!!! SEA FLOAT !!!
Seafloat was a floating Mobile Advanced Tactical Support Base (MATSB) on the Song Cau Lon in Ca Mau Province at the extreme southern tip of Vietnam. Seafloat is short for Operation Sea Float. The U Minh forest in Cam Mau Province was considered to be a VC stronghold.
The Song Cau Lon (Song means river in Vietnamese)is a tidal river that had a mouth on either side of the peninsula, so the river was always flowing up to 5 or 10 knots in one direction or the other depending on the tides. There were only a couple of hours of slack water each day. This made boat handling difficult in tight situations, and sometimes it was actually difficult to make headway against currents over five knots in speed. It was always muddy and turbid. The mouth on the gulf of Thailand ran into a square bay that was too shallow and had an unmarked channel. The other deeper channel to the South China Sea was 22 miles up the Song Cau Lon and down the dangerous Song Bo De. Near the mouth of the Song Bo De the town of Tan An was a favorite landing for Chinese junks running the US Naval blocade in the 60,s.
Seafloat was constructed in Nha Be in May or June 1969. Its was towed south by sea to the Song Bo De and then down the song Cau Lon. Mike boats and a combat salvage boat set the anchor bouys while fighting up to 10 knot tidal flows.
Seafloat used remote sensors to monitor a safe zone and detect activities in the canals, streams, and forests. The area bordered on the U-Ming Forest.
Seafloat was protected from swimmer zapper attacts by throwing concussion grenades into the water from 4 watch stations so that one grenade exploded underneath the ammi pontoons as often as every 30 seconds 24 hours a day. Eventually cracks opened up in the pontooons that required pumping out daily. Zapper attack attempts were common especially against River Ships.
Was Seafloat ever attacked and overrun ???
OPERATIONS AND BOATS
Seafloat was a MATSB supporting Water Borne Guard Posts (WPGPs)with swifts and riverene units and various SEAL teams and UDT teams. Hal 3 Det 1 seawolfs provide air cover. At one time about 20 swiftboats, 1 monitor, 1 Zippo, 1 Heavy Seal Support Craft(HSSC), 1 Medium Seal Support Craft(MSSC), 1 Light Seal Support Craft(LSSC), 2-3 junks, 3 SEAL Platoons, and about 40 USN Navy Seafloat Staff called this home. Imagine sleeping there while grenades are detonating day and night and an attack could happen at any moment. Zapper attacks and fire fights were common since the Ca Mau province has historically been a VC stronghold.
RIVER SHIPS ON THE SONG CUA LON
Numerous Patrol Gunboats provided nightime gunfire support on the Song Cua Long and Song Bo De rivers near Seafloat.
Accounts of the attacks against these Patrol Gunboats are on the following pages.
Seafloat personnel moved Ashore in a 4 hour period in September 1970. The fast move was to shield the crew from an attack during the move.
Seafloat was towed up the Song Cua Lon, out the Song Bo De and out into the South China Sea in October 1970
Anybody know where it went???
I visited Sea Float in the Dry Season of 1970 (winter) and I have never seen more mud than there.
Emliss Ricks believes the commanding officer at the time was LCDR Patrick
EMAIL: eglcrk1[ at ]apk.net
ON A SWIFT BOAT
My PCF crew was tied up to an LSSL when a sapper planted his floating bomb to the same buoy that she was tied to.
I was asleep atop the boat. The crew was former North Vietnamese that had come south clear back in the 50's and they had some pretty odiferous spices which they gassed off at night-me too come to think of it but I sure didn't want to be inside the same cabin afterword.
Waking to some of the bluest language the Vietnamase ever come up with, I blearily looked around and saw that what looked like huge snakes were boarding us along the tie lines to the LSSL.
They were cutting the lines with machetes!
I cleared my vision and saw that the "snakes" werebunched up, pushing, throbbing lines of rats. They had already pretty well covered the main deck of my boat and were moving on to the other PCFs lashed up to us on the other side.
After the lines were cut, the rats were leaping into the water off the LSSL--they just didn't seem to care and there were LOTS of them.
We were slowly spinning around with the other boats and we had to wake up all the other crews and get them to start their engines and unhook from each other.
The PCFs all moved over to a large barge and tied up to it. We went back to sleep except for guards on the end boats.
THE FLOATING BOMB
An hour later, the current started up, the bomb hit the LSSL amidships and she turned upside down and sunk with her hull protruding out of the water.
The Vietnamese did not practice water tight integrity because of the heat so she was gone in less than 4 minutes.
An old navy boatswains mate came up behind me and said words that I will never forget: "Rats leaving a sinking ship."
To this day, I can't get it out of my mind that somehow those rats knew the ship was in trouble.
We had tied up to her many time before and never saw one rat.
23 men were dead because they did not sleep on deck--something that the Vietnamese usually did.
I hardly ever slept inside again after that.
I can't resist adding to your rats story on the SeaFloat web site ...
The LSSL-225 was my ship but I missed the sinking at SeaFloat. I was the US advisor that had been aboard it as she led the river parade up into Cambodia the previous month. When she went further into Cambodia than President Nixon allowed, I was heloed off it so there were only VNs aboard going beyond the 22.5 mile limit of "incursion". I had to travel lightly so I left most of my gear behind (M-1, radio, flak jacket, codes, strongbox, etc.).
When I got back to Saigon, I was assigned to another river ship.
Later HQ-225 came back from Cambodia and was headed to SeaFloat so needed an advisor.
LT Herm Sloan USN was assigned. He had my gear so could travel without some of that stuff from Saigon. He was a mustang who had been blown into the water off a mined MSO in the Inchon landing in Korea.
After arriving at SeaFloat, and the 225 got sappered, Herm told me that he rushed topside in his skivvies and tee shirt.
Your story was correct that many VN sailor drowned but it wasn't because they hadn't slept topside.
Herm wasn't topside either. However, he told me that once he went topside, he figured he shouldn't go back below.
He stepped right into a PCF that came alongside and never got his feet wet.
(So one USN guy got blown off two ships - wow!)
But since it was taking a few minutes for the ship to sink, Herm noticed many of the VN sailors went back below to claim radios, loot, and other personal stuff. They got trapped below when the ship finally slid under - that's why so many died.
1. It took me months of crap paperwork to justify losing the rifle, PRC-10 radio and the daily changing code books that I had left aboard HQ-225 in Cambodia and that Herm had also abandoned at SeaFloat. We had several beers and laughs over the hassle once we were both back in Saigon.
2. Your comments about the rats are great. Yes, 225 was full of them. So were the other LSSLs because there was so much chow left around. I found I kept losing my sox after I took them off at might and left them stuffed in my jungle boots next to my rack on the deck. I learned to put them on top of my draped mosquito netting instead. Weeks later, I finally found a rats nest with about four pairs of my OD sox lining the nest! Too bad the sapper bomb didn't get them too!
As any one who was stationed aboard Seafloat will remember, the head was
much like an outhouse designed by a Seabee. It projected out over the bow (
or stern if the river was flowing in the other direction) with an automatic
flush system called the Son Cua Lon.
Also, most of you will recall ( how could anyone forget) that the sentries periodically threw concussion grenades into the river in order to keep uninvited guests from showing up for mid-rats.
Late one evening, the current guest commanding officer (I think it was Capt. Patrick) was in the officer's head, when the sentry on the walkway above threw a grenade into the river. He was a new arrival and did not
realize that the river had changed directions.
The grenade was swept back towards the barges and and detonated under the "old man" sending a geyser of water up through the " five holer" (I think the enlisted side was only a four holer).
The Captain was blown off the seat and through the door covered in "debris", but unhurt (other than his dignity).
It was never really known for sure if the sentry was just doing his duty or ........???
Not particularly respectectfully submitted, Mike Hinman
One of the things you got to do plenty of was throw concussion grenades. This usually involved going around Seafloat and throwing them every minute or so, You would have one guy on the helm one guy throwing, and the rest sleeping until their turn.
I was having a hard time sleeping on deck and I didn't want to be inside in case we got hit so I came up with the bright idea of using a body bag as a hammock. I had it tied to the rails behind the twin 50's and I would throw a blanket over me to keep the bugs off. I could then use a small flashlight to read (Louis Lamor Westerns).
Solid anchor was almost completed and the VC liked to do a little H&I by sending a few mortars. The first round was short and hit on the beach the other side way short of Solid Anchor. I threw the blanket back and saw the next round hit about 30 feet behind us. The rest of the rounds were walked into the base. We were all up and moving but these attacks were always fast and you never got even with them.
Anyway the BM says to me afterwards, Hey Bob your hammock's really great if you get hit all we have to do is unzip the bag and you'll fall in. Last time I sleep on a body bag.
After dark at SeaFloat, the crew would show flicks on a movie screen that was
a sheet thrown over a line tied between two of the hootches on the floats.
You could watch the flick from either side of the screen.
In those days (June 1970) there were lots of SEALs that hung out there. One night we had just started watching a flick and a rat ran across the rope holding up the sheet.
One of the SEALs pulled out a pistol and tried to shoot the rat not realizing - correction, not being too bright - that there were Americans sitting on the other side of the rope and screen.
The SEAL missed the rat and fortunately also missed his shipmates.
But I never felt the same watching flicks there again.
[I was a US advisor on a Vietnamese Navy LSSL that patrolled during the day, and the VN CO and I would come to SeaFloat forthe nightly ops brief on a small junk that would pick us up.)
Emliss Ricks EMAIL: eglcrk1[ at ]apk.net
Mark Fontaine EMAIL: mark.fontaine.[ at ]madison.osha.gov
Larry Rowan EMAIL: larry[ at ]larryrowan.com
Tom Byrnes EMAIL: tombyrne[ at ]aug.com
James S. Thomas EMAIL: jamethomas[ at ]InfoAve.Net
Jan Peter Blickenstaff EMAIL: JBLICKEN[ at ]IDOC.STATE.ID.US
Raymond Haglund EMAIL: raymondo[ at ]fidalgo.net
Dale Renbjor EMAIL: drenbjor[ at ]yahoo.com
Paul Walker EMAIL: PaulPius[ at ]aol.com
MCARPEN EMAIL: MCARPEN4[ at ]aol.com
Mike Hinman EMAIL: SkylandHardware[ at ]aol.com
Dave Donaldson EMAIL: rctfdd[ at ]earthlink.net
Qmcret1982 EMAIL: Qmcret1982[ at ]aol.com
WE HAVE DONE SO MUCH,
WITH SO LITTLE,
FOR SO LONG,
WE CAN NOW DO ANYTHING,
Courtesy of Tom Byrnes
EMAIL: tombyrne[ at ]aug.com
THE SEA FLOAT
Photo shows seafloat on the Cua Lon River at Old Nam Cam.
This photo is courtesy of
EMAIL: "Larry[ at ]larryrowan.com
LST -1150 USS Sutter County rolling at Sea.
Rolling is a Blue Water Navy thing.
Photo Courtesy of Larry Rowin
EMAIL: Larry[ at ]larryrowan.com
EMAIL: Larry[ at ]larryrowan.com
The LST 1150 got into trouble delivering fresh water to Seafloat
A nearby patrol gun boat was blown out of the water by sappers
that were anxious to get to the sitting duck LST stuck in the mud.
The LST had to stay up the river part of the night.
The base commander insisted that we leave (at night).
We did with the assistance of a 3 helo gunship escort.
The Patrol Gunboat sunk may have been the LSSL 225 since this event was in August of 1970
Is this the only LST to have ever successfully negotiated the hazardous Cua Long and Bo De river by night????
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