Duc Pho Trawler Incident
29 February/1 March 1968

Offical US Navy version of the incident

At 1541 on 29 February 1968, an infiltrating trawler was detected by MARKET TIME land-based patrol (VP) aircraft 103 miles east of Cape Batangan. The trawler was on a course of 270° at a speed of 12 knots. At 0122 on 1 March, the trawler crossed into the 12-mile contiguous zone, 22 miles southeast of Cape Batangan. The trawler, refusing to acknowledge the challenges, attempted to evade and was taken under fire by PCFs 18 and 20, USCGCs ANDROSCOGGIN (WHEC 68), POINT WELCOME (WPB 82329) and POINT GREY (WPB 82324), and US Army helicopter gunships. A firefight ensued as the trawler returned fire, and at 0124 the ship was driven aground 25 miles south of Cape Batangan on the coast of the South China Sea. At 0220 the trawler attempted self-destruction with limited success, but at 0235 another self-induced explosion occured, resulting in the complete destruction of the trawler and her cargo.

Duc Pho trawler, sunk and on fire

Vietnamese junk force personnel fighting the fire on the sunken trawler

 

Transcript of the Americal Division TOC Daily Staff Journal/Duty Officers' Log

29 February 1968

 At 1900H - LT Bruce Wentworth, Swift Boats, reports that two trawlers will land tonight; 1st trawler vicinity CR1050, 2k north of Qui Nhon. 2nd trawler vicinity BS7985 at Cape Batangan between 23-2400 tonight. Call from DaNang requesting we prepare in some way. At 1915H - called again and requested two gunships and two flare ships be put on call.

At 1950H - Received a call from III MAF concerning possibility of two trawlers entering Americal area tonight. Major Finn said two trawlers are on the way and that they had sent a FLASH message. Message received at 1955. Informed the 198th and 11th Bde, G3, G2 and artillery. Also checked with Avn on availability of gunships and flare ships. Major Finn gave identification number to the trawlers. The one due east of Batangan is 29F2 and the one east of Su Huhn is 29F1. Location of 29F2 as of 1911H is 15° 08' North, 110° 12' East, on a course of 241° at 10 knots.

At 2045H - LT Bruce Wentworth, Swift Boats, gave the 2000H location of the trawler as CG 9672 on course 250° at 10 ½ knots, will probably change course and speed again. Is probably headed to BS8833 (Duc Pho area).

2100H - LT Kriggler, Swift Boats, referenced the previous telephonic report on the trawler. The expected time of arrival in southern Quang Ngai is 0130-0200H at BS8833, however, the possibility of the boat coming to BS7782 still exists.

2200H - LT Bruce Wentworth, Swift Boats, stated for OPS tonight, request gunships come up on frequency 31.0, Same Drink "Z". Also Frequency 37.5, New India.

2207H - LT Bruce Wentworth, Swift Boats, stated that III MAF is a little behind on status of the trawler - as it stands right now - there is only one expected to land in I Corps area and two in the II Corps area. At least that's all we are aware of at this time.

2210H - Swift Boat, CS 7378 on course 230° tracking 10.5 knots, arrival at 0150 approximately BS8833, expected to alter course (remaining 2 or 3 words indecipherable - original was typed over preprinted words on form and was covered by CONFIDENTAL stamp).

2235H - G3 to 11th Bde, alerted 11th Bde to be prepared to furnish ground reaction force of one company for possible use if trawler lands at Batangan Peninsula. 11th Bde informed Americal that B-4-3 at LZ Uptight would be used. Avn has alerted helicopters for possible mission.

2330H - Trawler location and course: 14° 56' North 109° 27' East, heading 235° at 10 knots.

1 March 1968

0012H - LCDR Price, Coastal Surveillance Center DaNang reports trawler 18 miles off the coast Southeast of Doc Pho.

0015H - Savage notified to have gun and flare ships on standby to scramble at 0100H.

0020H - LT Bruce Wentworth, Swift Boats OPS, reports trawler 19 miles East of Duc Pho traveling at 10 knots, expect to land 2-3 miles North of Duc Pho if same course maintained. Still expects trawler to head for Batangan Peninsula.

0030H - From Major McKnight, 11th Bde; alerted gunships and flare ship shortly thereafter.

0040H - LCDR Price requests one flare ship only, be scrambled at 0100H - report to BS9440 and contact Same Drink Zulu on 301.0 MC or Newsboy India on 37.5.

0042H - C/S advised.

0047H - 11th Bde notified to scramble one flare ship only and provided the referenced frequencies.

0110H - LT Roal, Coastal Surveillance DaNang, reported that BS820465 was probable site that trawler would beach (2 ½ ?? either side of coordinates). Request that reaction force be alerted.

0114H - LT Roal reported trawler 12 miles off coast, ETA 0145, request gunships be scrambled.

0115H - AVN off, notified Savage to scramble 2 gunships and have airborne and en route to join flare ship.

0120H - C/S, ADC, CG advised of situation. From Major McKnight, 11the Brigade; gunships scrambled.

0125H - Gunships reported airborne and en route to join flare ship.

0133H - Seaborne elements report trawler having been engaged and was burning or laying smoke screen.

0137H - Trawler returning fire (AW) fire on Swift Boats.

0140H - Flare ship advised Seaborne Control that he was low on flares and had requested another flare ship.

0143H - Seaborne Control requested gunships to close the target and take it under fire.

0145H - III MAF COG, G3 advised of status. From Major McKnight, 11the Brigade; Swift Boats engaged trawler two miles off shore.

0146H - Gunship reports receiving AW fire.

0148H - Flare ship reports departing area (out of flares).

0150H - 11th Bde notified to alert reaction force and be prepared to marry up with lift ships on order. Lift ships notified to stand by on strip alert in cockpits.

0157H - New flare ship reports on station.

0159H - III MAF reports trawler location at BS88737.

0200H - Trawler reported aground.

0201H - Swift Boats directed by Seaborne Control to close target and keep under fire.

0203H - 11th Bde notified to alert personnel at Bronco to be used as possible reaction force.

0205H - Major Martin, III MAF requested and was provided current status.

0206H - 11th Bde alerted A-1-20 to move to site of where the trawler was aground - approximately 1km from their current location.

0207H - Info received from Swift Boats that trawler may be rigged for self destruction - 11th Bde advised and requested to notify reaction force.

0210H - ADC advised of status. From Major McKnight, 11th Bde; flare ship provided illumination - trawler released smoke screen - gun ships engaged with rockets - a small explosion observed by gunships.

0212H - Seaborne Control directed all units to cease fire and close the beach.

0215H - Avn officer directed to hold lift ships at Chu Lai on standby and not to send them to LZ Uptight until directed. From Major McKnight, 11th Bde; trawler reported as beached and burning. From Major McKnight, 11th Bde; ground troops (A-1-20) began movement.

0216H - 11th Bde notified that lift ships at Chu Lai are on standby for them if required. Swift Boats directed to cease fire by Seaborne Control. Swift Boat fired green flare for forces on beach.

0217H - Friendly troops moving to site of grounding - trawler reported to be 50 feet off shore in surf. No personnel observed leaving trawler.

0220H - No troops observed approaching the grounding site on the beach, reported from the Swift Boats. Seaborne Control reports negative casualties. Ten small boats (fishing) on beach but no movement observed in the area. From Major McKnight, 11th Bde; large explosion reported.

0223H - III MAF COC advised of status by LTC Balmer.

0225H - 11th Bde asked if they required airlift on standby at Chu Lai. Ready?

0226H - 11th Bde reported that the trawler just blew - 50% destroyed.

0228H - III MAF given status report by LTC Balmer.

0231H - Second explosion of trawler reported. Swift Boat personnel 500 meters away reported debris in the area, no casualties.

0235H - III MAF reported that 3 of 4 trawlers had been destroyed. One in Duc Pho area (dest). one neat Nha Trang (dest), 1 located 35 miles East of Qui Nhon heading due East (not engaged).

0240H - Nothing above water at this time, trawler has sunk. From Major McKnight, 11the Brigade; larger explosion - trawler disintegrated. No evidence of survivors.

0241H - Location of the trawler is BS882346.

0250H - Another flare ship has reported on station.

0255H - Dolphin flare ship made a pass over the beach area - observed oil slick - negative debris or movement in the area.

0315H - 11th Bde reports that A-1-20 arrived on site.

0320H - Swift Boats resumed normal patrol operations - left one boat on station at contact site.

0400H -  BS882346, A-1-20 reports finding one K44 rifle and parts of other weapons - type's unknown. Captured 9 military age males but do not believe they are from the trawler.

 

Acronyms

III MAF - III Marine Amphibious Force
III MAF COC - III Marine Amphibious Force Combat Operations Center
III MAF COG -
III Marine Amphibious Force Combat Operations Group
11th Bde - US Army, 11th Light Infantry Brigade
Americal -
US Army, 23rd Infantry Divison, more commonly known as the "Americal Division"
Avn -
US Army 101st Airborne Division (helo)
A-1-20 -
US Army, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry
Same Drink Zulu -
DD/DER/WHEC when assigned to I Corp (Chu Lai area) - gunfire support
Newsboy India -
Coastal Division 12 (DaNang), Swift Boat (PCF) local OPS area call sign  (+ hull number)
K44 rifle - Mosin/Ngant M-44 "Type 44 Rifle", capable of firing Chinese type 64 antitank rifle grenades