Vietnamization was well under way by June 1969, when River Squadron 11 was turned over to the Vietnamese. Only two squadron's (13 and 15) remained. We were transferred to RivDiv 152 and Walt Anderson, our gunner went to another boat. Our boat captain (George Sanchez), our engineman (Jerry McIntosh), our radioman (John King), our forward gunner (Dennis Bacon) and myself were assigned one of the new Alpha models (A-152-21). Sometime that summer John King left our boat and we picked up a seaman by the name of John McDowell, who filled in as radioman, coxswain and occasionally as forward gunner. Two Vietnamese were assigned to us as trainees. Phanh Thanh Duch and Nguyen Van Manh generally manned the two aft 50 calibers. We tried to cross train them on everything about the boat. We enjoyed having them as new crew mates, but missed our other buds. Having seven on a six-man crew was a little tight, but we managed.
We continued operations at the MRB, moving from the My Tho river occasionally to other large rivers. We also ran Base Interior Defense (throwing grenades in the water while circling our support ships). This was extremely boring duty and, to top it off, the monsoon season was in full swing. The monotony of the circling was compounded by the constant rain fall. A tarp was strung along the aft deck for some protection. We strung a hammock as well and lounged, read, listened to tapes and the Armed Forces Radio, the only station that played American music. Here's what an exploding concussion grenade looks like:
Photo courtesy of Ray Bruder (see Links for his great site)
In the latter part of July, as I recall, we headed off to Nha Be to run escort duty up the main shipping channels into Saigon. Click the My Day link below to see my typical routine in preparing for liberty call in Nha Be.
In September, we headed back to the MRB for a couple of weeks. Our Boat Captain George Sanchez transferred to an ATC (Tango boat) as its skipper and we picked up BM2 Dale Walker, another member of our original class at Mare Island as our new boat captain. Dale was a great guy and the transition went smoothly. I was field commissioned to Gunners Mate 2nd class by that time, so the guns were my responsibility. I had the top 20 mm mount and liked that perch. Bound and determined never to run out of something to fire at Charlie (20 mm's occasionally jam and are hard to correct in the middle of a fire fight), I placed a flak jacket over the open lid of my mount and put an M-16 with several magazines near it (this was directly behind me as I stood up in the mount). I then held an M79 grenade launcher on top of the mount with my right hand with several bandalier's of grenades handy. At the first hint of trouble, I'd squezze off a grenade at the bank where my mount was pointed, then jump down in the mount and start pouring in the 20 mm. To top it off, I had a .38 cal. revolver strapped to my waist. I remember one fire fight where I was driving the boat and the pistol was the only thing I could manage to fire back at the enemy. My boat captain, George, thought that was pretty funny at the time.
In October, our boat, along with a CCB, a Monitor, and a Tango, traveled a huge distance through some uncharted canals toward the Ca Mau penisula, the southern most tip of Vietnam. We were the first boats down some of the canals and got stuck a few times at low tide in new territory. This was near the U Minh forest area where the VC still had a strong presence. The river for which we were headed was the Ong Doc. We rendezvoused with other MRF boats that had been transported there by LST's.
Our boat, among others, was mined on October 23, and a few days thereafter my boating career ended with a broken foot. Click here to read the story of the mining of Alpha 152-21 and two other boats of RivRon 15.
Here are the links to pictures taken when I was with RivRon15:
RivDiv 152 Pictures1 RivDiv 152 Pictures2 RivDiv 152 Pictures3 RivDiv 152 Pictures4