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The History of Boat/Coastal Squadron One


           Task Force 115 was established July 30, 1965 under the command of CDR Arthur P. Ismay.  Her primary task was Operation Market Time, an effort to stop the flow of enemy troops and their supplies, by sea, from North Vietnam to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  On October 1, 1965, CDR Arthur P. Ismay commissioned Boat Squadron One (BoatRon1) at the United States Amphibious Base in Coronado, California.  Boat Squadron One (later renamed to Coastal Squadron One) consisted of Patrol Craft Fast (PCF) vessels, later coined Swift Boats. 


Task Force 115 Patch

Establishment

            Initially, there were five (5) PCF Divisions as part of Task Force 115.  They are as follows:

  • PCF Division 101 deployed to Phu Quoc Island in An Thoi on October 30, 1965.  PCF-3 and PCF-4 were the first Swift Boats to arrive and begin patrolling the shallow coastal waterways. 
  • On January 16, 1966, PCF Division 102’s staff arrived in DaNang and the Division was officially established on January 23, 1966 with the arrival of PCF-13, PCF-14, PCF-15, PCF16, PCF-17 and PCF18. 
  • On February 11, 1966, PCF Division 103 was established in Cat Lo.  PCF-23, PCF-24, PCF-25 and PCF-26 began patrolling upon their arrival on February 23, 1966. 
  • On April 11, 1966, PCF division 104 was established at Cam Ranh Bay with patrols beginning in late April with the arrival of additional PCFs. 
  • Finally, PCF Division 105 was established on May 2, 1966 in Qui Nhon with PCF-57, PCF-58, PCF-59 and PCF-61 arriving on May 16, 1966 and patrolling the coastal waterways within just two days. 

            Boat Squadron One (BoatRon1) was renamed to Coastal Squadron One (CosRon1) on November 1, 1966.  All Divisions were renamed at this time.  The chart below shows the name changes.

PCF   Division 101

Coastal   Division 11

PCF   Division 102

Coastal   Division 12

PCF   Division 103

Coastal   Division 13

PCF   Division 104

Coastal   Division 14

PCF   Division 105

Coastal   Division 15

Coastal Division 16 was the last division established.  It was established on June 16, 1967 in Chu Lai and disestablished on November 1, 1967 and became a detachment of Coastal Division 12.

 

Vietnam Service*

            On 29 February & 1 March 1968, during the Tet offensive, North Viet Nam attempted the simultaneous infiltration of four steel-hulled trawlers into South Vietnam. Interdiction efforts by coastal surveillance forces resulted in two trawlers destroyed, one trawler scuttled at sea and the last trawler retreating seaward. By this time it was becoming evident to the logistics planners in North Vietnam that attempts to infiltrate along the coast via trawler was not working. Accordingly, their logistic strategy shifted to sending men and supplies down the interior, mainly the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

            In September of 1968, the newly arrived Commander Naval Forces Vietnam, Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, recognized this shift in strategy and devised Operation Southeast Asia Land, Ocean, River Delta Strategy (SEALORDS) to counter the North Vietnam plan. Recognizing that the men and material coming out of the south end of the Ho Chi Minh Trail would have to be transported by watercraft into South Vietnam, Admiral Zumwalt sent the PBRs up into the narrow rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta and used the PCFs, no longer critically needed in coastal waters, to support the PBRs on the major rivers and waterways. Once on the rivers, PCFs in addition to backfilling for the PBRs, moved further and further upriver to confront the enemy.

            When Operation SEALORDS kicked off in October of 1968 the PCF Table of Equipment (TOE) was officially modified to add an M60 machine gun; this weapon was typically manned by a gunner in the peak tank, just in front of the forward superstructure. Swifties were known to augment their official TOE weapons as needed without necessarily going through official channels.

            Task Group 194.0, the tactical organization executing Operation SEALORDS, received a Presidential Unit Citation for the period 18 October 1968 to 5 December 1968. This award noted in part that the participants, including PCFs were “… eminently successful in their campaign to interdict enemy supply routes and base areas…” The successful disruption of VC supply and communications lines continued for two years. By 1971, all aspects of SEALORDS Operation had been turned over to the South Vietnamese Navy.

            Swift Boats generally operated alone on open water and coastal missions, when assigned missions in the Mekong Delta waterways they frequently worked in pairs. Each boat had an officer in charge, one of whom would also be placed in overall charge of the mission. Later in the war, the Swift Boat missions often included patrolling the waterways, searching water traffic for weapons and munitions, transporting Vietnamese marine units and inserting Navy SEAL teams. The SEAL missions generally employed teams of three to five Swift Boats.

            In response to the Swift Boats, the Viet Cong set up ambushes, built obstructions in the canals to create choke points, and began to place mines in the waterways. For the Swift Boats, returning back down river was always more dangerous than going up river. The up-river passage often alerted the enemy of a patrol and assured their eventual return down-river to base, which provided an opportunity for the Viet Cong. The ambushes were typically short-lived affairs, set up at a river bend or in a narrow canal that restricted the maneuverability of the boats. The enemy could employ a wide variety of portable weapons in their attacks including recoilless rifles, B-40 rockets, 50 caliber machine guns and AK-47s, often fired from behind earthen bunkered positions.

            When attacked the Swift Boats would accelerate out of the hot zone, turn and then return as a group, firing as many of their 50 caliber machine guns as they could bring to bear as they powered past the ambush point, then returning back across as many times as needed to reduce the ambushers. Though most cruising and patrolling was done at 8 to 10 knots, the boats could reach top speed of 32 knots. Engagements were brief and violent, with the ambushers often slipping away into the undergrowth when the boats located the source of attack and began to concentrate their return fire. Thick brush and vegetation in the delta provided excellent cover for the escaping ambushers. Casualties taken among the Swift Boat crews were high. Casualties suffered among the Viet Cong were difficult to assess, as they would take their dead and wounded away from a firefight. Discovering newly dug graves was one of the few ways to confirm Viet Cong losses.

            As the U.S. began to withdraw from the war, the Swift Boat duties were taken over by the South Vietnam Navy. The last U.S. Navy PCF was turned over to the SVN in December 1970, although the USN provided some advisory services after that date. In the years 1965 to 1970 approximately 3,500 men served aboard Swift Boats in Vietnam as crew or support personnel. Fifty Swift Boat sailors made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and more than 350 were wounded.

(* The section Vietnam Service is courtesy of Swift Boat Chapter 11: Training Manual

 

Disestablishment

            The table below shows the timeline as the divisions were disestablished an all assets turned over the Republic of Vietnam Navy (RVN).

Coastal   Division 15

November   5, 1969

Coastal   Division 12

February   28, 1970

Coastal   Division 14

April   1, 1970

Coastal   Division 11

October   1, 1970

Coastal   Division 13

December   1, 1970