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View from the Front: Vietnam (cont'd)
A Skyhawk pilot from the carrier USS Ranger (CVA 61) flew his 111th combat sortie with a shoulder full of shrapnel, and was awarded a Silver Star as a result.
Just as Commander Milton J. Chewning, Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron 55, passed over the coast of North Vietnam, a burst of antiaircraft fire-exploded outside the cockpit of his Skyhawk. The explosion hurled fragments of shrapnel through the cockpit, hitting the pilot in the shoulder and leaving his right arm useless.
Instead of returning to the carrier immediately, CDR Chewning continued with his mission, shooting up a road target. He then headed for the carrier.
When Ranger's commanding officer learned of the pilot's shoulder wound, he prepared the ship for an emergency landing. A flight surgeon was stationed aloft in a helicopter, and another on the flight deck. All emergency rescue equipment stood by. Despite his problems, CDR Chewning's landing was near-perfect.
Cargo is offloaded at Da Nang. Below: DEStrOYERS give gunfire support.
Many Forms of Gunfire Support
Seventh Fleet destroyers are being called upon continuously to provide gunfire support for U.S. and South Vietnamese troops engaged in combat near the coast of South Vietnam.
From the ground troops' point of view, these destroyers and their five-inchers are handy to have around, whether you're trying to beat off an attack on your outpost, or you're launching your own offensive.
USS Richard E. Kraus (DD 849), John W. Thomason (DD 760), and Dyess (DDR 880) are some of the DDs that have been there when ground troops called for support.
Kraus recently received an honor known by few ships, when a bridge north of Da Nang was named, unofficially, by the defending troops in her honor.
Frequently during a three-day mission, Kraus provided the necessary punch to allow the troops to defend the bridge successfully against repeated attacks by the Viet Cong.
As a direct result of Kraus' pinpoint accuracy with her gunfire, the bridge remained open and in friendly hands.
In a two-hour bombardment, John W. Thomason destroyed a Viet Cong complex near Tuy Oa, South Vietnam, her juiciest target since she began gunfire support missions.
The target was a trail leading along a high ridge and down into a pass between two hills, the suspected route of a concentration of Viet Cong troops.
As Thomason began firing at the ridge, an airborne Army spotter "walked" the five-inch projectiles along the ridge and into the pass. Then the spotter directed Thomason's fire at the Viet Cong headquarters at the end of the trail.
No sooner had Thomason finished firing at the ridge line than she was requested to take a Viet Cong camp.
The camp lay along a secluded inlet, almost completely covered by foliage. The inlet was jammed with small boats, and as Thomason began firing, columns of water and shattered boats were blown high into the air.
Three large secondary explosions were observed in the camp, followed by a tremendous fireball and a column of dense smoke, probably resulting from a bidden gasoline storage area.
At the end of the mission, Thomason received word that she had destroyed 45 structures, damaged 20 others, and destroyed 25 small boats.
Dyess provided bombardment from a shipping channel in the lower Rung Sat area, firing in support of search and clear operations by South Vietnamese army units.
Several times Dyess was hastily summoned from her up-channel position to lend emergency support to South Vietnamese troops attacking a large Viet Cong camp 20 miles up the coast from Vung Tao. On one such occasion, Dyess destroyed structures, earthen emplacements, silenced ground fire directed at the spotter, and left a number of Viet Cong casualties.