!!! SONG ONG DOC !!!
SONG ON DOC was a floating Mobile Advanced Tactical Support Base (MATSB) on the Song Ong Doc River in Ca Mau Province at the southern peninsula of Vietnam.
There was an old french compound that was home to an Operation Duffel Bag Team.
The Province was considered to be a VC stronghold.
The Song Ong Doc (Song appears to mean river in Vietnamese)was between the U Minh forest (to the north) and the lower Ca Mau peninsula (SeaFloat, Nam Cam)
The MATSB at Song Ong Doc was constructed in Sept 69? (see accounts below)
Its was towed south by sea to Song Ong Doc by the USS Comstock LSD 19 as part of operation Breezy Cove.
The ATTACK ON SOD
Song Ong Doc was Attacked by morters and almost destroyed on or about 20 October 1970 late at Night.
The first mortar round hit the fuel ammi.
Other rounds hit the ammo on the ammies.
The wounded crew evacuated to the LST 6 miles off the coast. Some boats remained to secure the ammies.
2 Seawolfs from Hal-3 Det 1 scrambled from ASTB Solid Anchor to assist.
The Crew of the returning monitor and Zippo said it looked like the 4th of July with all the exploding ammo, rockets and incoming. It was over by the time they arrived.
THE NEW SONG ONG DOC
The new Song Ong Doc MATSB moved up-stream about 10 clicks, halfway to Ca Mau, and tied more barges up, beside a Vietnamese army compound.
Units attached to the New SOD included the RPD 62 advisors, a duffle bag team, and another advisor team on PBR's
SHIPS SUPPORTING SONG ONG DOC
USS Garrett County, LST-786.
After June 1971 what was left was towed to Ca Mau by the VN navy.
I visited Song Ong Doc in the Dry Season (winter) of 1970 after TET
I was stationed in Vietnam from May 1969 to May 1970. I was at SOD for about 8-9 months. If I remember correctly, it was September 1969 when we arrived. As a River Division [RivDiv 572], we transited our Mark I PRBs from Bien Thuy to Rach Gia, then to SOD. We started out during an awful storm and had a lot of problems transiting the open sea, along the coast, to SOD. It was pretty rough on the PBRs. We pitched and rolled all day. We were calling our boats, "Patrol Boat R-ocean". It was sure nice when we pulled into the mouth of the river. When we got there, the barges hadn't arrived yet. The storm slowed them down, too. We lived on the boats for a couple of weeks, while the C.B.s put six ammis together, anchored them in the river, attached a fuel barge, and built the walkway to the beach. We had a lot of action during the first few months. One night, I was in four separate fire fights. Ambush, ambush, ambush. Lots of bodies floating in the river. I was a GMG2 at the time. A forward gunner. I'm a CWO4, now. My Boat Captain was TM1 Ray Haywood. Engineman was Harry Osterhout. Seaman was Bob Haag. I took quite a few pictures and took three rolls of super 8 movie film. Had it transferred to VHS. Haywood took a ton of slides. He has some great shots. We all received a bunch of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars. Helped Ray make TMCM and me make CWO4. A SEAL platoon was stationed there. We worked with them a lot. Dropped them off and picked them up. Living conditions were tight, congested, inside the barracks. Cockroaches by the hundreds, bunches of rats. I slept on an air mattress for six months. Ate lots of C-rations. Those were tough times. My tour was finished in May 1970. That's when I left SOD. A good buddy, Ken Rosenberger, GMG2, was still there when SOD was destroyed. He wrote me a letter and told me about it.
During 1969/1970, several naval units used the Advance Tactical Support Base at the mouth of the Ong Doc River (Song Ong Doc). RVN River Patrol Group (along with Naval Advisory Group Vietnam advisors), USN River Assault Division 15, a detachment of two HAL-3 Seawolves, a Dufflebag unit, and the base support unit. The base was composed of 10 AMMI pontoons (flat deck barges) lashed together and, on the shore next to the pontoons, was a raised helicopter pad and buildings for the Seawolves. The base was part of Breezy Cove a joint USN/RVN operation established in Sep 1969 and commanded by Cdr. Cyrus Christensen. The Senior Advisor to RPD-62 was Lt. Bill Dannheim who had one officer and 6 enlisted advisors assigned to him. The mission of the USN/RVN units assigned to the base was to interdict enemy movements from the U Minh forest (to the north) across the Song Ong Doc down to the lower Ca Mau peninsula where Operation Seafloat/Solid Anchor area was south of the river. The units were also to keep the river open for waterborne traffic from the Gulf of Thailand into the province capital of Ca Mau.
RPG-62 Vietnamese crews had only been at the base since June when they arrived with their 10 PBRs that had been turned over from USN RivDivs 554 in Nov '69 as part of ACTOV. Added to that were 10 more PBRs from RivDiv 572, which had been there since Sep '69. One of Cdr. Christensen's first orders was to remove all ammunition stored on the AMMI pontoons, except for ready-service ammo for self-defense weapons. That arduous job meant three days humping ammo in the hot sun down the gangplank into bunkers on the shore. After the ammo was removed, Cdr. Christensen came up with a rather remarkable self-defense plan. He decided that the base was highly susceptible to surprise attack, and the only important things on the base were the men and their boats. Consequently, he ordered that if the base was attacked, the crews (USN & RVN alike) were get to their boats and fight the enemy from the river.
DUFFLEBAG SENSOR DEFENSE
Next to the base grew up a village of about 2000 that was named New Song Ong Doc. There were Regional Forces working out of the village that were supposed to help defend the base. But Cdr. Christensen doubted their effectiveness or loyalty.
The base used 50 cal MGs, concussion grenades, 60 and 81 mm mortars for defense. The mortars were shot at Dufflebag sensor activations regularly. Little did the men on the base know that the increasing numbers of activations were caused by more than just "animals and wind". It was a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
In the late evening/early morning hours of 20 Oct 1970, the base was attacked by what was later estimated to be a VC company reinforced with heavy and medium weapons. The VC started pouring in 57 mm recoilless and mortar rounds from both the north side jungle adjacent to the base and from the south side free-fire area of swamps across the river. In addition, the VC were shooting 12.7 mm machine guns and small arms into the base. Rounds were landing everywhere and sank two PBRs that were tied up alongside.
Lt. Dannheim was in the Naval Operations center immediately calling in air support. He called for the return of two Seawolves from Seafloat, and got Black Ponies from VAL-4 scrambled. The offshore gunfire support ship USCGC Bering Strait fired at points south of the river. As was pre-arranged, the crews scrambled into their boats and got PBRs and heavy boats underway.
When the NOC started getting hit, and fuel and ammo stores started going up, Lt. Dannheim called in a PBR and took charge of the up-river group of boats, while Lt.jg. Wahler went with the boats down river of the base. The advisors, including GMG2 Wayne Palmer, EN3 Joe Flowers and EN3 Joe Brown, along with the RVN boat crews were returning the incoming fire effectively. Some fire was received from New SOD village. While overhead the Seawolves and Black Ponies were being directed at targets further away.
After about an hour, the firing tapered off and the boats started patrolling further up river just in case Charlie was planning on making a crossing. Further offshore was the supporting boat tender, USS Garrett County, LST-786. Many wounded were taken onboard the ship to be treated. Seawolves operated from the ship also. The boats refueled and rearmed from the LST from that point onward, but boat crews lived and ate on what was left of the base or their boats when not on patrol. The helo pad and hootches ashore had not been touched and were used by advisors for berthing.
The next morning the boats returned alongside with Cdr. Christensen to assess the damage. All ten AMMI pontoons had been hit and/or sunk. The buildings had for the most part all been burned from fuel fires. There were two Americans KIAs: GMG3 Tom McGarry age 26 of Springville, TN and RMSN John De Witt age 19 of Stockton CA. Twenty-six American and Vietnamese sailors were wounded in the attack.
Several weeks later, some of the original AMMIs with some newer armored AMMIs from Seafloat were all towed up river to Old Song Ong Doc village where operations continued until the whole operation was moved to a compound in Ca Mau. RAS-15 left Song Ong Doc in November to stand down as the last USN river unit turned-over to the Vietnamese Navy.
Lt. Dannheim received a Navy Cross for his actions during the attack. The several other advisors were awarded Bronze Stars and Navy Commendation Medals.
So as my story goes.
After arriving in Saigon we were the first of the
new batch of Advisors coming in to support the ACTOV program. Basically
teaching the VNN to handle and run their own operations and patrols. WE
caught a hop to Binh Thuy, then to Camau then took a huey to SOD. As we
were just jamming down the river at about 120 mph about 10 feet off of
the water. I was looking out the side door and watched as we swamped a
sampan with a very angry mamason waving her fist at us and looking back
to see the boat load of bananas slowly sink into the river.
As we approached the base the pilot pulled it up to as high as the ship could take it until it shuddered and shook and felt like it was going to fall apart. He kicked a pedal turn and dropped the collective and we auto rotated and spiraled in for a perfect touch down on the helo pad.
I was checked in and began meeting a few of the guys. I began going out on patrol as a new guy and learning the river. After 2 break in patrols I was told that I had to go out on my own due to being short handed. So on Aug. 30, 1970 we headed up river for about 10 klicks. (actually it was were they moved the new base)
The crew, myself and the VNN patrol officer went into the little shack and had iced coffee as the sun was beginning to set. We finished and took out of there in a hurry.
As we came around the bend we saw a sampan crossing. After shooting warning shots across their bow we realized that they were not stopping but actually making a run for it.
All of a sudden we began taking small arms and automatic weapons fire from the North bank. Then we started getting rockets and .51 Cal from the South bank as well. We fought it out and they stayed there and slugged it out with us for much longer than I expected. It took about 20 minutes for the Seawolves to arrive.
They dumped their ordinence and we still had return fire. Finally, some Black Ponies were called inand began to destroy both sides of the river banks. I directed there fire to enemy positions and along the canals running into the main river, knowing that those would most likely be their escape routes.
We ended up with 2 confirmed kills, a bunch of money and tax records from the area. On my first patrol, I ended up getting wounded and two confirmed kills. I knew then that I was in for a long tour.
Some SOD Crewmen:
Joe Flowers,______EN3, RPG-62, 1970-1972 drjoe1[ at ]cris.com
Johnny Caughran,_EN3, RPG-62, 1970-1971 Caughran[ at ]usit.net
Joe Brown,____________RPG-62, 1970-1972
John Bunn,_______EN3, RPG-62, 1970-1971
Jim Bell,_________EN3, RPG-62, 1970-1971
Don Kramer,___________RPG-62, 1970-1972 1957ford[ at ]home.com
This is all I can think of right now.
A few of us were on the helo deck discussing how boring duty at old SOD was and who would want to attack a backwater base like ours anyway. After that comment was made, I happened to look at my watch and then turned around to look back at the lights of SOD.
I saw the first round come in from the far (east)
bank. It was big and red. Someone said it was a recoiless round.
It hit one of the barges and the lights went out. It seemed each round that came in after that always hit the barges.
The patrol turned around and we joined the other boats picking up the guys on the barges. Then we headed out to the LST.
The odd thing was that after the initial attack I looked at my watch again, almost exactly fifteen minutes had passed.
I remember the night SOD was hit. We were down river patroling with the Zippo
and had just turned and was headed toward the base. I was an engineman 2 but
for some reason was at the helm. It was late and could see the rockets and
mortars streak the sky. I yell at Lt. Beane and said what the hell is that.
We made the best time we could and got back in time to watch everything burning and blowing up. I think all but one PBR had already headed for the LST.
We found out that there were still advisors on the beach . Tango 51 went in and the pbr used it for a shield as long as it could then darted in and pick up the remaining Americans. The Zippo and Monitor stayed the rest of the night and in the morning started putting out fires with a P250 pump we happened to have. We found one dead sailer and put him on a strecher covered him with a poncho and went to the LST.
All night we had heard that one Tango boat crewman was missing, Froggy don't remember his real name, but was very glad to see him on the rail of the LST. We unloaded the dead sailor and got to take showers and ate on the ship then went back to SOD were we stayed for a couple months while the CBs rebuilt and we were relieved by a Viet Navy squad. What a night.
Was in and out of Song Ong Doc in CG Ron 3 ...1970 aboard the USCGC Pontchartrain . Fired lots of missions for Duffle and Seal teams in that area. Was RD3 working in CIC during all GFS Missions. Call sign was "DisBan Kilo" & on occation "Pigsticker " depending on the mission and area. Got info on your Site from Dave Desidero. Dave and I went on a few MedCap's on the PBR's out of Song Ong Doc together. A couple of over nighters amd a bunch of day time ones. He said he forwarded our GFS grid chart to your group to put at Coranado. What a treasure! I can remeber many a mission looking and plotting on that chart.
One incident occured with another CG cutter during a fire mission at Song Ong Doc. It envolved the Cutter Sherman in May of 70. GFS was misdirected ( apparently by a faulty fire control system plus probable human error ) and landed on top of the base killing one and wounding 9 . We releaved that unit because of the incident and our CO finally got permission for us to continue GFS missions from your CO. Trust and Faith was finally re-established after a few successful missions and we were called upon quite often after that. Those memories of what happened that few months at Song Ong Doc have always been with me. I don't think a day goes by without thinking of that place.
I remember the smells and most of all the cock roaches and the " Big-ass " Rats I saw all over the place . They looked like medium sized dogs. No wonder the locals were chasing them around . Probably a delicacy to them ! Can an old Coastie from Squadron 3 make application to the Mobile Riverine Association? Even if it is not possible , I have some pretty good pictures from Song Ong Doc and the surrounding area that I'd like to share with you and your group. I want to thank you for sharing and important past in a lot of peoples lives with me through your web page . It has meant a lot to me and also my "grown-up " family. They always wanted to see a little history of The Brown Water Navy and their support teams. Hope to hear from you soon and warmest regards. Tom Lackey ,USCGC Pontchartrain , Song Ong Doc GFS unit 1970. Birmingham, Al.
Yes, I was at song onc doc attached to river assault Div 131 and 152 was on
Tango 8 January 1970 to November 1970 turned Boats over to Viet navy at Dong
Tam in November. While going to Dong Tam from song ong doc Tango 8 and i
believe it was tango 10 came under rocket Attack July 3 , 1970 Took a rocket to
the bow of tango 8 and one bounced off the rear gun Tub and hit the bank and
exploded think we was very lucky that night no one got killed pulled into
army compound at Ca Mau the night then went on into Dong Tam for boat repairs.
These are the first pictures i have seen of song ong doc since I was there. just found this site the pictures really brought back memories thank you for the great site i have some pictures of river operations was also at the grand canal
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THE SONG ONG DOC
PHOTOS AFTER AN ATTACK ON SONG ONG DOC
PHOTOS AFTER AN ATTACK ON SONG ONG DOC ARE THE COURTESY OF JOHNNY BRYANT
EMAIL: Johnny_Bryant[ at ]psc.state.ar.us
They were sent by Patt L. Shelley BMS
EMAIL: OLBOATS[ at ]aol.com
PHOTOS AFTER AN ATTACK ON SONG ONG DOC ARE THE COURTESY OF JOHNNY BRYANT
EMAIL: Johnny_Bryant[ at ]psc.state.ar.us
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