The following is from my personal patrol log, starting with a routine log entry of our underway activities.
Underway Log #68 - 13 March 1967
PCF-16 underway at 0900 for patrol area 2E. Boarded several cargo junks in late morning and early afternoon, including two (2) which were reported by patrol aircraft as being in a suspect area (Market Time Policeman). Both junks checked out to be ok, from a visual inspection of cargo and papers, but Coastal Surveillance Center DaNang directed that the junks to be escorted to Coastal Group 16 for further inspection. Junks turned over to CG16 at 2000H.
At 2115H we received a call from SALTED FLAKES 26C (NGFS in II Corps), requesting that we investigate two Viet Cong command posts near the beach just north of Cap Sa Hoi. CSC DaNang gave us permission to assist and fire if necessary. At 2210 we fired at the first of the two CP's, firing 3 illumination, 2 white phosphorus , and 2 high explosive. At 2230 we fired at the second CP just 5000 yards up the beach; firing 2 illumination, 1 WP, and 2 HE. Since we had no spotting, damage is unknown.
At 0615 on 14 March, I was awakened to be told that an unlit trawler was closing the beach north of Cape Batangan, which did not respond to the challenge of the USS Brister DER 327, nor to warning shots. PCF-78 had been called to investigate, but upon illuminating with his spot light, the trawler fired a 57mm recoilless rifle round, which missed, and then fired automatic weapons putting about 12 holes in PCF-78, injuring no one. The trawler beached, but due to early morning darkness, no one could tell if the crew escaped. The Brister, PCF-78, and a WPB in the area all commenced firing at the trawler, but at 0641 the trawler blew itself up, just as PCF-16 was rounding Cape Batangan. All I saw was a large column of white smoke go up. When I arrived on the scene there was nothing of the trawler remaining, only debris floating in the water and scattered on the beach.
At 0730 I was directed by the Brister to commence picking up debris for possible intelligence value. The first item picked up was a bundle of clothing wrapped in and around a backpack all enclosed in a knotted plastic raincoat. In addition to clean clothing, which included black pajamas, a cap with ear flaps, green trousers, etc., there were personal items for shaving and clippers for hair cutting. Wrapped in a handkerchief was a new, 23 jewel, watch made in the USSR. Between several shirts was a North Vietnamese drivers license, with a picture of a soldier in uniform. A second bundle of similar clothes was also found floating. We picked up two life rafts, paddles, life jackets, and broken rifle stocks by the dozen. Although it was a steel hulled vessel, there was a lot of splintered wood in the water, most likely from the rifle stocks.
While we were picking up the debris, a gunship, PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON, flew over the area, behind the beach, and sprayed her complete load of automatic fire. After the PUFF left, several jets made an air strike against the wooded area towards which the crew could have possibly escaped, using bombs and napalm. Some of the shrapnel from the bombs landed on and near our boat, but no one was hurt.
After taking several loads of debris to the DER, we stood off again while all units fired harassing fire. We fired .50 cal into the tree line for about 40 minutes while awaiting another PCF to arrive from Chu Lai with 2 UDT divers aboard. Once the divers arrived, the PCF and the WPB sent several men ashore with the divers to pick up more debris. The divers found very little in the surf line; the largest piece found was about 15' x 7'. Of the debris found ashore; there were broken bundles of Communist made carbines, ammunition, part of a ships bell, and life rafts.
At 1430 nine helos landed Marines on the beach and secured the beachhead for further collection of debris. All afternoon debris was collected until there was so much that arrangements for a LCM, to be sent from Chu Lai, were made. Over 1200 rifles were accounted for, in addition to the inventory of additional items listed below.
We were released from the area at 1730 to return to Chu Lai. The salvage work continued for two more days.
1200 - carbines (7.62mm)
20 - boxes 7.62mm carbine ammo
50 - light machine guns
1 - recoilless rifle (57 mm)
50 - Claymore mines
50 - mortar rounds
50 - hand grenades
5 - boxes stick grenades
1 - package of 12-round machine gun magazines
1 - package personal effects
3 - life rafts
12 - life jackets
12 - disposable infusion kits
2 - cases of machinery parts
12 - cases "C" type rations
rifle repair kits
Story told by: Anthony R. Taylor, LTJG, Officer-in-Charge PCF-16
U.S. Naval Forces - Vietnam
Monthly Historical Supplement
OPERATION MARKET TIME
At 0014 on 14 March, an aircraft from Patrol Squadron 46 on the MARKET TIME northern surveillance track reported an unlighted, steel-hulled contact 40 miles east-northeast of Re Island, proceeding in a northwesterly direction. Re Island lies 67 miles southeast of DaNang and 14 miles from the mainland. MARKET TIME units in the general area at the time of the sighting were USS Brister DER-327, USCGC Point Ellis and PCFs 16 & 78. The night was clear and dark; the sea was calm.
At 0403, the miles southeast of Re Island, Brister gained radar contact; the unidentified craft was now steering course 230°. About 0420 the contact changed course to 285° and appeared to be making for the mainland. At about 0430, a Ptrol Squadron 4 aircraft illuminated the contact and identified it to be a steel-hulled trawler. Minutes later Brister, in pursuit, challenged the trawler by flashing light. Receiving no response, Brister fired several warning shots and directed PCF 78 and Point Ellis to intercept.
About 0540 PCF 78 swept close aboard the trawler and came under heavy automatic weapons fire, forcing the SWIFT boat to retire to the northeast.
At 0612 the trawler opened fire on Brister and the latter returned fire with her .50 caliber machine guns and 3"/50 battery. Five minutes later the trawler grounded approximately one mile south of Phouc Thien village and 60 miles southeast of DaNang.
The MARKET TIME units continued to return the trawler's fire until first light when the source of the enemy fire shifted to a wooded area behind the beach. By the light of sunrise the trawler's bluish-grey hull was seen to be 80-100 feet long, with a deckhouse aft, a slightly raised bow and a light mast and boom one-third of the way aft from the bow. Two minutes after sunrise, at 0655, the trawler virtually disintegrated in a single explosion, evidently caused by charges set by her crew. A U.S. Air Force AC-47 on the scene observed personnel running across the wooded area behind the beach, and took them under fire with unknown results.
Boarding parties found little of the trawler's remains except charred flotsam. The largest single piece discovered was a part of the stem, measuring seven by 15 feet.
The contraband removed during subsequent salvage operations included one 12.7mm heavy machine gun, on 57mm recoilless rifle, 1,200 7.62mm Type-53 carbines, 30 7.62mm Type-43 submachine guns, a case of "claymore " mines, 5,000 hand grenade detonation devices, and assorted ammunition for small arms, recoilless rifles and 60mm mortars. Also found was personal gear, shipboard life-saving equipment, and medical supplies such as vitamins, plasma and two surgical kits. The surgical kits appeared to be designed for issue to a field hospital. Each kit contained 195 instruments of high quality, with Chinese lettering on the diagrammatic packing list. The quality of the instruments suggested Japanese origin.
Debris from the steel-hulled trawler intercepted 14 March is examined on the fantail of USS Brister DER-327.
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