Viet Nam

The following are excerpts from crew family letters written by Commanding Officer J.E. Grause, Cdr., USN

On 4 June we steamed out of Buckner Bay towards South Vietnam. Our mission was to deliver Marines and equipment at three different ports along the Vietnamese coast. This job was completed on 10 June and the ship headed southeast to Subic Bay in the Philippine Island of Luzon for a period of upkeep in which to accomplish repairs and maintenance that could not be completed at sea. Cabildo arrived in Subic Bay on Sunday 13 June 1965.

On Wednesday, 23 June, Cabildo took departure from Subic Bay and steamed north toward Buckner Bay, Okinawa. Our mission, embark Marines and equipment for transportation to Danang, South Vietnam. Arrived on Saturday, 26 June in the early morning after successfully weathering Tropical Storm Emma.

Immediately upon arrival at Buckner Bay embarkation of Marines and equipment commenced; and, after two full days of hard work and many long hours by the deck force, loading was completed on 27 June 1965.

Cabildo was order to get underway for South Vietnam in the early morning of Saturday, 3 July and proceeded as directed with the remainder of the Task Force. Reached Danang in the early morning hours of 7 July, and participated in the large scale amphibious landings of marines, vehicle and equipment. Cabildo was designated to act as Primary Control Ship for the landings, and as such, were in direct charge of the entire operation for the first two days.

Relieved of Primary Control Ship duties in the early evening of 8 July and set sail for Subic Bay. Upon arrival our orders were to embark special equipment and return immediately to Danang via Subic Bay. Departed for Danang on the night of 15 July. After an uneventful crossing of the South China Sea we arrived Danang 18 July.

On 25 July Cabildo set sail for Da Nang, Vietnam arriving 30 July where off-loading operations commenced. All hands had waited anxiously for this first opportunity of a period of rest and relaxation. However, many hopes and long range plans were crushed when a message was received instructing the Cabildo to return to Okinawa for another troop lift. After a refueling stop at Nah Port the Cabildo got underway for Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam.

Cabildo was earmarked to participate in Operation Starlite which was a clear and sweep operation of entrenched Viet Cong force at the Van Tuong complex. During the afternoon on the 17th of August approximately 375 Marines together with tanks and amphibious armored personnel carriers were embarked aboard the Cabildo. The following morning was D-day, and at first light we arrived at Van Tuong together with many other ships of the 7th Fleet. Cabildo was Primary Control Ship for the assault landings and was responsible for vectoring all amphibious craft to the beach. It was at this time Major General Walt, USMC boarded the Cabildo to view the landing. Several hours later, several generals including Lieutenant General Krulak, USMC boarded the ship to observe the action on the beach which had mounted to a full-scaled battle.

It was during this operation that the majority of the crew saw and heard the ravages of war for the first time. The aerial bombing, chatter of machine guns, helo operation, star shells lighting the night sky and the big guns of the Navy cruiser Galveston and two destroyers were all summed together to deal out destruction. Maturity of our younger crew members was rapid to say the least, but all performed magnificently and not one man faltered in his assigned responsibilities.

After the amphibious waves were guided to the beach in the initial landing, Cabildo then assumed the additional duties as resupply station for all Marine units ashore. Helicopters and the amphibious armored personnel carriers returned from the action area to pick up food, water and ammunition which was to be carried to the troops in the field. After several days of fighting had passed, Marines began to be relieved from the front lines and were returned to the Cabildo for that long dreamt of shower, a warm meal, and that much needed sleep. Although the crew was on strict water hours, water was granted to the deserving battle weary Marines. After a week of unceasing work, the fighting diminished and the Marines pushed north to Chi Al.

At 0300 on the morning of 1 September Cabildo was given sailing orders to make all possible haste to Chu Lai, Vietnam and prepare for Operation Piranha, another sweep and clear assault against the Viet Cong. At 0500 on the morning of 2 September, we cast off our mooring lines and set sail on the two day voyage to the Republic of Vietnam.

At first light on 4 September we anchored in Chu Lai along with other units of PHIBRON 7 to await loading instructions. Once again the Cabildo was designated as Primary Control Ship for the assault landing given the code name Operation Piranha. By noon on the sixth, all ships were loaded and commenced shifting anchorage’s for a rehearsal landing. Next to follow was the real thing.

On 7 September preparations for getting underway also commenced and soon a long column of ships was making way toward the objective a few miles south of Chu Lai. In the silent darkness of the early morning hours of 7 September, Cabildo anchored a short distance off the beach and began assembling the assault waves. As the first light of day began to break through the eastern skies, Navy and Marine jets commenced their preparation of landing beaches by strafing and bombing runs on the beach in order to eliminated land mines and booby traps while Cabildo radarmen vectored the amphibious assault craft to the landing beach. Almost immediately after the amphibious troop carriers “hit the beach”, a beach-head was established by the Marines and the fighting became blocked from view by the jungle. Following the initial landing phase our mission rapidly developed into support for the Marines by providing food, water, fuel and ammunition. Although Operation Piranha was not as eye-opening as Operation Starlite its merits were soon realized by the mass destruction of Viet Cong fortifications. On the fourth day after landing, “back-loading” took place and we set course for Chu Lai in order to off-load the embarked Marines to their permanent base.

6 October departed for Pusan, Republic of Korea arriving 11 October. Our cargo for this load consisted of more than 120 vehicles of the Tiger Division of the Republic of Korea Army plus a full carrying capacity of Korean soldiers of the Transportation and Medical detachments of the Tiger Division.

13 October departed for the Republic of Vietnam arriving 19 October at Qui Nhon, Vietnam.

20 October departed for Subic Bay arriving 22 October, remaining for 24 hours before departing on a special mission requiring the immediate return to Vietnamese waters with a detachment of Underwater Demolition Team 12 along with their necessary equipment.

Our mission took us to three different areas; Phan Thiet, Thuy Hoa and Vung Ro. Intensive Viet Cong activity was apparent in the Thuy Hoa area and heavy concentrations were in the Vung Ro area. This mission was quite different than the usual loading and off-loading routine that Cabildo is mostly engaged in, and those personnel assigned in the boat crews, fire support teams and survey teams enjoyed the change of working with this different kind of Navy --the “frogmen”.

On 28 October departed for Subic Bay where plans are to strip the air-conditioning from the ship as our tour with the Seventh Fleet was rapidly drawing to an end. The system, installed here in June has provided much comfort for those of us more conditioned to a temperate climate.

Providing our schedule holds firm we are to depart Subic Bay for Manila for a weekend port visit from 5 to 8 November. From Manila we will return to Subic for two days and then proceed to Hong Kong for a five day stay, commencing 12 November. Upon completion of our Hong Kong visit we will return to Subic Bay to make final preparations for our voyage to Long Beach. We expect to depart Subic Bay on 22 November with stops at Guam and Pearl Harbor and arriving in Long Beach 15 December 1965.

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