tv U.S. Military and the Mekong River Delta CSPAN December 20, 2015 9:15pm-10:01pm EST
house, and friday night at 8:00, former president clinton receives the bob dole leadership prize. authorsiction books and monday. onsday night at 8:00, books history. wednesday night, authors will talk about their books on the supreme court. thursday night, events in history. friday night, several of our award-winning programs from this year. and monday, programs on russian spies. tuesday at 8:00, senator mitch mcconnell. and tuesday night, the 150th anniversary of the civil war. wednesday, world war ii and its impact. on christmas, friday night at 8:00, we will travel to williamsburg of the 1870's.
talking about colonial life on the eve of the american revolution. that is just some of the programs featured this week. next on american history tv, vietnam veteran and author talks warfare on the mekong river delta in vietnam. army, coast guard, and navy were successful and prevented the viet cong from transporting supplies. the vehicle home memorial hosted -- the u.s. navy memorial hosted this event. >> thank you for joining us. we are very pleased to welcome dr. edward marolda. published by the navy and heritage command. it is available as a free pdf download and copies of the book
are available at the ship's at the navy museum. dr.merle about is the -- lda is an author of numerous publications on naval history that focus on the navy in southeast asia, korea, and the persian gulf war. he is currently an adjunct professor where he teaches courses on the war in the far east and the vietnam war. these join me in welcoming him. [applause] good morning ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the suspicious occasion. it is important for this country and all of us to remark on the service of our navy men and women since the founding of the republic 200 years ago. just this morning, i attended my schooln purports tory
ceremony. the kids sing god bless america, raised the flags, red homes. -- and read poems. it touched me. it was heartening to know our young children are still learning about what their predecessors did then and still do today. mbatll be reading from "co close quarters." of hisoklet is part series on the u.s. navy and vietnam war. aspects of coastal warfare, see a lack of goodies and whatnot will stop -- seal activities and whatnot.
series of nine booklets will hopefully one day be combined into a book. you can get the booklets through the government hunting office. being here. you for how many veterans to have in the audience question mark i am sure it's the majority. how about it nonveterans? the question comes up, how did the navy get into vietnam? the map,ke a look at it becomes obvious why the navy was needed for the war in vietnam. here's a map of the mekong delta. this consists of some 3000 navigable waterways.
rivers, canals, other watercourse. south the population of vietnam at the time lived in the mekong delta. it was the bread basket for south vietnam. a critical area. where the viet cong got its start was in the delta. they were there in great force in 1965. even though it is obvious to us now that the navy was needed there in vietnam, it was not as obvious to the naval leadership. vice admiral horatio rivero was the vice chief of naval operations in 1964 and when they started talking about putting vietnam, he into put out several memos. the u.s. navy will not be available in muddy water warfare. it was a put down. we are out here hunting soviet submarines. we are worried about the red navy.
this stuff in vietnam is army and marine corps. but, the navy did step up. general william c west moreland, -- ask the navy , -- asked the navy for help. or, -- if you see up here, this is a region of swamp. a nasty area. nobody lived there. but the viet cong was there in force. of ais a better map special zone. it needed special treatment. why was that strategic? it was strategic because it was right between saigon and the sea. what a way tortuous
to saigon. saigon was the largest city in south vietnam. where all the materials that would come into commercial activity for the country. ships would have to gather and work their way up the river. invitation to ambush. the enemy was there in force. rifles, grenades, mines. took a toll of some of the ships that worked there. it was called the forest of assassins for good reason. a law to of the bandits in pre-war days lived there and did their dirty work. here is one of the soviet-made minds that was recovered -- mines that was recovered. that could sink a ship. here is an occasion where it did
sink a ship. mariners, and merchant mariners did not get a lot of credit but they paid a price to do this run to saigon throughout the war. merchant ships and even ships from other countries made this dangerous run up the river. it was re-floated in and brought back into service temporarily. so, what we had to do, you cannot allow the ships to be attacked. so the navy deployed mind seeking boats. various other mine-sweeping craft. helicopters were there. the coast guard came into the mouth of the river to help out. proper, youg delta
can see at the bottom of the picture that is a flag. was to cut any wires the month -- the enemy would string. setting behind a bush, they would trigger the mine. their tactic was to cut the wires before that could happen. they would circle the ships up and down the river to make sure that did not happen. it did not always work. sometimes the enemy was more cagey. mentioned navy seals. involved in looking for the fear theperatives -- looking for rtive operatives. they are famous now, they got in leiden. this was their coming out party flippant,t, it is too
but they really cut 30's on the vietnam war. teethy really cut their on the vietnam war. they are worth their weight in gold. delta, you had the river that went from down to the south china sea and then you had the mekong river, with its three tributaries toward the bottom. this is a river patrol force. task force 116. was to control those rivers and prevent the taxy from continuing to farmers to use the rivers.
it was an imperative to really stop that activity from going on. forces, the river patrol were established in december. in that year, the general was very concerned because the viet commercely had stopped on the main rivers. you could not get rice to saigon. a big deficit. so a river patrol force when and with river patrol boats. -- hereone and spect in is one inspecting for contraband. they were all supposed to have papers. a 31-foot boat. off the shelf from a company in bellingham, washington. but guns on it, radar, other things. there was also a 32-foot one, a little bit longer, more
structurally sound. who remembers the movie, "apoca lypse now?" going for marlon brando's cave. they have one scene where a guy water skis behind the pbr. for a long time, we thought what a bunch of ohlone. someone who served and he said, we did it all the time. truth is stranger than fiction. critical asset for the river patrol force. we had one squadron only of helicopters. better known as the sea wolves. detachmentsre two that would operate either from
the river were sure or bases. they would be overhead. you can see here of flow to you illa of pbr's. you can imagine you have watercourse where the foliage comes down right to the water. you need these guys overhead to be looking around to see who is out there. this unlikely hero, he does not look like rambo or someone you would see in a movie about seals or anything like that, this man made first-class. he was the senior enlisted guy in charge of the pbr's. they were patrolling the mekong river. a couple of -- and the bad guys returned fire.
one got back into the code of. he said -- one got back into the code. he said, we're going onej -- one went back into the cove. he went after them. rather than turn around, they went charging through. knocking the blood of boats. firing. the enemy, unfortunately for them, were killing each other because they were firing at the boat. killing your own people. do that,did not just he got to the other end, what do we do now? he turned around and came back again. this involved a three-hour battle. boats, each two boat had four crewmen.
these eight guys. they called in air support but he did not want to wait for it because it it was getting dark. so he made another run. he ot the metal of honor -- got the medal of honor. he destroyed 50 boats. that seems exaggerated. that is the river patrol force. contingentor naval in the mekong delta was called wolverine force. i met a man this morning who had been with the mobile wolverine force, with the army. the second brigade of the ninth infantry division was the army's contribution. they put together the wolverine
assault force. everyoneestmoreland, knows he was really hot on finding the enemy and clubbing them. search and destroy. looking for the enemy's main force unit and surrounding them and destroying them. he was very big on that. so that was the mission of the mobile wolverine force. it was to kill the enemy. of the ninth division soldiers operating in some of the most inhospitable terrain in vietnam. mangrove swamps. rice paddies. many remember trench foot from world war i. this was called immersion foot. the soldiers were in the water that theyvery day found out after a while you can only put them in the film for about two days. then you had to bring them back,
let them dry their feet out and put new close on. -- and put new clothing on. very tough. the river assault force portion of the mobile wolverine force, this was the battleship of the fleet. it is an old landing craft. a very small hull. they put armor on it, they put weapons on it. what he millimeter cannons, 20 millimeter cannons. machine guns. it millimeter mortars were on some of the boats as well. heavyjob was to put out firepower. the wolverine force also had specialized boats. a zippo boat. the old-timers here remember zippo lighters.
this is a zippo boat. clearing the brush. the enemy would hide in the brush. this was a way to clear way the brush. as we know, agent orange and various other defoliants were used for the same purpose. the problems with the mekong delta, there is only one road. around, you have to do it by water will stop the question came up early in the episode -- to get around you have to do a pipe water. they dredged the river and put the fill on the former swampy area and made a base out of it. its own harbor and everything. it worked very well.
part usefor the most this as their staging base. when the troops and the sailors were involved in their work, they also lived and worked in these types of ships called the mobile wolverine base. this was a self-propelled barracks ship. the soldiers would love it. they were hot, wet, tired. they would go under the ship to get hot showers. a place to chill out. very welcomed. -- a small fleet that supported the force logistically. this is what they were all about. a gruesome picture.
but their object was to trap main force units. even regiments on occasion. the tactic was this. you would have the wolverine boats on the waterside. the army guys would come in on the land. and others on the other side. they would corner the enemy and start moving in. very affect of in 1967 because expected anyone to come from the water. from the land.e so the vietcong were unprepared for this tactic. in 1967 and worked fairly well, resulting in this type of carnage. unfortunately, as royalties were also very high for the mobile wolverine force.
were also very high for the mobile wolverine force. from 1967existed until june of 1969. it was disestablished. why would you disestablished something that was doing very well? tet offensive.he they moved into the cities and took over the towns. what do you do? do you leave them there? if you leave them there, you have lost the war. you have to get them out. was called upon to get them out. fighting, the enemy resisted and of course there was great destruction and loss of
civilian life. some of you may remember the army major who said, when asked by a reporter, why did you guys blow up this place? he said, we had to destroy the town to save it. that sounds counterintuitive but it was a fact. they are in the main buildings and they are not going to leave. that was the unfortunate consequence of that. tet offensive, the mrf supposedly saved the delta. the were disestablished next year, although it was widely established they had pulled their weight. navyer the army nor the
leaders were very crazy about different for very reasons. the nature of the war was changing as well. general westmoreland was really big on search and destroy. saiduccessor came in and we have done that, but now we are changing the mission to protecting the population. mobile riverine force kind of anna crenna stick. so they were disestablished. -- kind of anaconda stick. kind of anachronistic. in andeneral came learned from abrams and others that the predecessor was not well-liked by the folks.
effective thatow was that he was not liked by the army. but that was the bottom line. know if ouri don't navy has will serve to. he was an acolyte of craig abrams from day one. he said, tell me what you want and we will fashion a strategy. in the past, where the river patrol force had patrolled the major rivers only and the mrf had gone out to find enemy units and destroy them, he said we going to take a different tactic. the enemy is still coming across from cambodia with supplies and reinforcements, they are just avoiding the big rivers, going to the little rivers and canals. we have got to find a way to stop that transportation. the new approach was called
southeast asia, lake river delta strategy. the guy who was going to leave it -- later it was going to be called the first sea lord. in an oral history afterward, he said, that is stupid. i don't want to be called that. but the new strategy was this, instead of patrolling the big rivers, they were going to put up barriers. let's go back to the map here. here are the main rivers. here is the mekong and main tributaries. up new tech was this, put
barriers. golf --way between the gulf over to here. it was a barrier strategy. the enemy got caught short. the enemy casualties rose. they were not getting as much as through. wassecond part of sea lords to penetrate these areas. very few people lived there. it had been virtual sanctuaries for the enemy throughout the war. all the mobile assets, the zippo's the boats, had been taken.
to stop infiltration, which was not happening at the time. he took those assets and started to put them together in task forces. they started to go into the rivers and duke it out with the enemy. very effective strategy. in the short term, the mekong delta was short -- safer than it ever had been before. more patrolled. than just the military aspect, but another part of it rit of theing the wer government of vietnam. getting back into the villages to oversee voting and other things. a lot of the vietnamese who were wood cutters, and at the fishery would come to the american bases or get close by for protection and commerce was on the rise again.
the guy on the right, the that is robert who said being the first sea lord was silly. burts left is colonel david. the of them were heads in mobile riverine force. neither the army nor the navy could agree to who was going to command the mobile riverine force. strategyrinciple of that you need one roller, one person running the show. but they had a dual setup.
a personal basis. as these joint operations often do. they throw doctrine out the window. their predecessors at the said,ing, the navy guy look, the army has a recurrence of forces here. i will be in support of you. you call the shots. they pretty much followed that and it worked out well. here is an example of boats which accomplished their mission out there on patrol. that was called operation market time. the enemy tried to infiltrate 100-ton trawlers. to the coastal points in south vietnam. this goes back to 1962, 1963.
every year they would send a number of these trailers and wait until the dark of night, come into the shore, and viet cong would come out. in february ofed 1965, they caught one of these guys and pretty much said, hey, this is an ongoing program. the boats came in along with pb's and othere cover. they stop that. every time the enemy sent a trawler, it was forced to turn back or was destroyed. which put more pressure on the enemy to use the ho chi minh trail. was difficult because of the geography and typography and distance. they had support of neutral cambodia. the prince in charge in cambodia, he worked out a deal
with the north vietnamese and the chinese. he said, you guys can bring your ships in here to cambodia, but if you give a lot of money to cambodia and trucking company it will be a fair deal. sure enough, they unload their weapons and ammunition's, put them on the cambodia truck, bring them to the mekong river delta and the viet cong would take it in. so, unfortunately they were getting through because of that. swift boats in the rivers to take part in penetrating the sanctuaries. this is in the peninsula. look up close the foliage is. this is not a comfortable place to be. who can guess who was the commanding lieutenant of the pcf-94? john kerry. right. our secretary of state. he was awarded medals.
was a controversial figure. in fact and then, and perhaps, now. here is an example of how tough it could be. a tough fight. on the right here, a lieutenant. before they had thought of bringing swift boats into the rivers, it was like, no. do not do that. maybe the pvr should be doing that. it was by the cambodian border. one day he took his swift boat of the canal. destroyed a whole lot of enemy sand pans and whatnot and showed it could be done. here, we're admiral admiral, you probably
remember this with both command that when after john kerry. this is the guy, cigar in his mouth. lieutenant and one of the convoys in the mekong, his boat, pcf-43 was hit. one was killed and two others badly injured. the boat destroyed. it was not an easy proposition. when zim ok man, it was clear he had been told the u.s. strategy when the next leader came in, it it was clear he had been
told the u.s. strategy was different. they were going to take over the fight. hat meant turning over 700 craft, support craft. a whole slew of boats went to the vietnamese. that you couldn't just give it to them, they had to be trained on how to use them. i 1972, we had turned over all riverassets that the forces had used previously and the bases from which they operated. it was a massive turnover. the question comes up, were river operations successful or not? we lost the war, that is the bottom line. think thereg is, i are four reasons why the river
forces were successful. is, battle strength in the mekong delta. they did not go away, they were fighting until the last a but they had the be very careful where they launched attacks and how they did their operations. they did not just have total control of the area as they did previously. another factor, another example of how that was true, the mekong delta there was always a lot of fighting during the early part of the war even before we got into it. when we went to to cambodia, the mekong delta 1972,shed severely. in the offensive, when the north vietnamese launched major and nothing in the
delta. it became much quieter there. the government of vietnam to reestablish some control over the people and places in the mekong delta. it reinvigorated the commercial process. rice got into saigon, there was no starvation in vietnam. i did not mention another operation that is part and parcel of this. , there wasdelta another in 1967. they sent a force, a mobile riverine force and another force up to the northern part of along to naming. naming -- along danang. there are two critical rivers there.
one that goes from the south china sea right south of the dmz. regiments,e marines, battalions, protecting the supply lines to bring ammunition and troops up there. those rivers were critical, especially during the tet offensive. getting it to the marines fighting very hard to retake it. it was very important. i mentioned earlier the river to saigon. it was a hard fight. we lost votes to mines and ambushes. we lost a couple freighters. by 1968, the river was secure. supplies andng the it became almost a milk run. the navy and the army did the
job. tactically, naval warfare in vietnam worked. strategically, another matter. that is at a higher level. decisions that services had to live with. in terms of the army and navy fighting in the mekong out to and elsewhere, they did their job with dedication, courage, and sacrifice. i am ready to answer questions. i have enjoyed speaking with you. [applause] that, when the chinese and russians were shipping supplies from cambodia back into vietnam, was that one of the reasons the americans went in start bombing cambodia? it was.
it seemed ludicrous that we allowed -- i mean, there were soviet freighters going right through our fleet. .he seventh fleet russian freighters were going back and forth loaded with surface to air missiles and we did not do anything about it because it was international waters. the johnson administration, nixon administration, had decided we cannot stop that otherwise will will get involved with the war with the soviet union and china. had theop that and blockade. that was late in the war. we knew they were coming in through there. it grew importance, along the cambodian border, in cambodia, supposedly neutral, you had all of these base camps. the object of the bombing and sending in troops was to take out the space areas and to
support the government which had brought in a pro-american. that was late in the war. >> can you explain the situation was john kerry and the swift boats? >> he was in vietnam for four months. most of us served one year at least. he was on a swift boat doing coastal patrol and was wounded and got a purple heart for that one. he was in heavy combat down here. do not know the particulars, some of the swift boat guys say he was not as brave as some of the others. he did get wounded. he got a silver star. unless he wrote it up himself and got it approved, i do not
know. i am not an authority on john kerry. he did earn medals. he was there. he was definitely an hot action. were they deserved or not? i am not in a place to save. admiral hoffman and company did awarded the way he should've been. maybe that tea should've been there longer. that he should've been there longer. >> was their naval support for your efforts? have not given a lot of attention to the south vietnamese. naming --vietnamese navy. they were there way before we got there. they had leftover french equipment. some hand-me-down american equipment will stop sometimes they find -- american equipment.
sometimes they fought very bravely. about as a book written commander. he was brave, there were others like him. there were others who did not write very bravely were effectively and that is the reason the u.s. navy had to get in there 1965. general westmoreland was not happy that things were going correctly in the mekong delta was reallyer force an appendage to the south vietnamese army. navy.ominated the the highest guy in the navy was a common door. a captain at one point -- was a commodore. the south vietnamese army dominated. for used the river force
transportation. they did not use them for patrol or assault. they were misused, if you will. they fought long and hard. at the end of the war, the war was lost on land. both invasions from north vietnam. remained secure or almost until the very end. the mekong delta was secure almost until the very end. we had a strong unions who provided destroyers for coastal bombardment patrol. for alliedout it support at least in the rivers. no other questions? behalfk you so much on of all of us at the navy memorial. for your service and all you have done to record the navy history of the conflict in vietnam.
>> thank you very much. [applause] booknce we do not have the to sign, i do have some stickers we could have the author sign and you could paste them in your book. let me know. thank you. >> fillmore with the first first lady to teach outside the home. she successfully lobbied congress to create the first white house library. eisenhower influenced fashion. jacqueline kennedy was responsible for the creation of the white house historical association. and nancy reagan as a young actress saw her name mistakenly on the blacklist of suspected communists sympathizers in the late 1940's. she appealed to the head of the screen actors guild, ronald
reagan for help and later became his wife. these stories and more are featured in c-span's book on the lives of 45 iconic american women. the book makes a great gift for the holidays giving readers a look and the personal lives of every first lady in american history. andies of fascinating women how their stories resonate today. available as as hardcover or e-book from your favorite bookstore or online bookseller. be sure to order your copy today. >> each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic places to learn what artifacts reveal about american history. next, we visit colonial illiamsburg in virginia that employs a variety of trades people