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
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.
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.
12 at Speed On Patrol RSVN
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.
comrades lost to us that night are:
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
Steffes, ENC, USN Retired.
An email received recently (5th Dec 2000)
from LTJG John Taylor, USN - USS Boston.
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
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!
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.
Taylor Lt (j.g.), USNR
USS Boston (CA-69) 1968-69
EMAIL RECEIVED FROM: Dave Worthing ( Owl ) - RD3 USS Boston CAG1
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
RD3 USS Boston
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
I'd like to recommend, if interested, is that of the Mobile Riverine
Force Assoc. WWW.MRFA.ORG
of which I'm a proud member.
Steve Renfro RD3
CosDiv 11, 14, 15
PCF 38 & 47 RVN 8/'68-8/'69
HMAS HOBART - In Vietnam Waters
to HMAS Hobart Page