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The Coast Guard in Vietnam
1965 – 1975

Coast Guard Squadron One

CGRONONE consisted of 26 82’ Patrol Boats operating with Operation Market Time from 30 July 1965. The WPBs were designed to operate offshore in heavy weather. The Navy Swift was not. Since the WPB remained on station in weather that forced the Swift home, TF 115 decided the boats would shift patrol areas seasonally, the WPBs would follow the monsoons and the Swifts would follow the sunshine. This decision was not popular with Coast Guard crews. When not on patrol, the cutters nested alongside LSTs converted to tenders. The mission was to board and search as many vessels as possible. As with most patrol duty, it consisted of hours of boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror.

Actions included:

January 1969 began a massive stand down and turn over of equipment to South Vietnamese forces. VNN officers reported aboard the cutters to be assume command. On 16 May 1969, Point Garnet and Point League were turned over. On 15 August 1970, Point Marone and Point Cypress, were turned over. CGRONONE was disestablished.

Long Range Aid to Navigation (LORAN)

In Spring 1965, air strikes over North Vietnam intensified, but monsoon conditions severely limited the navigation ability of the aircraft. The Air Force needed a reliable source of pin-point navigation in Vietnam. On 15 January 1966, CAPT Thomas Sargent, USCG, reported to MACTHAI with orders to procure land to construct a LORAN system in Southeast Asia to cover both North and South Vietnam. The Army colonel on duty told him there was no office space anywhere in the city and he would have to wait six months for a phone. Sargent dispatched CWO Baker Herbert to find office space and phones and went to brief senior MACTHAI officers. When he told them he intended to have a LORAN system up and running in eight months, they told him he was crazy. After the briefing, Herbert returned and handed Sargent the address of their new office and the phone number. When Sargent gave the information to MACTHAI, they started to believe he could build a system in eight months.

The chain became fully operational on 28 October 1966. The master station was in Satahip, 80 miles south-southeast of Bangkok on the Gulf of Tahiland. Slave I was in north-central Thailand, near Lampang. Slave II was on Con Son, a five-mile island 45 miles southeast of the delta. On 13 July 1969, the chain was extended by the addition of a chain based at Tan My. This station was manned by 35 Coastguardsmen, but also had a 35-man Air Force security police detachment and a three-man Marine NGFS liaison. A spring 1972 attack by North Vietnamese troops cut off the station and isolated it for about six months.

When the draw down came, Coast Guard personnel trained Vietnamese personnel on station operations. On 22 January 1973, LORSAT Con Son was disestablished and turned over. On 25 January, Tan My followed. On 3 October 1975, after South Vietnam had surrendered, Satahip and Lampang were disestablished.

Coast Guard Squadron Three

CGRONTHREE consisted of High Endurance Cutters operating as command and control vessels for the Market Time patrol boats from May 1967. They provided targeting information and logistics when needed. Near the DMZ, cutters marked the 17th Parallel and kept vessels from straying into North Vietnamese waters. They also performed NGFS missions, especially in the Song Ong Doc area. They also carried doctors. All USN, USCG, VNN vessels knew they could transfer any injured personnel to the outer barrier cutter for treatment. Since the Swift boats were rough riding boats with few amenities, two crews were assigned. The off duty crew lived aboard the outer barrier cutter. Up until 1969, the outer barrier cutters were WWII-vintage ships of the 327’ Secretary, 311’ AVP, and 255’ Lake classes. Their performance was hindered by age and obsolescence. On 1 October 1969, Hamilton, a new 378’ Secretary-class, arrived on station. These cutters brought not only more speed and better NGFS ability; they also brought a flight deck.

Actions included:

By 1970, it was time to turn operations and some ships over to the VNN. Bering Strait and Yakutat were turned over on 1 January 1971. On 21 December, Castle Rock was turned over to the VNN. In December 1971, Cook Inlet, the last Coast Guard cutter on combat patrol in Vietnam, was turned over. CGRONTHREE was disestablished on 31 January 1972.

Flying with the Jolly Green Giants

The Air Force was charged with combat search and rescue operations in Vietnam. The 37th Aerospace and Recovery Squadron flew the missions from Da Nang airbase using HH-3 Jolly Green Giants. The 31st ARS flew long-range mission using HU-16 seaplanes flying out of Clark AFB. From 1968 to 1973, Coast Guard pilots participated in a pilot exchange program. Two fixed-wing pilots flew out of Clark. By 1968, aerial refueling probes had been developed for the HH-3, so the HU-16s were no longer needed. The Coast Guard pilots transitioned to the KC-130s used to refuel the HH-3s. Three Coast Guard helo pilots flew out of Da Nang. They were determined to show the Air Force, and the world, that Coast Guard pilots could fly combat missions. They developed a code, “Three of many”, and acquitted themselves well with their Air Force brethren. The Jolly Greens generally flew in pairs, a “high bird” to provide cover and a “low bird” to make the pickup.

Actions included:

On 30 November 1972, the Air Force transferred the 37th ARS to Thailand for duty with the 40th ARS. A total of 12 Coast Guard pilots flew in Vietnam. Two others flew out of Thailand. The last Coast Guard pilots departed Thailand on 14 July 1973.

Aids to Navigation

In 1966, the tender Planetree responded to a MACV request to set buoys. Accustomed to working in U.S. waters, the crew founds themselves setting buoys from an LCM in eight-foot seas using such navigational aids as “VC tree”, “grassy knoll”, “prominent rock”, and others. MACV requested a full-time tender be assigned in country. Instead, several tenders rotated the duty. In August 1967, CINCPAC requested the Coast Guard assume responsibility for the installation, maintenance, and servicing of all U.S.-sponsored aids in Vietnamese waters. Coast Guard personnel trained VNN personnel in the art and science of ATON. By January 1972, the VNN assumed control of the renovated lighthouse tender. On 27 January, the Coast Guard ATON advisory role ended. In the spring of 1972, the last servicing by a Coast Guard buoy tender occurred.

Port Security and Waterways Detail

From the beginning, COMUSMACV recognized the need for port security and dangerous cargo handling regulations in the major Vietnamese ports. Since this is a major mission of the Coast Guard in U.S. ports, on 4 August 1965, CNO requested a Coast Guard officer be assigned as Port Security Officer to the MACV staff. On 17 February 1966, Coast Guard Explosive Loading Details were brought into the ports of Nha Be and Cam Ranh Bay. Eventually, ELDs were established at Da Nang, Qui Nhon and Vung Tau. The main duty of the ELDs was to assure the safe loading and unloading of explosives. This included enforcing regulations on ships and barges as well as on shore. Coast Guard personnel could shut down the operation for any U.S. flag vessel and had carte blanche to do what was needed to enforce regulations. There was some initial friction with the Army harbormasters, but eventually a routine was established. The ships’ masters, familiar with Coast Guard operations, often insisted that ELD personnel be on hand when their vessels were loaded or unloaded. In January 1971, the Coast Guard began training Vietnamese personnel in the safe handling of ammunition. The Vietnamese learned quickly and by soon satisfied the finicky ships’ masters of their competency. The last ELD was disestablished on 1 November 1972. Coast Guard Port Security and Waterways Detail Vietnam was disestablished on 30 January 1973.

Shipping Advisor/Merchant Marine Detail

The escalation of the Vietnam War meant an increased volume of material being transported by ship, specifically, merchant ship, more specifically, Military Sealift Command (MSTS) ships. The merchant officers and shipping companies, familiar with Coast Guard operations in the US, complained about the lack of a Merchant Marine Detail in Vietnam. In August 1966, MSTS asked MACV to request an MMD and in December 1966, MMD Vietnam was established. The three Coast Guard officers assigned to MMDs had considerable authority when dealing with merchant vessels and personnel. They could remove sailors from ships, order violations corrected, or stop a ship from sailing. Cases investigated included suicide, missing at sea, assaults, drug use, desertion, misconduct, pilfering of cargo, sodomy, drunkenness, incompetence, murder, sabotage, expired licenses, malingering, racial incidents, and violations of other laws and statutes. The MMD ran into the same friction as the ELDs. The Army also had the authority to arrest merchant seamen for the same offenses. Eventually, a workable arrangement was agreed on and the duties were accomplished. Due to the draw down, the MMD was disestablished 1 May 1973 and their duties given over to the U.S. Consular General.

Marine Police Advisor

This was a relatively short-lived position, lasting from 7 May 1970 to 18 March 1971. The duty was to collect, prepare and catalog a law library of Vietnamese laws and decrees pertinent to enforcement of laws on Vietnamese territorial waters. These included maritime laws, ship inspection regulations, ship licensing, crew licensing, motor boat licensing and inspecting, fisheries laws, and navigation laws. The advisor also helped the Vietnamese Marine Policy procure boats suitable to their mission.

Command and Control

When CGRONONE arrived in country, it was commanded by a captain. A commander was assigned to each division. As Coast Guard duties expanded, the captain just took them on in stride. He coordinated all Coast Guard activities in country. On 11 January 1967, to more accurately reflect the duties, the Coast Guard established Coast Guard Activities Vietnam (CGACTV). The staff remained the same and 75% of the time was spent on RONONE. When RONONE was disestablished, the Coast Guard established the position Senior Coast Guard Officer Vietnam (SCGOV). The main duties continued to be the coordination of all Coast Guard activities and provide support for Coast Guard personnel arriving in country. Other duties included administrative control of Coast Guard personnel and operational control of the ATON detail and all buoy tenders deployed in country. The position was also a liaison with NAVFORV for the turnover of assets to the Vietnamese. SCGOV was on the operations staff of NAVFORV and worked closely with MACV. The position was disestablished on 11 February 1973.


The Coast Guard basically adopted the village of Song Ong Doc. They donated playground equipment, painted buildings, donated clothing and toiletry supplies and provided medical treatment. They also provided similar services to the Saigon School for Blind Girls. In August 1966, they started an island adoption program in an effort to counter VC propaganda. Coast Guard personnel assisted several other Vietnamese in several different circumstances, but these were three on-going initiatives. Personnel from LORSTA Tan My often drove sick or injured Vietnamese to the hospital at Da Nang.

The Last Man Out

The last Coastguardsman left Vietnam on 5 May 1973. Coastguardsmen continued to fly with the Jolly Green Giants out of Thailand until 14 July 1973. LORSTAs Satahip and Lampang held on until 3 October 1975.


82' Patrol Boats
Assigned to Squadron One
27 May 1965-15 August 1970

DIVISION 11                             TURNOVER
USCGC Point Banks (WPB 82327)           26 May 1970
USCGC Point Clear (WPB 82315)           15 September 1969
USCGC Point Comfort (WPB 82317)         17 November 1969
USCGC Point Garnet (WPB 82310)          16 May 1969
USCGC Point Glover (WPB 82307)          14 February 1970
USCGC Point Grey (WPB 82324)            14 July 1970
USCGC Point Marone (WPB 82331)          15 August 1970
USCGC Point Mast (WPB 82316)            16 June 1970
USCGC Point Young (WPB 82303)           16 March 1970

USCGC Point Arden (WPB 82309)           14 February 1970
USCGC Point Caution (WPB 82301)         29 April 1970
USCGC Point Dume (WPB 82325)            14 February 1970
USCGC Point Ellis (WPB 82330)           9 December 1969
USCGC Point Gammon (WPB 82328)          11 November 1969
USCGC Point Lomas (WPB 82321)           26 May 1970
USCGC Point Orient (WPB 82319)          14 July 1970
USCGC Point Welcome (WPB 82329)         29 April 1970

USCGC Point Cypress (WPB 82326)         15 August 1970
USCGC Point Grace (WPB 82323)           16 June 1970
USCGC Point Hudson (WPB 82322)          11 December 1970
USCGC Point Jefferson (WPB 82306)       21 February 1970
USCGC Point Kennedy (WPB 82320)         16 March 1970
USCGC Point League (WPB 82304)          16 May 1969
USCGC Point Partridge (WPB 82305)       27 March 1970
USCGC Point Slocum (WPB 82313)          11 December 1969
USCGC Point White (WPB 82308)           12 January 1970
27 May 1965-15 August 1970
Miles Cruised                           4,215,116
Vessels detected                        838,299
Vessels boarded                         236,396
Vessels inspected                       283,527
NGFS missions conducted                 4,461
Personnel detained                      10,286
Enemy KIA/WIA                           1,055
USCG KIA                                7
USCG WIA                                59
Vessels damaged/destroyed               1,811
Structures damaged/destroyed            4,727

High endurance Cutters
Assigned to Coast Guard Squadron Three
4 May 1967 to 31 January 1972

First Deployment                    Deployment                    Turnover
USCGC Barataria (WHEC 381)          4 May 67 — 25 Dec 67
USCGC Half Moon (WHEC 378)          4 May 67 — 29 Dec 67
USCGC Yakutat (WHEC 380)            4 May 67 — 1 Jan 68
USCGC Gresham (WHEC 387)            4 May 67 — 28 Jan 68
USCGC Bering Strait (WHEC 382)      4 May 67 — 18 Feb 68

Second Deployment
USCGC Androscoggin (WHEC 68)        4 Dec 67 — 4 Aug 68
USCGC Duane (WHEC 33)               4 Dec 67 — 28 Jul 68
USCGC Campbell (WHEC 32)            14 Dec 67 — 12 Aug 68
USCGC Minnetonka (WHEC 67)          5 Jan 68 — 29 Sep 68
USCGC Winona (WHEC 65)              25 Jan 68 — 17 Oct 68

Third Deployment
USCGC Bibb (WHEC 31)                4 Jul 68 — 28 Feb 69
USCGC Ingham (WHEC 35)              16 Jul 68 — 3 Apr 69
USCGC Owasco (WHEC 39)              23 Jul 68 — 21 Mar 69
USCGC Wachusett (WHEC 44)           10 Sep — 1 Jun 69
USCGC Winnebago (WHEC 40)           20 Sep 68 — 19 Jul 69

Fourth Deployment
USCGC Spencer (WHEC 36)             11 Feb 69 — 30 Sep 69
USCGC Mendota (WHEC 69)             28 Feb 69 — 3 Nov 69
USCGC Sebago (WHEC 42)              2 Mar 69 — 16 Nov 69
USCGC Taney (WHEC 37)               14 May 69 — 31 Jan 70
USCGC Klamath (WHEC 66)             7 Jul 69 — 3 Apr 70

Fifth Deployment
USCGC Hamilton (WHEC 715)           1 Nov 69 — 25 May 70
USCGC Dallas (WHEC 716)             3 Nov 69 — 19 Jun 70
USCGC Chase (WHEC 718)              6 Dec 69 — 28 May 70
USCGC Mellon (WHEC 717)             31 Mar 70 — 2 Jul 70
USCGC Ponchartrain (WHEC 70)        2 Apr 1970 — 25 Oct 1970

Sixth Deployment
USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720)            22 Apr 70 — 25 Dec 70
USCGC Bering Strait (WHEC 382)      17 May 70 — 31 Dec 70* **     1 January 1971
USCGC Yakutat (WHEC 380)            17 May 70 — 31 Dec 70*        1 January 1971

Seventh Deployment
USCGC Rush (WHEC 723)               28 Oct 70 — 15 Jul 71
USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC 722)         6 Dec 70 — 31 Jul 71

Eighth Deployment
USCGC Castle Rock (WHEC 383)        9 Jul 71 — 21 Dec 71*         21 December 1971
USCGC Cook Inlet (WHEC 384)         2 Jul 71 — 21 Dec 71*         21 December 1971

* Turned over to the Government of South Vietnam
** Second deployment
4 April 1967 to 31 January 1972
Miles cruised                         1,292,094
Percent of time underway              62.6
MARKET TIME patrols                   205
Vessels detected                      69,517
Vessels inspected                     50,000
Vessels boarded                       1,094
Personnel detained                    138
NGFS missions conducted               1,368
Rounds fired                          77,036
Structures destroyed                  2,612
Structures damaged                    2,676
Enemy KIA                             529
Enemy WIA                             243
Underway replenishments               1,153
Vertical replenishments               87
Small craft replenishments            1,516
Civic Action Projects                 20 
Medical Civil Action Program          131

Other Coast Guard Cutters in Vietnam

Buoy Tenders
USCGC Basswood  (WLB 388)
USCGC Blackhaw  (WLB 390)
USCGC Ironwood  (WLB 297)
USCGC Planetree (WLB 307)

Cargo Vesse
USCGC Nettle    (WAK 169)

Major Trawler Engagements
Involving Coast Guard Units

10 May 1966                    Trawler destroyed: Point Grey, Point Cypress
20 June 1966                   Trawler captured: Point League, Point Slocum, Point Hudson
1 January 1967                 Trawler destroyed: Point Gammon
14 March 1967                  Trawler destroyed: Point Ellis
15 July 1967                   Trawler captured: Point Orient
29 February — 1 March 1968     1. Trawler destroyed: Androscoggin, Point Welcome, Point Grey
                               2. Trawler destroyed: Winona, Point Grace, Point Marone, Point Hudson
                               3. Trawler destroyed by USN units, USCG units not involved
                               4. Trawler turned back: Minnetonka
21 November 1970               Trawler destroyed: Rush, Sherman
11—12 April 1971               Trawler destroyed: Rush, Morgenthau

Coastguardsmen Killed in Vietnam

LTJG David C. Brostrum       CO, Point Welcome      11 August 1966    Friendly Fire (USAF)
EN2 Jerry Phillips           Point Welcome          11 August 1966    Friendly Fire (USAF)
LT Jack Ritticher            37th ARS               9 June 1968       Helo crash during rescue attempt
FN Heriberto S. Hernandez    Point Cypress          5 December 1968   KIA during small boat ops
ENC Morris S. Beeson         Point Orient           22 March 1969     KIA during boarding ops
EN1 Michael H. Painter       Point Arden            9 August 1969     KIA in mortar attack
LTJG Michael W. Kirkpatrick  XO, USCGC Point Arden  9 August 1969     KIA in mortar attack