Ca Mau -- Nov '70 - May '71
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I deployed to Vietnam in November
1970 for 6 months of in-country duty with a SEAL team detachment from Virginia
Beach. We were based in Ca Mau (Quan Long City) on the Song Ong Doc River, which
flows into the Gulf of Thailand. Ca Mau was a large U.S. Army base, and I was
a LTJG in charge of MST2 Detachment F, and two boats used to provide river transport
for the SEAL operations at night.
'The SEAL team 2, ninth platoon leader
was Lt. Richard F. Moran, who looked more like a college professor than what
he really was then. Dick had the presence of being totally in charge when he
conducted a briefing or an operation. He was rugged, with eyes that would look
right through you. Every guy in the Team was truly outstanding, and had great
respect for him. He never joked around much, and took the war quite seriously.
He was very competent, well informed, and I was lucky to be working with him.
Also in the team was Chief Robert
"The Eagle" Gallagher, who received a Navy Cross for his actions with
LT Bob Peterson on March 13, 1968. Robert was truly an American hero, in all
intents of the word. He looked like Kojak of the TV series, had been wounded
everywhere, and was the greatest guy to talk to when they weren¹t about
to or were in an operation. When they were preparing for an operation, I stayed
out of their way as they prepared their weapons and gear. I attended their briefings
prior to an operation. Our job was to get them where they wanted to go on the
SEAL support craft that I was in charge of. We mainly used the MSSC (Medium
SEAL Support Craft), which was 28 feet long, had twin 428 Cu-In. Chevy engines
with Mercruiser out drive, underwater silenced exhaust, a square concave dished
bow for easy unloading, and unbelievable firepower. We had two 50-caliber machine
guns, two 60 mm machine guns, and a modified aircraft gattling gun (8,000 rounds
per minute) on the stern. The boat could go from stop to 60 MPH in 30 seconds,
fully loaded with my crew of 6, and a SEAL squad of 14!
September 1970 Ca Mau Roster:
MST-Two Det Foxtrot -- LTJG Roger
A. Berg (CTE 188.8.131.52)
SEAL Team Two, 9th Platoon -- LT
Richard F. Moran (CTE 116.2.3)
EMCM Robert T. Gallagher; EMC Frank Moncrief; MM1 Bobby J. Osborne;
EM1 John S. Fallon; MR1 Ronnie E. Rogers; SM1 Robert A. Neidrauer;
AO2 Thomas H. Keith; QM2 Timothy A. Baron; EM2 Walther H. Constance;
BM2 Richard E. Cyrus; EM2 Jack J. Squires; McDonald; HM3 John K. Myers
Our primary SEAL operation mission
was to recapture American prisoners of war held by the Vietcong. The SEALs looked
like pirates. They wore cutoffs, T-shirts, bandanas, tennie-runners and armed
to the teeth. The first time I saw a Stoner rifle and the only time I ever saw
a sawed-off M-60, they were carried by SEALs. They hated being predictable.
I would take these guys out every night from our base and drop them off on a
muddy riverbank near a target. Steering the boat on a dark night was done by
starlight scope which provided a phosphorescent green almost daylight look at
an otherwise very dark river, piers, and other stationary objects.
The SEALS normally kidnapped a Vietcong
village chief or someone they wanted to bring back to base and interrogate.
They would leave the boat via the bow and we would sit in place resting the
boat bow in the mud and our stern with the firepower facing the river until
they returned. Most of the time they returned with a prisoner bound and gagged,
and covered with mud. This guy would sit in our hutch at the base while we slept.
The following morning they turned him over to the base debriefers. I can remember
several times waking up to see his eyes looking at me! On a couple of operations,
our mission was compromised by enemy contact and gunfire on the river, normally
we received hits to our hull. When this occurred, we returned fire in awesome
fashion with the 50¹s, 60¹s, and the gattling gun.
One occasion was really bad and we
were pinned into a sharp bend of the river. I called for air cover assistance
and our normal sources of Navy Seawolves, and Army gun ships from base were
unavailable. About a minute after my last call on the radio, an Air Force jet
jockey in an F-100, returning from a mission in Thailand calls up, says he¹s
been listening, and where do I want it. I grabbed my M79 grenade launcher, popped
in a parachute flare round, and put it over the area where the enemy was firing.
This guy comes in low and dropped napalm into the trees under the flare, literally
saving all our asses. Never knew who that guy was.
I really liked the M79. I kept a
variety of rounds, such as parachute flares and grenades handy in the MSSC cockpit
radio area where I sat, but kept the M79 loaded with "shotgun pellet"
round. One very dark night, as we were waiting bow first into the bank, a dugout
canoe with a couple of "Charlie" drifted into my side of the MSSC
and immediately started firing. Everyone hit the deck as bullets went thru the
canvas canopy. I just hung the M79 over the side with one arm and pulled the
trigger. Never found the shooters.
Patching the MSSC was quite simple
really, using aluminum Defcon. One particularly bad night of being shot at,
you could hear the hits the boat took thru the outer hull. Because we had a
ceramic armor wall inside a flack curtain, the rounds didn¹t penetrate
to the crew seating, which ran full length from coxswain to minigun aft. The
morning after the night before was really sobering as we surveyed the number
of hits, taking several handfuls of lead out of the bilges, and needing 2 cans
of Defcon to do the patching.
While in Vietnam, I slept in a hooch
with the SEALS, my crew, and sometimes visiting SEAWOLVES. Most of the 6 month
tour was spent operating at night, cleaning up and refueling the boat from 55
gallon drums by day, and trying to get some sleep during an occasional barrage
of mortar fire. We could hear them coming in and had a sandbag bunker outside
the door to run to. I slept in there on occasion. Losing friends in war is very
difficult. I had to wrestle with thoughts of dead bodies and friends not being
there for nearly 10 years after I got out of the Navy.
The Seawolf Det 3 guys, based in
Ca Mau were good friends. Det 3 was originally HC-1 Det 25 based at Vinh Long
Army Airfield, moved to Ha Tien in 1969, and finally to Ca Mau in 1970. They
provided air cover from outdated HUey helicopters that the Army had replaced
and overhauled. These guys were great and heroes to me because of their daring.
On December 19, 1970 the whole crew of guys didn¹t come back. We learned
later that day that LTJG Richard Buzzell, LTJG Antonio Ortiz, AEC Johnny Ratliff,
and ADJ2 Robert Worth had been shot down and killed. This loss was the most
difficult for me. I had seen dead bodies on roadsides and in ditches, but if
it¹s not someone you know, somehow it¹s easier to accept.
LTJG Roger Berg on the MSSC and at Ca Mau
LTJG Berg on a secret MST craft -- unfortunately, the
water never got deep enough ...