Offical History of Clearance Diving Team 3 Vietnam - 3

 

Move to Da Nang

 

CDT3’s responsibility for Operation Stabledoor at Vung Tau came to an end on August 14 when the Australians were relieved by two VNN teams. CDT3 had searched 7441 ships from February 1967.

 

On 15 August, CDT3 divers, their monkey mascot, and equipment were airlifted to Da Nang, Quang Nam province, Military Region 1, in two C130 Hercules aircraft. Their monkey mascot, ‘WRAN EOD Fred’, was drugged for travel but settled into the new quarters well.

 

The well-furnished caves used by the team at Vung Tau were stripped of all equipment and the building material was given to the RAAF chaplain for an orphanage being constructed in Vung Tau with RAAF assistance.

 

At Da Nang, the team settled into comfortable quarters at the US Navy Support Facility, Camp Tien Sha. CDT3 became part of the security department of the facility. The team was responsible for providing harbour patrols, EOD for the harbour area, naval policing and for ensuring the physical security of the base.

 

With two VNN EOD teams, CDT3 continued its long standing EOD role by assuming responsibility for all naval EOD in Military Region 1. One US Army, one US Air Force team, and two US Marine Corps teams were also available if required.

 

Jungle Sensor Operations

 

A new experience for CDT3 was to be associated with US Navy sensor teams. These went into suspected enemy areas to hide chains of sensitive sound detection devices which could be monitored some distance away from their position. EOD personnel were attached to the teams as the areas infdtrated were often heavily booby trapped.

 

Two members of CDT3 accompanied a sensor team patrol to Cam Thanh Island near Hoi An, south of Da Nang, on August 31. The group came under enemy fire immediately on landing, but with the aid of helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft, the enemy force was repulsed after an hour and a quarter. While the sensors were being put into position, the EOD party put demolition charges on a brick bridge and hid Claymore mines on the bridge approaches. The charges were connected to the audio sensors, so that an ambush could be sprung from Hoi An when Viet Cong were detected in the area. Two bunkers were demolished as the group withdrew.
 

 

In early September, Lieutenant Blue and Able Seaman Kingston disposed of a 250 lb bomb lying among houses in a new refugee village at Xuyen Long, southern Quang Nam province. The dud-fired nose fuse was removed by hand and the bomb was taken by junk to a coastal area for destruction.

 

The onset of the monsoon in September made operational tasks more difficult in the continual rain, but six times during the month the divers assisted the jungle sensor group to implant sensors in the Hoi An area. Many bunkers and booby-traps were destroyed.

 

 

Among the forty ordnance items destroyed in September were seven M16 anti-personnel mines which had been recovered from the perimeter of the Coastal Group 14 base at the mouth of the Song Cua Dai near Hoi An. Fourteen rockets and a fuel tank jettisoned by a OV1C Mohawk aircraft in Da Nang harbour were recovered in two days of diving.

 

On October 11, a US Army fifteen-ton truck ran off a loading ramp at Dong Ha and sank in twenty feet of water. CDT3 divers recovered the truck and the driver’s body.

 

8TH CONTINGENT

 

The last contingent arrived at Da Nang on 16 October 1970 with Lieutenant H. W. Linton BEM relieving Lieutenant Blue on the 29th.

 

Three days after their arrival, two members of the new team joined Chief Petty Officer Dollar and Leading Seaman Aldenhoven in another surveillance operation on Cam Thanh Island. Two booby traps and a bunker containing North Korean propaganda leaflets were destroyed soon after the group landed. While planting sensors near another bunker inland, a sensor group member trod on a booby-trapped 105mm shell, killing himself and wounding two Vietnamese soldiers. The force was immediately pinned down from three sides by enemy fire. Two hours later, the group were rescued by helicopter gunships and Leading Seaman Aldenhoven crossed open ground under fire three times to recover weapons and ammunition left behind.

 

On October 25, a barge loaded with 150 tons of ammunition blew up in Da Nang harbour. Seventy-five tons of the load survived the explosion and was,spread over a large area of the sea bed in water from one to five fathoms deep. CDT3 members continued to dive intermittently until February 1971 to recover the damaged ordnance.

 

Although several reports of swimmer/sappers in Da Nang were investigated in December, no swimmers were found but divers detached at intervals to work with EOD teams in the Cua Viet found enemy mining activity at a high level and many swimmers/sappers were killed.

 

On December 29, leaking napalm tanks were cleaned at the Da Nang bridge ramp ammunition supply facility and a sunken forklift truck which had been driven off the pier was recovered.

 

1971

 

On 11 January 1971, the team destroyed damaged ammunition at Hoi An ammunition dump, and inspected a 500 lb bomb buried near the village of Loc Phuoc, twenty miles inland from Hoi An. The bomb was found to be safe, and was left for ARVN personnel to remove.

 

Two team members worked with a US Air Force team clearing a demolition range near Da Nang airport on January 17 while at Chu Lai ordnance dropped in the water was recovered for the US Army.

 

Salvage operations

 

Only two major salvage tasks were undertaken by CDT3 after the team had moved to Da Nang, and both were tackled by divers of the eighth contingent.

 

In November 1970, the salvage of a US Navy harbour utility craft, YFU 63, which had been capsized and driven onto a beach east of Hue by heavy seas, was attempted. Lieutenant Linton was given charge of the shore-based salvage crew, and with the assistance of the salvage ship Grapple (AR 57), the netlayer Cohoes (ANL 78), and the Philippines tug Trojan, several attempts (which were disrupted by Typhoon Patsy) were made to right the wreck. The salvage of the wreck was abandoned. However, the hull of YFU 63 was cut open and the interior unsuccessfully searched for the bodies of the eleven crew members missing.

 

A second ship salvage operation took place in late February 1971 after enemy swimmers had successfully mined the dredge Sandcaster (YM 31) and the survey vessel Tudor in the Cua Viet on the 25th. Tudor sank immediately, but Sandcaster, though badly holed, was beached by its crew, seven of .whom were killed by the exploding mines. CDT3 divers assisted with the recovery of the bodies from the Sandcaster and helped salvage the vessel.

 

Although several reports of swimmer/sappers in Da Nang were investigated in December, no swimmers were found but divers detached at intervals to work with EOD teams in the Cua Viet found enemy mining activity at a high level and many swimmers/sappers were killed.

 

On December 29, leaking napalm tanks were cleaned at the Da Nang bridge ramp ammunition supply facility and a sunken forklift truck which had been driven off the pier was recovered.

 

1971

 

On 11 January 1971, the team destroyed damaged ammunition at Hoi An ammunition dump, and inspected a 500 lb bomb buried near the village of Loc Phuoc, twenty miles inland from Hoi An. The bomb was found to be safe, and was left for ARVN personnel to remove.

 

Two team members worked with a US Air Force team clearing a demolition range near Da Nang airport on January 17 while at Chu Lai ordnance dropped in the water was recovered for the US Army.

 


Contact with the enemy in the Delta.
 

 

Salvage operations

 

Only two major salvage tasks were undertaken by CDT3 after the team had moved to Da Nang, and both were tackled by divers of the eighth contingent.

 

In November 1970, the salvage of a US Navy harbour utility craft, YFU 63, which had been capsized and driven onto a beach east of Hue by heavy seas, was attempted. Lieutenant Linton was given charge of the shore-based salvage crew, and with the assistance of the salvage ship Grapple (AR 57), the netlayer Cohoes (ANL 78), and the Philippines tug Trojan, several attempts (which were disrupted by Typhoon Patsy) were made to right the wreck. The salvage of the wreck was abandoned. However, the hull of YFU 63 was cut open and the interior unsuccessfully searched for the bodies of the eleven crew members missing.

 

A second ship salvage operation took place in late February 1971 after enemy swimmers had successfully mined the dredge Sandcaster (YM 31) and the survey vessel Tudor in the Cua Viet on the 25th. Tudor sank immediately, but Sandcaster, though badly holed, was beached by its crew, seven of .whom were killed by the exploding mines. CDT3 divers assisted with the recovery of the bodies from the Sandcaster and helped salvage the vessel.

 

On March 7, the Chu Lai road bridge was searched underwater and a rocket, phosphorus grenades and some small arms ammunition recovered. Later in the month, channel clearance operations were carried out with VNN Coastal Group 14 in the Song Vinh Dien river near Hoi An.

 

Obstacles in the channel were blown up to make new areas accessible to patrol boats. Team members also assisted in the recovery of pressure mines and swimmer/sapper bodies from the Song Vinh Dien and Cua Viet where enemy mining activities were intense.

 

On April 19, CDT3 relinquished its responsibility for EOD in Da Nang to a US Army EOD section and prepared for return to Australia. The final few days of the tour in Vietnam were spent with EODMUPAC Team 33 in Saigon.

 

Return to Australia

 

The arrival in Sydney of the Eighth Contingent on May 5, 1971 marked the end of CDT3’s four-year term in Vietnam. Its forty-nine officers and men were the first RAN clearance divers to be deployed to an operational area and the first to engage in extensive explosive ordnance disposal tasks on land.

 

Though EOD was the continuing theme of the daily work of the eight contingents, the great variety of duties performed, of which perhaps the special operations in Viet Cong-occupied territory were the most noteworthy, brought out the value of RAN clearance diving training, and the versatility of the men of the clearance diving branch. The competence of the divers was further emphasised by the fact that only three sailors suffered injuries attributable to enemy action. (One sailor was accidentally killed). Team members earned one DSC, two DSMs, one BEM, three Mentioned-in-Despatches and a number of Vietnamese and United States decorations.

 

The Vietnam experience was invaluable to the development of clearance diving techniques in the RAN and the lessons learnt in the first experience of guerilla warfare were fast incorporated into branch doctrine and training.

 

It is appropriate to conclude with the following quotation from the congratulatory signal sent by the Naval Board on the return of the Eighth Contingent:

 

‘Throughout the four years of deployment in Vietnam, CDT3 has done extremely well. Their dedication to duty in trying and hazardous circumstances has brought great credit to the Royal Australian Navy and to Australia.’

 


Captain Horn, USN, presents Commendation Paper to Leut Linton whilst CPOCD John Gilchrist looks on.