A throwback to 13 April 1966: An early MkI type U.S. Navy Patrol Boat, River (PBR) near Cat Lo, Vietnam.
First fielded in 1966 (the above craft was brand new) some 250 PBRs served in Operation Market Time (TF 116) and with the RVN in Vietnam during the conflict. In all, 718 were completed in two types (the MkIs were 31 feet while the MkII’s were 32) and they continued to serve in Reserve SBUs as late as the 1990s.
Operation Market Time:
A Cat Lo-based U.S. Navy large personnel landing craft (LCPL) cruises in Vung Tau Harbor in South Vietnam during an Operation Market Time patrol. The LCPL is armed with a .50-caliber air-cooled Browning M2 machine gun complete with shield and a pair of muzzle-oriented spotlights– “the better to see you with.”
By the looks of it, LCPL#33 is a 36-foot fiberglass MK11-type, which could float in as little as three-feet of brown water and make a blazing 19-knots on its Detriot Diesel, though the bone in the mouth of that sharkjaw looks to be more impressive than that.
Beginning on 6 May 1965, the U.S. Coast Guard began ordering the first cutters and men to the U.S. 7th Fleet AOR to participate in the Vietnam conflict, namely as part of Operation Market Time.
Over a half-decade later, the participation came to an end when the last of over 30 cutters large and small had been transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy, on this day in 1971.
From Adm. Chester R. Bender, then Commandant of the service:
TURNOVER R212250Z DEC 71
FM COMDT COGARD
COMDT NOTE 5700
VESSEL SQUADRON THREE TURNOVER
ON 21 DECEMBER 1971 THE CASTLE ROCK AND COOK INLET WILL BE TURNED OVER TO THE REP OF VIETNAM NAVY. THIS WILL END OUR PARTICIPATION IN SEVENTH FLEET SOUTHEAST ASIA OPERATIONS AFTER SIX AND ONE HALF YEARS OF ASSISTING THE NAVY IN OPERATION MARKET TIME. DURING THESE YEARS 31 HECS AND 26 82-FT PATROL BOATS AND A NUMBER OF SPECIALIZED UNITS HAVE SEEN VIETNAM SERVICE. THEY HAVE COMPILED AN ENVIABLE RECORD. COAST GUARDSMEN BOARDED OR INSPECTED OVER 510,000 BOATS IN PERFORMANCE OF THEIR PATROL MISSION. THEY TOOK PART IN NEARLY 6,OOO NGFS MISSIONS IN SUPPORT OF ARMY AND MARINE CORPS TROOPS ASHORE. THE CUTTERS CRUISED NEARLY 5.5 MILLION MILES SINCE 1965. WE LOST SEVEN OF OUR BRAVE MEN WHILE 59 WERE WOUNDED. OVER 500 PERSONAL DECORATIONS WERE AWARDED TO COAST GUARDSMEN FOR VIETNAM SERVICE. AND DURING ALL THIS TIME I KNOW FIRST HAND THAT OUR MEN, TRUE TO THEIR HUMANITARIAN IDEALS, DID NOT FORGET THEIR FELLOW MAN. THIS IS EVIDENCED BY THE MANY CIVIC ACTION PROJECTS, MEDICAL MISSIONS, AND SEARCH AND RESCUE CASES. NOT TO MENTION THE PRIVIATE ASSISTANCE MADE TO CHARITABLE WORKS SUCH AS THE SAIGON SCHOOL FOR BLIND GIRLS. THE COAST GUARD RECORD IN VIETNAM IS A RECORD OF WHICH YOU ALL CAN BE JUSTLY PROUD. TO THE LAST MEN LEAVING SQUADRON THREE GO WITH MY BEST WISHES FOR A SPEEDY RETURN HOME. TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE SERVED YOUR COUNTRY IN VIETNAM GO MY SINCERE THANKS AND ADMIRATION.
ADMIRAL BENDER, SENDS
USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, was commissioned in 1969 and, after nearly a half-century of service, including action in the Vietnam War, numerous major drug interdictions, law enforcement cases, and a variety of noteworthy rescues was taken out of U.S. service at Honolulu in April. Now, renamed CSB 8020, she was commissioned into the Coast Guard of Vietnam where she will continue her traditional mission under a red flag.
“This cutter provides a concrete and significant symbol of the U.S-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael J. Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer, in a statement. “The Coast Guard is honored to see this vessel continue to preserve global peace and prosperity as a part of the Vietnam coast guard.”
As part of Operation Market Time, Morgenthau was very active in the Vietnam War, conducting support for coastal patrol craft, naval gunfire support, and patrol duties off the coast of Vietnam in 1970-71. During her period in Market Time, she delivered 19 naval gunfire support missions on targets ashore, inspected 627 junks and sampans, and cruised 39,029 miles on patrol. In total, she fired 1,645 rounds from her main 5-inch gun, destroying 32 structures and 12 bunkers ashore.
Her crew also sank an armed North Vietnamese SL-8 trawler in a night surface action while it was trying to infiltrate the South Vietnam coastline.
Morgenthau later made Coast Guard history by being one of the first ships to have gender-integrated crews and captured a number of drug runners on the high seas. In short, she had an extensive and celebrated career.
The cutter was transferred in conjunction with an additional six smaller 45-foot patrol boats this week as tensions in the South China Sea between China and her neighbors escalate and Vietnam is now counted as a key U.S. ally in the region.
This is not the first time the U.S. has helped rebuild the navies of former enemies. Among the first ships of the new Japanese and German fleets in the 1950s in the aftermath of World War II were loaned former U.S. Navy vessels.
Moving past equipping the Vietnamese coast guard, the Southeast Asian country is looking to pick up 100~ modern fighter-bombers “to replace its antiquated fleet of 144 Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbeds and thirty-eight Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter strike aircraft.”
While some say competitors range from the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and South Korea’s F/A-50 lightweight fighter, how much do you want to bet they may get 100 gently refirb’d surplus F-16C/Ds fresh from the boneyard.
Heck, we are using the F-16A/Bs as target drones at this point.