Excerpts From “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir.”
Just off the coast of Quang Tri Province in the area of MR1, but very close to the DMZ, was a gun line position designated as, “Point Allison.” Naval gunfire in South Vietnam was under the control of the U.S. Marine Corps 1st Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO). ANGLICO was a Fleet Marine Force detachment consisting mainly of forward artillery observers, close air-support specialists, and radio operators.
The long title for the acronym MR1 is the Republic of Vietnam Government in I Corps Tactical Zone/Military Region 1 (ICTZ/MR1). Military Region I was located in northern South Vietnam and contained the following northern provinces: Quang Tri, Thua Thien, Quang Nam, Quang Tin, and Quang Ngai.
To be most effective, naval gunfire requires observed or “spotted fire.” Spotted fire allows for quick corrections if projectiles are not falling on or hitting the target. Spotted fire was the usual form of naval gunfire support (NGFS). When a ship arrived at its NGFS station, it would establish radio contact with the Marine Corps “spot team” assigned to the ground force. Forward observers acted as the spotters and were usually airborne in a light aircraft or helicopters, but sometimes they were on foot with forward elements of the ground forces. The ground commander requested clearance of the general target area from the Vietnamese province chief and informed the spot team of his requirement for NGFS. The ground commander was either the U.S. Army or Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) or the South Vietnamese Army (SVA).
The forward observer spot team notified the ship of the target description and grid coordinates, the type of ammunition required, and the number of guns required to be ready to fire. The ship then fired on the target with the spotter correcting the fall of the projectiles and directing fire onto any new targets, for example, new enemy troop movement.
The Marine spotter would initiate a fire mission by first giving the “warning order” over the radio. The next radio calls from the spotter would pass the target grid location and the target description. They would give the target grid coordinates in six digits; for example, “Target coordinates are 6, 9, 4, 1, 8, 3. Break. I say again, target coordinates are 6, 9, 4, 1, 8, 3. How copy? Over.” Sometimes, the spotter would add to his radio message, “Danger close,” meaning our gunfire will fall within 750 meters of friendlies or friendly troops. To prevent firing on friendly troops and civilians, we strictly followed set procedures to check and double check the accuracy of the target position and the calculated gun target line.
Many of us on the bridge crew of USS Rich (DD 820) became well-versed about the types of 5-inch projectiles we were firing and how they performed over or on the target. Our 5-inch projectiles had a high initial velocity, which resulted in a high striking velocity and a flat trajectory at short ranges. This made our fired 5-inch projectiles particularly effective against targets presenting a nearly perpendicular face to our line of fire.
The Marines from the ANGLICO spotting teams were highly proficient in selecting the appropriate projectile and fuze for the ship to fire on their selected shore targets. For the most part they asked for high explosive or HE projectiles. However, their directions for types of projectile fuze varied depending on the type of target…. If you would like to read more of “Striking Eight Bells,” use one of the following links to various booksellers: Amazon.com: Books, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, BAM –Books A Million and Smashword.com eBooks.
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©2018 George Trowbridge