13 wounded, including 4 crewmen of R-92-2 which was moored alongside. Investigation by Task Force 117 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team personnel revealed one large hole along the port side about 15 feet long and extending around the stern of the craft. Command detonating wire and other implements of mining were discovered on further searching. Almost immediately the YLLC-2 was sailed to the scene and the craft was carefully surveyed to determine the feasibility and method of salvaging it. Because of the severe damage to YLLC-4 and the hazardous location, Commander Service Group THREE recommended that the Medium Lift Craft (YMLC) not be risked in an uneconomical salvage effort. COMNAVFORV directed the destruction of YLLC-4 to eliminate it as a navigational hazard. Detonation of demolition explosives and the total destruction and clearance of YLLC-4 took place on 26 November.
On the evening of 1 November Task Group 117.2 joined with units of Task Force 115 and 116 in the first combined operation in the Delta. Under the operational control of Commander Task Group 194.0 (FIRST SEA LORD), the assault operation was launched into Kien Giang Province to stop the flow of men and equipment across the Cambodian border southeastward into the Delta.
Task Group 117.2 provided troop lift and close support for the FOURTH Battalion Vietnamese Marine Corps, while conducting riverine strike operations, and also conducted interdiction operations to prevent the flow of Viet Cong supplies through the area. Mobile Riverine Base BRAVO relocated to the vicinity of Long Xuyen on 2 November to enhance support. The River Assault Craft met with several ambushes along the Rach Gia - Long Xuyen Canal during the operation. The first phase of the operation, the assault phase, ended on 6 November, while the interdiction phase continued.
As part of the same general SEA LORD operation, Task Group 117.2 supported reconnaissance-in-force operations in the Soc Son area of Kien Giang Province from 9 through 11 November, using the Ha Tien - Rach Gia and the Tri Ton Canals to transport the troops into the area of operations about 20 miles north northwest of Rach Gia. This was followed by operations from 12 to 14 November in the "Three Sisters" area about 10 miles northwest of Rach Gia. During the operation nine rounds of 105-mm were fired from a monitor indirect at a range of about 3 1/2 miles. The rounds were spotted by an Army artillery officer and achieved an accuracy of about 30-60 yards after the initial spotting round. The firing was done while the monitor was beached on the Tri Ton Canal. Lacking a fire-control computer three reference points were used: a stake on the craft's bow, an aiming stake about 25 feet from the shoreline, and an open sight positioned just forward of the coxswain's flat. With the bow as the pivot point, the crew maneuvered the monitor to keep the reference points in line with the sight. On the 14th the troops were backloaded and returned to Rach Gia.
From 16 to 21 November River Assault Craft of Task Group 117.2 shifted their area of operations to an area about 25 miles southeast of Rach Gia. After landing the Fourth Bn. VNMC the craft set up interdiction patrols in the surrounding waterways. Later, on 25 November, RAS 13 loaded ARVN troops at Can Tho and then proceeded down the Bassac River to conduct riverine assault operations on the Dung Island complex. Wile the troops searched for Viet Cong ashore the RAC joined PBR's in blockading the islands. The operation ended on 29 November, the same day that River Assault 151 concluded its
lengthy operations at Nha Be and rejoined MRG BRAVO.