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Strike Assault Boat Squadron, STABRON20


Strike Assault Boat Squadron Twenty
STABRON20


OVERVIEW

By Ken Burkett

STABRON 20 was the brain child of Vice Admiral Zumwalt.  He and his staff were impressed with the 16 LSSC’s that had been built by Grafton Boat Company for the US Navy SEALS. Vice Admiral Zumwalt wanted a small quiet stealth craft with high speed and maneuverability that was capable of being airlifted by helicopter into remote zones to deliver quick deadly attacks on unsuspecting enemy targets. 
 

In 1969, a $2.2 million dollar contract was issued to Grafton Boat Company in Grafton, Illinois, for construction of 22 new aluminum hulled Strike Assault Boats to be known as STABS.  These boats were built in an abbreviated 90 day schedule. Grafton used the proven 24 foot SEAL LSSC design but added two 427 ci  Mercruiser III engines with stern drives and propellers instead of water jets. Grafton added 3 flotation boxes to the stern and added tubing between the flotation boxes to protect the stern drives and propellers.  This increased the overall length of the STAB to 26 feet 2 inches long. Grafton still used the 24 foot designation of the LSSC attaching hull numbers of 24UB7001 thru 24UB7022 to the STAB hulls which caused much confusion between the LSSC and the STAB in later years. Twenty of these boats, STABS,  did service in Vietnam hence the name of our unit becoming STABRON 20. Two of these craft remained in NIOTC for training purposes.


CDR John Kirk Ferguson was chosen to command STABRON 20 and the Officers and crews were trained in four waves at NIOTC in the Mare Island Naval Station, Vallejo, California, as STAB 1 thru 4.  Even though all of the boats being built were not completed in November of 1969, STAB 1 and STAB 3 were deployed early to Vietnam and were sent TAD to PBR, RAC and Operation Duffle Bag units until the 20 boats arrived in Vietnam by mid February 1970.  Only STAB 2 personnel were used as security for the transportation of twenty STAB boats aboard the USS Tioga County (LST 1158) to Dong Tam, South Vietnam.  The STAB 4 personnel arrived in Vietnam at approximately the same time as the boats.  All TAD STAB personnel were relocated to the USS Benewah and the 20 STABS began operations. The STABS were the fastest boats in the Brown Water Navy and we delighted in out running, SWIFT boats, LSSC’s and literally running circles around the PBR’s in the Mekong River. STABRON 20 operated as part of Operation Barrier Reef on the Grand Canal, the May, 1970 Cambodian invasion, Operation Tran Huong Dao EIGHT out of Dong Tam and as shipping protection on the 25 mile Long Tan shipping channel. STABRON 20 performed multiple roles in Vietnam including ambushes (Water Bourne Guard Posts), vessel searches on many waterways, ARVIN, PF and SEAL insertions, and shipping protection to name a few. STABRON 20 was never operated by SEALS but worked with SEALS stationed in the Dong Tam region.  At the end of our deployment in October, 1970, the STABS of STABRON 20 were packed up and returned to the USA by LST and the unit was disbanded. 

STABRON 20 may have been one of the most fortunate Brown Water Navy units in Vietnam suffering 4 KIA’s and one Medevac during our tour.  I still believe it was due in part to our high speed, low silhouette,  and the super quiet operation of our boats.  I am proud to have been a small part of this highly specialized, short lived unit.

Download the complete unit history HERE.


Strike Assault Boat (STAB) 

Displacement: 7 tons
Length: 26 feet 
Beam: 10'4" feet 
Draft: 2 feet 
Propulsion: 2 Chevrolet 427 gasoline engines, 325 hp, 2 MerCruiser III stern drives
Speed: 40+ kts
Crew: 4
Weapons: 4 single 7.62mm mg, 1 40mm Mk 20 Mod 0 grenade launcher or 1 .50 BMG. 
Note: 22 built by Grafton Boatworks. In service 1970. Sole user was STABRON 20
.        Photo: Tom Lefavour 

     

CONTACT STABRON 20: For current  information on STABRON 20 or to reconnect with STABRON 20 sailors please send your information and a return address so that we may contact you to stabron20@gmail.com  .  Someone will be in contact with you as soon as possible.


 

STRIKE ASSAULT BOAT SQUADRON TWENTY ROSTER - This roster is being recreated by Ken Burkett with the input from many people that have been contacted and questioned, including staff, crews and historic documents. This document is a snapshot in time and does not include every move or transfer during our tour. 

Rank and rates listed are from 25 May 1970.  This is a draft, work in progress document.
●  Download HERE


    ►GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN -  the list of STABRON 20's KIA and Deceased Since Vietnam Service
● 
Download HERE



One Long Night

The following is a poem written by then, Seaman 3, Daniel Peter Kurant about a rocket attack on  STAB #12  in Vietnam, IV Corp.,  Province 47 near Phuoc Xuyen.  The event occurred on 3 April, 1970.  The boat attacked was part of STABRON 20; the boat number was 24UB7012 and consisted of four crewmen, boat captain BM1 Albert C. Maxson, GMG3 George Crabtree, EN3 Edward Baker, and FN3 Joseph Johns.  On this night the boat had a 5th crewman, a Patrol Officer, BMC William C. Spencer.  Their radio call sign was “Racing Danger 12”.


 

Was a dastardly night,   Reminded me of home, When the wind played the treetops,   Setting them to moan.  

The lightning was flashing,   The mosquitoes were plenty, The night was a dark one,   The stars light was scanty.  

The flashes increased,   And flares lit the night, Then suddenly the rains came,   The mosquitoes did not bite.  

Along came the midnight,   Moments later, a red flare, And something about it’s color,   Spelled death in the air. 

 I went to the fantail,   As seaman took watch, Nothing could be heard,   Lest the falling of big drops.  

When suddenly I heard,  In a whisper from the cockpit, “There’s a boat down the river,   One of ours, it’s been hit!”  

We crowded the radio,   With hearts pounding in our chests, Not a thing could be heard,   ‘Cept our laboring for breath. 

 

Then a split second later,   Came a voice on the line, “Four men we have hit,   One dead, two are dying!”  

Our emotions went wild,   Curses muttered in vain, When we found out that time,   That our buddy was slain.  

Then “Flash” on the radio,   “Not one dead, but three,” The names of these men,   Are Baker, Johns and Crabtree.  

A prayer for the families,   Each and every one, One wife lost a husband,   The other parents lost their sons.  

When the shock finally eased,   What stuck most to me, Was the voice on the radio,   Saying, “Baker, Johns, and Crabtree.”  

As remembered by; SN3 Daniel Peter Kurant 3 April 1970

 

 

In addition to what was recalled above BMC William C. Spencer was medically evacuated with shrapnel wounds.  The names of Baker, Johns and Crabtree appear on the Washington D.C. Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel 12W on Lines 86, 88 and 89.  The Boat Captain, Al Maxson was the only one of the five aboard STAB 12 that received no physical wounds. Al  made his last patrol, passing away on 7/15/2012.

 
 

 

The STABRON20 Vietnam tour video is composed  of 1085 images set to music. This .wmv video will play for 1 hr 15 minutes and is 451mb in size. It may take up to an hour to download, depending on your broadband speed and video  player.

 

(added 07-22-2013) 1970's Stars and Stripes articles about STABRON 20.
     
 

     

 

 

Nightmares 

I was born and reared in Tennessee
doing my patriotic chore never scared me
When my country called it was clear
this proud young man would volunteer
I left my home and my family
and marched off to war oh so proudly
but I could not see and no one could tell
that we were all marching straight into hell

War so long in the past
I never dreamed the nightmares would last
but like a tired old song
they still come and haunt me all night long
I still see clearly the eyes of the dead
each night as I toss and turn in bed
Savagely we fought shoulder to shoulder
I was only nineteen but they never grew any older

War so long in the past
I never dreamed the nightmares would last
We may not have smelled the brimstone
but believe me that old devil was right at home
With all the bleeding, suffering and dying
at times there seemed to be no hope
yet we kept right on trying

War so long in the past
I never dreamed the nightmares would last
Should my country call again
"Hell Yes!" I will answer
but next time I hope and pray
they let us fight to win.

William “Tennessee” Davidson
STABRON 20 (1969-1970)
Written 1984

         

(07-27-02)  James, I visited your web site today and really enjoyed it. I would like to furnish you with some info. I was a GMG3 attached to ComStabRon 20 from the middle of 1969 until late 1970. Only 20 STABS went in-country and we sent all 20 back to the States. The STAB has been called everything from Seal Team Assault Boat to LSSC. The letters STAB stand for Strike Assault Boat Squadron. I was the gunner on STAB Boat 01, call sign "Racing Danger 01".


The picture of the boat under the label STAB, is not a Stab Boat. The  specs. you have down for the STAB are in fact LSSC specs.  {The previously mentioned photo problem was corrected} The Stab  had 2-427 Chevy engines and stern drives. The specs and unit history  are available from the CO of STABS Kirk Ferguson, CDR., USN (Ret.).  His e-mail is racing danger 00@aol.com. I also have pictures of the boat taken at the factory and in-country. I also have the factory specs. given to me by a vet that bought all rights for the STAB. He also owns one and is restoring it.

If I can be of any help, please let me know.

Dempsey Bumpass SWCS
USN (Ret.)


(07-29-02)   Don't feel bad about the lack of info. No one knows a whole lot about STABS and our operations in Nam. I have a book that came out several years ago on the Brown Water Navy and they have a picture of my buddies on their STAB and the caption says "Seal Team on Patrol". There are quite a few pictures of STABS on the Gamewardens web site and they are all "pictures of seals". Kirk wrote a history of the STABS and has quite a bit of info. I have copies of the manufacture's specs and pictures of tests being performed. There is one picture of my 01 boat also. I will be glad to help Kirk keep you updated. Your web site is looking good. Anything I can do, please drop me a line.  - Dempsey


(08-31-2012)

Elcie Luckett

 I was in Viet-Nam 1970-1972 on STAB 20. Retired from the Navy in 2005 as a DM1. 

         
         

         
     
   
(added 07-23-2013) Elcie Luckett Part 2.
   

(added 07-22-2013)

       
Racing Danger 14 is an interior shot of STAB 14 after a firefight on the Grand Canal - Dan Kurant Photo RD14,21,11 is STABS 14, 21, and 11 gathering at a “safe” place on the central portion of the Grand Canal after an all night Waterborne Guard Post or ambush - Dan Kurant photo.

STAB boat on the Mekong River with a Seawolf flying overhead. This  was actually a color photo but the dark monsoon season makes it take on a black and white appearance. I have dubbed this one a STAB with a guardian angel! - Dan Kurant picture

Racing Danger 12
after April 3, 1970 rocket attack, Ken Burkett photo

 
Racing Danger 12 rocket hole into forward fuel compartment, Ken Burkett Photo.
   
Racing Danger 12 after rocket damage, Ken Burkett Photo Racing Danger 12 Pre Rocket attack, George Crabtree and Edward Baker, (KIA) and Al Maxson.
 Ken Burkett Photo
Racing Danger 12 rocket damage, Ken Burkett Photo    

(added 07-22-2013)

       
STABS in a column at high speed. Bennie Bryan photo

Racing Danger 11 with
Boat Captain BM1 Jack
Padgett and EN3 Merritt
Crane (shirtless) taken on the central part of the Grand Canal. Dan Kurant photo

Racing Danger 11
(Jack Padgett, Merritt
Crane, Dennis Kelly and
 Dan Kurant, at speed
 in the Mekong River. Ken Burkett photo

Racing Danger 11 Boat Captain BM1 Jack Padgett. Dan Kurant photo. Ken Burkett on Racing
Danger showing how
14 we had to live on the boats prior to the building of the Phuoc Xuyen.
Racing Danger 19 and crew. Bennie Bryan Photo typical armament on Racing Danger 14. Ken Burkett photo Ken Burkett on Racing Danger 14, cleaning and field stripping a MK 18 Honeywell 40mm grenade launcher after using it on Charlie. Dan Kurant photo STABS in operation taken from a Seawolf gunship. Bennie Bryan photo A second photo of
STABS from a
Seawolf’s point of
view.
Bennie Bryan photo
Racing Danger 14 with a roof designed by Ken Burkett. RD-14 was the only STAB to have a removable convertible top. Dan Kurant photo.

 of Racing Danger 21 in the Grand Canal. Ron Blain photo

Taken the morning after a Racing Danger 11 firefight. Note shot up tree with STAB 11 carved into tree with Kabar knife as a note to Charlie. Dan Kurant photo STAB on Eastern end of Grand Canal with crew in battle dress. Carl Ed Bihl photo STABS in canal. Bennie Bryan Photo
     
On the eastern end of the Grand Canal. Bennie Bryan Photo   LTJG Don Mirkovich with his memorial carving dedicated to the lost crewmen of Racing Danger 12 after April 3, 1970 rocket attack. Dan Kurant photo

 

   

(added 07-22-2013)        
ARVIN insertion on a small canal near Dong Tam. Bennie Bryan photos STAB patrol in another small canal near Dong Tam. Bennie Bryan photos STAB at speed on Mekong River.  Dan Kurant photo NIOTC photo of BMC William Spencer, medivaced from Racing Danger 12 on 4/03/1970 with shrapnel wounds. Jack Padgett photo Racing Danger boat captain BM1 Jack Padgett, Jack Padgett photo
 
Racing Danger 11 crew, Jack Padgett photo STAB crewmen at NIOTC, Jack Padgett photo STAB crewmen at NIOTC, Jack Padgett photo This may be a Bennie Bryan photo of tired STABS in Dong Tam after faithful Vietnam service being stripped for shipment back to USA.  

(added 07-22-2013)
Two STABS getting ready to go to their ambush sites along the Grand Canal near Tram Chen. Carl Ed Bihl photo Ron Blain seated in coxswains chair of Racing Danger 21 alongside USS Benewah. Ron Blain photo Dong Tam and the canal “Route 66 or Rocket Alley” that STABS patrolled, ambushed and did troop and SEAL insertions. Mike Harris photo

A Dan Kurant (author of poem) and Joe Johns( KIA 3 April 1970) at NIOTC. Ken Burkett photo

Racing Danger 10
 passing under An Long Bridge on Grand Canal. Keith Kurchev photo

   

Pagoda on Eastern
 end of Grand Canal that mysteriously disappeared after the VC used it as cover multiple times for attacks on our boats. Keith Kurchev photo

An Long ice house
 where we purchased  ice to cool us and drinks. Keith Kurchev photo

Racing Danger 14’s
 twin waist M-60’s and removable roof. Ken Burkett photo

 

 

   

(added 07-24-2013)

       
Column of STABS in Mekong river headed to ambush sites. Ron Blain photo Racing Danger 10 on Mekong River with Ohio flag, Keith Kurchev photo STABS shooting up canal prior to ARVIN insertion Racing danger 19 crew, Bennie Bryan photo Crew of Racing Danger 09, Carl Ed Bihl photo
Bennie Bryan in Port engine compartment of Racing Danger 19 Racing Danger 08 cockpit, Rod Sangster photo One of the two 427's on Racing Danger 08, Rod Sangster photo Remains of a water buffalo in sampan that was caught in firefight between Racing Danger 21 and VC. Ron Blain photo Ron Bain under Racing Danger 21. Ron Blain photo

(added 07-26-2013)  David Brown GMG2, former boat captain, photos.
3 Dead on Grand Canal An Long Binewah Base Mekong River_ Captured VC David Brown Ben Thuy 1970
Friendly Melvin Underwood & crew Mike boat Grand Canal Stab cockpit Water taxi An Long
       
Stab river boat        

(added 07-22-2013)  This batch of photos  was taken by a civilian, Rick Larson, of three STAB’s  found in a salvage yard in Visalia ,CA. This is the saddest group of photos other than of Racing Danger 12 and our KIA’s that I have ever seen. Rick actually purchased the 21 boat. Attached are pictures of the 04, 14 and 21 boats as they sit in ruin. Sadly the 04 and 14 boat  (the one I served on) were smelted down for their aluminum value shortly after these photos were taken.
The upside down remains of Racing Danger 04 and 14 in California salvage yard The stern hull numbers my boat Racing Danger 14 (Ken Burkett)as it was found in the salvage yard. Farewell old friend! The cockpit area of Racing Danger 21 that he purchased from the salvage yard. The dash data plate from Grafton Boat Works on Racing Danger 21 Racing Danger 21 on a trailer as it was saved from the salvage yard
       
Racing Danger 21 on trailer as found in the salvage yard        

(added 08-02-2013) Today, three of us jacked up #21 and backed the recently restored STAB trailer under it for its 20 mile trip to the restoration shop. It's the first time she's moved in about 15 years. Please take a look at the attached photos......you are the first to see them but I'll be posting them later on the G503 boat forum in a thread about the STAB boat. - Rick Larson