RIVERINE ASSAULT FORCE SUMMARY
Twenty-five river assault craft of River Division 91 were turned over to the Vietnamese Navy on 1 February, in ceremonies alongside USS BENEWAH (APB-35), flagship of CTF 117. Vice Admiral Zumwalt, COMNAVFORV, CHNAVADGRU and Commodore Chon, Vietnamese Chief of Naval Operations presided. As of 1 February, River Assault Division 91 was dissolved.
MRF activity continued in the same pattern established in recent months with MRG "A" supporting units of the 2nd Brigade, U.S. 9th Infantry Division in Kien Hoa Province, and MRG "B" roving the lower Delta in support of the Vietnamese Infantry and Marine Corps operations.
After several months hiatus, enemy initiated fire fights (ENIFF's) resumed on 16 February against MRG "A" assault craft in Kien Hoa Province. Naval craft came under attack 14 times during the month. The increased enemy activity in Kien Hoa is reflected in the substantial increase in his losses, an average of 23 KIA per day. Unevaluated for the most part, are the results of MRF return and suppression fire.
Although MRG "B" craft came under attack 13 times during the month, ground contact during operations or after quick reaction insertions was in general, light, as the enemy remained elusive.
Twenty-nine river assault craft of RAD 92 continued to work in the GIANT SLINGSHOT Operation area, supporting troop lift of CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Group), PRU, RF/PF and U.S. Army units along with escort and patrol duties. MRF forces along the Vam Co Tay and Vam Co Dong
GROUP 4 Enclosure (5)
Downgraded at 3 year intervals
Declassified after 12 years
Rivers incurred enemy hostile fire 14 times during the month.
Enemy swimmer activity within each of the mobile riverine bases was observed on six separate occasions by vigilant lookouts. Hull inspections revealed negative results on all occasions.
The following table indicates the extent and diversity of MRF boat assignment during a typical day in February:
ACTIVITY/OPERATION MRF CRAFT ASSIGNED
ASPB ATC MON CCB REFUELER
2nd Brigade, U.S. 9th 15 31 5 1 2
Infantry Division (MRG "A")
4th Battalion VNMC (MRG "B") 4 6 3 1
Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT 11 11 3 4
Task Unit 116.5.4 2 2
Task Group 115.4 1
MRG "A" Base Defense 1 16 1 1
MRG "B" Base Defense 5 14 1 2 1
Casualty Reports 1 1 1
Overhaul/Conversion/Backfit 1 8 3 1
Totals: 40 90 17 9 4
Transferred to Vietnamese Navy
1 February 8 13 3 1
TASK GROUP 117.1 OPERATIONS
Standard watermobile, airmobile and infantry activity continued this month as MRG "A" operated primarily in several districts of Kien Hoa Province.
Infantry troops experienced occasionally heavy contact and the highest monthly casualty total on record was inflicted on the enemy as he lost 678 killed, 8 wounded and 194 detained. U.S. casualties were 26 killed (1USN, 25 USA) and 187 wounded (35 USN, 152 USA). Navy casualties mounted as the enemy reinstituted attacks against MRG "A" assault craft on the Ben Tre and Ba Lai Rivers. Enemy initiated fire fights (ENIFF's) began on 16 February and continued throughout the month.
On two occasions, RAC came under particularly heavy and well-aimed fire during ENIFF's originating from river banks. At 1230 on 24 February, while enroute to landing sites with Delta Company of the 3/47 Infantry embarked, units of RAD 131 received combined rocket and automatic weapons fire from both banks of the Song Ba Lai, at a position three miles northeast of Ben Tre (XS 539 363). Six craft were hit resulting in 11 USN wounded (none serious) and only light damage to the boats. Fire was returned and suppressed with unknown results. On 27 February, RAD 112, enroute to beach sites on the Song Ba Lai with ALFA Company of the 3/60th Infantry aboard, came under heavy rocket, recoilless rifle and automatic weapons fire from both banks at a position four miles northeast of Ben Tre (XS 575 347). Fire was returned and suppressed. Twelve USN were wounded
in this encounter (8 minor, 4 serious) and one VC was killed. Five of the assault craft received hits.
Enemy swimmers with SCUBA gear were sighted within close proximity of the USS VERNON COUNTY (LST 1161) at MRB ALFA, at Dong Tam, on two successive days - at 1635 on the 25th and at 2120 on the 26th. A swimmer was sighted climbing out of the water on the 25th. He was taken under fire by a 3/60th Infantry sniper on board APL-26 and was listed as probable VC killed. In both cases concussion grenades were dropped into the water. Subsequent hull inspections by EOD personnel had negative results.
A Viet Cong attempt to emulate the MRF occasioned disastrous results. Two platoons of Alfa Company, 3/60th Infantry in night positions along the Rach An Binh, three miles southeast of Mo Cay (XS 501 157), detected three large motorized sampans moving northward along the waterway, reconning the banks by fire. The soldiers quickly set up an ambush and took the sampans under fire. Twenty-one of the enemy were killed and three sampans were captured. There were no U.S. casualties.
TASK GROUP 117.2 OPERATIONS
Water blockades along the Song Can Tho and Kinh Xa Mo in Phong Dinh Province, begun 30 January, continued this month. The 21st ARVN Infantry Division had been conducting reconnaissance-in-force operations to prevent massing of VC forces in the area. The RAC, working in conjunction with elements of the 21st ARVN Infantry Division, established a water blockade along the Song Can Tho from the Cai Rang Bridge (WS 826 059) in Phong Dinh Province to a point eight miles west of Can Tho (WS 710 100) and along the Kinh Xa Mo from Thuan Mon (WR 643 923) to the junction of the Kinh Xa Mo and Song Can Tho. One company each of the
2nd Battalion Vietnamese Marine Corps and the 295th Phong Dinh Regional Force Company were embarked as ready reaction forces. During the operation, which lasted until the morning of 3 February, a total of 7,659 sampans were processed resulting in 62 detainees, 3 of which were confirmed Viet Cong. Ground forces reported only light and sporadic contact throughout.
On 23 February, RAS 15 commenced operations in Tam Binh District of Vinh Long Province in support of units of the 9th ARVN Infantry Division. Mission objectives were to destroy enemy bunkers and defensive positions in enemy base area 478 and to conduct riverine assault and eagle float operations as part of an extensive 9th ARVN Infantry campaign to drive the VC from the area. Enemy resistance was encountered early, as two B-40 rocket grenades were fired at the RAC at 1255 on the 23rd, shortly after backloading troops [from] banks of the Rach Ba Ke, three miles north of Tan Binh (XS 082 177). One rocket hit the coxswain's flat on A-152-1 wounding two sailors. The craft returned and suppressed the fire. One company of troops was landed as a reaction force and established light contact, killing two VC and capturing one B-40 launcher and one AK-47. One ARVN soldier was killed and two wounded. Supporting helicopter gunships and fixed-wing aircraft placed strikes on the enemy positions after the RAC departed the area. The aircraft destroyed six bunkers, damaged four and observed three secondary explosions. Frequent troop insertions gained light and sporadic contact as the operation continued. Monitor
105-mm howitzer and LHFT fire into suspected enemy troop concentrations produced several large secondary explosions. Thus far in February, RAS 15 units in the Tan Binh area have received hostile fire 10 times, one sailor has been killed and 19 wounded; 10 Viet Cong are known dead. MRG "B" EOD personnel have destroyed 132 bunkers along riverbanks as the operation continues into March.
Enemy swimmer sightings occurred within MRG "B" on 5, 7, and 9 February. In each case, results of swimmer search and hull investigations were negative.
[ This Report is typed verbatim from an actual Task Force 117 Summary ]