Command History of River Assault Division Fifteen

Commissioning January 1969 to May 1969

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The Squadron remained busy throughout the month of January carrying out phases of OPERATION SEA LORDS throughout the Delta. On 10 January the boats returned to the Twin Rivers area of Chuong Thien Province for an eight day operation with the 4th Battalion, Vietnamese Marine Corps. Results of the operation included twenty Viet Cong killed in action and five Viet Cong captured. The operation was marred; however, by the mining of ATC 151-5 in the Rach Cai Nhut on 14 January 1969. Two crew members were killed and the boat was a complete loss. The boats returned to the Mobile Riverine Base late on 18 January for a brief stand down period.

River Assault Squadron FIFTEEN Chief Staff Officer, LT D.E. JACKSON , ran two independent blocking and interdiction operations – one on 16 and 17 January on the Can Tho river and one from 18 to 21 January along the Cai Con Canal in Ba Xuyen Province.

On 20 January, River Assault Division 151, along with a number River Assault Division 131 and 152 boats, departed the Mobile Riverine Base to return to the “Three Sisters” area of Kien Giang Province for an eight day operation in conjunction with the 2nd Battalion Vietnamese Marine Corps, which resulted in six Viet Cong killed in action.

On 30 January after a 36 hour stand down period, the boats set out on a large scale blocking and interdiction operation on the Can Tho river and the northern Xa No Canal. At the conclusion of the operation, over 7,000 sampans had been checked by the patrolling boats. A first was marked for the squadron when the crew of T-152-12 assisted a Vietnamese woman in the birth of her baby while her sampan was alongside the boat.

On 29 January RAD 151 Operations Officer, LTJG S.M. CRAIG returned to the MRB with 3 RAD 152 ATCs after having operated as part of TU 116.9.5 in the vicinity of Tan An since 14 December. The boats worked with the 5/60 Infantry of the U.S. 9th Division and with local ARVN units. The most memorable of the many daily operations conducted occurred while transporting the 695th RF Co. near Can Giouc on 21 December. The boats sighted 3 VC running away from a river bank and landed their troops in the area. ?The troops quickly made contact which resulted in 14 VC KIA, 21 VC captured, and 11 AK-47 rifles, 2 carbines and 1 BAR captured.

From 6-9 February, River Assault Division 151 operated in the now familiar hunting grounds of Chuong Thien’s Twin Rivers area. The boats supported the 2nd and 4th Battalion of the Vietnamese Marine Corps in a Recon-in-force action which netted five Viet Cong killed in action, two Viet Cong captured and a 30,000 round ammunition cache discovered.

In an effort to prevent Viet Cong Forces from massing just prior to the TET Truce, a two day operation was run into northern Chuong Thien Province in support of the 4th and 6th Battalions, Vietnamese Marine Corps. A total of fifteen Viet Cong were killed in action and five captured. Boats of River Assault Divisions 151 and 152 then transported the 6th Battalion to the Cai Coa Canal area of Ba Xuyen Province for one day of reconnaissance and interdiction before returning to the Mobile Riverine Base. Both River Assault Divisions spent the TET period in a ready reaction status.

River Assault Division 152 returned to action on 22 February for a two week operation into the Mang This-Nicolai region of Vinh Long Province. The boats were ambushed eight times in the course of the operation and the squadron suffered nineteen wounded in action and one killed in action. Eleven Viet Cong were killed in action and 152 bunkers destroyed along the Rach Ba Ke during the first week. The boats returned to the new command headquarters, the USS Mercer (APB-40), on 1 March for a one day stand down and then returned to the Mang Thit the following day for another week of operations. No enemy fire was encountered during the second week. An additional 84 bunkers were destroyed and 53 VC suspects detained. On 9 March the boats returned to the MRB located at Dong Tam.

Because of the turnover of RAD 91 to the Vietnamese Navy and the imminent turnover of two more divisions, the MRB “B” group to which RAS 15 had belonged since 13 October had been dissolved and its elements joined the MRB “A” at Dong Tam while RAD 152 was on its Mang Thit expedition.

At an awards ceremony on board the USS Colleton (APB-31) on 13 March, Commander River Assault Division 152, LT D.M. TOBOLSKI, was awarded The Silver Star Medal by Deputy Commander River Flotilla ONE, Captain T.F. BOOKER for heroic action in Kien Giang Province on 1 January 1969.

On 14 March RAD 151 commenced support of the 3/60th Infantry of the U.S. 9th Division in Kien Hoa Province, and their days soon became filled with company size insertions, ferryings, and retractions. On 23 March the boats supported two companies on the Ba Lai River in operations resulting in 7 VC KIA. On the morning of 26 March they fought their way through a VC ambush 3 miles east of Ben Tre. On 31 March RAD 151 journeyed south into Ving Diah Province for a three day, full battalion operations which netted 95 VC KIA and s cache of watermines and unexploded bombs.

At the same time, RAD 152 was also having some experiences with watermines. The division departed Dong Tam on 17 March for the long transit to Vi Thanh where the 4th Vietnamese Marine Battalion was loaded. During the transit to the beaches in the twin rivers area of Chuong Thien the following day a large mine exploded close aboard Z 131-1 and a few days later a second mine exploded between boats in the fifth incursion into base area.480. The boats were engaged in 15 firefights during which they had 73 rockets and recoilless rifle rounds fired at them. 14 of the 29 boats on the operations were hit a total of 24 times, and there were 62 USN wounded. Results of the operation included 97 VC KIA and 13 captured with 31 weapons captured. RAD 152 returned to the MRB at Ben Tre on 31 March. On 2 April the division assumed base defense duties.

River Assault Division 151 returned to Vinh Dinh Province with the 3-60th Infantry on 20 April for another 3 day operation. On the night of 21 April the boats provided 81mm mortar and 105mm howitzer illumination for the troops who were in contact with an estimated 50 VC. While returning to the RON position, the boats sighted Viet Cong on the riverbank and opened fire resulting in 5 Viet Cong KIA (body count) and 4 Viet Cong KIA (probable). Army elements claimed 81 Viet Cong killed for the three days work.

The River Division 151 boats returned to the MRB late on 22 April, and after 36 hours for rearming, refueling and reprovisioning, struck out on the morning of 24 April for the Twin rivers area of Chuong Thien Province. For the following 12 days the boats supported the 1st and 6th Battalion of the Vietnamese Marine Corps in reconnaissance in force operations. On 3 May the area of operations was shifted from twin rivers to the Tu Can Gao area of Kien Giang Province which had proven so difficult to subdue in early January. The operation was marred by the mining and sinking of A-132-3 in the Song Cai Tu on 1 May resulting in the deaths of two USN personnel. An additional squadron member had been killed on T-151-3 during RARE operations on the night of 27 April. The boats returned to the MRB at My Tho on 6 May after 15 Viet Cong had been killed and 21 captured.

At an awards ceremony conducted aboard the USS Benewah (APB-35) on 16 May, Commander Naval Forces, Vietnam, Vice Admiral Zumwalt, presented LT D.M. TOBOLSKI, LTJG D.R. LINGO, LTJG P.W. Wright, and EN3 T.M. CLEMENT with the Bronze Star Medal.

By middle May as the tours of the original squadron members rolled toward their end, the welcome sight of relief boat crews became increasingly prevalent. Training and indoctrination schedules were dusted off to enable the new crews to step into the positions vacated by the departing veterans. On 17 May Commander A.L. HENRY relieved Commander D.R. DIVELBISS as Commander River Assault Squadron FIFTEEN.

River Assault Division 152 CSO, LTJG N.P. Miller, returned to the MRB on 19 May with 3 River Assault Division 151 ATCs after having operated independently for 10 days in support of the 5/60 Infantry in the Can Giouc rocket belt. The boats were involved primarily in inserting troops into night ambush positions. The Army and Navy combined for 18 Viet Cong KIA and 6 captured. The boats fought through one ambush at the cost of 3 squadron personnel wounded.

T-152-2 recorded a milestone on 19 May when they landed their 100th helo. The bulk of these landing were made while serving in the AO as aid and salvage boat during the initial phases of OPERATION SEA LORDS.

As of 24 May 1969, the following totals have been attained by River Assault Squadron FIFTEEN and supporting troops since operations commenced in August of 1968. These results do not include those obtained in operations conducted with the 2nd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division.

372 Viet Cong have been killed (body count) and 163 captured. A total of 127 individual weapons and 19 crew served weapons have been captured. In the 68 firefights the boats have had approximately 308 rocket and recoilless rifle rounds fired at them. 78 of those rounds found their mark. M-152-1 was hit more times than any other boat in the squadron.

The squadron has had 185 personnel wounded. 37 men have been wounded twice, 9 wounded 3 times and 1 man wounded 4 times. five squadron men were killed inaction; SK3 Barry M. BARBER was killed by a B-40 rocket round 27 December 1968. FN Jose B. CAMPOS and SN David A. LAND were killed in the mining of T-151-5 on 14 January 1969, BM2 William A. HANNA was shot by a sniper at the Mang Thit Bridge on 28 February 1969, and EN3 Thomas W. GAUDET was killed by a B-40 rocket round fired into the welldeck of his boat the evening of 21 April 1969.