Jim Thomas MST-1 years



Mobile Support Team - One

James Thomas

1964-1971 - Vietnam Era - Boat Support Units


July 18, 2006   from Jim Thomas

My tour of Boat Support Unit - 1/MST-1 from Jan 1964-1967 

In January 1964 I left LCU Div 13 as the Lead engineer on LCU 1475 and checked in to NOSGPAC (Naval Operations Support Group Pacific) at the UDT Compound. I then had a physical, was issued greens, new boots and other gear. I was then told to report to SERE (Survival Escape and Evasion) School, the next morning at North Island NAS, CA by 0700. Not knowing what I was facing, I stopped and had a large breakfast in Coronado before going on the base. I reported in and found that I was starting the second day of training so I left that afternoon for Warner Springs, CA with a class of about 50 men. We were divided up into groups, given maps, plastic water bags and few words of advice. 

The next morning we started our hikes to the next site for spending the night. All the time we were looking for stuff to eat, but none was to be found. They air dropped a five pound tin of corn beef hash to the camp site that evening. The tin of corn beef was divided up among the fifty men. Immediately we set out traps in hopes of catching a rabbit or two, but no such luck. 

The third morning we continued hiking to the next lay over location. It was cold that night and a piece of parachute didn’t do much for keeping me warm and again a spoon full of chow for the day wasn’t quite enough..

The fourth morning was a Friday and we made our run to Freedom Village trying to out wit the instructors, which we found hard to do as the prison farm inmates up on the hill were pointing us out to the Bad Guys. I made it to Freedom Village and found out that they had lied about the sandwiches. We were lucky to get some water to drink. Those of us who had made it was loaded in a truck and hauled to the prisoner of war compound, stuffed into a very low cage and told to strip to our drawers. They then searched our clothing and we were taken to another compound to await interrogations.  

Then each of us was called out and stuffed in a box and they closed a lid on you, I bowed up so the lid wouldn’t close and they moved me to another box that was a little bigger. I had enough room when the lid came down that I could move my legs and arms to keep the blood flowing. They would regularly kick the box so you could not sleep. As to how long I was in there, who knows?  They had taken our watches away when they searched us. Eventually they opened the box and said to walk or crawl. I was able to walk to the interrogation room where they questioned us and tried to break us down. After the interrogation we moved to another compound where we got a canteen cup of boiled fish and rice. I thought it was mighty fine eating as I had spent 14 months in Japan and surrounding area. We were returned to North Island that Saturday noon and released back to our Commands. 

On Monday morning, we were told that the rest of our group had checked in and that they would be updating their shot cards and briefing us on our duties. Since we had a bunch of slack time we started getting our stuff ready, placing cars in storage, drawing pay and setting up checking accounts. 

We left for Saigon in February 1964, traveling in civilian clothes. We stayed in Saigon for a few days and flew to DaNang on a Gooney Bird. There we were assigned billets and then we went out to the base, There we worked out of the Upper Camp on the three Swift boats, setting up the shops, fuel farm and warehouses. Two of us stood duty every third night, with one 45 cal pistol and a M2 carbine with a 30 round magazine and a radio.  

The PTF-3 and 4 boats came in along with an LCM , floating dry dock and a crane barge. Later the PTF-1 and 2 boats came in and were moored to buoys. We started working with the boat crews so we would know the boats also. We maintained the generators, fuel farm, assisted in refueling the boats and helped change out the port engine on the 3 boat. 

The PTF crews came back before the MST 1 Group, in July of 64. The rest of us left in the next group returning back to the US in August 1964. We found out that we were now BSU-1. After a leave period was given, LCSR-7 was brought back to life. It had been laid up by the SEALs and then turned over to BSU - 1, We removed the turbines for overhaul and then reinstalled them. We then ran operations with it so that the stateside Fleet could practice against the NVA boats.  

In March of 65 we departed from the states once again, heading back to MST - 1, Da Nang for another tour, at this point still living in the City of DaNang. We were assigned to maintain the Swift boats and generators, fuel farm and LCMs as well as changing out Napier Deltic engines on the PTF’s and Packard V 12 engines on the Gasser’s. 

About half way thru this tour we made the move from the City to Camp Fay. That was much closer to the lower base for travel time to and from work. We had four men to a room which included a hutch maid to clean and do laundry and the snipes maids wore out our clothes trying to get them cleaned. This Chow hall was a good feeder. On Saturday nights we had a “cook your own steak night”. The movies were training films such as Rat Patrol and etc. NSA was next door and they would have alerts during the night, but nothing ever came of them while I was there. 

 In September, 1965 we returned back to BSU 1, and we were assigned to the PCF Training crew for the first groups of PCF crews to be trained. First we had to remove two 12V71 engines for overhauling due to warped blocks. Three of us went to Lawless Detroit Diesel across from NTC to rebuild the engines under warranty. They supplied the parts and we performed the labor. 

  In February, 1966, I  was assigned to a group to go to Subic Bay, PI for training the RPI (Republic of Philippine Islands) Navy on repair and operation of PCF’s, This lasted two months, then I returned back to BSU-1. 

 Then in April 1966 I returned back to DaNang for another tour with MST -1.We had to rebuild a LCM steering gear, stub shaft the rudder posts, install engines and etc. We then used the LCM to make runs to the Island with supplies.  We borrowed an LCM 8 from NSA when a very large load had to go. We even had to show the people at NSA how to charge up the air system for starting of the engines. They had been starting one engine with batteries then engaging the transmission to start the other ones, which was rough on the transmissions. We continued with much of the same kind of work, engine change outs and etc. We did get a week stay in Subic Bay with MST 3. 

I returned back to BSU - 1 around October 1966. After a leave period I was assigned to an LCSR 6. We were trying to make the LCSR Six combat ready by changing out the transmission time after time, trying different clutch packs to find one that could stand up to all of the full back from full ahead shifting that might take place. We reworked the starting system so that we could start the engines with very low batteries by manual override of the fuel system, which worked out good.  The next project was to install intake silencers and exhaust silencers. This wasn’t an easy job since the intake silencers took some power away from the boat, but the exhaust was quilted down enough you couldn’t hear the boat from fifty feet away from you. The LCSR project for in country operations was cancelled. 

I left the Unit in Aug 1967 to go to shore duty in Washington, DC at the School of Deep Sea Diving and Salvage. 

Jim Thomas EN1 (at the time)

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