Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers the U.S. Merchant Marine in Vietnam - Jan. 2nd, 2003
Posted on 01/02/2003 5:38:45 AM PST by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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In February 1951 the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) aircraft carrier Windham Bay, was the first large ship to navigate the Long Tam River since 1925. While the ship was docked at Saigon (French Indochina) 17 hand grenades were tossed at the ship by terrorists.
SS Overseas Rose with landing barges lashed across her deck
MSTS took about 100 Victory ships out of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (mothball fleet), repaired them, and assigned them to private companies for operation to carry ammunition across the Pacific. MSTS carried guns, tanks, trucks, trains, riverboats, barges, helicopters, bombers, fighters, reconnaissance planes, food, fuel, and medical supplies. By 1965 MSTS had 300 freighters and tankers supplying Vietnam, with an average of 75 ships and over 3,000 merchant mariners in Vietnamese ports at any time.
Early in the Vietnam War, troop ships such as the USNS Upshur, Geiger, and Gordon carried two thirds of U.S. troops to Vietnam; later, most American troops traveled by air. However, Korean troops were transported by MSTS throughout the war, with the first 2,000 coming on the MSTS Mann in March 1965. In August 1966 USNS Patch and Darby carried troops 12,500 miles from Boston to Vietnam, the longest trooplift in U.S. military history. In October 1966 the converted Liberty ship SS Benjamin Chew and the SS Meredith Victory were added as troop carriers. Men and equipment of the Army 1st Cavalry Division went to Vietnam aboard the baby flattops USNS Kula Gulf and Point Cruz which were taken out of mothballs to transport the 434 aircraft and other equipment. Other escort carriers which saw WWII duty included the USNS Core, Card, Croatan, and Breton.
Da Nang harbor was the home of the Marine Amphibious Force Logistic Command which handled the gear necessary to support 81,000 Marines. MSTS brought 96% of their war materiel including tanks, airplanes, ammunition, and food -- including ice cream.
USNS Point Cruz loaded with CH-47 helicopters, F-5 fighters and truck trailers in 1968
Between 1965 and 1969, MSTS carried 7.6 million tons of supplies for the Air Force, about half going directly to Vietnam, the rest to staging areas in the Pacific. MSTS delivered the goods "Special Express" and kept some of its 19 ammunition ships anchored offshore near combat areas as floating warehouses to ease storage problems experienced by the Air Force. SEA Express was the name of the program which delivered other Air Force supplies from Oakland, California to Saigon between 1965 and 1967, in an average of 23 days.
Damaged SS Baton Rouge Victory under tow
In 1965, US Coast Guard Squadron One, composed of 17 patrol boats was sealifted to the Philippines for Vietnam duty on the SS Pioneer Myth, SS Transcaribbean, SS Aloha State, and the SS Ocean Cloud. MSTS delivered bulldozers, cranes, steel and cement for use by Navy Seabees. MSTS and the Merchant Marine transported oil and aviation gas to support Navy fleet operations.
In 1968 MSTS sealifted 19 million tons (39 billion pounds) of cargo to Vietnam for the Army at a cost of $570 million. The MSTS Corpus Christi Bay, which housed an Army aviation-maintenance battalion, was positioned as necessary along the coast of Vietnam to provide aircraft maintenance facilities.
MSTS and chartered ships delivered to many ports in Vietnam during this "War Without a Front." The following were among the 46 precautions to be taken by the crew of the SS President Garfield (and other ships) during the particularly hazardous 35 mile river transit to Saigon:
Security for arrival of the USNS Core in Saigon, whose sister ship, USNS Card, was sunk in 1964 by a mine placed by skin divers
Just as in World War II and Korea, merchant mariners in Vietnam were subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Effective December 1966, the military was granted authority to take disciplinary action against merchant mariners.
In 1975 MSTS helped evacuate refugees from Da Nang and later, Saigon. On March 28, 1975 the Pioneer Commander, the Pioneer Contender and the Navy's U.S.S. Miller evacuated about 10,000 refugees each. Returning the next day when the Communists had already overrun Da Nang, the ships evacuated thousands more.
On May 12, 1975, the SS Mayaguez was seized by Kmer Rouge. US marines suffered heavy casualties during the attempted rescue of the 39 seamen and the ship. Six mariner volunteers from the USNS Greenville Victory received Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal for their role during the action.
Capture and Release of SS Mayaguez by Khmer Rouge forces in May 1975.
Harbor at Cam Ranh Bay
A Special Thanks to Dan and Toni Horodysky,
Who so graciously allowed me permission to use the information on their Site.
Thank you, having a good student helps.
Hi Sam, just got home from work about an hour ago. I couldn't agree with this statement more. This Country needs to take care of ALL of those who have taken care of Her.
They sailed their Third Class year ("Sophomore") and he sailed as a graduate. His training was engineering and his service was in the engine room.
He remarked on delivering ammunition to Vietnam in ships "held together by rust and public opinion." That they would be moored off-shore to avoid providing a too-tempting target.
That their rules ashore included avoiding bars not equipped with mesh over the windows to prevent grenades, avoid shoe shine boys and news boys for the same reason.
Regarding later opportunities, he was an engineer for RCA, then a firm of consulting engineers, finally an independent engineer.
He and his wife have now moved into their fifth home, and brought along the tallest flagpole for a radius of several miles from which to fly the American flag.
His choice of the USMMA was for its engineering curriculum which, judging by an examination of his texts, was rigorous.
To keep the engine running to deliver the ammunition was no mean feat, and a skill useful today.
We now recognize the utility of preposition, fast cargo, and roll-on/roll-off.
Here's to the delivery of vast quantities of the world's best ordnance to be delivered by the world's UPS:
SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING TO SADDAM HUSSEIN: Disarming now greatly improves your chances of seeing 2004.
Thanks so much for this thread, Sam.