USS Newport News CA-148 Research Pages
HMAS Perth DDG-38
John Marek Dossier Excerpt
Perth Hit by Enemy Fire October 18, 1967
HMAS Perth veteran John Marek is compiling a dossier of RAN (Royal Australian Navy) ships' service in Vietnam, with monthly ROP's (Reports of Proceedings) as a primary source. RAN ROP's, which seem to have no precise counterpart in US Navy record keeping, are essentially a ship's journal kept in the Captain's own hand. Perth's Captain Doyle ( under whose command of the task group, Thunder sailors served on at least one occasion ) has what I think is an engaging narrative style. I hope to be able to publish more here at some point.
Thanks to John Marek for sharing the following excerpt of his work in progress.
from this point forward in the pictorial timeline my major source of information re the Gunline ships are the ROPs; the monthly (Report of Proceedings) from the Captain of each deployment to the Office of the Flag Officer Commanding, H.M. Australian Fleet. These records are held by the Australian War Memorial, this deployment is (AWM 78 (292/ 5&6) and the access status is listed as ‘open’.
Embedded with in.
HMAS Perth; 1st Deployment
Taken from the top of Mount 52, this photo shows where the North Vietnamese shell entered the corner of the mount, exited and then penetrated the main deck into the CB office below. (Photo RAN)
HMAS Perth’s movements and employment for September 1967
Monday 16th October 1967
16 1st Contingent RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam (RANHFV ‘‘67) joined US Army 135th Aviation Company at VUNG TAU
End of Perth’s first period on Gunline. Start of first period on Sea Dragon.
The ships first period on gunline ended on the morning of Monday 16th when USS MANSFIELD (DD 728) arrived on station. Perth transferred turnover material to DUPONT and before proceeding for Sea Dragon operations a signal was received from CTU 70.8.9 which stated
"ON YOUR DEPARTURE FROM TU 70.8.9 I DESIRE TO EXPRESS MY SINCERE APPRECIATION ON BEHALF OF MYSELF AND MY STAFF FOR YOUR TRUE SPIRIT OF CO-OPERATION AND TENACITY IN PURSUING YOUR ASSIGMENT. THE ABILITY OF YOUR PERSONNEL TO MANUFACTURE PARTS FOR YOUR 5/INCH 54 MOUNTS TO REMAIN IN OPERATION IS DESERVING IN MUCH PRAISE. IT IS WITH REGRET THAT YOU LEAVE OUR GUNLINE TEAM. YOUR INITIATIVE COMBINED WITH AGGRESSIVE TACTICS, HIGH SPEED MANOUVERING AND SUBERB MARKMANSHIP HAVE RENDERED IMMEEASURABLE SUPPORT TO OUR IN COUNTRY FORCES AND WILL BE MISSED IN THE DMZ AREA. PLEASE COMMEND FOR ME THE OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE PERTH FOR A JOB WELL DONE .CAPTAIN CORNWALL COMDESRON 22"
Tuesday 17th October 1967
After a quite day on Monday the 16th the ship rendezvoused with TU 77.1.1 at 0400 Tuesday the 17th where Perth relieved USS GOLDSBROUGH (DDG 20) as support ship for the USS NEWPORT NEWS (CA-148). Handover material were passed by highline and briefings conducted by telephone, after which Perth proceeded in company with NEWPORT NEWS for a planned mission off SAM SON (19Deg 43’N – 105Deg54’E) at 0730.
While the cruiser engaged the primary target, Perth suppressed C.D. sites, firing a total of 50 rounds at a mean range of 21,250 yards. No hostile fire was received. The two ships then swept south in search of WBLC’s before the days second mission at 1030. This mission was conducted with air spot and Perth again suppressed C.D. sites while NEWPORT NEWS, making full use of her 28,000x gun range, fired on a bridge to the west of the Bay of Brandon. On completion of the mission the Task Unit proceeded to rendezvous with the USS MISPILLION (AO-105) and USS MOUNT KATMAI (AE-16) for UNREP.
The replenishment occupied the entire afternoon and evening, during most of which Perth remained in lifeguard station. Embarkation of ammunition by NEWPORT NEWS was a protracted evolution and it was not until 2100 that the Task Unit left the UNREP ships to resume patrol. For the remainder of the night Perth was stationed 2 miles ahead of NEWPORT NEWS whilst both ships searched the coast and river mouths for signs of WBLC activity.
Wednesday 18th October 1967
HMAS Perth – near 19Deg 34’ N 105Deg 59’E - received shore fire .
Almost simultaneously with the identification of these craft as fishing junks and before a turn away from the coast had been executed, Perth and NEWPORT NEWS came under heavy and accurate fire from shore batteries 16,500 yards westward.
The customary turn away was made and telegraphs set at FULL AHEAD with no delay. My evasive tactics were those recommended by Hobart and consisted in the main of altering course away from the fall of shot whilst keeping the A arcs of at least one Mount open.
One direct hit was sustained shortly after the turn away. Either an 85mm or 100mm S.A.P. shell glanced off the rear end of Mount 52, penetrated 01 Deck above the C.B. vault and exploded in that compartment.
Most of the enemy fire was concentrated on Perth and the accuracy of the 12 or more guns which were firing at us seemed to indicate a computed fire control solution with provision being made for alteration to left or right. During the course of the running fight mount 52 suffered 3 separate casualties, two of which were cleared quickly but resulted in only 44 rounds being fired from that Mount. The 3rd casualty made it necessary to alter course to bring Mount 51 to bear and 11 rounds were fired from this mount using extended Range Procedure. Twenty five of our rounds were seen to fall in the target area and as the enemy ceased firing when the range had opened to 21,500 yards we like to think our Counter battery had some effect.
Personnel casualties were fortunately few and the seven sailors wounded (2 serious, 5 minor) were all proceeding along the main passageway when the explosion occurred. Details of those injured are summarised in Appendix Echo. It was also fortunate that none of the compartments in the immediate vicinity of the explosion were occupied at the time.
Damage repair began immediately. Mount 52 was fully operational by 1200 and the Tartar System restored during the afternoon.
At 1025 Perth proceeded alongside NEWPORT NEWS to transfer two wounded sailors for medevac to USS ORISKANY. On completion of the transfer the Task Unit resumed surveillance and WBLC search. A planned mission was fired during the afternoon in the vicinity of the morning’s incident but there was no sign of C.D. site activity on this occasion.
a.m. 18th October 1967
REMEMBRANCES of Thunder and Gunpowder
The year was 1967 and we were about to go to our Combat GQ stations off the NVN coast. As Second Division Officer, I had some influence as to my pick of the Spot Directors and was able to convince the Gun Boss to permanently designate me the Spot One Combat GQ Director Officer.
The GQ alarm sounded, and we proceeded to our stations. I manned Spot One with my Pointer and Trainer. I do not recall their names, but I do know they were two of the best Fox Division guys on board. This particular mission was accomplished during daylight hours. We proceeded "close in", fired our mission (successfully hit every available target on the beach and a bit inland), and were heading out to open waters at flank speed. Capt. McCarty and the crew knew that the enemy sometimes opened up after we completed our mission so they could fire "at our backs". We were just trying to "get out of there". For a few moments, it looked as if we were out of harms way. However, on this day, the NVN gunners had plans for the Aussie Destroyer, Perth (a fine ship and crew) as well as the NN.
I suppose, from my exposed position in Spot One, I probably had the most open view on board. Anyway, the 155-MM enemy rounds were splashing all around us but seemed to be especially concentrated at Perth. I glanced to port and watched the effects of one of their batteries whose Russian-made radar had obviously "locked on" to Perth
0800 hrs 18th October 1967
Above is the famous" picture of Perth under fire taken by PH2 Harry L Doyle on board USS Newport News at 0800 on 18th October 1967. The ship can barely be seen behind the splashes of enemy shells in the water. This picture is quite grainy, as it was taken at a distance of about 7 - 8 nautical miles. The ship is slightly left of centre, and the "wavy" marks top left are said to be smoke from the USS Newport News.
Charlie Hurd continues, I remember having a sinking feeling as I watched the falling rounds "walk" right up the Perth’s wake until one (or more) hit and penetrated the fantail deck and exploded. I believe the blast destroyed their Secret Pubs stowage space and several sailors were badly injured. They later were transported to the Grey Ghost* for treatment. To this day, I believe that if the enemy shore batteries had been able to stop Perth dead in the water, we would, of course, have gone to their assistance. At that point, we would have been one big "sitting duck" target for their 155’s. Disaster was averted, but this was a close call.
Fortunately, both ships escaped and we continued our daily bombardment and counter battery missions. I remember discussing the Perth incident with Lt. JG Hap Woodsen (Hap, please contact me) down below after we secured from GQ. As the Spot Two Director Officer, I believe he also witnessed the Perth incident. It was one of those experiences that will be indelibly imprinted in our minds forever.
Perth was participating in Operation Sea Dragon in the Gulf of Tonkin, tasked with attacking enemy waterborne logistic craft (WBLC) and hostile sites inside North Vietnamese territory at the time of the incident. The destroyer H.M.A.S. Perth and the cruiser US Newport News were engaged by 12, 85 or 100 mm batteries, which fired up to 200 rounds at them at a range of 16,500 yards while they were investigating a group of fishing junks near Chau Pai south of Sam Son. During this engagement a direct hit was sustained on Mount 52, which glanced off, penetrated the 01 deck and exploded in the confidential books vault wounding 7 sailors, five minimally and two seriously enough to be medevaced.
37171 Chief Petty Officer (Writer) John Dudley Moy, who served in H.M.A.S. Perth from 27 July 1967 to 26 May 1969, collected two small pieces of oblong reddish-brown coloured shrapnel, and a small almost rectangular pale-coloured piece of ship's side plating possibly made from aluminium. All of the pieces are not longer than approximately 40 mm. after his ship was hit by fire from North Vietnamese coastal batteries on 18 October 1967.
P56564 Leading Seaman W J Young was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his actions as gun captain of the after mount, and Lieutenant Commander J B Wells was mentioned in dispatches for 'courage and calmness under fire' while officer of the watch during the incident.
With kind permission from WOODY I am inserting his memories of the incident.
Allan WOODYARD. R62604 wrote.
"I was very interested in the eye witness report of the bloke from the USS Newport News. Sounds a bit dangerous. I remember the day very well as I was cooking breakfast at the time of the attack and thought at first that someone was stacking the empty cordite cases above the galley. My action station was in the sick bay and after I closed up and was waiting for the Doctor ( Bruce Sheffins ) I was called to the number 5 repair locker. As I opened the main passage door all I could see was sparks, water and day light where there should not have been day light. I also saw someone lying on the deck obviously wounded and in a lot of pain. Thankfully as I reached him to start first aid the Doc arrived. Big day!!"
The Text below is from ‘ThunderBolt’ the USS Newport News’s newspaper
Photos by Harry Doyle
Newport News played the key pivot position in this morning’s dramatic evacuation of two wounded Australian sailors from the shell-damaged destroyer H.M.A.S. Perth. Two seamen aboard the Australian destroyer were injured by a projectile that penetrated the ship’s fantail and exploded below. The men received temporary first aid treatment before being readied for evacuation. Perth is not equipped with a helicopter deck, and it was for this reason that Newport News came into action as a "middleman."
Captain Doyle resumes
18th October 1967
Typhoon CARLA, whose progress had been watched closely for some days, had cleared the PHILIPPINES on the morning of Wednesday the 18th and was reportedly continuing a westerly track. A previously promulgated evasion plan was executed on Wednesday evening and during the first watch the ship proceeded southeast at 20 knots in company with the NEWPORT NEWS to clear TONKIN GULF. An apparent alteration of CARLA’s track to the north caused suspension of the plan during the middle watch but when it became clear that the typhoon had not veered evasion was resumed.
Thursday 19th October 1967
During Thursday 19th TU 77.1.2 (Southern Sea Dragon) joined company as ships continued passage to the southeast. At 1600, CARLA having turned to the northwest, course was reversed and keeping well astern of the typhoon ships moved back to the Gulf area overnight ready to resume operations on Friday 20th.
Friday 20th October 1967
At 0830 Friday the 20th, Rear Admiral W.V. COMBS, USN, ( Commander Cruiser Destroyer Group Seventh Fleet) transferred by highline from his flagship NEWPORT NEWS, to survey the damage sustained during the engagement on Wednesday 18th. The Admiral remained onboard while the ship carried out a firing mission and transferred back to NEWPORT NEWS at 1120. On completion the Task Unit left station to UNREP.
Food, fuel and ammunition were embarked from the U S Ships GRAFFIAS, NECHES and MOUNT KATMAI respectively during the afternoon and at 2100 ships closed the coast to resume WBLC surveillance.
Saturday 21st October 1967
Bombardment Action Stations were assumed at 0105 Saturday 21st and Perth suppressed three known active Coastal Defence Sites while NEWPORT NEWS fired on a choke point. The remainder of the night was quiet.
During the forenoon of Saturday the 21st, a report was received of a concentration of enemy PT boats off the mouth of the SON MA river (19 Deg46’N 105Deg57’E). The Task Unit closed the area at high speed but no trace of the craft could be seen. It was subsequently learnt that 4 of these craft had been sunk by U S aircraft, but the enemy’s attempt to mount a PT boat attack, presumably on the Northern Sea Dragon units, was regarded as a significant turn of events.
24th October 1967
HMAS Perth on southern Sea Dragon patrol.
End of draft extract
The marek's un-official Vietnam Service Dossier