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I served aboard the USS Tortuga LSD-26 for 4 years. We were assigned to TF 116, PBR section 512 and detachment 29 of helicopter support squadron one. These pictures were taken August 1966 on station off the Basac River in the delta of Viet Nam.
The USS Tortuga LSD (26) sailed for Vietnamese waters on 1 March 1966, arrived at Vung Tau on 18 April, and relieved Belle Grove (LSD-2) as support ship for "Game Warden" -- the Navy's operation designed to interdict the communist insyrgency in South Vietnam. Initially, Tortuga operated in the Rung Sat special zone between Saigon and Vung Tau helping to guard the entrance to the shipping channels snaking through Viet Cong territory to the capital city.
Tortuga shifted to the Mekong Delta region on 12 June to serve as a floating base for the Navy's fast PBR's of TF 116 and for a detachment of Army Bell UH-1B Huey helicopter gunships. The PBR's of River Patrol Squadron 512, were small yet relatively heavily armed. Each mounted a .50-caliber machine gun forward and an "over-and-under" combination mount of one .50-caliber machine gun mounted over an 60-millimeter mortar aft. The helicopters, too, were relatively heavily armed, packing a "punch" of rockets of varying sizes and up to six machine guns. Initially, the helicopters were Army "choppers" from the 145th Aviation Detachment. They were now Navy aircraft called the "Seawolfs." Together, the PBR's and Hueys conducted their patrols and forays into the verdant jungle waterways, the PBR's knifing through the muddy sandy-colored waterways while the helicopters flew support.
Occasionally, the hard-hitting teams would strike "pay-dirt," by capturing enemy munitions. On one occassion, on 12 June at the mouth of the Co Chien River, the PBR's participated in the capture of a large stock of guns and munitions captured from a damaged communist trawler which had been forced aground and set afire.
During her support operations with the riverine assault groups, Tortuga received a number of distinguished visitors ranging from General William C. Westmoreland, Commander, Military Assistance Group, Rear Admiral N. G. Ward, Commanding Naval Forces Vietnam; as well as United States Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge; and news commentator Chet Huntley, who brought with him an NBC camera team to record a news story on Tortuga's river patrol base activities.
This story was contributed: Mike Wilson