HMAS VENDETTA 15 September 1969 - 11 April 1970

VENDETTA on the Gun Line

 

On September 15, 1969, HMAS Vendetta with Commander E. E. Johnston in command sailed from Sydney for Subic Bay where she replaced HMAS Brisbane in the Seventh Fleet on the 28th.

 

Typhoon Flossie delayed Vendetta’s passage to Vietnam, but on October 2 she reached Da Nang where she relieved the destroyer USS Walke (DD723) as NGFS ship for 1 Corps.

 

I Corps

 

Enemy activity in I Corps was light during October as NVA and Viet Cong forces were preparing for the winter-spring campaign due to begin in November and enemy units tended to avoid major actions in favour of consolidating supplies of food and arms.

 

Vendetta’s first operations were in support of US Marines and Korean troops attempting to stop Viet Cong interference with the rice harvest.

 

At  2206 on October 3, Vendetta fired her first rounds against the enemy in harassment fire against rocket sites, troop staging areas and rice collection routes.

 

While operating from Da Nang harbour, strict precautions were taken against mining of the ship although no enemy swimmers had been observed in the harbour for the previous year.

 

Vendetta's divers searched the hull and anchor cable as a routine measure every morning, and US Navy harbour patrol craft made anti-swimmer sweeps every night.

 

Any suspicion of an enemy swimmer near the ship resulted in an immediate clearing of the messdecks and lower compartments with the ship assuming an advanced state of damage control readiness.

 

Quang Tin Province

 

By October 7, Vendetta had moved sixty miles south to Quang Tin province providing NGFS for the US 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) which was operating in the area of Chu Lai, an important military supply post and major airbase.

 

Allied operations in Quang Tin in October resulted in more than 200 Viet Cong military and political personnel defecting to the South Vietnamese Government.

 

In Vendetta’s first spotted mission, accurate fire, as her guns rapidly shifted from one target to another, destroyed a Viet Cong storage area and troop concentration. However, soon after the ship left the operational area, a small group of Viet Cong were seen to emerge from a bunker to carry out their own gun damage assessment.

 

At Da Nang, Vendetta had her first experience of what was to be a constant feature of NGFS operations the necessity for the patrolling warship to weave through tightly-packed fishing fleets manned by taciturn crews who declined to acknowledge the presence of the warship zigzagging her way among them. At night, dimmed navigation lights were displayed as the ship threaded its way through the unlit fishing craft.

 

Propellers were in constant danger of being fouled by the fishermen’s nets, lines and stakes.

 

Northern II Corps

 

With her program of spotted missions and harassment fire in the vicinity of Da Nang satisfactorily completed, Vendetta proceeded to northern  II Corps to support the ROK Capital Division, near its base at Qui Nhon, southern Binh Dinh province, where operations were in progress against elements of the 18th NVA Regiment.

 

On October 24, Vendetta sailed for Singapore for a maintenance and leave period. An urgent task was the repair of faulty air conditioning which had been giving the operations room and officers’ cabins temperatures ranging from 88°F to the high 90s.

 

On November 9, Vendetta returned to the gunline off Phuoc Tuy province in III Corps, where the enemy had initiated the winter-spring campaign on the 3rd, and she fired for the first time in support Illumination and spotted fire missions for ARVN and ROK troops operating inland of Tuy Hoa in Phu Yen province about sixty miles south of Qui Nhon were undertaken in mid-November. Three Korean regiments moved into position on November 19 to make a sweep against four Viet Cong battalions occupying positions to the west of Tuy Hoa.

 

Vendetta fired fifty-eight star shells to illuminate the area as the enemy troops attempted to break through a Korean cordon. As the increasing gales, rain and fog of the north-east monsoon made accurate spotting fire difficult, Vendetta set course for Taiwan on the 29th and visited Keelung and Kaohsiung.

 

She then went south to Subic Bay for rebarrelling and boiler cleaning.

 

Southern II Corps

 

Vendetta returned to Vietnam on December 21 taking up her NGFS station near Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan province, in Southern II Corps. Harassment fire against Viet Cong positions ended at 1800 on December 24 when the Christmas ceasefire began. Vendetta withdrew six miles from the coast, but as there was some enemy activity ashore, she remained on patrol in a two-watch defence system. The Reverend L. Breslan and the Reverend A. Batt, chaplains RAN, who had joined Vendetta some days earlier, celebrated mass and holy communion for the ship’s company on Christmas Day.

 

Church Services  XMAS 69

 

Viet Cong camp fires observed in the hills south-west of Phan Thiet became the target of Vendetta's shells on the 26th. Harassment firings in the vicinity of Phan Thiet continued unabated until the three-hour New Year ceasefire on January 1, 1970. For this short ceasefire, Vendetta again withdrew well to seaward. That afternoon, Vendetta moved inshore and after engaging targets on land, shadowed two fishing boats moving close to the shore near a part of the coast where fresh tracks had recently been detected. After dark, the boats were tracked by radar and one was found to be nearing the beach. Vendetta fired on this craft, destroying it as it was in the process of landing stores. It was gratifying to Vendetta to learn that a Viet Cong defector had stated that his unit ‘had become completely demoralised during the past two to three weeks because of the heavy mortars from the sea’.

 

Boiler repairs kept Vendetta in Hong Kong for nearly a month from mid-January, but by February 18 she was on station near the Long Hai hills, east of  Vung Tau, firing on cave complexes. Australian troops later found the bodies of nineteen Viet Cong who had been killed by Vendetta’s fire.

 

Vendetta relieved USS Bradley (DE 1041) near Cap Ke Ga south of Phan Thiet on the 21st and provided long-range fire for a clearing operation near the coast which was out of range of the nearest supporting artillery. Viet Cong troops detected moving through the undergrowth were a major target for Vendetta’s fire.

 

As Vendetta moved north to Quang Tin province midway between Chu Lai and Hoi An, she was presented with an unusual target in the form of a herd of Viet Cong cattle. Their carcasses provided welcome fresh beef for the local government troops. This was followed by firing at trails near the beach at close range with machine guns and Bofors.

 

Vendetta took up station on March 2 near Phan Rang, a coastal town in the southern part of the central lowlands, shelling a Viet Cong village being constructed high in the mountains in an area which had been undisturbed by naval gunfire for some time. A bunker and cave complex on a headland were then bombarded before Vendetta left for Subic Bay where new barrels were fitted to A and X turrets on March 7.

 

U Minh

 

Vendetta’s last period on the gunline, off the U Minh in western IV Corps, was frustrating as although ARVN troops were engaged in heavy fighting, it was seldom possible to obtain the necessary clearances to fire in support of the ground forces.

 

On March 28 at Subic Bay, Commander Johnston presented ‘The Weight’ to Captain R. C. Swan of HMAS Hobart on Vendetta’s forecastle in the presence of FOCAF, Rear Admiral H. D. Stevenson, CBE.

 

Vendetta returned to Sydney on April 11, 1970, the only Australian-built warship to have served in Vietnam and the first Australian Daring Class destroyer to see active service.

 

Gun Crews Vendetta

VENDETTA GUN CREWS

 



In her deployment she steamed 39,558 miles and fired 13,709 rounds.