In April of 1972, along the coast of North Vietnam the Dong Hoi Gulf was a unique and active area. The coastline was mountainous and Highway 1 went through a pass very near to the Gulf of Tonkin. There was the point south of Brandon Bay where the highway could be attacked by naval forces and naval gunfire. It was in this place on April 19, where North Vietnamese MIG aircraft attacked U.S. Navy destroyers in what was known as the Battle of Dong Hoi Gulf. In that battle, one destroyer, the USS Higbee (DD 806), suffered damage from a bomb hit and the USS Sterrett (DLG 31), a guided missile destroyer, shot down two MIGs with her Terrier missiles. On the Higbee no one was killed, but four sailors were injured. Fortunately, the ship had just evacuated the gun mount due to a misfire and no one was inside.
Later that same day, Sterrett and Higbee were attacked by high speed patrol craft launching Styx anti-ship missiles. Sterrett successfully repelled the Styx attack with Terrier missiles, and then, with the 5-inch/54 caliber gun, fired 11 rounds of air fragmentation at the radar position of the two-patrol craft, which resulted in enemy losses and the sinking of both patrol craft. This later proved to be not true. What the Sterrett might have seen were phantom radar contacts likely caused by other Navy ships positioned to their north. However, this battle did result in special armaments and sensors being provided to destroyers for combating low flying aircraft and anti-ship missiles. I wrote about this battle in my book “Striking Eight Bells.” To check out, “Striking Eight Bells,” use the following the links to booksellers:
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