Archive for the 'Vietnam' Category

Sep 15

Battle of Rach Ba Rai Creek, 15-16 September 1967

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:01 AM

On 15 September 1967, River assault boats of the Mobile Riverine Force (TF-117) fought one of their bloodiest engagements of the year against entrenched Viet Cong (VC) forces along the Rach Ba Rai Creek in the Dinh Tuong Province, Vietnam. On this day, a naval convoy transporting elements of the 9th U.S. Army Division was ambushed from both sides of the stream by Viet Cong in fortified bunkers. As recoilless rifle rounds and rockets slammed into minesweepers, monitors, and Armored Troop Carriers (ATC’s), Lieutenant Commander Francis E. “Dusty” Rhodes, the commander of the convoy’s 23 assault craft, issued a terse order by radio: “Fire all weapons.” Dozens of Navy guns responded, some at point blank range.

As the line of boats moved deeper into the ambush, the intensity of the fight grew. Some boats slowed while others sped up, but all poured fire from every operable gun. As fast as they could, the gunners fired, reloaded, and fired again. With only sporadic breaks, the battle continued. Round after round struck both troop carriers and monitors. Three minutes after the fight started monitor 111-2 took two rocket propelled grenade rounds. The boat captain managed to beach the monitor while crewmen worked frantically to repair the damage. The job done quickly, the 111-2 lunged again into midstream.

Around this same time, the command and communications boat took two anti-tank rockets on the port 40-mm. gun mount. The rounds caused no major damage, but a few minutes later, the command boat took another hit. This round knocked Commander Rhodes unconscious, but a few seconds later he was back on his feet, ordering his units to regroup and return downstream out of the enemy’s fortified area. After evacuating casualties and reassigning personnel so that all boats were manned, Lieutenant Commander Rhodes again took his task group up the river and was subjected once more to heavy enemy fire. Hard hit for a second time by a large number of casualties, he nevertheless successfully landed embarked army units ashore in the assigned objective area, and set up a naval blockade of the river. When the battle finally ended the next day, U.S. Army troops tallied 213 Viet Cong killed in action, 600 bunkers destroyed, and a large quantity munitions captured. Total U.S. losses stood at 7 killed and 123 wounded, and Navy losses included three dead and 66 wounded—the largest number of combat casualties suffered by the Navy to date in the Vietnam War. For his leadership that day, Rhodes received the Navy Cross.

Sep 4

Grunt Padre: The story of Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno, USNR

Saturday, September 4, 2010 12:01 AM

Navy Chaplains have a long and distinguished history of administering to the spiritual needs of Marines. One such man was Father Vincent R. Capodanno. After his ordination in June 1957, Father Capodanno served from 1958-1965 as a Maryknoll Missionary for the Catholic Foreign Mission Society in the Far East. As the conflict in Vietnam escalated in early 1965, Father Capodanno felt the call to enter Naval Service. He subsequently accepted an appointment on 28 December 1965 as a Lieutenant, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve, and received indoctrination at the Naval Chaplains School in Newport Rhode Island.

In April 1966, Lieutenant Capodanno deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, and was assigned as a Chaplain with the First Marine Division. Battle hardened Marines soon came to seek out and appreciate the consolation and understanding they found in the tall, soft-spoken “Grunt Padre.” Lieutenant Capodanno always seemed to be on the go, and most of the time he was to be found with Marines in the field. While serving as Chaplain for the 3d Battalion, 5th Marines on 4 September 1967 in Quang Tri Province, he heard reports that 2d Platoon, Company M, was in danger of being overrun by a strong enemy force. Lieutenant Capodanno immediately requested to leave his secure station and attend to the Marines. In the words of the citation that would accompany his posthumously awarded Medal of Honor, Father Capodanno “ran to the beleaguered platoon through an open area raked with fire…and despite painful, multiple wounds to his arms and legs, refused all medical aid, and continued to move about the battlefield and provide encouragement by voice and example to the Marines.” Seeing a wounded Corpsman directly in the line of fire of an enemy machine gun, he rushed forward to the man’s aid, but was struck down by a burst of machine-gun fire. By his heroic conduct and inspiring example, Chaplain Capodanno upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service, and gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.

Today, Lieutenant Capodanno is recognized as having been one of the Navy’s most dedicated Chaplains. There are monuments in his honor, and both a Chapel at Camp Pendleton California and a U.S. Navy fast-frigate bears his name. The devoted service of Lieutenant Capodanno during the Vietnam War to “his” Marines, his “chosen flock,” remains a shining example of one man’s willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Apr 30

From the Blogosphere: The Armorer Reminds Us…

Friday, April 30, 2010 12:33 PM

… that the Vietnam War ended 35 years ago today.

Thirty-five years ago today, I was an about-to-graduate high school senior. State wrestling champ, All-state football player, with a scholarship offer from the University of Missouri. Ready to move on to the next phase.

I walked down the stairs to where my bedroom was, turned left, and the Auld Soldier was sitting on the couch, watching TV. He was four months away from retiring after 27 years, two wars, a Silver Star, BSM w/v, and seven Purple Hearts.

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In honor of those who went and came back. And those who did not.

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