Jim Mitchell PN History



Jim Mitchell, Capt, USNR-TAR

1971-1978 - Coastal River Squadrons

MST-3 in WESTPAC, 1975

Jim Mitchell, OIC MST-2, Oct 1973 May 1974 and OIC MST-3, Mar 1975 Nov 1975

    On 12 May 1975, SS Mayaguez, a US flag merchant ship, was stopped in international waters by Cambodian gunboats, boarded, and forced into a port on a Cambodian island.  The rest is history, you can find it online, but there are a few things that didn't make the history books.  Seal Team 1 and MST-3 were put on alert in Subic Bay and sent to the scene of operations. 

    As the OIC of MST-3, I was notified late in the evening of 13 May to embark on the USS Mobile (LKA 115), with a combat ready Medium Seal Support Craft (MSSC) and personnel, to support "Special Operations" related to the recovery of the Mayaguez.  The Seal Team OIC, LTJG Tom Coulter, and personnel were flown out that same evening.  Several of MST-3 personnel were staying off-base, requiring a boat to be sent to the local beach area to sound a recall and bring them back to base.  We worked through the night getting weapons; ammo, fuel, flak curtains, spare parts, and anything else we thought might be needed onto the MSSC (except full sea bags, or even complete uniforms in some cases per the photos).  I divided the detachment in half (LTJG Jim Mitchell, BM1 Mike Kesenan, EN2 John Knapp, ETN2 Tom Beck, EM3 Phil Kervin, and En3 Dan Newey), leaving BMC Hyde in charge of the other half, staying in Subic as a back-up to come for us if needed.  After all preparations were completed, we headed out to the USS Mobile, which was at anchor in Subic Bay, and were lifted onto a cargo hatch cover by one of the ship's cargo booms at 1030 on the morning of 14 May.  The USS Mobile immediately got underway, making best speed towards Cambodia.  We continued preps underway and discovered an electrical short in one of the two electric motors on the Mini-gun.  ETN2 Beck and EM3 Kervin removed the motor and utilized the ship's electrical shop to rebuild it, bringing our primary weapon back to full operational capability (2,000 rounds per minute with one motor, 4,000 rounds per minute with two).  Early the next morning, prior the USS Mobile's arrival in the op area, the combat phase of the rescue operation was over.  The crew had been recovered and the SS Mayaguez was back under US control.  However, a new problem had arisen, recovering the bodies of the Marines and Airmen that died in a helicopter downed in 40 feet of water, just off the beachhead where an intense firefight had occurred between the US Marines and the Cambodian militia.  The Marines had been withdrawn, but the militia was still there.

    A plan was devised to take the Seals in on the MSSC and have them dive on the crash site to recover the bodies.  We were to go in unarmed (there was much internal Det discussion on this issue, mostly regarding where to hide our weapons onboard the MSSC before we went in), after leaflets explaining our intent were dropped on the militia's position.  The leaflets stated we were unarmed and our only intent was to recover the bodies of our fallen men, or at least that's what they were supposed to say.  Two different interrupters got two similar but different meanings from the leaflets. The plan also assumed the militia could and would read the leaflets, and then honor our intentions.  When LTJG Tom Coulter was presented with this plan, he suggested that the Admiral was "out of his tree", to which the Admiral turned to Tom's assistant OIC, an Ensign, and asked him how he was going to carry out the plan (effectively relieving Tom).  The Ensign didn't have an answer.  Fortunately, a more senior Admiral, with a Seal Officer on his staff, arrived and agreed with Tom's opinion and the mission was canceled.  

    The USS Mobile returned to Subic Bay on 17 May, lifted the MSSC back into the bay, and we returned to our base, YFNB 25, ending our sideline view of the operation. 

Photos from Jim Mitchell
Loadout - Combat preps and loading of MSSC alongside YFNB-25 Loadout2 - BMC Hyde supervising, EN2 Knapp installing the Mini-gun (aft) Ready - RMSN Woolum completing comm checks, note 60mm mortar and M60s MSSC on cargo cover of USS Mobile, Det (L-R): ETN2 Beck, EN2 Knapp, EM3 Kervin, BM1 Kesenan,  EN3 Newey, and LTJG Mitchell Waiting - Newey, Mitchell & Kervin, under a Mike boat, next to MSSC
Waiting2 - Mitchell & Kervin, still waiting        


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