Swift Boats At War In Vietnam: A Month-by-Month Historical Log
Edited by John Yeoman
John Yeoman was the skipper of PCF 37 and PCT 692. He also served as tactical commander of combined PCF, SEAL and helicopter attacks in the Mekong Delta canals. Along with author and editor Neva Sullaway, and former Swift Boat officer and 3-time Bronze Star recipient Guy Gugliotta, Yeoman is the co-editor of the new book and basis for the Maritime Museum of San Diego’s newest exhibit, Swift Boats at War in Vietnam. The following is part of a 12-month chronicle of Swift Boat activities.
On the 9th and 10th of May, the US Coast Guard cutter Point Grey was patrolling off the mouth of Rach Gia River in the Gulf of Thailand. An infiltrating 110-foot trawler was spotted and tracked and chased as it attempted to infiltrate with supplies. The trawler grounded about 400 yards off the river mouth. When US Navy unites approached they received gunfire from the beach. A decision was made to destroy the trawler with shelling, bombing and strafing from several Navy units. A violent secondary explosion tore the hull into two sections. Salvage operations on 13 May recovered six crew-served weapons, 15 tons of assorted ammunition, movie projectors, film, and propaganda pamphlets. Although no Swift Boats were involved in this action, it was another instance that demonstrated the amount of weapons and material that was infiltrating from the sea.
On 15 May 1966, PCF’s 55 through 59 and PCF 61 were delivered to Da Nang. PCF’s 55 and 56 remained in Da Nang while the remaining boats transited to Qui Nhon, on 16 May 1966 to form the nucleus of the new PCF Division 105
On 22 May, while on patrol in the Rung Sat zone in support of a US Army operation, PCF 41 came under fire from a heavy caliber weapon on the east bank of the Dinh Ba River. A hit was sustained in the lower half of the starboard bulkhead of the pilot house, killing the helmsman, wounding the radioman and destroying most of the equipment in the pilot house. Within seconds of the initial hit, a mine exploded adjacent to the PCF, resulting in possible bottom damage. The crew of PCF 41 returned fire and accelerated to 30 knots. However, steering control had been lost and the boat ran aground before control could be regained.
Due to the location of the craft in Viet Cong territory, impending darkness, lack of radio communications and an outgoing tide, PCF 41 was abandoned after jettisoning the after .50 caliber machine gun, the radio equipment and some of the ammunition. The life raft was launched and the crew, equipped with small arms proceeded southeast until picked up by PCF 37. An Army Reaction Force was ordered into the area to prevent any Viet Cong attempted to recover the boat’s equipment. The Army Reaction force rendered the remaining military equipment unusable and attempted to two the boat from the sand bar where it had grounded, but severe bottom damage caused it to sink midstream in about 25 feet of water. This was the second Swift Boat lost to enemy action.
On 23 May, PCF 61 while on a routine night patrol along the coast sighted a 50-foot junk near Song Cau, 20 miles south of Qui Nhon. When PCF 61 approached for a routine inspection, she found that the junk was overloaded with 157 passengers and that it was swamping due to the overload, heavy seas and high winds. Because of the conditions, it was felt that any attempt to tow the boat would be futile. The Swift Boat went alongside the junk to take aboard passengers. All 157 passengers were taken aboard and the junk was left sinking. PCF 61 proceeded to USS Vance, DER 387, which was patrolling in the same area and transferred all the refugees to her.
Swift Boats at War in Vietnam can soon be purchased online and in the Museum Gift Shop aboard the Ferryboat Berkeley. All proceeds of sales will be donated to benefit the Museum’s Swift Boat 816.
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