HMAS HOBART Attacked Vietnam 1968

 

HMAS HOBART - attacked by US Air Force June 1968 Vietnam

 

HOBART on Station Vietnam
Hobart on Station Vietnam 1968

 

Hobart returned to 'The Gunline' on 20th May 1968 for her 2nd Deployment. Straight into heavy action in 1 Corps around the Da Nang vicinity saw her heading for Subic in early June for a barrel replacement for her two 5" Guns.

 

Hobart returned to Sea Dragon operations on June 11th, relieving USS St Paul with Captain Shands taking command of Task Unit 77.1.2. USS Theodore Chandler (DD 717) was the support ship of the TU, which carried out its first firing on two truck parks 12 miles North of Dung Hoi.

 

On 13th & 14th June both ships carried out successful firing operations around Mui Ong and Cap Lay, where both ships came under fire from coastal defence batteries, 13 rounds landing as close as 50 yards from Hobart before she knocked out one gun and US 7th Airfoce Phantoms accounted for the remainder. Shrapnel was later collected from Hobart's upperdeck. This was the third time Hobart had come under enemy fire.

 

The Destroyer USS Edson had been detached from the NGFS Unit and now joined Hobart and Chandler to carry out surveillance around Tiger Island, 13 miles east of Cap Lay where an enemy radar installation was monitoring Operation Sea Dragon. With only one extended TU in the area it was found that the garrison was being resupplied at night by sea.

 

Early on the morning of June 17th Hobart detected an aircraft approaching her from the vicinity of Cap Lay and evaluated it as 'friendly'. In the meantime whilst Hobart had been trying to establish the identity of the aircraft it launched a missile which hit her amidships on the starboard side, immediately aft of the boat davit. The warhead passed through 01 Deck and penetrated the Chief Petty Officers Pantry, Radar Room 3, the Missile Director Control Room and severely damaging the Emergency Conning Platform. The body of the missile then passed through the outer skin of the after funnel, damaging its uptakes, and finished up in the forward funnel. In its passage it killed Ordinary Seaman R. J. Butterworth and wounded AB Parker and OrdSmn Davidson.

 

Hobart's crew clambered to Action Stations, and 3 and a half minutes later another two missiles fired from close range slammed into her. Again, on the starboard side. The 2nd missile entered her transom just below 1 Deck wrecking the Gunner's Store and Engineers Workshop, luckily the warhead did not explode. The 80 Man Aft Seamen's Mess wore a large part of this missile! The 3rd missile hit her very near the site of the first and the warhead passed through the Fan Space, Missile Director Equipment Room and No 2 Missile Director. Chief Electrician Hunt was killed and several sailors wounded by part of the missile warhead. The Ikara Missile Magazine was also seriously damaged

 

 


Above Damage Assessment Subic Bay PI

 

As Hobert tuned away from the threat direction the aircraft was seen to be a swept wing jet fighter. Hobart got away 5 rounds of 5" and no further attack was made.

 

hobartvietnam3.jpg

 

The TU joined USS Boston. And with USS Blandy DD943 formed an anti aircraft screen around USS Enterprise CVAN 65. A helo from Enterprise provided a medivac and delivered AB Parker, Mech Holmes, and AB Laity to hospital in Da Nang.

 

Edson relieved Hobart as leader of the TU and Hobart steamed for Subic Bay. On passage the crew cleared the debris and collected pieces of missile for identification. It was only then it was realised that the missiles had been fired from US Aircraft.

 

Actually Hobart had been one of only several ships attacked by 7th Airforce jets on the nights of the 16th & 17th June. On the 16th USS PCF19 was sunk near the DMZ with 5 killed and on the 17th Hobart, Boston and Edson were attacked. Edson 15 minutes after Hobart as were 'Market Time' vessels USCGC Point Dume WPB82325 and PCF12, a US Navy Patrol Craft. Boston and Hobart both took hits but only Hobart suffered fatalities.

 

Webmasters Note: - The above is the Official US and Australian Navy's version about the attacks on the US Navy Patrol Vessels PCF 12 and PCF 19, however I suggest you read the account by James Steffes, a crew member of PCF12 that fateful night. Whilst it is clear that Hobart was indeed fired upon with Sea Sparrow missiles from fixed wing, jet aircraft, what is not clear from James' and others eyewitness accounts is why it all happened.

 

Hobart arrived at Subic Bay on the 19th June where CINCPAFLT, Admiral J.J. Hyland USN inspected the damage (above) and addressed the Ship's Comapny. On the 20th June all ships in Subic Half Masted their Colours in honour of Chief Hunt and OrdSmn Butterworth.

 

Hobart completed 3 Gunline deployments to Vietnam and decommissioned in May 2000.

 

THE SINKING OF PCF-19
AS SEEN FROM PCF-12

by
Jim Steffes, ENC, USN Retired.

PCF 12 On Patrol - Vietnam

 

 

 

 

I was aboard PCF-12 on June 15, 1968 when we got underway from Danang enroute to our assigned patrol area, Enfield Cobra Charlie. This area is off Wonder Beach South of Qua Viet. We settled into our patrol area and all seemed quiet and routine. Our crew consisted of LTJG Pete Snyder, BM2 Johnnie P. Fitts, LPO, (myself), EN2 James Steffes, QM2 Gary Rosenberger, RD2 Kenneth Bloch, and GMG3 Thomas Klemash. It was our second patrol since taking over PCF-12 and it was running well.

 

Around 1900 or so, we received a call from Enfield Cobra Alpha asking to meet us near the point that our patrol areas met saying they were having radar problems. The Alpha Boat was PCF-19 with LTJG John Davis’ crew aboard, they were operating with a Coast Guard Cutter, the USCG Campbell. It was approximately 2000 when we met, it was dark when she came alongside. I hadn’t been in country long and did not know the crew personally although I had seen them around the APL.

 

The problem was the radar kept fading out especially at slow speeds. They could not be sure where they were and their position was critical being near the DMZ. I climbed down in the engine room with the snipe, EN2 Edward Cruz. We quickly determined that the starboard engine’s alternator was not charging the bank of batteries and the radar ran off these batteries. PCF-12 had a knife switch on the after bulkhead that connected the two banks of batteries together in case of charging circuit problems. PCF-19 had no such switch and since it was not his boat he did not know where his jumper cables were, if he had any. I quickly got my set from PCF-12 and we hooked them up across the battery banks on PCF-19. Now the port engine could charge both banks of batteries. I recall chatting and laughing with my new found snipe friend, Ed Cruz as we slipped and slid in the wet bilge while hooking up these cables. With the radar working fine, we said goodbye and PCF-19 moved off in the darkness, never to be seen again.

 

At approximately 0030 on June 16th, "flash traffic" was sent to all Market Time Units from the Naval Gunfire Officer at Alpha One, which is an outpost on the DMZ, part of the MacNamara Line. It stated that Enfield Cobra Alpha has disappeared in a flash of light and appeared to have sunk. We proceeded at max speed to the area, arriving just as Point Dume was pulling two survivors from the water. They proceeded to Cua Viet with LTJG John Davis and GMGSN John Anderegg, both badly wounded. After notifying CSC, Danang, "Article" that we were on station and assumed Enfield Cobra Alpha, we began to illuminate the area looking for survivors until we exhausted our supply of 81 MM illumination rounds. We found only debris and a fuel slick , no bodies or survivors. Suddenly, we were illuminated by four amber colored illumination rounds at a high altitude directly overhead. Mr. Snyder called Point Dume but she was still in Qua Viet. We headed south with illumination rounds continuing to light us up, following us southward. At some point, we stopped and checked our bearings. As we looked around us in the darkness with a moon that sometimes was behind clouds, we spotted two aircraft "hovering" on our port and starboard beams. They were about 300 yards away and 100 feet above the water. As the boat swung around to put the aircraft ahead and astern of PCF-12, I could hear Mr. Snyder requesting air support and identification of these helos. The answer from the beach was "no friendly aircraft in the area, have contacts near you on radar and starlight scope. "Are they squawking IFF??" , my OIC asked. "Negative, I repeat, negative squawking IFF," came the reply.

 

 

 

At this time, Mr. Snyder radioed "Roger that, I am taking aircraft under fire if they show hostile intent." By this time the helos were forward and aft of PCF-12 and I got a good look at one of the helos in the moonlight. It had a rounded front like an observation helo and it looked like two crewman sitting side by side. I went up to the pilot house to tell Mr. Snyder and standing in the doorway, I could see the other helo. I watched as tracers began to come toward us as this helo opened fire. The guns were from the nose of the helo. Our guns opened up and I ran back to my position as the loader on the after gun. We heard a crash of glass and a splash as one of the helos hit the water, the other helo broke contact and left the area.

 

For the next two and one half hours, we played cat and mouse with one or more helos at a time, opening up with our guns when they moved toward us in a threatening manner. We must have moved back north because we saw Point Dume nearby and blinking lights around her in the air, she was firing tracers into the air at something, but we could not see what it was. During this time, the radios were crackling constantly as my OIC answered calls from Danang and other units while all friendlies that could be in the area were checked out. The result was; no friendlies, these had to be North Vietnamese.

 

About 0330, low on ammo, fuel and our 50 Caliber barrels burned out, PCF-12 received a call from an aircraft flight leader as they approached from the south to intercept. We were told to fire a blue flare, both us and Point Dume to mark our positions. The jets flew overhead and acknowledged our position. There were explosions and gunfire to the north as the jets looked for targets. Remember, this is at least three hours after PCf-19 went down. As dawn broke, we could only see the shoreline and the Point Dume. We went alongside a ship where we received fuel and some 50 caliber ammo. We continued to patrol and look for signs of PCF-19 until we were relieved by PCF-101 and returned to Danang. A few days later some of our crew and some of Point Dume testified at a Board of Inquiry held at III MAF Headquarters in Danang.

 

We continued to monitor and track these "lights" for several weeks after this up until September. In August PCF-12 and an extra crew took turns patrolling Enfield Cobra Alpha’s area for two weeks using USCG Owasco as our mother ship.

 

I have pages of documents, deck logs of ships in the area, copies of mortuary logs and many more documents. I started to write a book entitled "The Sinking of PCF-19" If any of you wish to share your observations or records of that night, I will recognize you as the source of any material that I can use.

 

This is my story in brief. I know what the "official story" is, but this is mine as true and complete as I can remember.

 


PCF 12 at Speed On Patrol RSVN

 

My investigations continue to this day however not much new evidence has surfaced. Along with Larry Lail, a hospital corpsman that assisted the divers on June 16,17, and 18 as they retrieved the bodies from the sunken PCF-19. He was aboard USS Acme, an MSO. We have located the Marine Officer on the forward most post on the beach, "Oceanview" and the Naval Gunfire Liaison Officer at Alpha One. They bear out this story as they tracked the lights for several weeks. The NGLO had a radio operator that saw the flash and explosion of PCF-19. We have also located two of the four divers, the skipper of Point Dume, the Wing Commander of the planes out of Danang and the pilot that was blamed for sinking PCF-19, however he has not agreed to talk to us yet.

 

Our comrades lost to us that night are:

 

BM2 Anthony Chandler, EN2 Edward Cruz, GMG3 Billy Armstrong, QM2 Frank Bowman. QM2 FrankBowman is still listed as MIA.

 

Tony Chandler finally returns home...

 

The funeral of BM2 Tony Chandler, USN, in Warner Robbins, GA, June 2001.

 

 

 

 

Jim Steffes, ENC, USN Retired.

An email received (5th Dec 2000)
from LTJG John Taylor, USN - USS Boston.

 

G'day Russ,

 

The Hobart's website was the jump-off point for my own search for details on the incident of June 16-17, 1968. What I have really found goes far beyond the "facts".

 

I have met a lot of great guys in the process, including FO's who worked with "Mauler" while I was a GLO, "Brown Water" sailors and chopper pilots who were on the Cua Viet, and many old shipmates. It's been a project of self-discovery, a personal "homecoming" after 30+ years of telling myself those were just "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights". It also opened my mind to the validity of rumors that the North Vietnamese were using helicopters in the area of the DMZ.

 

In my cynicism, I had long held that MACV used this story as a disinformation "smoke screen" to take heat off the Air Force. As you know, USS Boston and HMAS Hobart left Subic Bay together on June 8th. Shortly after reaching Danang on the 10th we joined different NGFS Task Units. On June 16th, Boston was steaming up from Hue to the DMZ and got clearance from the 1st Marine Division to take target practice at a Buddhist pagoda ("suspected NVA troop shelter"). This bad karma must have made the gods angry because that night (or early Sunday a.m.) we were attacked by 1 (or more) jets near Tiger Island. The "bogeys" were moving too fast for us to lock on with our 1950's Terrier surface to air missile system. I was in Damage Control Central and remember our trying to signal the planes on the known IFF frequency and by visual lights but getting no response. We called PIRAZ and the 7th AF in Danang and were told "all planes are accounted for".

 

Then, this must be what it's like to get attacked by MiGs. The radarman was calling out the yards as the jet closed- 3,000, 2,000, etc. After 1 flyby, it returned and we lost him on the scope and 2 missiles were fired. Luckily, they bracketed the ship and streaked into the night. The next night we again came under hostile fire and 1missile was fired which hit us amidships. As the Assistant DCA I was sent out on deck with a detail to assess the damage. There was a lot of bent and twisted metal but it appeared not to have exploded. That's when we noticed a big chunk with "Raytheon Corporation, Waltham, Mass." on it. 2 things immediately struck me as ironic:

 

1. We had been hit with a missile made 10 minutes from our homeport of Boston
 

2. That the North Vietnamese had cannibalized missiles from our downed jets to use against us!

 

 


USS Boston

 

We headed out to Yankee Station snuggled up to the 7th Fleet. By daybreak, word came down about HMAS Hobart, which had been operating just to the north of us.

 

This, and the recovered AIM Sparrow III from Boston, told the story of trigger-happy jet jockeys. Later, the scuttlebutt had it that it was USAF F-4's out of Danang (specifically the 366th TFW " The Gunslingers") who mistook us for a group of NVA helicopters. I am told that Squadron HQ had been whooping it up and that the CO was writing up medal recommendations for the confirmed "kills" when the news hit. The room turned silent.

 

Later, there was an official Board of Enquiry and the pieces of the Sparrow were sent to Danang as evidence but the findings are long-buried in the military's vast "friendly fire" files. I know we were lucky, very lucky, to have "dodged a bullet" that weekend. Unfortunately, I am sure there were countless such incidents due to the lack of communication and rivalries between the services. In this case, there was only 1 naval officer attached to the 7th AF and his main job was to coordinate the bombing missions of the North. Also MAROPS was not always informed of changes to the USAF's IFF frequency or challenge/ response codes.

 

The USS Edson (DD-946) escaped the scrapyard (unlike the Boston which was broken up in 1975) and is now a National Historic Landmark, part of the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum on pier 86 here in N.Y.

 

 

 

John Taylor Lt (j.g.), USNR
USS Boston (CA-69) 1968-69

 

EMAIL RECEIVED FROM: Dave Worthing ( Owl ) - RD3 USS Boston CAG1 1967- 1969

The article above describes the radarman calling out the range as the jets closed. If my memory is correct after 34 years I had just reported to the mid watch in CIC. I remember it to this day. I was not 3 feet from him on the plot board.

We went to GQ and tried to figure out what was going on. Of course the rumors flew and it was an NVA offensive etc.
 

I also remember that they brought the missle piece with the 'Waltham Mass.' stencilled on it to the CIC. Captain Smith came in to see it. I remember him being quite pissed at the time.

We joined up with the Hobart and in the morning saw the damage to our ships. It was a somber cruise back to Subic.

Does anyone recall a similar event sometime later involving the air force and a bomb attack on the Boston?

Thank you for your intrest My best to all my old shipmates and those of the Hobart.

 

Dave Worthing ( Owl )
RD3 USS Boston CAG1 1967- 1969

 

The Shots in the Slide Show (below) were taken by Steve Renfro in early 1968 (just prior to Hobart being hit) from the port bridge wing of the USS Aludra AF55 (Refrigerated Stores) after replenishing Hobart.

 

I served as a Third Class Petty Officer in Radar Ops on USS Aludra and it wasn't long after these pix were taken that my request for Swift Boat duty was approved.

 

Another website I'd like to recommend, if interested, is that of the Mobile Riverine Force Assoc.  of which I'm a proud member.

 

In highest regard,
Steve Renfro RD3
CosDiv 11, 14, 15
PCF 38 & 47 RVN 8/'68-8/'69