The Detachment that did two Conflicts in one Deployment
By EN2 Ed Mann Chief Engineer and Asst. Boat Captain PB-758
MARG 1-84 (Marine Amphibious Readiness Group) operated from 12 Oct 1983 until May 1984. It was comprised of Special Boat Squadron TWO, Detachment Charlie supporting SEAL TEAM FOUR operating PB 758, PB 777 and a SEAFOX ( SWCL).
Welcome to SBU-24, are you READY??? My attitude was "Leave your Rate at the Gate." All that meant was that you have a skill to bring to the table. Here you are a Combatant Craft Crewman. I worked with and trained others to become crewmen and eventually Boat Captains on 65' MKIII Patrol Boats. Their success or failure was based on paying attention to what I was going show them. Most got it and some didn't. Those that didn’t went away. If a PB needs an engine changed, that assigned crew is going to change it. The crew is going to clean weapons and the crew is going to non-skid the deck. A crew lives together, fights together, and may even die together, but they are going to do it together.
When a PO1 deck rating came from the Fleet to the Boat Unit and one found himself working for and being taught how to drive the Boat from a EN1, that could be a quite a shock. An Engineman Boat Captain sounds cocky or arrogant, but I viewed it as confidence. An EN Boat Captain in those days was always being scrutinized and under pressure. People were always looking for the slightest flaw so they could say, "see, Enginemen should stay in the engine room where they belong." So being confident was a survival mechanism to that pressure.
My Confidence came from experience. It wasn't always there. You have to go back to the beginning of my Tour at SBU-24. A long trip from Hell that went to Grenada and then on to Beirut, Lebanon.
MARG 1-84 operated from 12 Oct 1983 until May 1984. It was comprised of Special Boat Squadron TWO, Detachment Charlie supporting SEAL TEAM FOUR operating PB 758, PB 777 and a SEAFOX ( SWCL).
We only had the PB MkIII’s for less than a year. SBU-24 had Mini ATCs and MK I PBs before that. We were learning this Coastal Riverine warfare on the fly. I was a second Class, then a Chief Engineer on PB 758.
The PB Det workups were making sure the DC (damage control) Kit was up to snuff and went over each items use. Weapons that we were weak on, the Mortar, 40mm, and 20mm, and Board and Search stuff, using a PL as a Bad guy, we trained on during some drill weekends.
In Oct we loaded up on the USS SNELLING and MARG-1-84 got underway for Beirut on a Peace Keeping Mission. Our mission was to patrol anchorages and escort landing craft from the anchorage to the beach. We were going to relieve the MARG already there. They only had one of SBU-20's SWCLs and was doing all of that by themselves. The lesson learned was that not every craft is suited for the mission, hence the PB Det. was going.
Then everything changed we started heading south, we were told were going to a place called Grenada. Why? A Show of Force. We were given a chart that was maybe a 3 ft by 5 ft and Grenada took up about 6 inches of it! Then the barracks in Beirut were blown up at the same time and the word invasion was talked about all in same day. I recall that was a stark reality. We couldn't get any good info or intel. We lived on the boat while aboard the ship, so we powered up the HF radio and listened to the BBC. Nothing we heard was good in either place. The air was getting a little thick and then the word came down that we were going to secure the island.
First they were not going to use the PBs but the Seafox and the SEALs went into isolation. The night before the shit hit the fan the SEAFOX and two Zodiacs launched into the dark. Our officer Lt Doggerty came up on the radio and we monitored the frequency they were on. We could see helos orbiting in the distance with their lights on. Then the Fort Snelling went to GQ and we manned the boats as that was our muster station. We watched the show all day from the deck. The SEAFOX and SEALs came back about mid-morning. I believe it was about that time we got word we would launch that night and that we would be quarantining the Island. No one goes in or out! We would be looking for Cubans trying to get off the island or reinforcements trying to get on. We were also briefed on the possibility of two Cuban Patrol Boats in St. Georges Harbor. We launched from the Snelling in the dark. Quite a feat removing heavy cables and shackles from a 65 ft boat, rigging it for hoisting, craining it over the side, perform an ammo load out, and get underway all without any light. Times two for the other PB.
We were patrolling off the island pretty close in for the most part. We did embark half of the SEAL Platoon for a while. We drove the boat almost up to the shore line and the SEALs did a hydrographic survey with a lead line, and they did it in broad daylight. I guess we lived up to the SBU-24s motto, “We Go In Close". There were boats with reporters that we chased away. Then we got vectored by a helo who was chasing a small boat. We intercepted it and took two guys off as prisoners. They had $8000 on them, so we anchored their boat and delivered them to the USS Caron. Later we picked them up and took them back to their boat, released them and told them don't come back. The SEALs later left our boat as they had something in the works. We continued our patrols of the west side of the Island looking for people trying to leave or get onto Grenada.
The last tasking we had was to go to Carriacou as it was reported Cubans may have left before the show started and gone there. We put the SEALs in to look for them. Bear in mind we had that LOUSY Chart. We saw a guy in a small boat just after dawn and as we headed for him he took off. We gave chase and I was on the bow and saw the water turn from deep blue to Light blue with dark Spots. By the time I got Tom's attention we ran across one and instantly it was bad. Grounding, the curse of the Combatant Craft, but no flooding, just a very bad vibration in the centerline and starboard engines. In the end we shut those two engines down and ran about 8 knots on the port engine only. It was a very long and somber ride back to the USS SNELLING. Our war was over.
There wasn’t much time to prepare for anything. It was go do this and we went and did it. Our Boss for most of the Captains and I was the USS Caron and for SEAL Support stuff it was LT Mike Walsh.
Communications!!!! Being able to talk to all the players when you are working with the Blue water Fleet, you have got to know how to play by their rules. A 5 inch shell doesn't care that your part of Naval Special Warfare. Case in point: It was night time and we are less than 300 yards off shore. We saw the silhouette of a Destroyer. It narrows and grows taller. Well that’s not good! When you operate near other boats with LN-66 radar you get the telltale bunny tracks. You should see what it looks like when you get locked up on someone’s Fire Control Radar. Now we are calling on the radio and not getting any response and then signaling with the big bright spotlight, Dit Dah Dit Dah, over and over again. Finally we got a response on the radio and plead our case and the Tin Can turned away. We can see the Bow Mount turn back straight. It wasn't our night to die I guess, but this happened twice. On our way to Carricou we got flares dropped on us by A-7s and they lit us up like broad daylight. Clandestine my ass! Again we were pleading on the radio not to get whacked. Three times we were almost killed by your own side. When we were released from Grenada and proceeding to Beirut we worked on flashing light signaling and better methods to communicate Group messaging via VHF and flashing light.
We stopped in Rota, Spain and picked up some yard birds that rode with us to Beirut to make repairs on the boat while underway so that PB758 was ready when we arrived on Station.
Beirut was a large city. The morning we saw it we were surprised how large it was with high rise buildings, and it had a cloud of smoke hanging over it. Then when you looked through binoculars you saw that the buildings were full of bullet holes and whole floors were burned out or had gaping holes in them. Closer to the airport everything was just plain rubble and yet full of activity. Vehicles were moving on the coast road and commercial aircraft were taking off from the airport.
We were still onboard the SNELLING when the infamous collision happened. We were doing a un-rep from the port side of an AFS with an LST on the starboard side. I don't believe it was a suicide thing at all, but there was a Tramp Coastal Freighter headed into Beirut harbor. It was early in the morning and some poor slob was half asleep on the helm and discovered he was on a collision course, but then wasn't sure what to do next. By the time he woke up his Captain, BAM. End of story. Emergency break away was a little too late, really hindsight on my part. The freighter sank in about 20 minutes. A small boat from another ship picked up the survivors.
The PB’s mission in Beirut was to patrol the anchorages and escort LCUs in and out. We had two patrol stations. One was the Northern off Beirut point. There we monitored shipping going in and out of Beirut harbor. We had a sheet of paper that we used to describe the type vessel and the kind of cargo handling gear it was carrying, what flag it flew and its name. We would call on channel 16 and inquire about their cargo, last port and destination. That's if they would answer.
The Christian Phalange Militia had an Israel Made Dabur class Patrol Boat that would come out of Jounieh at night and go south. That station would warn all units they were coming to make sure there were no issues and to monitor his exit out of the AO. It would return before dawn and go back to Jounieh. Again our Boss was a surface ship, several Destroyers and then the USS New Jersey when it arrived. They were the best to work for and also the USS Caron again. The Southern Station was off Green Beach. There you escorted the Landing Craft in. There were also the air lanes for the helos in that sector. We checked fishing boats to make sure there were no surprises in place to get the Landing Craft. We also had intel that a Soviet SDV was made available to the bad guys, although we never saw it.
It was at night the show started, tracers going everywhere in the mountains and sometimes the city. If fire came down near the airport we would advise our Controller. Later in December and January our ships could do fire missions based on info we provided for NGFS truing. We would give landmarks on what we saw. The New Jersey did not like to fire over us. They would always direct us seaward. Mostly 5" would be fired. Twice I saw the 16" guns fired, but only one gun, never any broadsides. I would have loved to have seen that. Then the Israeli Navy would come in at night and go to the Christian sector north of Beirut and go back south by sun up. We would report those events up the chain of command and de-conflict issues.
The Israelis would never speak to us or answer back any hails, and they always traveled blacked out. The Christian Phalange never communicated in anyway ever. The only visitors may have been the Lebanese Navy. They had a WWII looking LST and a boat that looked like a yacht and three 1930's vintage wooden patrol boats. Other than the LST they hardly ever got underway.
When we did tie up it was at the Naval Base. The Phalange boat was in the marina next door. The way the war appeared to us was the 3 different sects of Muslims would all shoot at the Christian Militia, and if the Christians didn't play they would shoot at each other. A guy would work in his shop during the day and go man up an artillery piece at night and shoot at whomever and then stop around 2 or 3 am and all would go to bed. They only shot at us Americans if we got in their way or to make a statement. 90% of the population had nothing to do with this, only 10% were the shitheads.
There were two areas north of the Beirut Airport that was called Khomaniville and Hooterville. They were the trouble spots, and that’s where most of the fishing boats came from. The place was mostly rubble. Iran, Syria and Israel were the string pullers. The Coalition was the US, France and Italy, and of course the Russians were around also. After the Bombing of the Barracks, ships only came near the shore in Daylight. They would go out 50 miles at night, the Gators that is, and the Destroyers and Battleship between 5 to 8 miles. We in the PBs were only 1 to 3 miles but during the day we were in closer. Gators would only come in to deliver cargo by landing craft, and that was during daylight hours only.
Life aboard a Patrol Boat. We learned to operate for very long periods of time. We split the crew in half and I got promoted to Assistant Boat Captain. The split crews would operate 8 hours on and 8 hours off. The ON watch would operate the boat and man up whatever weapon were needed. The OFF duty crew at GQ would man the remaining weapons. The OFF duty Boat Captain would run the deck outside the pilot house and the ON Duty Boat Captain drove and was in command in the pilot house. Sound powered phone bells were the means of alarm. They rang you went to GQ.
We had no base per say. We could get permission to go to Jounieh and we would go there for maintenance or if the weather got too bad. The longest we ever stayed there was 3 days. We operated around the clock. Usually once a week we would have a Logrep (logistics representative). The battleship New Jersey would task a ship for that purpose. Sometimes it was the Snelling and other times a DD or FF. We had a form that had line A, B, C, etc. and we would transmit that by group to group message or flashing light. Towards the end, I don't remember the order but one line was fuel status and we gave a percentage. Fuel oil was line 2 or 3 which indicated the number of Jerry cans to fill. Of course there was a line for food, such as 1 case of steak or burger patties and loafs of bread, that kind of thing. Spare parts had to come from the USS Snelling so requests were usually sent 24 hours before the event. Spares could be heloed over to whomever asked for the Logrep.
Hygene: Not much you could do here. We switched to a toilet that could hold or be pumped over board. No place to pump it except overboard. We bathed by bucket, at first in cold water then we got pots and heated water on the stove. Our bathhouse was the engine room behind the centerline engine as the Intercooler made a perfect soap holder and the exhaust pipes a towel holder. Just don't stick your ass in the alternator belt. Nothing like a naked guy wearing mickey mouse ears (sound protection) while washing his ass.
If time and weather allowed we could go on board one of the ships for showers and get laundry done. We made friends with the ACU-2 LCU guys and later when an LCU would go into Jounieh we would get better meals and showers from them. We would go watch a movie in their crew berthing area. There were some guys from the Lebanese navy that would always come over and inquire as to what we needed. They would bring us Pepsi sodas and Leo bars (Belgian KitKat bars). The best guy was named Gabriel he spoke good English. If we needed something welded he would arrange it for us. American Coffee and Playboy magazines would get you lots of stuff in trade. Sailors will be sailors.
Our generators were only shut down to check and change oil. They exceeded the hours well beyond what they were support to run. Our generator lost compression so Gabriel brought a guy down who had some French brazing rods that was square. We popped the compression rings off and wrapped brazing rods around the piston and dressed it up, put the pistons back in and that fucker ran!! I believe we came back home with them still in the Onan. We had a bad problem with burning valves on the 8V71TI and taking the heads off while underway was not something you wanted to do. We transited into a system of pop off the bad head, set it alongside and get a new one handed down. Then the bad head goes up and get repaired. The Intercooler was another good example of hand the dirty one up and hand down a clean one and away you go. If a PB went to Jouneih then the other PB split the difference on stations. Basically double duty. It was very rare that both boats were off station at same time.
Hot racking: You slept in your own sleeping bag so that was not a problem. In port we dropped the table down and slept there also. We added a cross bunk in Berthing Compartment.
Weapons: I don't remember the lube we used but they required constant attention, The lube kept the rust down but smoked bad when fired. The Ready Service ammo was kept on deck, lashed to the mounts with 1/4 inch cotton line. But heavy seas would snap it like a thread, so we moved them into the sponson in heavy weather.
The new Det that replaced us brought all kinds of parts and new engines. We had one maintenance availability in Haifa. It was when the Marines pulled out and went back to their ship. That was a week I think, so we sailed down and back to the AO. Each PB got a new engine.
We tried to stay out of small arms range, but they would send big shells our way quite often. There were mortar rounds near Green Beach and 155 from over the mountains. Once we escorted a US Merchant ship full of ammo for the Lebanese army into Beirut Harbor in broad daylight. We got "pot shots" most of the day. The SEALS secured the pier area and we acted as a waterborne deterrence.
As a rule if you went off shore and the gun line ships were firing it would go crazy. If you were close to shore then a lot of other weapons may start firing in all directions and somebody could get killed, so we came back with less ammo than we left with.
We also did a humanitarian evacuation of Non Combatants from Jouneih. Marines came in with CH-53s and LCUs. We received fire most of that day as well, mostly 155 from over the mountains, but I don't think they wanted to hit us. It was there way of saying Goodbye to the non-believer Infidels. That happened after the pullout from the airport.
The withdrawal of the Marines, I think, really shocked and depressed us. Even though the city was shot up it was very much alive with aircraft still taking off and landing. The lights were on in the city at night. There were Ferris Wheels all over and the Lebanese loved those things. Then the PLs went in and then the Marines came out on the Tracks (Amtrack Amphibious Troop Carriers. The PLs were the guide boats and we were the escorts with Cobra Gunships flying above us. No fan fair. They just up and left.
The guys that replaced our Detachment flew in. They were having parts shipped over as the original plan was for them to have a new Mothership, and operate the same boats. The SEAFOX was the only boat that would be swapped out. With the pull out of the Marines in Beirut there was talk of the boats going someplace else or just stay in the Med, but in the end they brought them home. The replacement guys came on board one for one. As the Assistant Boat Captain I came off first and Tom got stuck training the new Boat Captain in the ways of Pirate living. I helped set up a support apparatus that would provide a much better means of services to the Boat Crew. It seems they did pay attention to the reports we sent back. Of the original Detachment we drew straws for a choice of riding the USS Snelling home or flying home. I got to fly home. I got off in Rota Spain then home to Norfolk. We got the Duty Driver to pick us up about 2030. No greeting, no nothing. Just a fellow Engineman. John Morrow had the duty to welcome us back. I went down to a PB and chatted and spent the night aboard. After 7 months what’s one more night. The next morning I mustered in with the ENs. The C.O. called me over to his office for a long chat with him and the X.O. My parents came from Richmond to pick me up and took me home on Leave. I got back from leave just in time to greet the rest of the det. when the Snelling came in.
Time marches on and in 1986 SBU-24 was tasked to transit to Grenada to do a MTT (Mobile Training Team) with the Grenadian Coast Guard. I was the Boat Captain of 738 then. I really didn't want to go back to Grenada, but when the C.O. himself comes down to the boat and sits down with me and asks me to go, well I guess I'm going then. At the time this would have been the longest transits of East Coast PBs. Driving the boats down from Little Creek via Moorehead City, May Port Fl., Clarence Town, Bahamas, Porta Plata, Dominican Republic, Roosey Roads, PR, Antigua, Martinique and finally Grenada.
Once there we begin our training ops. We were going to insert SEALs at night for training. Two PBs with SEALs on each. LCDR Manendez the XO on the other boat and I had no Officer with me. I did have a PO1 SEAL named Piana from Team-4 with me. We did our part and inserted the SEALs and got cut loose so we could go to St George and tie up in the marina. We tied up to the pier about mid-day. Piana and I go ashore to verify all the details of our stay there. Walking back down the pier to the boat, well guess who's walking up the pier? Our Prisoner from 3 years ago!!! He and I do not say a word just hard looks and kept going. Back on the boat Piana asks if I was okay. He said I was looking at that guy and was pale as a ghost. I told him the story. I was the guy that had an M-16 pointed at his head when we took them prisoner and they were not exactly happy about it, and in fact he was pretty pissed. I told him he better calm down because he was making me nervous and since I have a weapon pointed at his head it was not in his best interest. Well Piana thought this was Funny as Hell, but I didn't.
I wasn't going ashore and took the first watch. Piana and the rest are off on Liberty. I forget who relieved me and I hit the rack. Around 0300 Piana comes in and wakes me up saying it important and needs to speak to me right now. My first thought is the crew got into a liberty incident and the XO is going to skin me alive. In UDT shorts I step out and sitting at the fantail is Piana and THAT Guy. Piana says you guys never been formally introduced. I guess Piana and the guys wound up drinking buddies that night and he brought him back to the boats. Over the nights talk I found out the $8000 dollars was for smuggling reporters into the island, but you know I still can't remember that guy’s name, but I can remember his face to this day.
|Special Boat Unit 24 Logo.||BEIRUT patch.||
PB758 in Beirut waters
|Tom Turner at helm Bob Davis and Ed Mann on Deck .||SBU-24 Unofficial Rat patch.|
|OPERATION URGENT FURY.||Special Boat Squadron Two logo.||
USS Fort Snelling LSD-30
|PB 758 coming alongside.||PBMKIII off Beruit 2.|