It was early afternoon on December 5, 1972. Our ship, USS Rich (DD 820) just received a call for gunfire support via the Commander Task Unit (CTU) 71.1.1, from an aloft ANGLICO Marine spotter flying in a Cessna Bird Dog plane. The grid coordinates were passed to us for a newly located coast radar station on Hon Co Island. Everyone in the Navy, called the place, “Tiger Island.” Once our ship received permission from CTU 71.1.1, we immediately brought the ship to the required course and speed to close the island.
Tiger Island was reported to be loaded with anti-aircraft and big gun shore batteries with fire control radar sites. Our ship had attacked Tiger Island twice before along with two other destroyers several days before and we got a lot of J-band radar directed big gun counterbattery fire from the island. Though the NVA’s J-band fire control radar directed gunfire had not resulted in any direct hits on our ship, they had gotten close, closer than any of us had experienced so far. I know some in the bridge team felt a bit of apprehension about going up against the big NVA guns on Tiger Island again.
At 1458, the ship went to GQ stations and we maneuvered the ship in close to Tiger Island. At 1530, the ship commenced fire on the target with two rapid four-round salvos from both mounts 51 and 52. Within moments after firing, we got heavy NVA counterbattery in return, with multiple counterbattery splashes all around the ship. The XO maneuvered the ship farther away from the shore and then brought the ship broadside to the beach. We had good gun target lines and ranges to the gun batteries that had fired on us. Our ship opened up on the NVA gun batteries, and for about the next 20 minutes, we fired 340, 5-inch/38 caliber high explosive (HE) rounds onto the targets. It was relayed to us from CTU 71.1.1. that according to a forward observer report, “You’ve blown the hell out every living thing in the target area.”
After the order to cease fire, the ship stayed in the area for a short while before proceeding to take station off USS Wilson (DDG 7). After taking station off USS Wilson, and with USS Rowan (DD 782), all three ships in our task unit came to a northerly heading, now proceeding further north along the North Vietnam coastline to our next strike mission position… If you would like to read more stories from my book “Striking Eight Bells,” use one of these links to booksellers: Amazon.com: Books, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, BAM –Books A Million and Smashword.com eBooks.
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