Randy "Bear" Miller MST-3

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Mobile Support Team - THREE

Randy "Bear" Miller


1964-1971 - Vietnam Era - Boat Support Units

 

July 12, 2006 

Dan,

Sorry I don't remember Dussault or many of the officers. I came to BSU-1 at the AmPhib Base at Coronado around Jan of 65. I went immediately to the 52 ft LCSR's, we had about 5-6 of them. I was an E-2 Electrician striker fresh out of school. I have a few pictures and I was on Highstreet's boat then. We went out on many op's to San Clemente Island chasing ships. In June they rounded up about 30 of us from BSU and sent us to Da Nang to handle cargo. Ironically we unloaded cargo on Tien Sha Ramp right next to the MST-1 PT boat base.

We came back to Coronado in Oct. I went back to the LCSR's. I made Fireman sometime later. I went to SERE school, and in Sept of 66 went to Site as an Engineman to work on the PTF's. I made Third by then and was back 6 months later on the LCSR's. I was in charge of the battery locker and was the designated driver to go in town to get parts and go to Solar to pick up turbine engines. We had the first Swift boats and our unit trained the first 100 or so crews until the Training Command at the Amphib base took over. We got the first air cushion vehicle before it left for Viet Nam and just before I got out the first Hydrofoil boat was assigned to BSU-1 in July of 68.

In Sept of 67, I was sent to MST-3 at Nha Be for river patrol work. We had the Mighty Mo (HSSC), 2 LCPL's, and 3 - 16' Boston Whalers with 105 Hp Chrysler 3 cylinder engines for Seal insertions. We were the drivers but the Seals had to maintain the engines which pissed them off. They went to school for them. We went on our own ops and a few times worked with the PBR's. We always had Sea Wolf overhead on extractions. Our calls signs for the LCPL were 'Barracuda' and 'Shark' for the whalers. Can't remember the Mo's. The 4 whaler crewmen drove the LCPL and Mo at night towing the two whalers while the rest of the crew tried to sleep after an insertion. We had radar and starlight scopes. We'd just do laps on the river never more than a few clicks away from the Seals. The Mo had about 5 radio's and we were second in Command if the base communications ever got knocked out. We were the second contingent at Nha Be. We had to overcome some discord between us and the Seals as a Seal drowned handcuffed in a Whaler that was swamped on a training mission. By the end of my tour we had a  developed a good relationship with them and got along very well.

We lost two Seals to action while I was there, SN Antone was one of them. We had two officers, LTJG Gallager and an ensign everyone hated, he didn't go out on the river with us very much, too scared. We didn't need him anyway; we all knew our jobs and what to do if something came up. I remember the code books we had to use to transmit back to base, different days used different letters of the alphabet.

As I remember it, we were always MST-3. We had different Seal teams come through while I was there but can't remember their team numbers. We had several sailors drowned falling off the piers into the river, the current was brutal. It changed tides every 8 hrs or so. They’d pop up a week later sometimes up stream from where they went in.

The Rung Sat was a swamp. It went 80% under sea/fresh water on high tide. On some of the rivers you'd be riding high along the bank and at low tide you'd be looking up at the bank, it was eerie. We only got set up on us one time while I was there. Apr 11, 1968. It was a daylight insertion which everyone hated. We cruised around checking river traffic and later that night we got in to our patrol pattern. I was on the LCPL and started to hear machine gun fire. I came up out of the well deck and had my flack jacket open, no helmet, and no glasses on. I saw the tracers firing off the Mo and as I looked over at the shore, an explosion went off in the water in front of me and knocked me to the deck. I took a shrapnel round to my neck on the left side. B-40 rocket attack on both boats. I got on the twin M-60 machine gun and laid down a long burst of fire towards the shore. One of my shipmates on the crank M-79 said green tracers were going over our heads. We had 3-50's on the Mo, the 50 on the LCPL, my twin 60's and the grenade launcher going all at once. An officer fired the 106 recoilless on top of the Mo with a beehive round and there was no more fire coming from the shore line. The next day the Seals went back in found where they were but no bodies. This was a week before I was to come home. I lost some feeling in my face, still have shrapnel in my neck, and got a 10% rating from the VA. Also a Purple Heart. I was the second MST wounded; the first took a wound in his foot from a hot 50 round that went off when it hit the well deck of the Mo. No action, no Purple Heart for him.

We lived in a two story barracks; we were on the 2nd floor over the Seals. Always covering their asses. We were right next to the power plant whose engine ran constantly. We were mortared the next night after 1968 Tet, that was an experience running down to get the boats under way. I still remember seeing the red tips of the big rounds as they were coming in. We lost one base personnel and one round hit the motor pool and knocked out most of the vehicles. It seemed like we were out on the river a lot. Whenever there was a base inspection we'd have an op with all the Seals and all MST personnel and boats and then we'd somehow always get the mission compromised and have to come back to base, after the inspection was over.

Nha Be and the Rung Sat wasn't as action heavy as down on the Mekong. We ran lots of ops and the Seal got lots of kills. The whalers worked out really well to get the Seals into and out of tight spots. We provided anything they needed and we did a good job although most Seal books hardly give us a mention. I felt were equals in that we had just as much chance of getting wounded or killed as they did and Apr 11th proved it. We were pretty cocky up until that night as we thought we had to much fire power for the VC to take us on. After I left, that is when they got the mini-guns. I think that the Seals and MST had the same thought, the more fire power, the more bullets spitting out, the better. I don't know how they did after that.

The base was pretty nice compared to SeaFloat; chow hall, EM club, barracks, maids, store, etc. We had an ammo bunker and we go over before a mission and go shopping. Case of this, case of that, some of these, some of those. Pretty cool.  Nha Be was just outside the gate. Not much there along the bank of the Saigon River. Laundry shops, whore houses and a couple bars. We ran out of clean fresh water alot, so sometimes we'd go down to the LCPL, turn the engine over, and hook up a hose to the water inlet to take turns soaping up and taking a quick river water shower. We had a base garbage dump and every once in awhile someone would light it on fire. Guys would throw corroded rounds into the waste baskets and they find their way to the dump, and spent rounds would start going off and everyone would duck for cover.

We’d get a base vehicle and drive up to Saigon once in awhile to go to the Army/Air Force Exchange or to the USO or to go eat somewhere. We’d buy GI issue socks, pants, shirts, and underwear from the black market on the sidewalks as we couldn’t get them thru regular channels. Crazy. Traffic was awful driving thru to Ton Sut Nut to pick up supplies or personnel. We carried weapons and I had an M-79 with buckshot rounds in a bandolier and carried a shoulder holster with a 9mm. Never remember worrying about getting ambushed going to or from Saigon. Believe it was about 15 miles or so. Again, not much action around that area. We’d hear the fire support base north of us sending 155 rounds going overhead down into the Rung Sat . Boom-ba-boom-boom. Also got to see the C-47, Puff the Magic Dragon sending down gatling gun fire one night.

The EM club was going to pitch an ice machine into the river. One of enginemen in our unit got a hold of it. They fabricated some parts and got it working again. They hooked up a couple of 5 gal GI cans and gravity flowed water to it and we had ice for our drinks. When the Chief’s got wind of it they came to take it away for their barracks. When we carried it over there for them, we took the parts out we made, and they could never get it working again. They eventually pitched into the river out of spite.

We’d had base personnel, PBR’s, mine sweepers, two helo units,  and Seals/MST at Nha Be, don’t know how many in all. Mostly we got along pretty good. We had one base guy fooling around with his side arm and shot himself in the leg, so after that all security personnel had to have un-chambered rounds in their weapons. Good thinking because of one idiot. We didn’t obey that rule.

Bill Moreo’s girl friend at the time, sent three or four care packages in a row. What we wound up with was a small Christmas tree with garland and ornaments and stuff for our barracks. It was funky but brought a bit of home to us. We had a nice Christmas dinner and a pretty wild New years where that morning we wound up out on the sand bag dirt mound drinking Jim Beam. There is a picture of that in one of the Seal books.

The boats generally worked out pretty well, but they were awfully slow and heavy. Still would not want to have been on a PBR, saw one shot up. The whalers were the fastest thing on the river. We could take 6 seals, a gunner, and a driver and get it up on plane and still do about 25 knots. The only problem was that they used a special oil for the fuel and we ran out. One day we were out with some VN’s on a practice mission, when my engine started heating up and running rough. I took the cover off and was heading back to base when the engine blew and a carburetor went flying over my head, luckily no one was hurt. Regular engine oil didn’t work as a replacement.

My last story, we were on an insertion, 2 PBR’s and 2 whalers about 1pm. We inserted the Seals, and came back out on the small river, to hook up with the PBR’s. My engine was running rough and kept dying. I pulled along side the PBR and as we were to get under way the PBR gunned his engines and the jet wash swamped my boat. I was last in line. We tipped over and I went straight to the bottom. I always carried an inflatable life vest under my flack jacket. I instinctively pulled the lanyard and the vest inflated and I popped to the surface as did my gunner. He came up under the boat. The tide was drifting us away from the main river. We got the boat beached and we lost all our weapons accept for our 9mm’s. I fired a couple of rounds. About 15 minutes later after realizing we weren’t there, the other boats came looking for us. When we saw them, the gunner fired a couple of rounds and the PBR nosed over to where we were. As we climbed up on the boat the guy on the twin 50 said he came to a hairs breath of opening up on the muzzle flash from our rounds going off.

The boat was ruined and the PBR towed it back to the base up side down which tore the con off and ripped her up pretty good. It was a moonless night and it was pretty scary being on that bank wondering what was going on. We weren’t supposed to be on shore, that it was the Seals did. 

The odd thing about the MST-3 experience was that we had some river training but not much weapons training. It was learn as you go. I could tear down all the weapons we had. I kept at my bunk 2 M-60’s, M-16, M-79, 9mm, and a 12 gauge shot gun. We also had a 45 cal machine gun but it was for show, to heavy. I became pretty proficient with the M-79 and could lay around in anywhere you wanted it. 

My old buddy Bill Moreo probably has some more stories and could tell you more about the Base at Nha Be and MST-3. He and I are the only ones that I went to river patrol with from the others that I am in contact with from BSU-1. When I got back in Apr of 68 you could hardly recognize the place. Lots of new people coming and going. The old timers kept pretty much to themselves. I was thinking about shipping over at the time but an old Mustang engineering officer told me at my shipping over lecture to get out and go back to college and come back as an officer. Well I went back to college but didn’t I return. I did have some regrets because Bill went back to Missouri to train on the new LSSC’s  and took them to the Delta and I really wanted to go with him, but I only wanted to do that tour and then get out.  It didn’t work out. He got into a lot of action.

Well that’s all for now, hope this helps,

Randy

 

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