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MRF Summary Report - March 1969


March 1969

Operating with 160 river assault craft (RAC) since the transfer in February of 25 boats to the Vietnamese Navy, the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) again ranged the delta in watermobile assault operations in coordination with U.S. Army and Vietnamese forces. TG 117.1 continued operations in Kien Hoa Province with the Second Brigade, U.S. NINTH Infantry Division. Last month's resurgence of enemy initiated firefights against RAC in Kien Hoa Province carried over into March; heavy contact was gained by ground units on several occasions. TF 117.2 and the Vietnamese Marines conducted a successful strike into enemy base area 480 in Chuong Thien Province. Intense combat activity resulted as the RAC and troops forced heavy contact with the enemy. An additional river assault division (RAD 112) was assigned to the Operations GIANT SLINGSHOT Campaign in order to implement expanding operations there.

A plan for the co-location of both MRF task groups took effect on 4 March as the units of TG 117.2 joined with TG 117.1 at the My Tho anchorage. The common mobile riverine base allows for a more efficient utilization of assets and permits reduction of the requirements for base defense from two divisions to one, thereby allowing the extra division to be employed in a line capacity. Tactical flexibility is also maintained should a need arise for two task groups. TG 117.2 will remain a provisional designation for use in special operations on an as occurring basis.

The following division assignments during the month reflect realignment of forces as well as operational commitment by division:

RAD 92 worked as utility division for the month primarily in escort for Army LCM-8 supply vessels between the MRF and an Army fire support base at the Crossroads at the intersection of the Song Ba Lai and Kinh Giao Hoa (XS 58 35), 7 miles southeast of My Tho. It also supported the U.S. Army 3/34th Artillery Battalion.

RAD 112 supported the 3/60th Infantry Battalion in operations in Kien Hoa Province until 17 March when the division transited to the GIANT SLINGSHOT area under the operational control of CTG 194.6.

RAD 131 supported operations of the 4/47th Infantry Battalion in Kien Hoa Province.

RAD 132 conducted the minesweeping, patrol and upkeep duties of base defense division. On 4 March, upon establishment of a common MRB, this unit became Task Force Base Defense Division.

RAD 151 acted as TG 117.2 base defense division until 4 March. On 17 March it relieved RAD 112 as support division for 3/60th Infantry Battalion.

RAD 152 operated with the Vietnamese Marine Corps in enemy base area 480.

As tactical needs dictated, river assault craft were not aligned with the parent division.

The following table indicates the distribution and employment of river assault craft on a typical day in March:


2nd Brigade, U.S. 9th Infantry Division TG 117.1 10 26 9 4 2 51
Vietnamese Marine Corps 4 17 5 1 1 28
GIANT SLINGSHOT/ BarrierReef 15 21 5 3   44
Task Group 115.4   1       1
Task Force Base Defense 7 14     1 22
Overhaul/Conversion/Backfit 4 9   1   14
Totals: 40 88 19 9 4 160


Task Group 117.1 Operations

Multiple riverine and airmobile assault continued in Xien Hoa Province this month as river assault craft in combination with units of the 2nd Brigade U.S. NINTH Infantry Division kept constant pressure on the enemy. MRF offensive activity, including eagle float and blocking force maneuvers by naval craft, developed frequent contact, resulting in the heaviest attrition against Viet Cong to date; 928 enemy were killed during March. In addition, 182 detainees were apprehended.

The Viet Cong continue to frequent ambush positions, especially along the Ben Tre and Ba Lai rivers. Twenty-one enemy initiated firefights resulted in 23 sailors wounded as 17 boats received hits (minor damage).

A recent innovation, utilized in MRF night operations, is the searchlight (pinkeye) boat. Since enemy forces frequently move under cover of darkness, a method to enhance the effectiveness of night operations was developed. A 23-inch XENON tank searchlight, modified with a pink filter to provide compatibility with a starlight scope, was mounted on the flight deck of ATC-131-13. The recognition range of this apparatus has been demonstrated to be up to 2000 meters. Two to four Army snipers are positioned on the flight deck as the ATC cruises 100-200 meters offshore. A 105-mm howitzer equipped monitor may operate with the "pinkeye" boat ready to fire beehive rounds on enemy troops marked by sniper tracers. During the period late February to 21 March, 24 Viet Cong have been killed by "pinkeye" snipers. Although still in the developmental stage, this equipment shows potential for application in interdiction operations. At 0017 on 15 March, "pinkeye" with 3/60 Infantry Division snipers aboard in company with M-151-1 spotted six to ten Viet Cong in a restricted area, 2 miles south-southeast of Dong Tam. Snipers marked the position with tracers and the monitor fired 105-mm beehive into the area resulting in three Viet Cong killed by snipers and three killed (probable) by beehive. Just after midnight on 21 March the "pinkeye" with two sniper teams aboard killed eight Viet Cong in a restricted area on the south bank of the My Tho. The enemy returned mortar and automatic weapons fire from the position later. No hits were received. The successful employment of snipers on river assault craft has led to an arrangement for Navy personnel to be sniper trained.

At 1355 on 3 March, RAD 131 transiting west on Ba Lai River to extract Delta Company of the 4/47th received rocket and automatic weapons fire from the banks at (XS 556 363), T-131-6 received minor damage from one rocket hit in her starboard side. One USN was wounded (slightly). The fire was suppressed resulting in six Viet Cong killed by RAC return fire (30 rounds of 105-mm) and five Viet Cong were killed by USAF air cover.

On 4 March at 1515, TE with Delta Company of the 4/47th aboard while enroute to base received automatic weapons, recoilless rifle and B-40 fire from the south bank of the Ben Tre River, 9 miles south-southeast of My Tho (XS 547 308). An ATC received a B-40 rocket hit in the well deck which resulted in one USA killed, one USN and 23 USA were wounded. Two other ATC's took hits with no casualties. Another sailor aboard a monitor was wounded as it received recoilless rifle and automatic weapons fire. Fire was returned and suppressed with unknown results.

This month another resupply LST (LUZERNE COUNTY LST 902) came under enemy fire (WESCHESTER COUNTRY and TOM GREEN COUNTY were attacked in previous months). At 1537 on 2 March, while enroute from Dong Tam to the My Tho anchorage, LUZERNE COUNTY received automatic weapons fire and B-40 rockets. One life raft was destroyed as one B-40 hit the starboard side frame of the LST. Fire was returned and suppressed at 1540. No personnel casualties resulted. LUZERNE COUNTY came under attack again at 2225 on 22 March while anchored with the Mobile Riverine Base at Dong Tam (XS 411 416). Six B-40 rocket rounds were fired from the south banks of the My Tho and automatic weapons fire was received from the western tip of Thoi Son Island. The LST returned fire for 10 minutes and an LHFT placed a strike on enemy firing positions. No casualties resulted although shrapnel was later found on LUZERNE COUNTY.

Enroute to beaching sites along the Ba Lai (XS 63 32) in mid-afternoon on the 29th, units of RAD 151 took 3 sampans and 10 Viet Cong under fire. The sampans were sunk and enemy casualties were unknown as the Viet Cong broke and ran into the jungle.

Task Group 117.2 Operations

On 1 March, the flag of CTF 117 shifted to USS COLLETON (APB-36) as the USS BENEWAH (APB 35) departed for restricted availability at Sasebo, Japan.

The combined TG 117/9th ARVN Infantry Division operation in the Mang Thit and My Loc areas of Vinh Long Province, begun 23 February, continued in March. The first phase of this operation, designed to eventually neutralize enemy base area 478 and to provide free access along the vital Mang Thit River - Nicola Canal waterway, concluded on 6 March. An unusual incident occurred on the night of 28 February, while assault craft were established in remain over night (RON) positions at the Mang Thit bridge (XS 186 170 - 6 miles northeast of Tam Binh). With an ARVN reconnaissance company providing perimeter defense, at 2200 an enemy sniper breached the defense and sprayed the flight of ATC-152-3 with AK-47 fire from about 10 feet resulting in one sailor being killed and two others wounded. The sniper was not located nor was fire returned because of many families in the area. Following an abbreviated stand down, RAC and three ARVN reconnaissance companies resumed operations on 4 March, landing at beach site 7 1/2 miles north of Tam Binh (XS 131 148). While the assault craft occupied blocking stations the troops swept northeast with negative results. Similar operations continued through 6 March with no contact and no ENIFF's. In contrast to the stiff enemy resistance encountered in this area during the last week in February, the Viet Cong have apparently chosen to avoid contact. Total significant results of the operation in March included 16 bunkers destroyed by TG 117.2 UDT personnel, 90 junks and sampans checked and 8 detainees taken.

Similar strike and blocking operations were conducted in the Ving Liem District in Vinh Binh Province on 7 March. Enroute on the Rach Vung Liem, RAC searched sampan and collected 43 detainees who were interrogated by the TG 117.2 Intelligence Officer (Vung Liem District authorities later reported that of the 43 detainees, 7 were confirmed Viet Cong, 29 were draft dodgers and 7 were innocent civilians). Troop lift, sweep, and water blocking operations continued until 10 March. Ground units reported light contact. The operation netted 15 Viet Cong KIA; 1 prisoner of war, 3 machine guns, 1 B-40 rocket launcher, and 1 AK-47 captured, 67 bunkers, 6 hootches and 400 pounds of rice destroyed, and 78 sampans searched.

The assault craft of TG 117.2 conducted boat maintenance and prepared for future operations during the period 11-16 March.

After an interval of almost a month, the TG 117.2/VNMC riverine assault team combined forces again for operations in enemy base area 480 in the Twin Rivers area of Chuong Thien Province. The USS HAMPSHIRE COUNTY (LST-819) was stationed at Binh Thuy to act as a forward command post and resupply vessel for the operation. Twenty-nine river assault craft of RIVRON 15 departed the Mobile Riverine Base on the 17th. The units were underway again at 182330H from Can Tho to embark units of the 4th and 6th Battalion Vietnamese Marine Corps already in the operation area. Enemy forces consisting of the Viet Cong 303 Main Force Battalion, a heavy weapons company, the U Minh 10th Company and local guerrillas were reported to be in the area. Operations were planned to search out and destroy the Viet Cong. Activity began as the RAC embarked units of the 4th and 6th battalions on the 19th and landed them on beaches along the Song Cai Tu in an area 6 1/2 miles southwest of Nha Thanh (XS 405 815). No enemy contact was established the first day. Enroute the next day to landing beaches on the Rach Nuoc Trong, at 0505, Z-131-1 was rolled 30 degrees to port as the result of the explosion of an enemy command detonated mine; although no personnel casualties nor underwater hull damages were received, the zippo incurred a misaligned starboard engine and loss of electrical power. At 0655 the assault craft received the first enemy initiated firefight. Intense and continuous fighting then commenced and lasted through the morning. During that time RAC came under attack from B-40 rockets on nine occasions. Vietnamese ground units established and maintained heavy and continuous contact all morning on the 20th and the 21st. RAC provided almost continuous fire while under constant smalls arms and automatic weapons fire in support of the Marines. Although fighting was not nearly so intense on succeeding days, the assault craft came under ENIFF's six more times until the operation ended on the 30th. On the 25th, at 1900, during a transit of the Rach Nuoc Trang, a large mine explosion occurred between two boats but caused no damage. Twenty Viet Cong sighted on the banks were taken under fire with unknown results. Translation of a Hoi Chanh's documents captured during the third day of fighting provided the information that the opposing enemy force was the Viet Cong 309 Main Force Battalion which had been sent from the Can Tho area to destroy U.S. river assault craft. At the conclusion of the operation, results indicated that the enemy had been dealt a severe blow deep in territory which he once considered his sanctuary. Ninety-Seven Viet Cong were killed (body count) and 14 additional were probably killed; 13 Viet Cong were captured and 24 detainees were taken, two of whom were women. The following is a partial list of vital enemy material captured - one 82-mm mortar and 10 rounds, one 61-mm mortar, one B-40 launcher and 10 rounds, 19 AK-47 rifles and 2000 rounds, 8 other rifles and 1000 small arms rounds, one automatic weapon, and 5 mines. Vietnamese Marines reported 15 personnel killed and 34 wounded. Fifty-nine USN sailors were wounded (mostly minor) in the campaign.

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