Navy Mobile Riverine Force - Task Force 117
Navy Cross Medal
Criteria: The Navy Cross may be awarded to any person who, while serving with the Navy or Marine Corps, distinguishes himself in action by extraordinary heroism not justifying an award of the Medal of Honor. The action must take place under one of three circumstances: while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or, while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict in which the United States is not a belligerent party. To earn a Navy Cross the act to be commended must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk and must be performed in such a manner as to render the individual highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience, or position of responsibility. An accumulation of minor acts of heroism does not justify an award of the Navy Cross.
COX, CHARLES J.
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
TF 117, River Squadron 11, River Assault Division 111
Date of Action: September 15, 1968
The Navy Cross is awarded to Lieutenant Charles J. Cox, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on the morning of 15 September 1968 while serving with United States forces engaged in riverine assault operations against communist aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam. As Commander of River Assault Division 111, Lieutenant Cox was leading a column of assault craft down the Ben Tre River in Kien Hoa Province when the column was ambushed by a Viet Cong unit. After ordering return fire from all weapons, Lieutenant Cox exposed himself to fierce enemy fire while evaluating the tactical situation and marking beach sites for his boats. Although painfully wounded at the outset by exploding rocket fragments, he continued to issue orders and maintain tight control over his division, landing embarked troops on both enemy flanks. In order to insure the safe arrival of the medical aid boat to attend to his numerous casualties, he ordered a monitor at the aid boat's location to provide fire support, and then directed his boat and another monitor back through the ambush. As the front and rear units met in a hail of enemy fire, Lieutenant Cox ordered his two monitors to reverse course and, while running the ambush for the third time, led all four boats to a position of relative safety. He then supervised the treatment or evacuation of his wounded before submitting to much-needed attention for his own injuries. Because of his rare tactical brilliance, the infantry units were landed at optimal positions to assault the enemy from both flanks and inflict serious damage while sustaining little themselves. During two subsequent, intense engagements on 15 and 16 September 1968, Lieutenant Cox led his men with the same high degree of courage and competence. His exemplary performance of duty with consistent disregard for his own safety or his painful wounds throughout two days was instrumental in the success of an operation which inflicted numerous enemy casualties. By his inspiring leadership, great personal valor, and selfless devotion to duty, Lieutenant Cox upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
DUTTERER, CARROLL E., JR.
Boatswain's Mate First Class, U.S. Navy
TF-117, River Squadron 11, River Assault Division 111
Date of Action: September 15, 1967
The Navy Cross is awarded to Boatswain's Mate First Class Carroll E. Dutterer, Jr., United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 15 September 1967 during action against communist insurgent (Viet Cong) forces in the Mekong Delta region of the Republic of Vietnam. As Boat Captain of Armored Troop Carrier 111-6, a unit of River Assault Flotilla ONE, operating in support of the Second Brigade, Ninth United States Army Infantry Division, Petty Officer Dutterer participated in a combat mobile riverine assault operation against a Viet Cong stronghold in the Cam Son Secret Zone. While proceeding in formation with embarked Army troops, the riverine assault units came under intense automatic-weapons, recoilless-rifle, and rocket fire from enemy positions on both banks of the narrow stream. Petty Officer Dutterer's boat, one of the lead units in the formation, was returning maximum fire when it was hit simultaneously by two enemy rockets, wounding Petty Officer Dutterer and four other crewmen, and destroying all communications equipment. Unable to receive instructions by radio, or to observe movements of the other craft through the dense pall of smoke, he was unaware that other units had been ordered to reverse course and retire to a safe area for casualty evacuation. Determined to carry out his assigned mission, Petty Officer Dutterer fought his craft, alone and with no fire support, through the entire 1800-meter enemy barrage, and landed his troops. When the troops were pinned down by enemy fire, he directed fire from his exposed position topside and rebeached his boat to pick up the troops. During the re-embarkation, Petty Officer Dutterer was seriously wounded when his boat was again hit by an enemy rocket. Despite his wounds, he maintained control of his craft until re-embarkation was completed. His courage and inspiring devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
ENNIS, JOSEPH J.
Engineer Second Class, U.S. Navy
TF-117, River Squadron 9, River Assault Division 92
Date of Action: April 4, 1968
The Navy Cross is awarded to Engineer Second Class Joseph J. Ennis, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 4 April 1968 while serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against communist insurgent (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam. As Boat Engineer and 30-caliber gunner, Petty Officer Ennis was aboard Armored Troop Carrier (ATC) 92-2 during strike operations in support of United States Army units along the Song Ba Lai River in the Mekong Delta region. When the Viet Cong launched an attack on the entire column of boats with rockets, recoilless rifles, automatic weapons, and small arms, Petty Officer Ennis immediately returned fire with his machine gun which was mounted in the well-deck forward. Seconds later, a rocket exploded on the canopy directly over Petty Officer Ennis, knocking him down and severely wounding him. Although stunned and in great pain, he returned to his weapon, only to find it inoperable. After making his way aft to the boat's magazine to obtain another machine gun, he returned to the forward well deck and immediately fired the weapon from a hand-held position against the enemy until his ammunition was exhausted. Petty Officer Ennis then began administering first aid to other wounded personnel in the well deck. As the boat neared the bank, he quickly reloaded his weapon, stood on the ramp fully exposed to the enemy fire, and put down a withering base of cover fire for the assault troops, maintaining his position until every able-bodied soldier had gotten ashore and had reached a relatively safe position in the tree line. After an hour of fierce combat, ATC 92-2 cleared the area. Petty Officer Ennis continued to assist in treating and moving other wounded until all had been removed to a medical aid boat. Only then, when he was nearing collapse from loss of blood, did he proceed to the medical aid boat for treatment of his severe wounds. By his outstanding professionalism, concern for his fellow men, sense of responsibility, and courage under fire, Petty Officer Ennis upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Engineer Third Class, U.S. Navy
TF 117, River Squadron 9 (ASPB Boat-92-8), River Assault Division 92
Date of Action: January 11, 1969
The Navy Cross is awarded to Engineer Third Class Kevin Gillotte, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 11 January 1969 while serving with United States forces engaged in riverine assault operations against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam. With Petty Officer Gillotte embarked as engineer, Assault Support Patrol Boat (ASPB) 92-8 was assigned as a participating unit of Operation Giant Slingshot. The craft had moored in a night defensive position alongside an Army LCM-8 Mobile Fire Support Base on a shallow, narrow canal when ASPB 92-8 came under sudden mortar attack, finding itself in the center of the impact area. Although wounded in the leg, Petty Officer Gillotte responded immediately to the seriousness of the situation by assisting the boat captain in rousing the crew to man their stations, and then made his way forward to throw off the entangled mooring line. Standing exposed to incoming mortar rounds on the forecastle of the boat, Petty Officer Gillotte was again wounded by shrapnel, but eventually succeeded in freeing the fouled line. Upon hearing the cries of the machine gunner, he climbed on top of the gun mount, removed his seriously wounded shipmate, rendered immediate medical aid, and threw his own body over the incapacitated victim to shield him from further injury. After ASPB 92-8 cleared the kill zone, Petty Officer Gillotte risked harmful burns when he entered the engine compartment to work on an engine damaged by shrapnel that caused extreme overheating. He remained at his station tending the damaged engine until the boat secured alongside a landing ship on the main river; only then allowing himself to be relieved in order to seek medical attention. His inspiring courage and selfless dedication were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
GROCE, DONALD B.
Chief Boatswain's Mate, U.S. Navy
Advisor, Vietnamese Navy River Assault Forces, Vietnamese Navy
Date of Action: September 4, 1970
The Navy Cross is awarded to Chief Boatswain's Mate Donald B. Groce, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism while serving as the Advisor to Vietnamese Navy ZIPPO Boat (HG-6533) when that vessel was ambushed by enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 September 1970. During the initial moments of the ambush, enemy rockets, recoilless rifle and automatic weapons fire inflicted heavy casualties upon crew members of the ZIPPO boat. The first rocket round wounded Chief Petty Officer Groce in the arms and legs and knocked him out of the coxswain's flat and into the main deck gunwhale. Despite his serious wounds, he made his way back to his battle station and had resumed his duty of advising and assisting the Vietnamese Boat Captain in the counterattack when shrapnel from another enemy rocket again wounded him, causing a deep hip wound and a compound fracture of his right thumb. Disregarding his grievous injuries, Chief Petty Officer Groce managed to crawl forward on the open deck to the flame mounts which were not firing. While exposed to the full force of the enemy fire, he calmly aligned the flame system and shouted encouragement to the other crew members. Subsequently, he personally operated one flame mount and supervised the employment of the flame throwers against the enemy's positions until the enemy fire was effectively suppressed. Chief Petty Officer Groce's exemplary professionalism, bravery under fire, and courageous devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
NELSON, JAMES R.
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
TF 117, River Assault Squadron 11, Commander, River Assault Division 112
Date of Action: August 18, 1968
The Navy Cross is awarded to Lieutenant James R. Nelson, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 18 August 1968 while engaged in riverine assault operations against communist aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam. As Commander River Assault Division 112, consisting of twelve river assault craft, Lieutenant Nelson conducted operations along the Hai Muoi Tarn Canal in Dinh Tuong Province. Shortly after noon, the assault boat column was attacked by what was later estimated to be a Viet Cong battalion. Lieutenant Nelson's command Monitor received two damaging rocket hits, at the outset, that sprayed him in the face with shrapnel and blinded him in his right eye. Ignoring the excruciating pain and the resultant loss of vision, he steadfastly remained at his station and continuously exposed himself to enemy fire by standing upright at his position on top of the boat, to gain the best possible view of enemy positions, in order to direct his assault boats in returning fire. Additionally, Lieutenant Nelson assumed complete control of his boat, shouting instructions to the coxswain while, at the same time, firing on the enemy positions himself with a grenade launcher. He then directed his units to lay down a steady barrage of fire which succeeded in suppressing the enemy's fire sufficiently to permit helicopter evacuation for the many casualties and the safe backloading of the remainder of the troops. Later that afternoon, Lieutenant Nelson was involved in a second intense ambush during which he again valiantly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire. As the infantry succeeded in securing this area, he maneuvered his craft into defensive positions and supervised evacuation of the wounded. Only after all wounded personnel had been evacuated and a relief officer was provided did Lieutenant Nelson submit to evacuation for badly-needed medical treatment. His superb leadership, courage under fire, and selfless devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
O’KELLEY, JOHN W.
Seaman, U.S. Navy
TF 117, River Squadron 11 (ASPB Boat 111-1), River Assault Division 111
Date of Action: May 26, 1968
The Navy Cross is awarded to Seaman John W. O'Kelley, United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 26 May 1968 while serving with friendly forces engaged in armed conflict against communist insurgent (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam. Seaman O'Kelley's craft, Assault Support Patrol Boat (ASPB) 111-1, was engaged in minesweeping operations ahead of a column of River Assault Craft with embarked infantry personnel on the Ong Huong River of Kien Hoa Province when reconnaissance-by-fire delivered by ASPB 111-1 triggered a Viet Cong ambush from both sides of the narrow river. Sustaining recoilless-rifle and rocket hits in the first few minutes of the ambush, which killed the Boat Captain and the Coxwain, Seaman O'Kelley's boat went out of control and careened from bank to bank. Realizing the immediate peril to his boat and its surviving crew members, Seaman O'Kelley left his position of relative safety as a thirty-caliber machine gunner in the stern of the boat and dashed forward under a hail of enemy fire to attempt to bring the boat under control. Driven back by flames, and unable to enter the coxwain's flat because casualties inside were blocking the door, he crawled over the top of the boat to the canopy over the coxwain's flat. After cutting through the heavy canopy in the face of continuing hostile fire, Seaman O'Kelley entered the control area, restarted one of the stalled engines, and gained partial steering control. He then brought the boat alongside the Medical Aid Boat where he rendered assistance to critically wounded personnel and helped remove them for prompt evacuation by helicopter. Had Seaman O'Kelley not taken action instantly to regain control of his boat, the entire column of River Assault Craft could have been trapped in the ambush zone, and suffered heavy casualties and disruption of the entire operation. By his heroic actions and courage under fire, Seaman O'Kelley upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
RHODES, FRANCIS E. ("Dusty"), JR.
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy
TF 117, River Assault Squadron 11, River Assault Division
Date of Action: September 15, 1967
The Navy Cross is awarded to Lieutenant Commander Francis E. Rhodes, Jr., United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism on 15 September 1967 during action against communist insurgent (Viet Cong) forces in the Mekong Delta region of the Republic of Vietnam. As Commander River Assault Squadron Eleven, Lieutenant Commander Rhodes was in command of twenty-three riverine assault craft, with elements of the 2nd Brigade, 9th United States Army Infantry Division embarked. While transiting the Rach Ba Rai River during combat riverine strike, search and destroy operations in the Cam Son Secret Zone, the entire task group came under heavy Viet Cong fire from fortified bunkers on both banks of the river, sustaining numerous personnel casualties and damage to several boats. Although momentarily stunned when two rockets knocked him and his crew to the deck, Lieutenant Commander Rhodes stationed himself in an exposed position on his command boat and, in the face of heavy, direct enemy fire from close range, quickly noted the condition and disposition of his units, took personal command, by radio, of all units, and ordered them to regroup and return downstream out of the enemy's fortified area. After transferring casualties and reassigning personnel so that all boats were manned, Lieutenant Commander Rhodes again took his task group up the river and was subjected once more to heavy enemy fire. Hard hit for a second time by a large number of casualties, he nevertheless successfully landed embarked army units ashore in the assigned objective area, and set up a naval blockade of the river. In the face of enemy fire which could have resulted in a devastating defeat by the Viet Cong, Lieutenant Commander Rhodes made a most significant contribution to an operation that resulted in 213 Viet Cong killed in action, 66 probably killed, 600 bunkers destroyed, and a large quantity of war munitions captured. His heroic conduct and inspiring devotion to duty in the face of intense enemy opposition were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.