Ambush Photos

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Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT kicked off in late 1968.  My first boat, Alpha 111-3, was detached to operate in Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT along with PBR RivDiv 591 out of Ben Luc off the USS Harnett County (LST 821).  (See the book Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT: A History for a detailed description of this most important operation).

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(Photo of USS Harnett County courtesy of Red Cross Donut Dolly extraordinaire Emily Strange. This was at Ben Luc in Spring, 1969)
(See this June 1970 story about the Harnett County and this copy of the ship's Presidential Unit Citation)

One of the essential operations of the Mobile Riverine Force along with other Navy boat units in Vietnam (see the PBR and Swift Boat links on the Links page) was the interdiction of the enemy's supply lines, which in many cases involved the continuous checking of Vietnamese boats (junks and sampans).  These board and search operations were conducted in the daytime.  At night, because of a standing curfew, the interdiction effort involved the elimination of unauthorized boat traffic on the rivers and canals.  These were the Navy's Ambush operations and usually consisted of two boats stationing themselves 100 yards or so apart along each river bank after dark.   The boats were sometimes difficult to hold ashore because of the changing tide levels and currents of the river.  We couldn't throw out an anchor since it was necessary at times to be able to back off the beach at a moment's notice.  While there may be clear stretches of rice paddies just beyond the river bank, the banks themselves were typically covered with dense plant life, mostly Nipa Palm.  Once the boat was secured around some of the palms, the crew would set about cutting palm to camouflage the boat.  Then it was time to settle in and wait.

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Night ambush was always pretty eerie.  Because of the noise made by our engines, there was always a time when we were vulnerable to attack after first taking the boat into shore.  Once we were there for an hour or so, we felt we had the upper hand and the element of surprise was ours.  During that early time however, every sound was frightening and at times we were forced to get underway quickly with guns blasting, probably in some cases due to the imaginary enemy (those eyes can play tricks in the dark).

We had the advantage of a starlight scope to illuminate the night sky and could spot the enemy sampan or two coming down one river bank or the other close to shore, and covered at times with Nipa palm.  The procedure when sighting the enemy was to wait until they were very close to our boat, pop an illumination flare (pop flare, star shell) to light up the area, and yell "Lai Dai"  which meant "come here" in Vietnamese.  If the enemy did not come, then we would open fire.  At night if you are on the river you are guilty, case closed.  The VC almost always jumped into the water upon detection and so the procedure from start to finish for us became almost instantaneous.

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Occasionally, we were fortunate enough to capture a sampan or two.   On one such occasion we got a Russian flag, several bags of rice, medical supplies, an AK 47 rifle, a few pairs of VC sandals (rubber tire soles and inner tube straps), cases of B40 rockets and other ammunition, and I think that was a little kitten our Radioman is holding in the picture below.  This is the boat crew of Assault Support Patrol Boat 111-3.   From left to right (sitting): Dennis Bacon (forward gunner), John King (radioman).   Standing: Walt Anderson (20mm gunner), Jerry "Mac" McIntosh (engineman), me (coxswain), George Sanchez (boat captain), and the tall guy on the right was a RivDiv 591 PBR officer named James Oke Shannon. The Russian flag was kept by our forward gunner, Dennis, the AK47 went to the PBR officer, and I ended up with one of the pairs of VC sandals like those Dennis is wearing in the photo.

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Below Dennis shows off a B40 round and mortar round while John (always the clown) shows off a can of juice I think.

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Vietnamese marines set plastic explosives to the enemy ammo cache

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That's me in John Wayne's flak jacket.  Nice sized hole.   Looks like everything blew up.

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The USS Harnett County (LST-821) was affectionately known as the HA-HA County.  Perhaps it received its nickname earlier than the following incident, but if it didn't it may have really earned it by this incident shared with us by Dan Jacobsen.  Here is his account:

LST 821 is on the beach.....this happened in Dec-Jan of 1967-8 on one of the rivers south of Dong Tam. Can't remember which one, but we were close to Ben Tre (which we pretty much destroyed on TET 68)....As you probably remember, the tide went out fast in these rivers....We hit a sand bar while positioning for wind so gun ships could take off...within minutes, the LST was stuck and not moving (all Charlie needed to do was set up a mortar)...But, we were lucky and all the sailors had a football game on the island...Below are four pics taken of this funny but not so funny event...Dan Jacobsen AMS3 door gunner DET. 5 HAL-3 Seawolves



Thanks Dan for submitting these photos and your story.

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