HMAS HOBART 3rd Deployment 16 March 1970 - 17 October 1970

 

HMAS Hobart left Sydney for her third and final deployment to Vietnam on March 16, 1970. Captain R. C. Swan (below) was in command, with Lieutenant Commander M. B. Rayment, who had previously served as the navigating officer in Hobart on her second deployment, as executive officer.

 

 

II Corps

 

HMAS Vendetta was relieved at Subic Bay on the 28th, and on April 6 Hobart was on station off Cap Ke Ga, south of Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan province, southern II Corps. The enemy had begun the spring campaign in II Corps on March 31 with a widespread offensive against regional and popular force units and United States installations.

 

Hobart replaced the radar picket destroyer USS Ernest G. Small (DD 838), as NGFS ship for Task Force South, based at Phan Thiet, and fired her first spotted mission on the night of April 6.

 

Hobart found that NGFS in southern II Corps followed a pattern of air-spotted missions at regular times in the 'morning and afternoon, with an occasional spotted firing outside these hours at a particularly worthwhile target. As this southern II Corps area was thick with Viet Cong bunkers and caves, it was necessary to fire at groups of bunkers in the hope of causing a secondary explosion. Harassment fire was carried out in the middle watch and early part of the morning watch with usually twelve to fifteen targets being taken under fire.

 

In the early morning of April 11, Hobart fired on Viet Cong platoon positions and provided blocking fire for friendly forces in contact with the enemy.

 

Late on the 12th, Hobart was requested to fire on Viet Cong caught in the open as they fled up a hillside. As darkness fell, the Viet Cong switched on torches, unknowingly assisting the spotter to direct Hobart’s fire onto them. As often happened, investigation the next day revealed only extensive blood trails, but Hobart was credited with at least two Viet Cong killed.

 

Overnight harassment firings south of Phan Thiet on April 16 killed twenty Viet Cong. Hobart continued firing on bunkers and trails in the area of operations of Task Force South and the 1st Battalion, 44th ARVN Regiment until April 21.

 

Hobart was assigned to I Corps on April 21 and went north to the vicinity of the DMZ where the target area was found to be very active, with flares and flashes of light shining through fog. In the southern portion of the DMZ, Hobart fired on an NVA battalion whose movements were detected by radar. Firings in support of the 1st ARVN Division, the 7th ARVN Cavalry and US 1st Battalion 5th Mechanised Infantry Division continued near the DMZ until Hobart went south on the 25th to provide NGFS for the 1st Marine Division near DaNang. Bunkers and infiltration routes were subjected to harassment fire.

 

After a final five days off northern Quang Tri province, Hobart sailed for Cebu City, Republic of the Philippines, on April 30, for a recreational visit followed by routine maintenance at Subic Bay.

 

Captain Swan took ill at Subic Bay and was admitted to the Naval Hospital. Lieutenant Commander Rayment took command in Captain Swan’s absence and Hobart returned to southern II Corps on the 10th, arriving at Cap Ke Ga and firing the same day in support of Task Force South. The ship then went to northern II Corps bom- barding bunker complexes and fortified hill-top positions for the United States 173rd Airborne Brigade. Captain Swan returned to Hobart on the 13th.

 

1st Australian Task Force

 

On May 15, Hobart relieved the heavy cruiser USS St Paul (CA 73) off Cap St. Jacques as NGFS ship for the 1st Australian Task Force. A successful bombardment of the Long Hai hills on the 16th killed four Viet Cong and wounded one, while a dispirited survivor threw his rifle away and waited on the beach with his arms raised until captured by three Royal Australian Armoured Corps armoured personnel carriers twenty minutes after the bombardment.

 

The following night, Hobart became involved in Operation Leatherneck. The spotter for the operation accompanied a patrol into the Long Hai hills during the day. The patrol withdrew leaving the spotter and three others in the hills with a cave near their observation post as a refuge. It was intended that if the Viet Cong located the spotting party, the party would retire to the cave and call down Hobart’s fire on the enemy. H and I targets in the area were fired on at intervals, while throughout the night the spotter directed fire onto selected targets including a party of Viet Cong only seventy-five yards from the spotting position. Four to six Viet Cong were killed during the night, foursampans sunk and one damaged.

 

From 1200 on May 18 to 1200 on the 19th, Hobart observed the Buddha’s birthday ceasefire by standing out to sea off Cap St. Jacques. Some 160 targets were fired on for the 1st Australian Task Force in the next few days until Hobart returned to southern II Corps on the 22nd, to the area of operations of Task Force South.

 

Task Force South

 
 

On the morning of the 22nd, targets in a valley were bombarded, forcing Viet Cong out of their bunker complexes into light scrub. Four dead Viet Cong were credited to Hobart’s fire. Early morning firings on enemy bivouacs were a feature of NGFS in this area as ground sweeps by Task Force South were keeping the Viet Cong on the move, and camp fires revealed-their position at night.

 

While Hobart was being replenished with ammunition from the USS Firedrake (AE 14) on the 23rd, one of Firedrake’s junior officers fell into the sea. Hobart’s special sea duty swimmer, Able Seaman G. E. Miller, dived overboard and rescued him. Able Seaman Miller later received a Flag Officer’s Commendation from Rear Admiral H. D. Stevenson CBE.

 

Hobart’s support of Task Force South was interrupted by a self-maintenance period in Singapore from April 24 to June 6. On return to the Phan Thiet area, she relieved the destroyer USS Edson (DD 946) in support of Operation Sheridan.

 

DMZ

 

Four days later, Hobart was near the DMZ, firing spotted missions for the 1st ARVN Division, 7th ARVN Cavalry, and 1st Battalion 5th Mechanised Infantry Division, as she had been doing in late April. Targets were bunkers, trails, mortar positions and NVA troops in the open. Extensive sweeps in northern I Corps by allied troops meant that fewer targets could be cleared for Hobart’s fire and so the ship’s attachment to I Corps was a comparatively quiet period.

 

In early July, both mounts were rebarrelled at Subic Bay before Hobart proceeded to III Corps, again supporting Australian task force operations in the Long Hai hills. Operation Leatherneck IV was in progress and, as with the original Leather- neck, a spotting party was positioned in the Long Hai’s to call down Hobart’s fire on Viet Cong detected at night. Other task force operations supported at this time were Burbank and Emu Bob. Four Viet Cong were killed in an Emu Bob bunker bombardment.

 


HOBART RAS at Sea Vietnam - Taking on 5" Ammo on 52 Deck

 

IV Corps

 

Hobart sailed to IV Corps on July 11, anchoring off the Tan Hoa district of eastern An Xuyen province. Here the 1st Battalion, US 9th Infantry Division, and the 21st ARVN Division were opposing the 95th NVA Regiment and Viet Cong units which, based in Central An Xuyen, were active in the U Minh. After a day’s NGFS in this area, Hobart rounded the Pointe de Ca Mau to range along the western coast of An Xuyen and the southern shores of Kien Giang province supporting 21st ARVN operations in the U Minh in mountain ridges fifty miles north of Qui Nhon before a helicopter assault by the United States 4th Infantry Division in Operation Wayne Span 2.

 

Following this exercise, Hobart returned to Phan Thiet to continue bombardments for Sheridan. This commitment continued until August 4 when Hobart left the gunline for a six-day rest and recreation visit to Hong Kong. This was interrupted by tropical storm Violet which Hobart  evaded by leaving harbour overnight.

 

Hobart  relieved USS Robinson (DDG 12) on August 14 again supporting the 1st Battalion 5th Mechanised Infantry and the 1st ARVN Division in northern Military Region 1*. The same afternoon, two Viet Cong caught in the open were killed and two 82 mm mortars were silenced.

 

At this time, the numbers of US troops in Vietnam were being reduced, and as this occurred enemy activity in the DMZ region increased. The swiftest defence for isolated observation posts near the DMZ was NGFS but gun damage assessment could rarely be obtained.

 

Mines

 

A Coastal Group 11 junk was sunk by a 100 lb mine outside the Cua Viet just south of the DMZ on August 17. The Cua Viet was the scene of much North Vietnamese mining activity against the vessels of Task Force Clearwater, set up in 1968 to drive the enemy out of the rivers and canals of northern Military Region 1. The sinking of the junk emphasised the vulnerability of ships offshore to river mines washed out to sea, so that Hobart, working fairly close to the coast had to be especially vigilant by day and by night. Though the mine had probably been placed in the Cua Viet some distance from the mouth to use against Clearwater craft and had been washed down by torrential rains, the possibility that it had been intended for Hobart or a USN minesweeper working in the area could not be entirely discounted.

 

Hobart remained off the coast of Military Region 1 ranging from the DMZ south to Da Nang until August 29, before going to Singapore for selfmaintenance. This was followed by a visit to Bangkok. An explosion in the 5-inch mount of USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764) which killed three and injured ten US Navy personnel caused Hobart to return to Military Region 3 ahead of schedule for her last period on the gunline. Hobart remained off Phuoc Tuy until September 23 supporting the 1st Australian Task Force in Massey Harris, a clearing operation in the Long Hai hills.

 

Hobart’s last rounds were fired in support of a combined Australian/ARVN sweep along the highway between the Long Hai hills and the sea on September 22. 

 

Captain Swan presented ‘The Weight’ to Captain I. M. Burnside of HMAS Perth at Subic Bay on the morning of September 28. Hobart returned to Sydney via Singapore, Fremantle and Adelaide arriving home on October 17, 1970. In her final deployment, Hobart fired 16,901 rounds and steamed 43,915 miles.