An expanded on story from; “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir.”
“Another story on what most Americans don’t know about the Navy’s role in the Vietnam War?”
Many Americans probably believed that by 1972, the war in Vietnam was essentially winding down. However, for the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, 1972 would prove to be a busy year of conducting numerous and dangerous combat operations.
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 (I wrote more of this battle in Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir).
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. Shortly before the air attack, the gun crew on Higbee were outside of mount 52, due to a misfire in one of the 5-inch/38 caliber guns. The gun crew was in the process of re-manning mount 52, when the air attack occurred. Fortunately, on Higbee no one was killed, but four sailors were injured.
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 air fragmentation rounds 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…If you would like to read about my journey from the Midwest to serving on board a Gearing class destroyer in Vietnam as recounted in, “Striking Eight Bells.” To check out, “Striking Eight Bells,” use the following the links to booksellers: Amazon.com: Books, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, BAM –Books A Million, and Smashword.com eBooks