Saturday, August 4, 2012

Snoopy's Nose

In several previous posts I mention a river bend known as Snoopy's Nose in the Ban Long and Cam Son Operational area on the Rach Ba Rai river. I show pictures of it....which is quite noticeable in the post Saigon. I describe going into combat there in vivid detail in the post Happy Hour at the Dong Tam Enlisted Men's Club. In the posts The Mining of the Westchester County and The Salvage of Gentlemen Jim those incidents occurred within several miles of Snoopy's Nose.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Have Guns Will Travel Mobile Riverine Force style

In the late 1950s early 1960s a popular TV program Have Gun Will Travel, which was about a good guy gunfighter for hire named Paladin, inspired infantry troops and mobile riverine sailors to write on their gear and boats the phrase Have Gun Will Travel. In the case of riverine sailors the phrase became Have Guns Will Travel and was written on the gun turrets of the boats.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Mifflin Street, Peace Brother

Home from the war. Ya, that was great. Six years home and I had accomplished a lot, that's for sure. Got my Honorable Discharge from the United States Naval Reserves, got a coveted newly minted college degree, got married and was heading out west with my young bride. It was 1975 and Saigon had just fallen to the Communists. I remember sitting in a bar up in Stevens Point watching the news that night. The night the war ended. The bar wasn't too busy and everyone was watching the news. No one reacted, it was as though the reporter had been discussing the latest dog leash laws. I had already come to the realization that most Americans didn't really care that much about a war that had been winding down to this fateful ending. I knew too many who gave it all for the war. I knew too many who came home from the war with deep unexplainable, never ending emotional pain, which was exacerbated by the homecoming most received via the antiwar movement and the sympathizers to that broad cause.

My wife and I would go to Madison to see her cousin Jaimie before heading to Oregon. Jaimie lived down by State Street, a Madison landmark near the capitol, which during the late sixties and early seventies had been the epicenter of the antiwar movement in the U.S. Jaimie was going through a distinct Hippie phase and I should have guessed that our social events would revolve around something tie dye and smelling of incense. So I was told that we were going to a Mifflin Street Party. The band was set up in the middle of the street. I don't recall much of the event other than it was a fairly decent band covering most of the popular antiwar songs of the era. The future Mayor of Madison, who was very active in the antiwar movement was up on stage and introducing bands, giving short speeches about the great antiwar cause and raffling off a large gallon jar of, according to him, premier weed. The band played all afternoon and into the evening when all of a sudden it is announced that Mifflin Steet would be renamed Ho Chi Minh Trail. I thought it was someone's idea of a bad joke fueled by too much booze and dope. Not so. It was a City of Madison proclamation announced by the future Mayor. Mifflin Street/ Bassett St. intersection would be renamed, to acknowledge its place in the history of the anti-war movement, in honor of the leader of the North Vietnamese during the war. Ho Chi Minh Trail, an euphemism for hundreds of miles of trails running from North Vietnam into the South Vietnam through two neutral countries to carry the munitions of war and destruction into and destroy the Republic of Vietnam. An ironic name for a major street in the peace loving city of Madison.

The announcement hit me like a shot to the gut. I felt disoriented and furious. My mind raced, flooded with emotion. Feeling embarrassed and shame for being in that place I just wanted to get out of Madison and get on the road.

I recalled the homecoming I received when I got back in '69 and reported to the Navy/Marine Reserve Center. Months earlier the radicals had blown up the front of the Navy/Marine Reserve Center so now a security gate was fashioned with an M60 machine gun toting Marine Guard posted behind sand bags. The Wisconsin Capitol building was surrounded by armed Wisconsin National Guardsman, some my friends, not a bullet among them. It was October, 1969 and I was home. I had hoped to be away from war, but it just sat there in my front yard. The War at Home.

Soon thereafter, in the middle of the night, radicals would blow up the Physics Building in Madison because they felt it contributed to the war effort. A professor was killed in the explosion leaving a bride and young child. Later yet, in 1970 the same radicals, terrorists actually, flew 15 miles north of Madison and dropped small bombs on the Badger Ordinance Works. The Badger Ordinance Works produced most of the rifle ammunition for the military. Following that failed effort they turned the plane back toward Madison and dropped small bombs on the Prairie du Sac Hydro Electric Plant on the Wisconsin River.

Welcome home Sailor to a grateful nation.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008


Saigon was the first stop in country. It was quite a culture shock. Captain Willard the mythical Special Forces Assassin in Apocalypse Now may have said "Saigon, shit, I'm still in Saigon". But all of us who were there felt it. In less than two minutes, to avoid rocket attack, you drop from ten thousand feet to the ground in the big bird, then get whisked away from Ton Son Nhut to your barracks in Saigon. A letter home. "Hello Mom and Dad Oct 3, 1968

This is the first chance that I've had to write. I've been pretty busy getting checked in and standing watches. It's really hard to believe I'm in Vietnam. It's as bad as anything you might have heard. Just imagine living in the middle of a 4 mile square dump, imagine the smell. Imagine the sight. Then imagine what a city looks like after a flood, imagine the smell of damp clothing all around you. It's the rainy season here, it will be for another month after that it gets hot. It's hot now, I'm dreading what it will be like when it gets to it's peak. As for now our facilities are rotten. There aren't any showers, no toilets and no liberty. I'm staying in a transit hotel, the name of it is and get this, The Annapolis. I don't believe that it's like the original Annapolis. We are allowed to leave the hotel between 0500-0730, 1100-1300, and 1730-2000. that is so we can walk down the street to the mess hall. They have an Enlisted Men's Club every night between 1700-2000 a band plays. They're pretty good too. The beer they have there is brought over from the states. It was canned in 1962. The water is mostly undrinkable. The only water drinkable is what is purified which is in the hotel. It is purified with bleach or iodine and it tastes like it. In a couple of days I will be moving to my permanent base. Hope things are better there...."
A short movie on Saigon.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saigon and Going to the Delta

Following a short stay at the luxurious Annapolis Hotel in Saigon we headed for the Delta.
This video is a short version of a two hour ride. Four of us took a U.S. Navy Chevy 1/2 ton pick up to find the Mobile Riverine Force at the coastal village of Vung Tau, which was an in country R&R center. The Riverine Force, as it turns out, wasn't there, and I was told, "they were here last week, who the hell told you they were here." We were lightly armed and armored and were told to drive real fast to avoid being shot by snipers. Like you have to tell a bunch of young men with a borrowed truck to drive fast.
Toward the end of the video, where I pan out to the South China Sea you will see a puff of smoke way off in the distance. That is an explosion and I have no idea what was blowing up other than that happened quite a bit in Vietnam.
Music: John Fogarty of Credence Clearwater Revival fame, "Hot Rod Heart."

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Oil Fields off Vietnam Coast

This map shows early oil field mapping off the Vietnam Coast. For more of the story go here.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

The Mining of the Westchester County LST 1167

In the early morning hours of November 1, 1968 the USS Westchester County LST 1167, a U.S. Navy supply ship was mined on the Song My Tho.

The mining resulted in the death of 18 USN, 5 US 9th Infantry soldiers, and 2 Vietnamese soldiers. There were 27 wounded in action. This movie includes WESCO recovery pictures and YLLC4 work on WESCO and it's own mining two weeks later.

This video which I shot shows the departure of the ship from the Mekong Delta following emergency repairs at Dong Tam. Click here for a memorial page that details the fateful hours of this ship and crew on November 1, 1968.

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Sunset on the Mekong Delta

An 8 second video taken by me in 1968 along the Song Ben Tre.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Romeo 112-1

These pictures illustrate what happens when you mix jet fuel with rockets. This is Refueler 112-1. The top one(at Dong Tam) was recently sent to me by Mike Harris who was with 151 Div. The bottom two are ones I took shortly after the attack. We were still on the river.
It is also referenced as Romeo 112-1 (phonetic alphabet). Refuelers were used to fuel the Zippo boats which had a flamethrower in the well deck and were used for clearing foliage and bunkers. This particular boat was hit by rocket fire on the Song Ben Tre April 16, 1969.Several boats were enroute to Fire Base Khan from Dong Tam. They received 5 recoilless rounds from the South Bank of the Ben Tre 8 miles S.E. of My Tho. Compare to the unburned boat next to it to see how much destruction occurred. between this boat and Monitor 92 1 there were 3 USN wounded. Riding one of these or being involved in escorting one lead to a huge pucker factor. Stop and think about it,one gets hit you have got to get off, so either another boat helps which exposes them to the same attack or you go swimming. So, which shore do you want to swim to? Chances are the attack would occur on a narrow river or canal and with a burning boat blocking the way you came in your choices of exit are suddenly limited.

During TET 68 the Mobile Riverine Force is credited with saving the Mekong Delta. In the process the City of Ben Tre was destroyed. An American Major is quoted as saying, "we had to destroy it so save it". A statement which the American Press played this quote to the hilt, using it to epitomize the seeming futility of the war effort. For the efforts of the Mobile Riverine Force it received one of several Presidential Unit Citations. The equivalent to this award on an individual basis would be the Navy Cross, the second highest award given for heroism. On a personal note: When I was in New York City volunteering post 9/11 I encountered a Vietnamese Restaurant owner who lived at Ben Tre during the war. He personally thanked me for our efforts. That meant a great deal to me. THERE IS A VERY SHORT VIDEO SHOWING THE BEN TRE AREA.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Served in the US Navy

"Any man who may be asked in this century what he did
to make his life worthwhile,
I think can respond
with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
'I served in the United States Navy.'"
-John F. Kennedy
(Remarks at the United States Naval Academy, August 1, 1963

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