Friday, March 29, 2019

TheList 4960

The List 4960 TGB

Thanks again to Admiral Cox and The Naval Historical and Heritage Command.
H-28 Gram 
Date: March 29, 2019 at 1:14:17 PM MDT

Subject: H028R U.S. Navy Valor in Vietnam 1969
From:  Director of Naval History
To: Senior Navy Leadership
Subj: H-gram 028  U.S. Navy Valor in Vietnam: 1969
     This H-gram marks National Vietnam War Veterans Day.  Today, all U.S. Navy Museums hosted commemoration events, which included presenting pins provided by the Vietnam War Commemoration Commission to all Vietnam War veterans in attendance as a gesture of appreciation and respect for their service and sacrifice.   Veterans returning from the Vietnam War in the 1960's and 1970's did not receive the gratitude from our nation that has become the norm today.  Today's commemoration at the National Museum of the United States Navy in Washington DC also focused on the significant contribution of our sister service, the U.S. Coast Guard, to Operation Market Time (the interdiction of Vietnamese Communist seaborne supply routes) that cost the lives of eight Coastguardsmen.  The NAVADMIN from CNO directing U.S. Navy participation in National Vietnam War Veterans Day can be found at attachment H028.2.
50th Anniversary; Vietnam War
     The character of the Vietnam War changed dramatically in 1969, however intense combat continued, as well as acts of heroism.  I don't have overall numbers for 1969, but during 1968, crews on board the river patrol boats (PBR's) alone earned one Medal of Honor, six Navy Crosses, four Legions of Merit, 24 Silver Stars, 290 Bronze Stars, 363 Navy Commendation Medals, and more than 500 purple hearts, with one out of every three being wounded.  The numbers would have been comparable in 1969, for although there were no Tet-scale offensives, and bombing had been halted over North Vietnam, the pace of riverine and coastal operations by the U.S. Navy continued largely unabated, although they began to slow somewhat toward the end of 1969 as the new Nixon Administration's "Vietnamization" Policy increasingly took effect, and as the South Vietnamese Navy took on more combat operations.  Nevertheless, three U.S. Navy personnel would be awarded the Medal of Honor for combat action in 1969;
     Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Joseph R. Kerry, USNR was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on 14 March 1969 while serving as a SEAL Team Leader on a mission to capture key Viet Cong leaders that turned into a major firefight.   Despite his severe wounds, Kerry continued to lead his men in the successful accomplishment of their mission, resulting in the acquisition of critical intelligence.  Kerry went on to serve as Senator from Nebraska.
     Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for action on 19 March 1969 while serving as corpsman with Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division when a battalion-sized Viet Cong assault penetrated the perimeter.  Despite serious wounds, Ray repeatedly exposed himself to intense enemy fire to aid wounded Marines, and was forced to defend himself from direct attack by two enemy soldiers, until he finally sacrificed his life to shield a wounded Marine from an enemy grenade explosion.
     Lieutenant Thomas G. Kelley was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on 15 June 1969, while serving as Commander River Assault Division 152, when his column of eight river assault craft came under intense Viet Cong fire.  Despite his own severe wounds, Kelley continued to lead and inspire the other boats until they were out of harm's way.
For complete Medal of Honor Citations please see attachment H028.1.
     The "Tet Offensive" in early 1968 represented a psychological turning point in American political support for the war effort in Vietnam despite the fact that the surprise Tet Offensive was beaten back with catastrophic losses to the Viet Cong in South Vietnam from which they never really recovered.  (In the end, South Vietnam would fall in 1975 to a conventional attack by the North Vietnamese Army not due to the Viet Cong insurgency.)  However, the size, surprise and casualties of the Tet Offensive shocked and disillusioned much of the American public who had been led to believe that victory was just around the corner by optimistic pronouncements by senior military and political leaders.  President Lyndon Johnson had halted the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam in order to induce the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table, which worked, although I would argue that the severe Vietnamese Communist losses in the Tet (and several "mini - Tet") offensives, as well as severe damage to North Vietnamese infrastructure caused by the bombing, had a lot to do with it.
      President Richard M. Nixon won the 1968 U.S. Presidential election in part because he claimed to have a plan to end the Vietnam War, the details of which were not revealed before the election.  In a speech at the end of December 1968, President Nixon gave a name to the new strategy, "Vietnamization."  Under this strategy, U.S. forces would increasingly focus on training and equipping the South Vietnamese Army so that they could pick up an ever-increasing share of the burden of fighting, which would allow the U.S. forces to gradually draw down and get out of Vietnam.  The North Vietnamese responded with a strategy of their own; "Talk While Fighting, Fight While Talking" (probably sounds better in Vietnamese).  As a result, nearly as many Americans died during months of negotiating for the shape of the table for the Peace Talks as died during the same number of months of combat in 1968.
      The North Vietnamese viewed negotiations, as well as declining U.S. domestic support for the war, as a signal of weakness of U.S. political will; their strategy thus became to both protract the fighting and protract the negotiations, while using the cessation of bombing to build up their conventional fighting power (with large quantities of Soviet and Communist Chinese military equipment that came into North Vietnam with no hindrance,) with the intent to wait out the U.S. before attempting to invade South Vietnam (they did this prematurely in 1972, and were beaten back by U.S. naval and air power, but were successful in 1975 when the U.S. did not intervene except to assist with limited evacuations.)
     The negotiations and political machinations had little effect on U.S. Navy operations in the early part of 1969, other than that aircraft operating from aircraft carriers in the South China Sea bombed enemy targets in South Vietnam rather than North Vietnam itself.  The U.S. Navy did fly reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam, which were occasionally shot at, despite the "truce," and the U.S. would respond with limited retaliatory strikes in the southern part of North Vietnam, which did little to curb the North Vietnamese build-up.  However, the war in the rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam (Operation Game Warden) and a couple rivers south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) (Operation Clearwater) continued unabated for months, and in fact increased with the advent of Operation SEALORDS which pushed U.S. riverine activity right up to the Cambodian Border.
      I will cover more on the "Vietnamization" of the war in a future H-gram.
      In the meantime, RADM (ret.) "Bear" Taylor is back up on the net with his great blog which today includes a post on the importance of today's commemoration at
Very respectfully,
Samuel J. Cox
RADM, USN (retired)
Director of Naval History
Curator for the Navy
Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
H028.1  Medal of Honor Citations; U.S. Navy, Vietnam, 1969
29 Mar 2019
Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Joseph R. Kerrey, United States Naval Reserve
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 14 March 1969 while serving as a SEAL Team Leader during action against enemy aggressor (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam.  Acting in response to reliable intelligence Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey led his SEAL Team on a mission to capture important members of the enemy's area political cadre known to be located an island in the bay of Nha Trang.  In order to surprise the enemy, he and his team scaled a 350-foot sheer cliff to place themselves above the ledge on which the enemy was located.  Splitting his team in two elements, Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey led his men in a treacherous downward descent to the enemy's camp. Just as they neared the end of their descent, intense enemy fire was directed at them, and Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey received massive injuries from a grenade which exploded at his feet and threw him backward onto the jagged rocks.  Although bleeding profusely and suffering great pain, he displayed outstanding courage and presence of mind in immediately directing his element's fire into the heart of the enemy camp.  Utilizing his radioman, Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey called in the second element's fire support which caught the Viet Cong in a devastating cross fire.  After successfully suppressing the enemy's fire, and although immobilized by his multiple wounds, he continued to maintain calm, superlative control as he ordered his team to secure and defend an extraction site.  Lieutenant (jg) Kerrey resolutely directed his men, despite his near unconscious state, until he was eventually evacuated by helicopter.  The havoc brought to the enemy by this very successful mission cannot be overestimated.  The enemy who were captured provided critical intelligence to the allied effort.  Lieutenant (jg) Kerry's courageous and inspiring leadership, valiant fighting spirit, and tenacious devotion to duty in the face of almost overwhelming opposition, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.
Hospital Corpsman Second Class David R. Ray, United States Navy
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond  the call f duty while serving as a corpsman with Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division, at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa, Quang Nam Province, in the Republic of Vietnam, on 19 March 1969.  During the early morning hours, an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the batteries position, and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire perimeter.  The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties among the Marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack.  Undaunted by the intense hostile fire, Petty Officer Ray moved from parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded.  Although seriously wounded himself while rendering first aide to a Marine casualty, he refused medical treatment and continued his life saving efforts.  While he was bandaging and attempting to comfort another wounded Marine, Petty Officer Ray was forced to battle two enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing one and wounding another. Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his own severe wounds, he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire to other casualties.  Once again, he was faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops, and despite the grave danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds.  Petty Officer Ray's final act of heroism was to protect the patient he was treating.  He threw himself upon the wounded Marine, thus saving the man's life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby.  By his determined and persevering actions, courageous spirit, and selfless devotion to his Marine comrades, Petty Officer Ray served to inspire the men of Battery D to heroic efforts in defeating the enemy.  His conduct throughout was in keeping of the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
(The Spruance-class destroyer USS DAVID R. RAY (DD-971) was named in his honor, commissioned on 19 Nov 1977 and decommissioned on 28 February 2002, until it was sunk as a target in July 2008.  The ship still remains protected under the Sunken Military Craft Act.)
Lieutenant Thomas G. Kelley, United States Navy
"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on the afternoon of 15 June 1969 while serving as Commander River Assault Division 152 during combat operations against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam. Lieutenant Kelley was in charge of a column of eight river assault craft which were evacuating one company of United States Army infantry troops on the east bank of the Ong Muang Canal in Kien Hoa Province, when one of the armored troop carriers reported a mechanical failure of a loading ramp.  At approximately the same time, Viet Cong forced opened fire from the opposite bank of the canal.  After issuing orders for the crippled troop carrier to raise its ramp manually, and for the remaining boats to form a protective cordon around the disabled craft, Lieutenant Kelly, realizing the extreme danger to his column and its inability to clear the ambush site until the crippled unit was repaired, boldly maneuvered the monitor in which he was embarked to the exposed side of the protective cordon in direct line with the enemy's fire and ordered the monitor to commence firing.  Suddenly an enemy rocket scored a direct hit on the coxswain's flat, the shell penetrating the thick armor plate, and the explosion spraying shrapnel in all directions.  Sustaining serious head wounds from the blast, which hurled him to the deck of the monitor, Lieutenant Kelley disregarded his own severe injuries and attempted to continue directing the other boats.  Although unable to move from the deck or speak clearly into the radio, he succeeded in relaying his commands through one of his men until the enemy attack was silenced and the boats were able to move to an area of safety.  Lieutenant Kelley's brilliant leadership, bold initiative, and resolute determination served to inspire his men and provided the impetus needed to carry out the mission after he was medically evacuated by helicopter.  His extraordinary courage under fire, and his selfless devotion to duty sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
R 142020Z MAR 19
RMKS/1.  The U.S. Navy performed a wide array of missions during the Vietnam
War.  In the air, the Navy was a key partner with the U.S. Air Force during
the Rolling Thunder and Linebacker air campaigns against North Vietnam, and
in other air operations in Laos and Cambodia.  On the coast, it developed a
highly effective blockade to prevent the resupply of enemy forces by sea,
engaged in naval gunfire support missions against enemy targets in the
littoral areas of Vietnam, and provided amphibious transport for Marines
operating in I Corps.  On the rivers, Navy task forces protected commercial
traffic, assisted allied ground forces in pacifying these areas, and
interdicted enemy troops and supplies moving on these inland waterways.  The
U.S. Navy also supported the war effort with a massive sea and riverine
logistics operation, built and managed shore facilities throughout South
Vietnam, and provided extensive medical support for the allied military
operation.  A total of 1.8 million Sailors served in Southeast Asia.  The
Navy provided the allied effort with many unique capabilities, the most
significant being the projection of U.S. combat power ashore and control of
the seas to support a land war in Asia far from the United States.  Overall,
the Navy suffered the loss of 1,631 men killed and 4,178 wounded during the
course of the war.
2.  To ensure the sacrifices of the 9 million who served during this
difficult chapter of our country's history are remembered for generations to
come, President Donald Trump signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans
Recognition Act of 2017, designating March 29 of each year as National
Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day.  On March 29 we honor all those who
answered our Nation's call to duty in Vietnam.  With conviction, our Nation
pledges our enduring respect, our continuing care, and our everlasting
commitment to all Vietnam Veterans.
3.  Mission.  Meet the President's direction by honoring and recognizing
Vietnam Veterans for their service to the Nation and Navy.
4.  Commander's Intent
    a.  Purpose.  Commemorate National Vietnam War Veterans Day throughout
the Navy on 29 March 2019.
    b.  Method.  Command-centric execution of a coordinated Navy-wide
National Vietnam War Veterans Day commemoration.
        (1) Use available Navy outreach assets to maximum extent possible.
        (2) Be guided by, and supportive of, the Navy's strategic messaging.
   c.  End State:  The National Vietnam War Veterans Day commemoration
becomes an institutionalized community outreach and Navy pride event for all
Sailors, past and present, observed globally through the end of the
commemoration in 2025.
5.  Tasks
    a.  Director, Navy Staff (DNS) will oversee planning and program
development for the National Vietnam War Veterans Day commemoration.
    b.  Director, Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC).
        (1) Coordinate and support the execution of the commemoration events
to include the execution of a Navy-wide observation and supporting community
outreach events.
        (2) Conduct National Vietnam War Veterans Day Ceremony at Navy
    c.  At 1200 local on 28 March 2019.
        (1) Submarine Force Museum/Historic Ship NAUTILUS.  Naval Base New
London, Groton, CT.  POC:  LCDR Bradley Boyd/bradley.m.boyd1(AT)
    d.  At 1200 local on 29 March 2019.
        (1) National Naval Aviation Museum.  Pensacola, FL.  POC:  Sterling
sterling.gilliam(AT) x3118.
        (2) Naval War College Museum.  Naval Station Newport, Newport, RI.
POC:  Ryan Meyer/ryan.meyer(AT)
        (3) United States Naval Academy Museum.  U.S. Naval Academy,
Annapolis, MD.
POC:  CAPT Chris Rentfrow/rentfrow(AT)
        (4) United States Navy Seabee Museum.  Naval Base Ventura County Port
Hueneme, Port Hueneme, CA.  POC:  Lara Godbille/lara.godbille(AT)
        (5) National Museum of the American Sailor.  Naval Station Great
Lakes, Great Lakes, IL.  POC:  Jennifer Searcy/jennifer.searcy(AT)
nmas.fct(AT) x205.
        (6) Hampton Roads Naval Museum.  Norfolk, VA.  POC:  John Pentangelo/
        (7) Navy Museums Northwest. Keyport, WA.  POC:  Lindy Dosher/
    e.  At 1100 local on 29 March 2019.
        (1) National Museum of the U.S. Navy.  Washington Navy Yard,
Washington, DC.
POC:  Mark Weber/
            (a) Develop a commemoration toolkit for use by Commander, U.S.
Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM), Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
(COMPACFLT), Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), Regional
Commanders, Commanding Officers (CO), and Officers in Charge (OIC).
            (b) Compile lessons learned from stakeholders and provide to DNS
18 April 2019.
    f.  COMUSFLTFORCOM; COMPACFLT; CNIC; Commander, Navy Reserve Force
Command (COMNAVRESFORCOM); Commander, Naval Education and Training Command;
and Commander, Naval Recruiting Command:
        (1) Ensure COs and OICs plan for and commemorate the National Vietnam
War Veterans Day proclamation.
            (a) For commands located near a Navy Museum, consideration should
be given to leveraging already existing event.
            (b) Execute the Communication Plan, disseminated by NHHC, and
participate in planned community outreach activities as operationally
        (2) Provide lessons learned to NHHC NLT 11 April 2019.
6.  Coordinating Instructions
    a.  Additional coordination instructions and tasking to be provided by
separate correspondence (SEPCOR) as plans develop.
7.  Administrative
    a.  The National Vietnam War Veterans Day commemoration toolkit is
available at the NHHC website (
    b.  Public Affairs Guidance:
        (1) This is an active public affairs posture event.
        (2) Public affairs guidance will be provided SEPCOR.
8.  Point of contact.  NHHC POC is Dale Eng, at comm:  (202) 433-7880 or via
email:  dale.a.eng(AT)
9.  Released by Ms. Steffanie B. Easter, Director, Navy Staff.//

No comments:

Post a Comment

Featured Post

THE MYSTERIOUS PHONE CALL Jack Blanchard's Column February 13, 2021

        Thousands of readers around the world ...