The Ambush of PCF 99
QMC JAMES D. WIGGINS
On 14 May 1967, while conducting close inshore psychological warfare operations off Co Lay, PCF- 99 was ambushed from three heavily entrenched machine gun nests. Fire was suppressed by first firing the 81 mm mortar "shotgun style" (This technique was developed by PCF-99) and then firing mount 51 and M-16 rifles. Return fire allowed PCF-99 to withdraw from A/W range and assess damage. GM3 DOUG DAVES, in mount 51, (an ex-California Highway Patrolman who once stopped Broderick Crawford for speeding) had received a direct hit in his left wrist, with his hand dangling by threads, multiple shrapnel wounds in his neck, side and legs. EN1 MALACKY (loader for mount 52) had also received a direct hit in his left hand. Four other persons on board received shrapnel wounds including myself. Every single PSYWAR speaker had been shot full of holes. GM3 DAVES was given morphine and a tourniquet was applied on his arm. EN1 MALACKY was bandaged and bleeding stopped. No MEDEVAC chopper was available so an Army chopper with NO lift capability was called. Hovering over PCF-99, in 4-foot seas, the choppers rotors managed to clip off part of our radio antenna and barely missed the radar antenna. Within seconds the helicopter would move a vertical distance of approximately 6-8 feet while the boat rocked from side to side in the choppy waters. EN1 MALACKY was still mobile and with a shove, managed to jump horizontally into the helicopter. GM3 DAVES, having been administered morphine and having lost large quantities of blood, was as limp as a sack of potatoes. It was evident that he could do nothing to help himself into the chopper. I told him that the next time we were looking the pilot in the eyes I was going to throw him in the door. He nodded his head that he understood. Where I summoned the strength to do this I will never know because Dave was about 215 pounds and I was only 165. Both men were successfully lifted to medical assistance. Neither returned to Vietnam. I was told that GM3 Daves had his wrist fused together and his hand saved. PCF-99 called for assistance from two other Swifts and together they again engaged the enemy. Air strikes were also called for and the enemy was finally silenced. With shells scattered everywhere and blood sloshing from bulkhead to bulkhead, PCF-99 returned to Chu Lai where the other wounded personnel were treated and released. The crew returned to PCF-99 and resumed patrol duties.
Crew 17A engaged the enemy on a routine basis and inflicted numerous casualties. PCF-99 engaged in combat every single patrol during the month of June 1967. The efficiency of the PCF became so notorious that Junk base personnel informed us that the Viet Cong had placed a bounty on PCF-99.
PCF-99 was also known by Vietnamese civilians as a welcome sight. On many occasions crew 17A administered first aid to wounded civilian fishermen and crewmen of other craft. She also assisted mariners in distress. The reputation of PCF-99 was such that many HMs requested to ride with her on their "day off" to conduct both official and unofficial medical civic action programs (MEDCAPS). During one afternoon, crew 17A and HM treated an estimated two hundred persons in a refugee anchorage.
The most heart wrenching experience occurred off the coast of Mui Batangas in 1967 when PCF-99 was taken under fire from shore and a bunch of Vietnamese fishermen were unfortunate enough to be between us and the beach. Although PCF-99 could not and would not return fire because of the civilians, the Viet Cong hit many of the civilians. A 75 year old man, in tears, delivered his 3 year old granddaughter to our boat. She had been shot in the stomach. I took the little girl in my arms and she put her hand against my cheek and smiled. We also picked up a 58-year-old woman that was pregnant. She had been shot right between the eyes. We delivered them both to a destroyer offshore. A short time later, we picked up the little girl. She was dead. I handed her over the side to a weeping grandfather. He told us that it was the first time that she had ever gone out with him. He wanted to know what he was going to tell her mother and father. We towed him up the river as far as possible without endangering ourselves. He had begged us to tow him on up the river saying that he was too weak to paddle. God, that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
The most humorous incident involved A Viet Cong suspect that was placed in leg irons that were attached to mount 52. During our transit to the junk base at Chu Lai, the prisoner was observed to pull his legs out of the leg irons, walk to the side of the boat and relieve himself, then walk back to the mount and place himself back in the leg irons.
Crew 17A turned PCF-99 over to a new crew in September 1967 in better condition than when it was new, that is except for some extra ventilation that was not part of the original design.
Please continue on down the page for a poem I wrote during my tour in country. This poem was found today as I sifted through some old pictures. I had forgotten about it. I am not much of a poet.
QMC JAMES D. WIGGINS
The gleaming white caps on the salty brine,
Reflecting the morning sun as it begins to shine.
The weather is rough, the "Swift" throwing spray,
But for the sake of this mission, right here well stay!
All through the night weve searched the coast,
No signs of "Charlie" for which we can boast.
He sticks to the rivers, swamps and the hills,
Avoiding the coast where "Swift Boats" prevail.
Astonishing is the fact, that in such a short time,
"Swift" has made "Charlie" take a different line.
One more intricate, with marines in his way,
But thinking of the coast says, "better stay away!"
"Well wait for them to grow complacent,
Then without warning, attempt infiltration!"
This is the way of the insidious VC.
So to you "Charlie," Swift removed that word from the dictionary!
We learned your ways, cunning as may be,
Of attempting infiltration by use of the sea.
So make your attempt if you so desire,
But "Swifties" are waiting, ready, and will never tire!!
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This page was last updated: October 16, 2008 at 22:41