naval war in South Vietnam
during the years 1964 to 1975 was very dynamic.
For the Americans aiding the South Vietnamese, the effort was several
fold: (1) build and equip a capable Vietnamese Navy; (2) teach the new VNN how
to fight; (3) how to keep itself supplied; and (4) how to keep itself
the same time, the United States Navy found itself embroiled in a war that was
fought at first, off the coastal waters of South Vietnam, and then in the river
deltas, smaller waterways and canals of the country. To combat North Vietnamese infiltration of
men and supplies by sea, three Task Forces were formed: TF-115 called Operation
MARKET TIME; TF-116 called Operation GAME WARDEN; and TF-117 called the MOBILE
RIVERINE FORCE (a joint amphibious Army-Navy riverine operation).
Operation MARKET TIME
MARKET TIME was the U.S. Navy’s effort to stop troops and supplies from flowing
into South Vietnam from North Vietnam by way of the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand. MARKET TIME origins began when a North
Vietnamese trawler was intercepted landing arms and ammunition at Vung Ro Bay
in northern Khanh
RVN, on 16 February 1965. This was the
first evidence of a dedicated North Vietnamese supply operation and became
known as the “Vung Ro Bay Incident.”
Below: Smoke rises from a Chinese-built, North
Vietnamese-manned trawler run aground in Vung Ro Bay while trying to land arms
and ammunition on 16 February 1965.
Combating these arms smuggling trawlers was a very laborious
business. [Photo: US Department of
“Vung Ro Bay Incident” led to the establishment of Operation MARKET TIME by the
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Other
on-going Operations were SEA DRAGON, SEALORDS [Southeast Asia Land,
Ocean, River, and Delta Strategy], and Naval Gunfire Support. There was some overlapping of duties by the
ships, aircraft, and small boats involved.
With the exception of SEALORDS, these operations are outside this
TIME was a blockade by USN and VNN naval units of the extensive South
Vietnamese coastline against infiltration of troops, armament, and supplies
from North Vietnam. The most common infiltration craft were
trawlers that could blend easily with the coastal ship traffic along the coast
of South Vietnam.
typical North Vietnamese trawler was about 100 feet long, was a Chinese-built
coastal freighter, and it could carry several tons of arms and ammunition. These trawlers did not fly a national flag,
and would maneuver “innocently” in the South China Sea or Gulf of Thailand
until they could make a high-speed run to the South Vietnamese coast to
off-load their cargo for waiting Viet Cong or North Vietnamese Army forces.
JCS plan was to use USN aircraft
to patrol the Vietnamese coastal waters.
Initially, this was done by Navy P5M-2G “Marlin” flying boats and SP-2H
“Neptune” land-based maritime aircraft.
Below: A Martin P5M-2G “Marlin” of VP-40 off the coast of
Vietnam on Operation MARKET TIME patrol in August of 1965. [Photo: US Navy]
Above: A Lockheed SP-2H “Neptune”
of VP-1 as it appeared in 1964 on Operation MARKET TIME patrols. [Drawing: Jeffery Cultice]
P5M’s were retired in April 1967 and replaced by P-3A “Orion” maritime
aircraft. The VP (patrol squadrons) flew
from Vietnamese, Thai, and Philippine bases.
Squadrons flying these missions were VP-1, VP-2, VP-4, VP-6, VP-16, VP-17,
VP-26, VP-28, VP-40, VP-42, VP-46, VP-48, VP-49, and VP-50. Some of these patrol aircraft were armed with
AGM-12 “Bullpup” air-to-surface
missiles to engage the trawlers directly.
However, the usual mode of operation was the patrol planes to observe,
report, track, and vector surface vessels to intercept the North Vietnamese vessels
once they crossed the 12-mile coastal boundary.
Above: A Lockheed P-3A “Orion” of VP-49 as it appeared in
1964 on Operation MARKET TIME patrols.
[Photo: NAS Jacksonville]
of the most significant Operation MARKET TIME fights occurred between 29
February and 1 March 1968. The North
Vietnamese attempted a coordinated infiltration of the South by four gunrunning
trawlers. In the ensuing gunfight
between the trawlers and allied naval forces, two of the trawlers were sunk, a
third scuttled itself to avoid capture, and the fourth retreated at high speed
into the South China Sea.
MARKET TIME operated day and night, fair weather and foul, for eight and a half
years. MARKET TIME succeeded in denying
the North Vietnamese the means to deliver tons of war materials into South Vietnam
ships and craft of MARKET TIME were USN gun destroyers (DD), USN and VNN radar
picket destroyers (DER), USN and
VNN patrol craft escort, rescue (PCE) and (PECR), USCG high endurance cutters
(WHEC), USN gun boats (PG) and (PGH), VNN motor gun boats (PGM), USCG and VNN
82-foot cutters (WPB), USN and VNN 50-foot patrol craft, fast (PCF), USN and
VNN picket boats Mk V, USN and VNN 36-foot landing craft personnel, large
(LCPL), USN and VNN 13-foot Boston Whalers, VNN Coastal Surveillance Force
DD – Fletcher,
Sumner, and Gearing-class destroyers
Above: The 390-foot USS AGERHOLM (DD-826) was a Gearing-class FRAM
II modernization. She is shown off Point
Loma, San Diego, CA
on her way to Operation MARKET TIME service in Vietnam. [Photo: Mike Smolinski]
Below: The 376-foot USS JAMES C. OWENS (DD-776), was an
Allen M. Sumner-class FRAM I modernization.
OWENS is shown here at Pearl Harbor in
1970. [Photo: Clint D. Kennedy]
Below: A 1961 photo of USS STODDARD (DD-566). Stoddard was a 376-foot Fletcher-class
destroyer. She is seen as she appeared
during her Vietnam
service. [Photo: Daryl Baker]
DER – Edsall, John C. Butler-class destroyer
escort radar pickets
Above: The 300-foot USS CAMP
(DER-251) in USN service during
Operation MARKET TIME. These radar
pickets were used extensively to track the North Vietnamese arms smuggling
trawlers. USS CAMP
was one of two DER’s transferred
to the South Vietnamese Navy. A sister
ship, TRAN KHANH DU (HQ-4) – ex-USS FORSTER (DER-334)
– was captured by the North Vietnamese and remains in-service with communist Vietnam. [Photo: Dennis Clark]
Below: TRAN HUNG DAO (HQ-1) – ex-USS CAMP (DER-251)
– in VNN service. This ship escaped to
the Philippines when South Vietnam
fell in April 1975 and was subsequently put into Philippine service. [Photo: William Toohey]
PCE, PCE(R) – Admirable-class patrol craft escort (rescue)
Below: The former USS
CRESTVIEW (PCE-895) was transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy as DONG HA II
(HQ-07) in 1961. In all, nine PCE and
PCE(R) 180-foot vessels went into VNN service.
HQ-07 escaped to the Philippines
in 1975 and was put into service by the Philippine Navy. [Photo: Richard Leonhardt]
WHEC – Secretary-class and Casco-class high endurance USCG
Secretary-class USCG high endurance cutter BIBB (WHEC-31). Six if these 327-footers that served as part
of Operation MARKET TIME off the coast of South Vietnam. Two of the class, INGHAM (WHEC-35) and TANEY
(WHEC-37) survive today as museum ships.
[Photo: US Coast Guard]
Casco-class USCG high endurance cutter YAKUTAT (WHEC-380) was a 311-footer that
served as part of Operation MARKET TIME.
Seven of the class transferred to the Vietnamese Navy in January
1971. [Photo: US Coast Guard]
PG – Asheville-class
patrol gunboat (gas turbine)
Below: The 165-foot Asheville-class Patrol Gunboat USS CANON (PG-90) was
one of six gas turbine/diesel engine vessels that supported both Operations
MARKET TIME and GAMEWARDEN. USS CANON
was the most decorated US Navy ship of the Vietnam War. No American PG’s were transferred to the
VNN. [Photo: US Navy]
PGH – Patrol Gunboat
Hydrofoil (gas turbine)
a six-month period, beginning in November of 1969, Boat Support Unit ONE deployed its two gas turbine hydrofoil
gunboats, USS FLAGSTAFF (PGH-1) and USS TUCUMCARI (PGH-2), to Vietnam for
operational evaluation in the war zone.
Loaded in the well deck of the dock landing ship USS GUNSTON HALL (LSD-5),
these craft were transported to Da
Nang, Vietnam. Each craft was accompanied by a trailer of
spare parts due to the unique requirements of each vessel. The deployment was not particularly
successful and both hydrofoils were returned to the U.S. in 1970. FLAGSTAFF remained
at BSU-1 (Coronado, CA) for trails work and was eventually
transferred to the US Coast Guard. TUCUMCARI
was transferred to BSU-2 at Little Creek, VA where she performed as a
technology demonstrator in the U.S.
TUCUMCARI ran onto a reef while on her hydrofoils off Vieques Island,
Puerto Rico in November 1972. Salvaged and brought back to the United States, TUCUMCARI
was too badly damaged for repair and was subsequently scrapped.
Above: The gas turbine hydrofoil gunboats USS FLAGSTAFF
(PGH-1), left, and USS TUCUMCARI (PGH-2), right. These very sophisticated craft are seen
aboard USS GUNSTON HALL (LSD-5) on their way to Vietnam in November 1969. [Photos: Cliff Boxer]
Below: USS FLAGSTAFF shown at speed (45 knots) on her
had two diesel engines driving water jet pumps and one Rolls-Royce Tyne gas turbine driving a single supercavitating
propeller. PGH-1 displacement was 67
tons, 73 feet long (foils up) 82 feet long (foils down), 21.5 feet in beam, and
had a draft of 4.5 feet (foils up) and 18 feet (foils down). Armament in Vietnam was one 40mm gun, two twin
.50 machine guns, and one 81mm Navy mortar.
[Photo: International Hydrofoil Society]
Above: USS FLAGSTAFF (PGH-1) refuels from USS PLATTE
(AO-24) in February 1970. [Photos:
Below: USS FLAGSTAFF (PGH-1) after her conversion to
mount the 152mm gun/missile launcher of the Sheridan airborne reconnaissance vehicle in
1971. The top of the turret was
modified to use a clear plexiglass dome (and then a redesigned cupola replaced
that). The gun/launcher could fire the MGM-51 Shillelagh wire-guide anti-tank missile or a
152mm conventional shell. [Photo:
International Hydrofoil Society]
Above: USS FLAGSTAFF was disarmed after the Sheridan gun/launch
was loaned to the US
Coast Guard in November 1974, and then permanently transferred to the USCG on
29 February 1976. [Photo: International
in USCG colors as WPBH-1. FLAGSTAFF
remained in USCG service, on and off, from 1974 through 30 September 1978, when
she was decommissioned and scrapped.
[Photo: US Coast Guard]
Above: USS TUCUMCARI (PGH-2) on her hydrofoils off San Diego, CA prior to
deployment. TUCUMCARI was slightly
smaller than FLAGSTAFF,
and used a different hydrofoil arrangement. [Photo: International Hydrofoil
Below: USS TUCUMCARI shown with crew at battle
stations. The vessel had a speed of 45
knots on her hydrofoils, had two diesel engines and one Rolls-Royce Proteus gas
turbine driving two water jet pumps. PGH-2
displacement was 57 tons, 72 feet long, 35.3 feet in beam, and had a draft of
4.5 feet (foils up) and 13.9 feet (foils down).
Armament in Vietnam
was one 40mm gun, two twin .50 machine guns, and one 81mm Navy mortar. TUCUMCARI completed over 200 hours on her
foils during her Vietnam
deployment. Operations were conducted
day and night, in fair weather and foul.
Refueling at sea and vertical replenishment operations were
demonstrated. [Photo: International
Above: USS TUCUMCARI (PGH-2) aboard USS CORONADO
(LPD-11) for her transfer to NAB
Little Creek, VA, from NAB Coronado, CA. In August 1970, TUCUMCARI was loaded on USS WOOD
COUNTY (LST-1173). PGH-2 was taken to Europe for NATO demonstrations of her abilities from
April to October 1971. WOOD COUNTY
acted as the support ship for TUCUMCARI during this deployment. TUCUMCARI returned to the United States
and continued operations until her fatal grounding in November 1972. [Photo: Bill Foss]
– PGM-9 class 100-foot motor gun boat, VNN
Below: The Vietnamese Patrol Motor Gunboat or PGM, THO CHAU (HQ-619).
A World War 2 design called the PGM-9, vessels of this class were given
to or built for U.S.
allies as part of Foreign Military Sales (FMS). Twenty PGM gunboats were used by the
CHAU (HQ-619) escaped to the Philippines
in 1975 and was put into service by the Philippine Navy. [Photo: Larry C. Brooks II]
WPB – Point-class 82-foot USCG cutter
Above: The USCG transferred some 26 of these 82-foot
Point-class cutters to Vietnam
in January 1971. POINT YOUNG (WPB-82303)
was one of those vessels given to the VNN.
[Photo: US Coast Guard]
– Swift boat 50-foot patrol craft, fast
Below: One of the hardest working small boats as part of
Operation MARKET TIME was the Patrol Craft, Fast (PCF) or “Swift” boat. The PCF was a conversion of a commercial
craft designed to service oil platforms in the Gulf of
Mexico. This Mk I PCF is
patrolling off the coast of the Ca Mau Peninsula. Some 103 PCF boats – Mk I, II, and III – were
used by the VNN. [Photo: US Navy]
LCPL –36-foot landing craft personnel, large Mk 4 (steel) and Mk 11
Above: A nest Mk 4 (steel hull) LCPLs tied-up along USS
BELLE GROVE (LSD-2) prior to transfer to the VNN in 1966. The yellow square and red “X” is an airborne
recognition sign to prevent friendly fire accidents. The Mk 4 and Mk 11 (fiberglass hull) LCPLs
were used for harbor and river security operations. [Photo: Bruce Shewbrooks]
Below: The Mk 11 (fiberglass hull) LCPL was the most
common boat used by harbor security IUWU-1 through 5. These boats were identified by IUW + a boat
number on the bow. This photo shows a Mk
11 LCPL out of the water for maintenance.
[Photo: Bill Masasso]
Mk V Picket Boat – 45-foot harbor security
Above: The Hacker Boat Co. of Mt. Clemens, MI
built the Mk V picket boat. The Mk V was
a wooden 45-foot boat designed for harbor security operations. These boats were employed by Inshore Undersea
Warfare Units: IUWU-1 at Vung Tau, IUWU-2 at Cam Ranh Bay, IUWU-3 at Qui Nhon,
IUWU-4 at Nha Trang, and IUWU-5 at Vung Ro.
Twenty-four Mk V picket boats were turned over to the Vietnamese. [Photo: Vietnamese Navy]
Boston Whaler – 13-foot harbor security runabout
Below: A nest of three Boston Whalers (foreground), a Mk
V picket boat (background, center) and a Mk 11 LCPL (background, right)
alongside the IUWU-4 pier at Nha Trang.
Whalers were transferred to the VNN.
Above: A map of South Vietnam showing the deployed
Inshore Undersea Warfare Units: IUWU-1 at Vung Tau; IUWU-2 at Cam Ranh Bay;
IUWU-3 at Qui Nhon; IUWU-4 at Nha Trang; and IUWU-5 at Vung Ro. Binh Thuy was several miles up the Bassac River
from Can Tho.
Command Junk –
50-foot VNN Coastal Surveillance Force
Above: The wooden 50-foot command junk (Ghe
Chủ Lực) was a local-built wooden design for coastal patrol
by the VNN Coastal Security Force. It
was armed with a .30 and a .50 machine gun and a 60mm mortar. A single diesel engine drove a single shaft
prop. Command junks carried more radios
than the 36-foot patrol junks. American
Navy advisors worked with the VNN Coastal Surveillance Forces. Regardless of size, these boats were commonly
known as Yabuta Junks. [Photo: Vietnamese Navy]
Patrol Junk – 36-foot VNN Coastal
Below: There were three types of patrol junks used by VNN
Coastal Security Force; one was made of ferro-concrete and the two others were
made of wood. The boats were lightly
armed with small arms and a .30 caliber machine gun and had a single diesel
engine turning a single shaft. The Ghe Thiên
Nga Yabutas were the most common (151 built).
[Photo: Vietnamese Navy]
Above: The Coastal Raider (Duyên Kích Đĩnh) was
a ferro-concrete Yabuta built in Saigon. It was armed with small arms, a .50 caliber
and a .30 caliber machine gun and had a single diesel engine and a single
shaft. These Yabutas were the second
most common (71
built). [Photo: Vietnamese Navy]
Below: The Ghe Kiên Giang Yabuta was made of
wood. The boats were lightly armed with
small arms and a .30 caliber machine gun and had a single diesel engine and a
single shaft. Only six were built. The VNN had 20 coastal surveillance centers
along the coast of Vietnam. Each base had at least 12 junks of various
configurations). [Photo: Vietnamese
of Part 1.
Continue to Part 2