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MOBILE RIVERINE FORCE SUMMARY

June 1969

Two events which took place in June significantly affect the composition and future employment and status of the Mobile Riverine Force:

1.  The 2nd Brigade, U.S. Ninth Infantry Division is scheduled to redeploy and phase out of MRF operations during July and August as a consequence of President Nixon's announcement, made at the Midway Island conference, that 25,000 American servicemen would be redeployed from South Vietnam by the end of August.

2. A large reduction in U.S. Navy river assault craft assets took place as a total of 64 RAC, valued at $18.5 million, were turned over to the Vietnamese Navy under the ACTOV (Accelerated Turnover Program) program.

A substantial portion of the 1,200 Navymen affected by the withdrawal announcement will come from the MRF.  Coincident with the RAC turnover, sailors with less than three months tour time remaining will be made available for redeployment.  Also scheduled for redeployment are the Navy MRF staff, and the MRF support ships USS MERCER (APB-39), USS NUECES (APB-40), USS WHITFIELD COUNTY (LST-1169), and APL-26.

The 64 Assault craft turnover took place in three phases on 10, 15 and 21 June.  Specific craft turned over are shown in the table following.

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CRAFT                            10 June                  15 June                21 June                  TOTAL

ATC                                    12                          12                        11                          35

ASPB                                    8                            8                                                      16

Monitor                                 2                            3 (1 Zippo)          3 (1 Zippo)              8

CCB                                      2                            1                          1                            4   

Refueler                                  0                            1                          0                           1 

Total:                                   25                            24                        15                         64

Vietnamese sailors have undergone on the job training while integrated with U.S. RAC crews during the past several months in preparation for the operation of the craft.

 

         

These are photos that I took of the Assault Craft turnover ceremony

 

River Assault Squadrons 9 & 11 were decommissioned on 10 and 27 June respectively.  The 97 RAC which remain in TF 117 are assigned between River Assault Squadron 13 & 15 as follows:

                        River Assault Squadron 13                  River Assault Squadron 15

CRAFT            RAD 131           RAD 132                RAD 151                RAD 152        TOTAL

ATC                      14                      14                            14                           14               56

ASPB                      6                        6                              6                            6                24

Monitor                    3                        2                              3                           2                10

CCB                        2                        1                              1                            1                 5

Refueler                   0                                                    0                            1                

Total:                      25                      24                            24                           24               97

After turnover, RAC employment during June was as shown below:

 

                                          ASPB     ATC     MON     CCB     Refueler       Total

Support of 2nd Brigade         17          30           4            4              2              57

U.S. 9th Infantry Div.

Operation Giant Slingshot/                    7            5            1                             13

Barrier Reef

Rung Sat Special Zone             3           1                                                          4

Operation

Base Defense  *                        3         13                                                        16

Overhaul/Casualty Reports                          1                                           

TOTALS                                24         56          10             5             2            97

*  Three MSM's chopped from CTG 116.9 to TF 117 are assigned to base defense.

 

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TG 117.1 Operations

 

Mobile Riverine Force activities were concentrated primarily in Kien Hoa Province during June and consisted primarily of assault landings, troop sweeps and ambush, blocking force, escort, sniper and burn/defoliation missions, although psyops and medical civic action programs were conducted as well.  Riverine assault operations of limited duration also took the MRF to Go Cong, Long An and Vinh Binh Provinces.  The total of 544 enemy killed by MRF forces, although substantial, was the lowest figure since January 1969, indicating a reduced tempo of operations.

Enemy initiated activity on the rivers was also down this month as assault craft and the Mobile Riverine Base (MRB) were subjected to hostile fire on 14 occasions, as compared to 34, 27, 33, 12, 25 such ENIFF's January through May.  As a result of the firefights, one U.S. Navyman and four soldiers were killed, and 30 USN and 22 USA were wounded.  There were no ENIFF's during the last eight days of the month; this reflected both a decrease in enemy activity as well as a reduced employment of RAC after the turnover.

Reported during the month were 1,037 combat boat missions and 662 boat missions in support of the base defense and MRB relocation (2 days of boat mission are unreported) for a daily average of 36 combat and 24 support missions daily.

Burn/Defoliation missions were conducted throughout the month along the Xang Canal and Rach Cam bordering Dong Tam on the west to eliminate enemy infiltration areas.  The continuing operation is in

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response to requests from the 9th Division.

Significant enemy caches were found by 3/47th Infantry Battalion troops along the east Ba Lai River on 22 and 23 June.

Several medcaps/dentcaps were held by TF 117 personnel in villages within the MRF operating area on the 8th, 12th and 18th of the month in the continuing program of civic actions.

Night sniper missions were carried on with good effect throughout the month of June resulting in a total of 35 VC killed and three detainees captured from a sampan violating curfew.  Sniper teams of the 6/31st Infantry Battalion, transported by ATC's 151-9, 132-3 and 132-9, made contact on seven separate occasions during the month.  Enemy casualties due to sniper fire were especially heavy on the night of 7-8 June when a team spotted 13 VC by Night Observation Device.  The VC were moving on the north bank of the My Tho River carrying what appeared to be rockets or mortars, when the marksmen took them under fire resulting in 13 Viet Cong KIA.

At 2010 on 1 June, seven RAC of RAD 151 were supporting the 5/60 Infantry Division of the 3rd Brigade and elements of the 25th ARVN Division in the Can Guioc District of Long An Province when they encountered an ENIFF (enemy initiated firefight) while on a canal two miles northeast of Can Guioc City (XS 862 742).  B-40 rocket and automatic weapons (A/W) fire was received by RAC; one B-40 hit the engine room of ATC 151-1 resulting in one sailor killed (died enroute to hospital after dustoff), and two sailors wounded.

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A special search and destroy operation targeted against a suspected Viet Cong staging area on Go Cong Island in the mouth of the My Tho River was begun on 3 June.  Ten assault craft of TE 117.1.4.1 (River Division 111) boarded two companies of the 3/60th Infantry Battalion from USS COLLETON and landed them on the northeastern side of Go Cong Island (XS 862 365 and XS 884 355) at 0740.  The RAC then withdrew, and later returned to establish blocking stations along with PBR's on the north and south side of the eastern end of the island, as U.S. army and ARVN troops began a sweep of the operating area.  An additional company and a LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) were also airlifted in the area.  Only six sampans were searched with negative results a RAC on the northern side of the island secured the operation at 0600 on 4 June, the RAC in blocking positions on the southern side departed at 1800.  PBR's continued in blocking stations until 5 June.  Overall results of the operation were disappointing in that only 5 detainees were apprehended.  The indication was that the VC anticipated the operation and departed the area prior to the establishment of the waterblocks.

Until the 10th of the month only two ENIFF's against RAC were recorded.  Between 10-15 June however, 7 ENIFF's were encountered as RAC operated in various areas:  The series began at 0830 as nine RAC were enroute to landing beaches on the Ba Lai River in Kien Hoa Province with a company of the 3/47th Infantry Battalion embarked.  At a position 4 miles northeast of Ben Tre (XS 565 358) units received two B-40 rockets, small arms and automatic weapons fire.  All rockets missed and no casualties or damage resulted.  Suppressive fire was laid in with unknown results.

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A series of operations entitled "Soft Shoes" began along the Cai Hap River in Vinh Binh Province on 11 June. This area had not been worked by the MRF for over six weeks. Several days of watermobile assault landings, infantry sweeps and interdiction operations were planned. On 11 June, 13 RAC, with two companies of the 3/60th Infantry embarked, proceeded along the Kinh Ma Cau toward landing beaches. At 0820 they were ambushed by heavy B-40 rocket, small arms and A/W fire from enemy positions within the dense foliage along the banks. One B-40 hit ATC 112-1 resulting in three U.S. Army wounded (minor). Fire was returned and suppressed. Three troop insertions were accomplished in the Soft Shoe area on 12 June and the 3/60th troops were extracted in late afternoon all without incident. In transit along the Ma Cau canal enroute to the MRB, one enemy B-40 was fired at the RAC from a position 10 miles southwest of Ben Tre (XS 417 166). The round penetrated the port bow of M-112-2 to the mortar pit wounding one Vietnamese sailor and causing flooding which was quickly brought under control. Three USN were slightly wounded due to friendly shrapnel in the ensuing suppressive fire. At 1905, this time on the Mo Cay River, 4 1/2 miles southwest of Ben Tre (XS 482 238) and within sight of the MRB, the transiting RAC were again fired on by one B-40 which missed. No damage or casualties resulted. Fire was returned and suppressed by RAC and the overhead Navy Command and Control helo.

TU 117.1.5, consisting of M-131-1, A-132-6 and R-132-1 were ambushed at 1540 on 11 June from the east bank of the Mo Cay River, one mile north of Mo Cay City (XS 468 220) enroute from the MRB to a Fire

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Support Base (FSB) to pick up troops. Two B-40's were fired ; one hit Monitor 131-1 on the port side forward below the waterline which caused moderate flooding. A-132-6 received the other rocket on the port side aft causing minor damage. The units returned and suppressed the fire with 20mm and 105mm howitzer fire. Eight sailors were wounded in the action, five requiring medevac. The units proceeded to the FSB to effect repairs.

Heavy casualties were sustained by MRF forces during an ENIFF which occurred at 0945 on 13 June on the Ben Tre River, four miles southeast of Ben Tre (XS 576 282). Nine RAC, with Bravo Company of the 3/47th Infantry Battalion embarked were enroute to a beaching site when they came under heavy B-40 rocket attack. Z-152-1 received four rocket hits, ATC 152-6 received two rocket hits and ATC 152-11 received one. Fire was returned and momentarily suppressed. The RAC were forced to reverse course in order to facilitate evacuation of casualties; as they turned around they again came under attack from the same location. The RAC proceeded toward a FSB while 26 of the wounded were medevaced by an Army dustoff helo and the Navy Command and Control helo. Total friendly casualties were four soldiers killed, and 22 soldiers and four Navymen wounded. At the FSB a company of the 3/47th replaced the decimated troops and returned to the ambush site. A company of the 3/60th was also airmobiled into the ambush area to conduct search and destroy operations which yielded no contact.

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A heavy barrage of accurate enemy B-40 rocket and A/W fire was again hurled against RAC on 15 June at 1515, during extraction of 4/47th company from an area along the southern Ben Tre River. The fire was directed against the cover boats in midstream, five miles southeast of Ben Tre City (XS 589 262). Two B-40 hits each were sustained by Monitor 152-1 and ATC 152-7; ZIPPO 152-1 received one B-40 hit. Return fire by the RAC suppressed the attack and the area was then thoroughly flamed. Eleven U.S. Navy crewmembers were wounded during the ambush (4 serious, 7 minor); the four seriously wounded sailors were medevaced. A total of 26 USN were wounded over the six day period.

NOTE:  LTJG Thomas G. Kelley was later awarded the "Congressional Medal of Honor" for his actions during this firefight.  The author's boat, T-152-1, is the "crippled troop carrier" that is mentioned in the official MOH Citation  (Click to read the Citation).

After conducting several troop insertion and extraction evolutions on 22 June, the 9 RAC composing TE 117.1.5 were enroute on the Ben Tre to backload a company of the 3/47th. At 1430, at a position 1/2 mile east of Ben Tre City (XS 530 310), RAC were ambushed, receiving five B-40 rockets and three recoilless rifle rounds. ATC 152-10 was hit by two B-40's on the port side near the .50-caliber gun mount; one sailor was wounded and dusted off. The Ben Tre River "rocket alley" continues as a perennial source of enemy ambush activity.

Enemy Activity Against the Mobile Riverine Base

Ships of the Mobile Riverine Base (MRB) reacted swiftly on the night of 6 June as the enemy fired 4 rockets or mortar rounds from the south bank of the My Tho River, one mile southwest of Dong Tam (XS 3949 4042) at the MRB and U.S. Army base at Dong Tam at 0205.

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All rockets passed over the MRB at anchor, and impacted 50 to 300 yards from the ships. Two minutes later, all MRB ships together with "B" battery of the 3/34th Artillery Battalion fired into the reported enemy positions with unknown results. Later, at 0343, and 10 minutes after the base defense boats completed harassment and interdiction (H & I) fire, the Viet Cong fired two more mortar rounds from XS 395 405 which landed 200-300 yards inland on the north bank of the My Tho, about 1700 meters from Dong Tam. All ships in the MRB fired on the suspected enemy positions with 40mm and 3"/50 guns for 10 minutes, then ceased fire for five minutes in anticipation of catching the enemy in his characteristic policing of combat sites. Fire was then resumed for five minutes. Fifteen minutes later, at 0420, H & I fire was resumed. Enemy casualties were unknown.

Anti-swimmer defensive measures within the MRB again prevented possible disaster this month. While USS WHITFIELD COUNTY (LST-1169) was anchored with the MRB at Dong Tam on 15 June, an alert sentry detected a swimmer diving under a camel moored to the port side of the ship. The sentry took the swimmer under fire with his M-16 and dropped concussion grenades. A hull inspection was performed by EOD personnel with negative results. The next day a dead Vietnamese body which had been shot came to the surface.

Again on 18 June, WHITFIELD COUNTY became an enemy target, this time as rockets were aimed at her as she lay at anchor with the MRB at

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Dong Tam. Three rockets were launched from the south bank of the My Tho River, seven miles southwest of My Tho (XS 375 409); two landed approximately 100 yards off the starboard beam, the other about 100 yards off the port beam. USS SPHINX (ARL-24) returned fire at the suspected launch sight with 40mm guns. No friendly damage or casualties were sustained; enemy casualties are unknown. The rockets came from a launch site approximately one mile to the east of the site used to fire at the MRB on 6 June.

 

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[ This Report is typed verbatim from an actual Task Force 117 Summary ]

 

 

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