Text in Red is from THE SEA DRAGON STRIKES AGAIN by Lawrence M. Greenberg
Although air power was the cutting edge of Task Force 77, surface ships were essential to the interdiction campaign in
Steaming generally in pairs, the two to four American and Australian destroyers and one cruiser worked with carrier-based spotter planes, such as A-1 Sky raider and Grumman S-2 Tracker, to find, identify, and destroy infiltrating vessels and shore targets. Often, North Vietnamese coastal batteries fired back. Although several of the 19 ships that were hit required repairs at shipyards in
Napoleon declared that an army marches on its stomach. Contrary to popular mythology, North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong guerrillas were not exempt from this time-honored adage, they were dependent on the vast quantities of food and munitions smuggled across
Shipmate Tom Harper states: "We started
Tom continues: "An extra note, when we would light off the smoke pot, one person in the aft repair party had the job of smoking a cigar to use for lighting the pot. Every time we lit the pot, the propaganda machine in
At 0500 hours, the ships entered North Vietnamese waters and opened a new phase of the war, attacking WBLC (pronounced "wiblic" and meaning waterborne logistic craft and coastal lines of communications) targets still in Communist waters. As part of
The two warships closed to within 14,000 yards of shore by midmorning and engaged coastal shipping near Dong Hoi. After five hours in North Vietnamese waters, coastal defense batteries fired on the ships at 0951. the Mansfield and Hanson turned to open sea while their aft 5-inch guns engaged the shore artillery with counterbattery fire. The destroyers escaped unscathed and returned to fire on other targets throughout the day, drawing additional, although equally inaccurate, fire twice more that afternoon. North Vietnamese representatives a the the United Nations complained to the International Control Commission the next morning about the new
By the end of October, destroyers assigned to Operation Traffic Cop the initial phase of Sea Dragon, sank 101 watercraft and damaged another 94 with 928 5-inch projectiles. During the same period, counter battery fire accounted for another 426 shells. Seventh Fleet achieved these impressive results without the loss or damage to a single ship or sailor.
Life aboard Sea Dragon destroyers proved stressful and tiring, yet morale consistently remained high-better, in fact, than morale on similar ships to the south. This resulted from a combination of frequent and true action by destroyer crewmen, immediate results from their efforts, and the possibility of being shot at.
On patrol, one-third of the crew typically remained at battle stations, with at least one gun mount fully manned while the rest ate, slept and performed routine shipboard duties. In the CIC, radarmen kept constant vigil over surface and air search radars, while receiving contact reports from surveillance aircraft and other vessels. Once a target was located and identified, the captain normally ordered general quarters and gave permission to fire. The gunfire direction officer, sometimes aided by spotter aircraft, adjusted spotting rounds before announcing, "All mounts, both guns, two salvos." Less than 15 seconds later, 5-inch rounds reached the unfortunate ship or shore target.
Skippers sometimes deviated from this pattern, especially when engaging a single WBLC and if his ship was beyond coastal gun range. In these cases he might engage the target with the ready mount and forgo the call to general quarters to save wear and tear on his already well-worked crew.
Just four days after Sea Dragon expanded to the 18th parallel, the JCS changed the rules for engaging shore batteries. This occurred when the enemy shore-based search radars "painted" several destroyers with their radar waves, and the
At 1046, December 23, 1966, events took an anticipated but little-publicized turn when the USS O'Brien DD-725 took a direct hit from a 75mm shore battery at a range of 7,800 yards. Three minutes later, while engaged in counterbattery fire, she received a second hit that caused moderate damage to the aft deckhouse. A call for assistance went out. At Yankee Station, four carriers launched ready aircraft that surpressed the Communist artillery. That evening the Benner relieved O'Brien as she retired to
Sea Dragon destroyers amassed an impressive record by year's end: 382 watercraft destroyed and 325 damaged; five coastal defense batteries destroyed and two damaged; and two radar sites destroyed with another two damaged. Just as significant, the aggressive operation forced a majority of waterborne logistic traffic between Dong Hoi and the South to divert to crowded land routes or into less efficient inland waterways. Also, because of concentrated coastal defense artillery in the limited Sea Dragon area, Admiral Sharp asked the JCS to increase the number of destroyers dedicated to the mission and the enlarge the Sea Dragon area to dilute enemy shore fire.
The Royal Australian Navy's guided missile destroyer, HMAS Hobart, was assigned in March 1967 to duties with the US 7th Fleet in the South China Sea and in the Gulf of Tonkin. Hobart, being the first RAN vessel to arrive in Vietnam under combat conditions, participated in Operation Rolling Thunder's maritime equivalent,
The following is from Australian Ray Thomas,
I will quote the two mentions of the
Page #53, Quote On February 14, (1968) (HMAS) Perth (DDG38) returned to Sea Dragon relieving (USS) Hoel, and Captain Doyle assumed the double role of Commander, Task Unit 77.1.0 and Commander, Task UNIT 77.1.2. As Commander, Task Unit 77.1.0, he was the surface action group commander and responsible to Commander Task Group 77.1 (Seventh Fleet Cruiser Destroyer Force) for the planning and conduct of all Sea Dragon operations. USS Mansfield (DD728) was the support ship for Task Unit 77.1.2. Operations in the Southern Sea Dragon area began with a WBLC heavily damaged, two small boats sunk, and a secondary explosion on the beach when
Quote On April 13 (1968), (HMAS) Hobart (DDG39) replaced USS Henry B.Wilson (DDG7)in the NGFS (Naval Gunfire Support) task unit near the DMZ. Hobart fired her first missions, both spotted and H&I (Harassment and Interdiction), later that day in support of the 3rd Marine Division. During the night, she patrolled off Cap Lay with USS Newport News (CA148) and USS Mansfield (DD728) on a NVA troop concentration. Two Marines who were able to escape from the enemy during this bombardment later reported many NVA soldiers killed. Unquote."
After this, RAN vessels' primary task was to provide Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) for ground operations near the coast. HMAS Hobart was engaged in bombardments tasks of the coast, destroying Vietcong supply routes and installations. She also spent periods of duty on
Reflecting the ease with which fleet units moved between operational theaters, in May, Sea Dragon and Task Unit 70.8.9 combined forces off the DMZ in the strongest concentration of American surface gunfire ships since the Korean War. Cruisers
In May, Sea Dragon combatants temporarily withdrew south to join Task Unit 70.8.9 in Operation Beau Charger, the largest concentration of
Communist coastal defense sites increased in number and accuracy in the following months. Significantly, most now used search and ranging radars. With the improved equipment, Communist gunners began to engage
As shore gunnery improved, Sea Dragon unites employed new tactics and additional countermeasures of their own. In addition to evasive maneuvers during an attack and engaging targets from a greater distance (averaging 17,300 yards by July), the ships used chaff, electronics and smoke-all with uncertain results.
The Fleet also experimented with "Snoopy," a remotely piloted drone used for spotting. Deployed for the first time by the
The fleet's surface ships were essential for dealing with the many Communist artillery batteries that fired into