HMAS Hobart 2nd Deployment: 22 March 1968 - 11 October 1968

HMAS Hobart 2nd Deployment: 22 March 1968 - 11 October 1968

 

HOBART & PERTH Subic Bay 1968
PERTH handing over to HOBART in Subic Bay

 

On March 22, 1968, Hobart left Sydney for her second deployment to Vietnam with Captain K. W. Shands (below Left) in command. HMAS Perth was relieved at Subic Bay on March 31.

 

On April 13, Hobart replaced USS Henry B. Wilson (DDG 7) in the NGFS task unit near the DMZ. Hobart fired her first missions, both spotted and H & I, later that day in support of the 3rd Marine Division. During the night, she patrolled off Cap Lay firing with USS Newport News (CA 148) and USS Mansfield (DD 728) on an NVA troop concentration. Two Marines who were able to escape from the enemy during this bombardment later reported many NVA soldiers killed.

 

Sea Dragon

 

After firing on Viet Cong trenches in the coastal lowland immediately north of Hue, Hobart left the gunline on the 18th to relieve the heavy cruiser USS St Paul (CA 73) in Sea Dragon as command ship of Task Unit 77.1.2, with USS Collett (DD 730) in support. Sea Dragon operations north of the Bay of Brandon had been discontinued on April 3 as all attacks on North Vietnam, north of the 19th parallel, were stopped on that date.

 

The task unit fired on a truck park and POL (petrol, oil, lubricant) dump near Dong Hoi on April 22, then bombarded a choke point fourteen miles north west of Cap Lay. The same truck park • and POL dump were again attacked later in the day and as the task unit steamed into the firing course, two coastal defence batteries opened fire. Collett was straddled twice but the nearest round to Hobart was 1000 yards away. Neither ship was damaged. On the 23rd, the task unit again came under fire from two coastal defence sites while firing at a choke point and by-pass near Ki-Anh, inland from Mui Ron. No damage was sustained by either ship.

 

On both occasions that the task unit came under fire, fishing boats were in the vicinity and it was suspected that they provided ranging data for the coastal artillery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'Bait'

 

The 24th saw the task unit acting as ‘bait’ at Cap Lay. Hobart and Collett fired at coastal defence sites hoping to draw fire from the shore batteries so that 7th Air Force Phantom aircraft could attack artillery sites thus established as active. Though no shore fire was received on this occasion, strike aircraft bombed the sites. A similar manoeuvre was carried out on the 25th north of Dong Hoi when again no shore fire was received, but aided by aircraft from USS Ranger (CVA 61), Hobart and Collett attacked coastal defence sites.

 

The Quang Khe ferry at the mouth of the Song Giang was the target of the task unit’s fire later that day. Several sampans were damaged, and an access road cut. A nearby anti-aircraft battery was hit, with a large secondary explosion indicating that the shells had struck the battery’s ammunition supply. Another ‘bait’ mission followed on the 26th at Cap Lay where some of the enemy batteries were believed to be concealed in deep caves ready to be rolled out when required, while other guns were thought to fire from within the caves. As on the 24th, the presence of Hobart and Collett failed to coax the batteries into firing.

 

Having fired just over 3000 rounds in her first seventeen days of operations, Hobart left the Gulf of Tonkin on May 1 for Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to carry out an eight-day self maintenance program. Further maintenance was carried out at Hong Kong from May 12 to 18.

 

I Corps

 

Hobart returned to the gunline on May 20, taking up station fifteen miles south east of Da Nang in support of the 2nd Brigade ROK Marine Corps which was in combat with an NVA regiment, newly infiltrated into this coastal region. On the afternoon of the 20th, Hobart destroyed thirty structures and twelve bunkers, and sunk one sampan in a known Viet Cong assembly and storage area. Firings on enemy positions which were impeding the advances of US infantry on the 22nd flushed from cover seventeen Viet Cong who were then captured by troops of the US 23rd Infantry Division (Americal). H & I firings in this area were continued until the 26th when Hobart moved north to Hue, followed by assignment to the Cap Lay area on the 31st to silence an active artillery site. Hobart left the gunline on June 2 to replace the barrels of her 5-inch main armament at Subic Bay.

 

On June 6, Hobart proceeded to Vietnam in company with the cruiser USS Boston (CA 69). Colours were half-masted on June 7, 8 and 9 for the death of Senator Robert Kennedy. On the 8th, Hobart relieved USS Boyd off Hue in support of the 1st ARVN Division and the US 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), and embarked FOCAF, Rear Admiral R. I. Peek OBE, DSC, for a short visit. That night, H & I fire on suspected Viet Cong concentration points was carried out for the 101st Airborne.

 

Hobart resumed Sea Dragon operations on June IIth relieving St Paul with Captain Shands assuming command of Task Unit 77.1.2. USS Theodore Chandler (DD 717) was the support ship of the task unit, which carried out its first firing on two truck parks twelve miles north west of Dong Hoi.

 

Third time under fire

 

A successful shoot followed on the 13th when the ships landed six direct hits on a truck park and damaged a bridge inland from Mui Ong. The targets for June 14 were three highway bridges fifteen miles north west of Cap Lay but before Hobart and Chandler turned into the firing course they came under fire from a six-gun coastal defence battery. The spotting aircraft reported gun flashes, and the ships made an immediate alteration of course moments before the first five rounds splashed into the sea fifty to seventy-five yards off Hobart’s port beam. The next three rounds fell 200 yards off the port bow. As the task unit turned away at full speed making smoke, another salvo of five rounds fell 200 yards off the port quarter, followed by five rounds 400 yards astern. Hobart’s counterbattery fire silenced at least one gun and the sites were marked with smoke shells for strike by 7th Air Force Phantoms. Neither Hobart nor Chandler were damaged in the action although two pieces of shrapnel were found on Hobart’s upper deck.

 

Tiger Island

 

The destroyer USS Edson (DD 946) was detached from the NGFS task unit and sent north to join Hobart and Chandler on the 15th in surveillance of Tiger Island, a rocky isle thirteen miles east of Cap Lay which was the site of enemy radar monitoring Sea Dragon and NGFS ships. With only one somewhat over-extended Sea Dragon task unit in operation, it was found that WBLCs. were resupplying the island’s garrison at night, and an increase in Sea Dragon ships was authorised to provide more patrols in the Cap Lay area.

 

Hobart attacked by US Air Force fighter

 

Early in the morning ofjune 17, the task unit was in the vicinity of Tiger Island when Hobart detected an aircraft approaching her from the vicinity of Cap Lay and evaluated it as friendly. While the ship was trying to positively identify the aircraft, it fired a missile which struck Hobart amidships on the starboard side, immediately aft of the forward personnel boat davit. The warhead passed through 01 deck, and penetrated the pantry of the chief petty officers’ mess, a radar room, and the missile director control room, also seriously damaging the secondary conning position. The body of the missile then passed through the outer skin of the after funnel, damaging its uptakes, and ended up in the forward funnel. In its passage, it killed Ordinary Seaman R. J. Butterworth and wounded Able SeamanJ. R. Parker and Ordinary Seaman R. F. Davidson.

 

While Hobart’s crews were going to action stations, two more missiles were fired at the ship from close range. The second and third missiles hit her three and a half minutes after the first, again on the starboard side. The second missile entered the transom just below the upper deck, wrecking the gunners’ store and broke up in a bulkhead of the engineers’ workshop without the warhead exploding. The after seamen’s mess was penetrated by a large piece of this missile. The third missile hit Hobart very near the site of impact of the first, and the warhead passed through the fan space, missile director equipment room and No. 2 director. Chief Electrician R. H. Hunt was killed, and several sailors injured by part of the warhead of this third missile. The Ikara missile magazine was also badly damaged.

 

As it turned away from the ship, the aircraft was seen to be a swept wing jet fighter. Hobart fired five rounds from Mount 51 at the aircraft and no further attack was made.

 

The task unit joined the Boston, and with the USS Blandy (DD 943) formed an anti-aircraft screen around the cruiser. A helicopter was sent from the nuclear carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN 65) to take Able Seaman Parker, Mechanician J. Holmes and Able Seaman K, R. Laity to hospital in Da Nang.

 

Edson relieved Hobart as command ship of Task Unit 77.1.2 and Hobart departed for Subic Bay. En route, the ship’s company cleared the damage as a ar as possible and collected pieces of missile for subsequent identification. It was only then, with the discovery of US markings on the fragments, that it was realised that the attack had been made by a United States aircraft. Numerous US Navy and Royal Navy ships on passage in the area sent signals to Hobart expressing sympathy.

 

In fact, Hobart was one of several ships mistakenly attacked by 7th Air Force jet fighters on the nights of June 16 and 17. On the 16th, a Market Time patrol craft (PCF 19) was sunk near the DMZ, with five crew members killed. On the 17th, Hobart, Boston and Edson were attacked (Edson fifteen minutes after Hobart), as were the Market Time vessels USCGC Point Dume (WPB 82325) and PCF 12, a US Navy patrol craft. Boston and Hobart were hit by missiles but only Hobart had sailors killed.

 

Hobart arrived at Subic Bay on the 19th where CINCPACFLT, Admiral J. J. Hyland USN, inspected the missile damage and addressed the ship’s company. On the 20th, all ships in Subic Bay half-masted colours in honour of Chief Petty Officer Hunt and Ordinary Seaman Butterworth during a memorial service held for them on board Hobart.

 

HOBART Battle Damage

 

Admiral Ulysses S. Grant Sharp USN, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Forces in the Pacific, and Vice Admiral W. F. Bringle USN, COMSEVENTHFLT inspected Hobart on June 21.

 

HOBART Memorial Service
Memorial Service aboard HOBART

 

 

I Corps

 

After four weeks repair of damage in Subic Bay, Hobart undertook three days of sea trials and gunnery practice, and by July 26 she was back on the gunline ten miles south-east of Da Nang in support of the 2nd Brigade ROK Marine Corps. She successfully attacked several sampans in local waterways and Viet Cong assembly points that day. Da Nang remained he main objective of enemy attacks in central I Corps in July.

 

In the early morning and evening of the 28th, Hobart was in Da Nang harbour firing H & I missions on a suspected enemy observation post on a mountain overlooking the harbour, and on assembly points. Twelve enemy dead were found after Hobart fired on NVA positions twenty miles north of Da Nang.

 

In response to an urgent call for naval gunfire from a patrol of the US 1st Marine Division operating twenty miles north-west of Da Nang, 187 rounds were fired on a NVA company that had infiltrated a village. The gun damage assessment revealed twenty dead, many buildings, shelters and bunkers destroyed, and three sampans wrecked. Further H & I firings in the same area destroyed a masonry building and a bunker.

 

Water buffaloes rescued

 

On August 4, Hobart stood by north of Da Nang to fire in support of a US 1st Marine Division helicopter-borne assault which was mounted to recover water buffaloes taken by NVA troops. Two hundred of the animals were rescued and returned to their owners.

 

Minister for the Navy


Mr C. R. Kelly, MHR, Minister for the Navy, joined Hobart on August 2 while she was south east of Da Nang supporting the 51st ARVN Division and witnessed a successful firing on Viet Cong troops in trenches and treelines. Fifteen of the enemy were reported killed by Hobart’s fire. Mr Kelly presented Naval Board Commendations to Commander I. B. James, Mechanician W. B. Fischer, Petty Officer F. Ellingworth and Leading Engineering Mechanic T. W. Gordon for services rendered during Hobart’s first deployment.

 

Later on the 4th, Hobart was relieved by USS Harwood (DD 861) and sailed north to join Edson at the DMZ. The 320th NVA Division and the 138th NVA Regiment moved into offensive positions south of the DMZ in early August, but severe food shortages probably accounted for the lack of a major enemy attack in Quang Tri province during the month. However, continuous fighting in the DMZ required Hobart to give close support to Marine units for the next nine days. Hobart was initially assigned to the centre zone of the three DMZ NGFS areas, but also took responsibility for the southern zone on the 11th when Edson sailed south for NGFS near Hue. In the last few days at the DMZ, Hobart carried out successful firings on NVA troop concentrations and artillery sites.

 

IV Corps

 

Hobart proceeded to IV Corps on August 13 relieving USS Turner Joy (DD 951) off the coast of Kien Hoa province. Hobart was NGFS ship for the 9th ARVN Division, based at My Tho, and in support of this division ranged along the coasts of Kien Hoa and Vinh Binh provinces. The first RAN destroyer to be assigned to IV Corps, Hobart found the tempo of operations to be much slower than for I Corps, as H & I missions took place only at night and spotted firings were much fewer. A typical day’s operations in IV Corps consisted of an hour and a half of spotted firings in the morning, a cancelled firing assignment in the afternoon and three hours of H & I in the middle of the night. This more relaxed routine enabled those members of the ship’s company who were off watch to enjoy longer periods of uninterrupted sleep.

 

On the morning of August 21, while Hobart was anchored some five miles offshore near the mouth of the Song Hau Giang, firing onto a bunker complex on the coast of Vinh Binh, a lookout reported a possible swimmer off the starboard side. Scare charges were immediately dropped overboard and the propellers vigorously worked as Hobart quickly left the area to anchor four miles distant where more scare charges were dropped. A bottom search then carried out revealed no evidence of an intruding swimmer. After investigation of the incident, Captain Shands concluded that an enemy swimmer/sapper had probably been sighted and that he had braved a strong tidal stream and the outflow from the Song Hau Giang in his abortive attempt to fix a limpet mine onto the ship.

 

1st Australian Task Force

 

On August 22, Hobart was ordered to III Corps to provide NGFS for the 1st Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy province. Hobart’s bombardment of Viet Cong base camps and concentration areas in the Long Hai hills east of Vung Tau was probably the first occasion that an Australian warship had fired in support of the Australian Army in the field since the Korean War, and perhaps since World War II.

 

A short period of H & I fire off the coast of Kien Hoa followed before Hobart left for Subic Bay on September 1 for regunning and general maintenance. This was followed by a rest and recreation visit to Hong Kong.

 

Last period on the gunline

 

Hobart returned to the gunline on September 14, taking up her NGFS station off southern Thua Thien province midway between Hue and Da Nang where the 26th Regiment US Marine Corps was engaged in sweeping through enemy rest areas.

 

Vice Admiral V. A. T. Smith CB, CBE, DSC, Chief of Naval Staff, joined Hobart on the 15th for a day’s visit.

 

The routine of operations was varied the next day when Hobart was requested to assist in the salvage of a barge which had grounded near Da Nang. At the request of the harbourmaster, Hobart made several high speed runs 1000 yards from the barge to provide a wash to lift the vessel from the rocks while a tug took the strain. As Hobart’s wash was not adequate, the salvage plan did not succeed.

 

Hobart stayed in the area until the 21st, firing for the 2nd Brigade ROK Marine Corps by day and the 26th Regiment US Marine Corps by night. The Korean marines were conducting the second phase of Operation Victory Dragon which began in August and continued into October resulting in 139 Viet Cong killed.

 

Hobart finished her deployment with four days off the coasts of Kien Hoa and Vinh Binh bombarding Viet Cong structures for units of the 9th and 10th ARVN Divisions.

 

On September 25, Hobart was relieved by USS Borie (DD 704) and handed over to HMAS Perth at Subic Bay on the 29th, having fired 16,370 rounds and steamed 44,579 miles in the 117 days of her deployment and having come under fire on three occasions. Hobart returned to Sydney on October 11, 1968.