!!! The YRBM 16 !!!
Lionel Burns CS3, who was there, supplied this photo
The following is an Eyewitness account
of events after the bombing occured.
taken from an Email from John Hendrickson
I was in my rack in the crew's berthing space when the explosion went off. Next thing I know I was on the deck and four sailors came down on top of me. I threw on a pair of dungarees and my shower shoes and went up the forward ladder to the mess deck.
Robert Taylor ETR2 was lying on the deck with someone tending to him and it looked like he was covered with blood. Turned out he had been up in the resistor house on the O1 level making a tape for his folks when the explosion went off. He got the explosion on tape! I guess he hit his head , stumbled out of the resistor house and made his way to the forward ladder and down to the mess deck where he passed out. What looked like blood was diesel fuel.
I started up the forward ladder to the O1 level and someone yelled down for only a certain GQ's section to come up. At the time they thought it was a mortar attack and if they thought it was a mortar attack we didn't go to full general quarters to save on crew members. I was holding people at the bottom of the ladder but finally the smoke got so bad we just all headed up.
First thing I did was grab a flak jacket and then an 81mm mortar round to take to one of the guns. As I was crossing the deck, my feet went out from under me because it was so slippery and I went flat on my back. no telling where the mortar round went. It appeared that the barge was sinking by the stern and there was a bright glow aft. Pretty soon you could start seeing the flames building. Someone started yelling abandon ship so we made our way forward to the forcastle.
Next thing I know someone's yelling "belay that". There was a lot of confusion going on. Shortly, the order was again given to abandon ship so I made my way down the ramp on the port side. The first guy who jumped down to the Mike boat slipped and ended up in the water between the boat and the barge and they had to fish him out. After the boat was loaded we headed out into the river and floated in circles for quite awhile because they didn't want to go up the canal to Ben Tre in case it was an ambush.
We waited for some PBR's and some helo air cover before we made the run to the Army compound. That was the longest ride of my life. I thought we were going to get it at any minute. The Army was good to us giving us smokes, drinks, etc. and as I recall we stayed there til dawn. We then went back and continued fire suppression activities. I saw rhe remains of the PBR guy who was trapped by the A/C unit and it wasn't pretty. The only thing that kept that barge afloat was the fact that the aft boatswains locker was air tight.
Dick also told me that sometime later a ARVN patrol found hundreds of yards of wire and a float vest along the shore. Whatever they did that night they sure caught us with our pants down and it turned into a Chinese fire drill.
This Thanksgiving marks the 32nd anniversary of that tragedy and I'd just as soon remember everyone as heroes especially those who died. The web page you have now does just that and I know we all thank you for it. I don't think some eyewitness accounts would hurt and you have my permission to use what I said.
By the way, we had also received intelligence that there was a VC Zapper Squad operating in our area.
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