HMAS BRISBANE 1st Deployment 20 March 1969 - 13 October 1969

HMAS BRISBANE (DDG41) at Sea

 

 

HMAS Brisbane, the third guided-missile destroyer to be deployed to Vietnam, left Sydney on March 20, 1969 under the command of Captain A. A. Willis. Perth was relieved at Subic Bay on the 31st.

 

IV Corps

 

Brisbane arrived at Vung Tau on April 15 as the NGFS ship for IV Corps and after a briefing by the Corps NGFS liaison officer sailed seventy miles south west to fire on targets in Vinh Binh province. At this time, most enemy action in IV Corps centred on harassment of government out­posts, while ARVN troops had conducted a successful sweep through Kien Tuong province in the early weeks of the month. Brisbane's first firing was directed at a target near the village of Long Toan on the coastal fringe of Vinh Binh. Her first shot, at 2100 on April 15, was the first shot ‘fired in anger’ by a ship bearing the name Brisbane, as the first HMAS Brisbane did not engage the enemy in her World War 1 service.

 

Daily spotted missions took place until the end of April, and Brisbane stood by to provide NGFS for a Sea Lords operation on April 25 when patrol boats penetrated a river near Long Toan to attack Viet Cong positions. Also in late April, Market Time surveillance duties became more important following a decision by COMSEVENTHFLT that NGFS ships could be used to augment Market Time patrols, thus releasing small Market Time patrol vessels for riverine operations. This involve­ment with Market Time was not to interfere with the primary mission of the NGFS ships, i.e. fire support for forces ashore.

 

Phu Quoc

 

Brisbane remained in the area south of Vung Tau until May 8 when she was assigned to the support of an operation on the island of Phu Quoc, near the Cambodian border. About 300 Viet Cong were at large in the hills of Phu Quoc levying taxes on the island’s 14,000 inhabitants and giving refuge to escapees from the large prisoner of war camp. A thirty-day operation was planned to clear the island of Viet Cong, using for this purpose the nine ARVN companies permanently on the island, supplemented by the 500 Montagnard mercenaries of the 5th Mobile Strike Force Battalion. Between May 11 and 17, Brisbane fired spotted missions for the Strike Force Battalion to the north of Duong Dong on the western side of the island, and for the ARVN troops to the south of the town.

 

Brisbane was relieved by USS Waddell (DDG 24) at Vung Tau on May 18, and then sailed for Subic Bay for a maintenance period followed by recrea­tional visits to Manila and Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

 


Captain of BRISBANE A. A. Willis with CAPT A.M. Synnot

 

 

II Corps

 

Her second NGFS assignment took Brisbane to Phan Thiet in southern II Corps to fire on intelligence targets and Viet Cong base camps for Task Force South, a joint US Army/ARVN force which included the 3rd Battalion, US 506th Infantry Regiment and units of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). After relieving USS Rupertus (DD 851) off Than Thiet on June 10, Brisbane remained in the area for four days before being unexpectedly ordered to join the heavy cruiser USS St Paul (CA 73) on the 14th for an operation at the DMZ.

 

Operation Virginia Ridge

 

On the night of the 16th, Brisbane and St Paul fired into an area immediately south of the DMZ known as ‘Leatherneck Square’ occupied by the 270th NVA Regiment. The fire of the two ships was to prepare ‘Leatherneck Square’ for a sweep by three companies of the 3rd Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment and the 1st Battalion 2nd ARVN Regiment in Operation Virginia Ridge. This operation, mounted along the DMZ to stop enemy interference with the rice harvest in northern I Corps, ended in mid-July with 560 enemy killed.

 

In the three-hour preparation before the Marines advanced, the barrage from St Paul and Brisbane dislodged the enemy force which began retreating westward. Brisbane fired 633 rounds onto ten NVA positions killing eleven of the enemy in the central target area, while fifty-six others fleeing from Brisbane’s fire were forced onto mine-fields by St Paul’s fire and killed. Nine captured NVA soldiers stated that their surrender was caused by the devastating effect of St Paul’s and Brisbane’s bom­bardment.

 

On return to II Corps on the 17th, Brisbane took up station thirty-five miles north-east of Phan Thiet remaining there until the 29th. On the 24th, Brisbane assisted in the capture of three armed Viet Cong women by providing fire to prevent the escape of a Viet Cong force in open fields. Brisbane’s fire held the Viet Cong while three US Army Cobra helicopters flew from Phan Thiet to strafe the enemy at low level and another helicopter arrived to take away the captured women. Brisbane also provided covering fire for the withdrawal of the helicopters and ground force.

 

Brisbane was relieved by USS James E Kyes (DD 787) on the 29th before leaving for Singapore to make use of the dockyard facilities.

 

MV Sincere on fire

 

On passage to Singapore, Brisbane exchanged identities with MV Sincere and found that the ship was on fire. A day’s fire fighting by seventy-one of Brisbane’s crew proved unavailing. Sincere was abandoned, her crew being taken aboard Brisbane. Brisbane remained with the burning vessel until July 3 when the salvage tug Salvana took her in tow. Sincere later sank eighty miles from the island ofPulau Tioman olf the east coast of Malaya.

 

II Corps

 

Brisbane returned to II Corps on July 15 firing first in support of ARVN forces in Phu Yen province near the important Tuy Hoa airbase, and then moved north to take up station off the town of Tam Quan about fifty-five miles north of the city of Qui Nhon in Binh Dinh province. Here, Brisbane fired NGFS missions for the US Army 173rd Airborne Brigade and local ARVN troops.

 

On the 22nd, in a coordinated NGFS/artillery bombardment, an enemy base camp near the coast thought to contain 250 to 300 troops was fired on prior to an air strike which was to be followed by a ground force clearing operation. Just as Brisbane was completing the bombardment, a premature explosion occurred in the barrel of Mount 51. Leading Seaman L. E. Benfield was hit by shrapnel which fractured his left wrist. He was taken to the US Army Evacuation Hospital at Qui Nhon by MEDEVAC helicopter.

 

For the remainder of July, Brisbane was assigned to the support of Task Force South near Phan Thiet. On August 3, Brisbane proceeded to Vung Tau to provide fire support for units of the 1st Aus­tralian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy province. Caves, bunkers and storage areas were bombarded along the coast east of the Long Hai hills.

 

Yankee Station

 

On August 23, Brisbane joined the attack carrier USS Oriskany (CVA 34) on Yankee Station, with Captain Willis taking command of the Task Group 77.6 destroyer screen. During the continual day and night flying operations, Brisbane and USS Perkins (DD 877) acted as planeguard destroyers which were required to follow the carrier astern, ready to rescue the crew of aircraft which might crash into the sea on landing or take-off. This duty was colloquially known as ‘chasing birdfarms’.

 

Vice Admiral Sir Victor Smith KBE, CB, DSC, Chief of Naval Staff, flew his flag in Brisbane from September 27 to 29. On the 29th, in a ceremony on the quarterdeck of Oriskany, he presented a cheque for the USS Frank E Evans memorial fund to Vice Admiral W. F. Bringle USN, COMSEVENTHFLT. This fund was opened soon after the US Navy destroyer collided with HMAS Melbourne on June 3,1968 with heavy loss of life.

 

Brisbane remained on Yankee Station when USS Constellation (CVA 64) relieved Oriskany, and with USS Floyd B. Parks (DD 884) formed Constella­tion’s destroyer screen. Brisbane left Yankee Station on September 14 having steamed nearly 10,000 miles in her three weeks in the area. 

 

On September 28, Captain Willis presented ‘The Weight’ to Commander E. E. Johnston of HMAS Vendetta at Subic Bay.

 

Brisbane returned to Sydney on October 13, 1969 having steamed 40,465 miles and fired 7891 rounds in her first deployment.