“Another story on what most Americans don’t know about the Navy’s role in the Vietnam War?”
Many Americans probably believed that by 1972, the war in Vietnam was essentially winding down. However, for the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, 1972 would prove to be a busy year of conducting numerous and dangerous combat operations. Ships like mine, USS Rich (DD 820), usually were initially assigned to the Vietnam gun line to provide naval gunfire support (NGFS) to on shore forces. However, it was common for many destroyer crews to suddenly find their ship attached to Commander Task Unit (CTU) 71.1.1, which meant their ship would become a participant in special combat operations along the Vietnam coast.
On December 1, our ship was attached to CTU 71.1.1. For the next five days we participated in in both daytime and nighttime on various targets along the North Vietnam coast principally at areas in the vicinity of Brandon Bay and the Dong Hoi Gulf. During these nightly raids, ships frequently received heavy counterbattery fire from the coastal North Vietnamese gun batteries.
It was early afternoon on December 5, 1972. Our ship, received a call for gunfire support via CTU 71.1.1. The grid coordinates were passed to us for a newly located coast radar station on Hon Co Island. Everyone in the Navy, called the place “Tiger Island.” Once our ship received permission from CTU 71.1.1, we immediately brought the ship to the required course and speed to close the island.
Tiger Island was reported to be loaded with anti-aircraft and big gun shore batteries with fire control radar sites. Our ship had attacked Tiger Island twice before along with two other destroyers several days before and we got a lot of J-band radar directed big gun counterbattery fire from the island. Though the NVA’s J-band fire control radar directed gunfire had not resulted in any direct hits on our ship, they had gotten close, closer than any of us had experienced so far. I know some in the bridge team felt a bit of apprehension about going up against the big NVA guns on Tiger Island again.
At 1458, the ship went to GQ stations and we maneuvered the ship in close to Tiger Island. At 1530, the ship commenced fire on the target with two rapid four-round salvos from both mounts 51 and 52. Within moments after firing, we got heavy NVA counterbattery in return, with multiple counterbattery splashes all around the ship. The XO maneuvered the ship farther away from the shore and then brought the ship broadside to the beach. We had good gun target lines and ranges to the gun batteries that had fired on us. Our ship opened up on the NVA gun batteries, and for about the next 20 minutes, we fired 340 HE projectiles with reduced and/or full service charges onto the targets. According to a forward observer report, it was relayed to us that, “You’ve blown the hell out every living thing in the target area.”
After the order to cease fire, the ship stayed in the area for a short while before proceeding to take station off USS Wilson (DDG 7). After taking station off USS Wilson , and USS Rowan (DD 782), all three ships in our task unit came to a northerly heading, now proceeding further north along the North Vietnam coastline to our next strike mission position… If you would like to read more stories from my book “Striking Eight Bells,” use one of these links to booksellers: Amazon.com: Books, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, BAM –Books A Million and Smashword.com eBooks.
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