Via U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War: In a scene that looks more like Burma in 1945 than Indochina in 1965, EN1 Carl L. Scott, an advisor to the Vietnamese Coastal Junk Force, stands in front of members of his team in this photo.
Note that EN1 Scott is wearing the authorized Junk Force beret and insignia along with common black “pajamas” worn by many of the Vietnamese, and carries a late WWII-era M1A1 Thompson submachine gun. Also, note the South Vietnamese with an M1 Garand and 10-pouch belt.
While the U.S. Army and Marines rarely used the Chicago Typewriter in Southeast Asia, typically only scoring occasional examples while working with ARVN units who had received them along with M1 Carbines and Garands as military aid, the Navy and Coast Guard utilized Tommy guns extensively in their brown water war, especially in the 1960s.
From NHHC on the Junk force:
Recognizing that the sea was a likely avenue of approach for Communists infiltrating from North Vietnam or moving along the South Vietnamese littoral, in April 1960 the navy established the paramilitary Coastal Force. In line with its emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, the Kennedy administration wholeheartedly endorsed the development of this junk fleet, providing the force with American naval advisors, boat design and construction funds, and stocks of small arms. By the end of 1964, the 3,800-man, 600-junk force patrolled the offshore waters from 28 bases along the coast. To coordinate the operations of these 28 separate divisions, U.S. advisors helped set up coastal surveillance centers in Danang, Cam Ranh, Vung Tau, and An Thoi, the respective headquarters of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th Coastal Districts.
Personnel problems proved equally vexing. Although authorized almost 4,000 men, the Coastal Force often fell short by 700 to 800 men. Lacking the prestige of the other combat branches and with its men underpaid and isolated in austere bases, the junk force had great difficulty recruiting personnel, especially those with technical knowledge. Further, only a few of the coastal group bases created formal training programs to increase the skills of those men enlisted. Encouraged by U.S. naval advisors, the Vietnamese Navy took limited steps in late 1967 and 1968 to improve the training effort and to better the living conditions of the junkmen, but much remained to be done.
With Arnhem lost, the Britsh light infantry of 1 Airborne Division holding the increasingly pressured Oosterbeek perimeter some 75 years ago this week, was gratefully able to be evacuated.
Opposed by units that included two Waffen SS panzer divisions (albeit rebuilding) the British had mostly STEN guns, bolt-action No. 4 Enfield .303s, light mortars, and a smattering of anti-tank weapons such as 6-pdr (57mm) rifles and PIATs. Still, they held the line often without water, ammunition, and food for over a week.
Hard to image men with 9mm subguns facing down Tigers rushed to the battle directly from Germany via
high-speed train Blitztransport.
The RAF and USAAF tried in vain to drop supplies to the embattled Paras but some 93 percent of the loads fell into German hands, who gratefully accepted them. They could use the 9mm ammo, as well as the food and medical supplies. For the weapons they didn’t have ammo for, spares were dropped.
By 25 September 1944, on the 9th day of the operation (remember, the Paras had been expected to be relieved after just 48 hours) only 2,163 British Airborne troops were able to be evacuated back across the Rhine. The British 1st Airborne went into Holland some 9,000 strong.
1 Abn Divisional commander, Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart, who during the battle was largely out of touch with most of his units, in concluding his 52-page report on the operation in January 1945, said it was
“…not 100% a success and did not end quite as was intended. The losses were heavy but all ranks appreciate that the risks involved were reasonable. There is no doubt that all would willingly undertake another operation under similar conditions in the future.
We have no regrets.
British Lt. Jack Reynolds, aged 22, with LCPL George Parry in the background, gives the classic British two-finger salute to a reportedly grinning German Wehrmacht cameraman as he is captured near Arnhem, The Netherlands 19 September 1944, during the start of the worst chapter of Operation Market Garden, some 75 years ago today.
Reynolds, (SN 190738), joined the colors as a signaler in the Sussex and Surrey Yeomanry in 1939 and served in the Coastal Artillery during the Battle of Britain, exchanging fire with German big guns across the Channel in Dover. He later volunteered for the new glider-borne infantry with S coy, 2 Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment (“South Staffs”) being stood up in 1942, which became part of the 1st Airlanding Brigade in the 1st Airborne Division.
He earned a battlefield commission by 1943, leading the company Recce platoon as part of Simforce through Operation Ladbroke, an element of the Allied invasion of Sicily, where he picked up the MC.
This officer with his party of nine men landed at 2225 hours some four miles south of the Battalion Rendezvous. He led his party throughout the night to Waterloo Bridge encountering stiff opposition on the way during which six of his nine men became casualties. On the way up he collected several stragglers, forming them into an organised group, eventually assisting in the defence of the Bridge, during which two more of his men were killed and another missing.
Throughout the fighting this officer set a very high example of courage and leadership in the face of heavy odds.
Leading S coy’s Mortar Platoon at Arnhem, and facing being overrun after two days of fighting after Allied armor failed to make it to the town in time to save them, Reynolds and his remaining men tried to break out westwards towards Oosterbeek and only took the reluctant decision to surrender after being pinned down and running out of ammunition and water.
The British 1st, 3rd, and 11th Parachute Battalions, along with the South Staffs, had made it to Arnhem but were so mauled that, when the survivors of the four units amalgamated near Oosterbeek on 20 September, they only counted about 450 combat effective members. The rest had been killed, captured, or were still holding out to the East in little pockets.
As for Reynolds, he spent the rest of the conflict in Germany as a prisoner of war, until his liberation in 1945. He was demobilized from the army in 1946.
Jack passed away last month, on 21 August, aged 97.
Vale, Lt. Reynolds.
And of course, remember the entire 1st (British) Airborne this week, who were sent epically “a bridge too far.”
For more on the battle, a great and amazingly comprehensive book about Market Garden is The Battle of Arnhem by Anthony Beevor.
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division loading aircraft for Holland, 17 Sep 1944:
Part of the epic First Allied Airborne Army, the 82nd, along with the 101st, the British 1st Airborne, as well as later Polish and other Allied units, was to make a daylight combat jump in what is still the largest airborne operation of all time, Market Garden.
The paratroopers and their follow-on glider-borne infantry/artillery were to clear and hold the myriad of bridges in the Eindhoven–Arnhem corridor across the Netherlands while the British XXX Corps, a mechanized unit, was to come up and quickly relieve and reinforce them.
Of course, not all goes as planned…
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday October 12, 2016: The sometimes frosty but always dedicated Forster
Here we see the Edsall-class destroyer escort USS Forster (DE/DER-334/WDE-434) underway at the narrows in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, with her crew at quarters, circa 1958-1962. She would be one of the longest serving destroyer escorts of her time, and filled a myriad of roles over her span under several flags.
A total of 85 Edsall-class destroyer escorts were cranked out in four different yards in the heyday of World War II rapid production with class leader USS Edsall (DE-129) laid down 2 July 1942 and last of class USS Holder (DE-401) commissioned 18 January 1944– in all some four score ships built in 19 months. The Arsenal of Democracy at work–building tin cans faster than the U-boats and Kamikazes could send them to Davy Jones.
These 1,590-ton expendable escorts were based on their predecessors, the very successful Cannon-class boats but used an FMR type (Fairbanks-Morse reduction-geared diesel drive) propulsion suite whereas the only slightly less prolific Cannons used a DET (Diesel Electric Tandem) drive. Apples to oranges.
Armed with enough popguns (3×3″/50s, 2x40mm, 8x20mm) to keep aircraft and small craft at bay, they could plug a torpedo into a passing enemy cruiser from one of their trio of above-deck 21-inch tubes, or maul a submarine with any number of ASW weapons including depth charges and Hedgehogs. Too slow for active fleet operations (21-knots) they were designed for coastal patrol (could float in just 125-inches of seawater), sub chasing and convoy escorts.
The hero of our story, USS Forster, is the only ship named for Machinist Edward W. Forster, a resident of the District of Columbia who was a posthumous recipient of the Purple Heart for his actions on the doomed heavy cruiser USS Vincennes (CA-44) lost at the Battle of Savo Island, 9 August 1942.
The ship was laid down at Consolidated Steel Corporation, Orange, Texas 31 August 1943 and, a scant 73-days later, the war baby was born and commissioned into the fleet, LCDR I. E. Davis, USNR, in command.
According to DANFS, she went immediately into her designed field of study and proved adept at it:
Beginning her convoy escort duty in the Atlantic Forster sailed from Norfolk 23 March 1944 in a convoy bound for Bizerte. Off the North African coast 11 April, her group came under heavy attack from German bombers, several of which Forster splashed. When a submarine torpedoed sistership USS Holder (DE-401) during the air attack, Forster stood by the stricken ship, firing a protective antiaircraft cover and taking off her wounded.
Coming to the Battle of the Atlantic late in the game, Forster made six more voyages across the Atlantic to escort convoys to Bizerte, England, and France. Between these missions, she served as school ship for pre-commissioning crews and gave escort services along the east coast and to Bermuda.
With the war in Europe over, she sailed for the Pacific in July 1945, arriving just in time for occupation duty in the Western Pacific, primarily escort assignments between the Marianas and Japan in the last part of the year. Leaving for Philadelphia just after Christmas, she was, like most DEs, of little use to the post-war Navy.
Forster, winner of one battlestar, was decommissioned and placed in reserve at Green Cove Springs, 15 June 1946.
The Korean War brought a need for some more hulls and, in an oddball move, 12 Edsall-class destroyer escorts were taken from red lead row and dubbed “WDEs” by the Coast Guard starting in 1950. These boats were not needed for convoy or ASW use but rather as floating weather stations with an embarked 5-man met team armed with weather balloons.
During the Korean War, four new weather stations were set up in the Pacific from 1950-54 to support the high volume of trans-Pacific military traffic during that period. Two were northeast of Hawaii and two were in the Western Pacific.
According to the Coast Guard Historians Office, our subject became USCGC Forster (WDE-434) when she was turned over to the service on 20 June 1951. Converted with a balloon inflation shelter and weather office, she served on ocean station duty out of Honolulu and proved a literal lifesaver.
This included duty on stations VICTOR, QUEEN, and SUGAR and voyages to Japan. She also conducted SAR duties, including finding and assisting the following vessels in distress: the M/V Katori Maru on 17 August 1952, assisting the M/V Chuk Maru on 29 August 1953, the M/V Tongshui on 1-3 October 1953, and the M/V Steel Fabricator on 26 October 1953.
Although excellent wartime escorts, the DEs were rough riding and not generally favored as ocean station vessels. All were returned to the Navy in 1954.
Forster was picked to become a radar picket ship, and given a new lease on life, recommissioned into the Navy at Long Beach, Calif., 23 October 1956 as DER-331.
The DER program filled an early gap in the continental air defense system by placing a string of ships as sea-based radar platforms to provide a distant early warning line to possible attack from the Soviets. The Pacific had up to 11 picket stations while the Atlantic as many as nine. A dozen DEs became DERs (including Forster) through the addition of SPS-6 and SPS-8 air search radars to help man these DEW lines as the Atlantic Barrier became operational in 1956 and the Pacific Barrier (which Forster took part of) in 1958.
To make room for the extra topside weight of the big radars, they gave up most of their WWII armament, keeping only their Hedgehog ASW device and two Mark 34 3″ guns with aluminum and fiberglass weather shields.
However, much like their experience as Korean War weather stations, the DEW service proved rough for these little boats and they were replaced in 1960 by a converted fleet of Liberty ships. While Atlantic Fleet DERs were re-purposed to establish radar picket station to monitor the airspace between Cuba and Southern Florida for sneaky Soviets post-Castro, those in the Pacific went penguin.
As noted by Aspen-Ridge.net, a number of Pacific DERs performed work as “60° South” pickets during the annual Deep Freeze Operations in Antarctica through 1968.
The DE(R)’s mission was multifaceted; including measuring upper atmosphere weather conditions for the planes flying between McMurdo Station and Christchurch, New Zealand, establishing a Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) presence for navigational purposes, and in an emergency to act as a Search and Rescue platform in the event a plane ever had to ditch in the ocean. The chances of survival in the cold Antarctic waters made even the thought of an ocean ditching an absolute last resort. Fortunately, I don’t recall any Deep Freeze aircraft ever having to ditch.
She was a tip-top ship, and won the Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy plaque in 1962.
Then, further use was found for her in the brown waters of the Gulf of Tonkin in February 1966, after she escorted the nine Point-class cutters comprising Division 13 of Coast Guard Squadron One from Naval Base Subic Bay to Vung Tau in South Vietnam.
Forster would linger on in those waters, participating in Operation Market Time, patrolling the Vietnam coast for contraband shipping and providing sea to shore fire when called upon. It was a nifty trick being able to operate in 10 feet of water sometimes. These radar pickets were used extensively to track the North Vietnamese arms-smuggling trawlers.
By the 1970s, the Navy’s use of DERs was ending. With that, and the new Knox-class DEs (later reclassified as FFs) coming online with the capability to operate helicopters and fire ASROC ordnance, the writing was on the wall for the last of these WWII tin cans.
Forster was decommissioned and stricken from the NVR 25 September 1971, loaned the same day to the Republic of Vietnam who placed her in service as RVNS Tran Khanh Du (HQ-04). This new service included fighting in one of the few naval clashes of the Southeast Asian conflicts, the Battle of the Paracel Islands, on 19 January 1974 between four South Vietnam Navy ships and six of the PLAN. She reportedly sank the Chinese Hainan-class submarine chaser #271 and escorted the heavily damaged frigate RVNS Ly Thuong Kiet HQ16 (ex-USS/USCGC Chincoteague AVP-24/WHEC-375) under fire to Da Nang Naval Base for emergency repairs.
Forster/Tran Khanh Du would serve the South Vietnamese Navy for just under four years until that regime fell to the North.
Written off by the U.S. Navy as “transferred to Vietnam” on 30 April 1975, the day after Saigon fell; the new government liked the old Forster and renamed her VPNS Dai Ky (HQ-03). They kept her around for another two decades equipped with 2 quad SA-N-5 Grail launchers for AAA use, and she reportedly saw some contact during the “War of the Dragons” — the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War.
She was taken off the patrol line as a training ship in 1993, was still reportedly seaworthy in 1997, and in 1999 was reduced to a pierside training hulk. She is still carried by some Western analysts on the rolls of the Vietnamese Peoples’ Navy.
Forster/Dai Ky, if still being used, is the almost the last of her class still clocking in. Her only competition for the title or the hardest working Edsall is ex-USS Hurst (DE-250) which has been in the Mexican Navy since 1973 and is currently the training ship ARM Commodore Manuel Azueta (D111).
As for their 83 sisters, the Navy rapidly disposed of them and only one, USS Stewart (DE-238), is still in U.S. waters. Stricken in 1972, she was donated as a museum ship to Galveston, Texas on 25 June 1974 and has been there ever since, though she was badly beaten by Hurricane Ike in 2008 and is reportedly in extremely poor material condition.
Displacement: 1200 tons (light), 1590 tons (full)
Length: 300′ (wl), 306′ (oa)
Beam: 36′ 10″ (extreme)
Draft: typical 10′ 5″
Propulsion: 4 Fairbanks-Morse Mod. 38d81/8 geared diesel engines, 4 diesel-generators, 6000 shp, 2 screws
Speed: 21 kts
Range: 9,100 nm @ 12 knots
Complement: 8 / 201
3 x 3″/50 Mk22 (1×3),
1 twin 40mm Mk1 AA,
8 x 20mm Mk 4 AA,
3 x 21″ Mk15 TT (3×1),
1 Hedgehog Projector Mk10 (144 rounds),
8 Mk6 depth charge projectors,
2 Mk9 depth charge tracks
Two Mark 34 3″ guns, Hedgehog
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In honor of the anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem, here is a kit layout for a British Para Lance Corporal from Operation Market Garden in 1944. Can you say STEN mags? Note the one for the gun, seven in the stick pouches, and eight in the two hip pouches for a total of 16 30-round mags or 480 rounds of ammo. When that ran out, well, there are always the two Mills bombs and the Fairbairn–Sykes fighting knife. The para who wore this would likely add a couple 50mm mortar bombs and a belt or two of .303 ammo for machine guns.
Image via the Parachute Regiment