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Sea Story

In the latter part of December 1969 I was assigned to the PBR River Division 511 at Muc Hoa just down from the Cambodian Boarder at Muc Hoa.

My primary mission for RIVDIV-511 was to search out and destroy all the NVA/VC fighting positions that I could find which is a whole other story.

Without going into a lot of detail, there were hundreds of yards of spider holes, fighting trenches and bunkers up near the Cambodian border mostly along the eastern bank of the Song Vam Co Tay.

The spider holes and fighting trenches which the NVA/VC built were quite ingenious to say the least. Simply speaking in the bottom of the holes or trenches there was a length of hollowed out bamboo that allowed the fighting position to drain out during an ebb tide. Not to mention that some of the berms in front of some of the trenches had 24" of mud backed by 6" - 8" diameter logs sandwiched between another 12" inches of mud. Fifty caliber API's wouldn't even penetrate more than 10" or so, if that.

Anyway, my boat, a converted ATC had twin water cannons that put out 2,700 gallons of water a minute at 250 pounds of pressure at the nozzle. Those fighting positions were no match for concentrated water power!

Point being?

Late one night in mid-December 1969 I was just outside of the PBR base and was monitoring the working circuit, when the AN/PRC-46 came alive with calls between Lima-1 and Lima-2 along with Mike-1 and Mike-2, two PBR patrols up river. Seems that a NVA/VC unit was set up in ambush and allowed both patrols to go up river and around a bend in the Song Vam Co Tay river up towards the Cambodian border.

Neither patrol, of course ran into anything on the way in, but coming out was another story. There was at least 100 yards of NVA/VC fighting positions set up and as you know the first "welcome to my ambush" rounds were B-40's followed by intense automatic weapons fire.

Lima-1 and Lima-2 managed to evade the B-40's and Lima-1 called back to Mike-1 who acknowledged. All four PBR's were heavily engaged and returning fire.

Mike-1 called Mike-2 and told Mike-2 to, "...watch out. They're directing fire at you..." Mike-2 replied, "...those clowns can't hit me..." and a few seconds later Mike-2 was calling, "...help! Help! I'm on the beach."

Seems "Charlie" had reloaded his B-40 by this time and took a bead on Mike-2.

The reflexes of the Boat Captain of Mike-2 were such that even at that close range, damn near point blank, he dodged the B-40 with a hard right turn.

Going somewhere near 30+ knots the PBR hit the river bank, went airborne and skidded to a stop about 75 yards  inland from the river. The PBR had effectively been converted from a fast boat to a stationary plexiglas fort!

The other three PBR's continued to prosecute the NVA/VC's and were able to beat them back enough to rescue the crew of Mike-2.

Combat patrols were maintained to keep the NVA/VC's at bay and from getting to Mike-2.

Then in the morning the patrols were able to extract all the weapons and radios off of Mike-2.

I was tasked with picking up a First Class Diver off of one of the Baby Giant units and took him up river to Mike-2.

When we arrived at Mike-2's location I beached my boat so that my stern 20mm and all my .50 caliber's would provide the Diver and I covering fire.

The Diver and I got into the water which was chest deep and slogged 75 yards inland to Mike-2 which where she sat was in about 12" of water.

What amazed both of us is that she had skidded to a stop in-between dozens of tree stumps which were about 18" inches above the water and Mike-2 didn't have a scratch on her!

We slogged back to my boat and I told the Diver that I could use the water cannons to cut a canal wide enough and deep enough from me to get into and I'd keep cutting in towards Mike-2, which is what I did.

My crew and I, some at GQ manning their weapons because we were in heavy duty "Indian Country," with one crew member running the water cannon, we cut a canal we proceed up to within about 25 feet of Mike-2.

That's me directing the water cannon in undercutting Mike-2

The Diver rigged a salvage bridle from what lines I had and we backed out of the canal we'd dug and Mike-2 slid off the mud bank she was on, as we had undercut where she was sitting and she effortlessly slid off her resting place and floated out of our canal following my bow ramp at the end of the salvage bridle.

Just prior, while the Diver was finishing rigging the salvage bridle, I called the RIVDIV-511 Op's and told them I'd have their boat back in the river in about 30 minutes. Their response was words to the effect of, "...no way...," which I of course said, "...your boat will be ready by the time you get here..." "Roger, out."

So, just as Mike-2 was sliding out of the "New Canal" we had just dug, 2 PBR's from Muc Hoa came roaring up the river.

Before we could even get Mike-2 alongside, the PBR sailors jumped onto Mike-2, threw off the salvage bridle, chewed my ass out for "...getting mud all over their boat...," put on their towing bridle and roared off with Mike-2 leaving the Baby Giant Diver and myself looking at each other wondering what was all that about?

"...you're welcome..." ?

p.s. Intended to be funny, but still can't figure out PBR sailors. :-D

This story was written by: Ray F. Longaker Jr.