Operation Lion’s Den

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.

On August 27, 1972. Operation Lion’s Den, or the Battle of Haiphong Harbor, occurred, which involved one of the few ship-to-ship naval battles of the Vietnam War. The operation was carried out by four ships designated as Task Unit 77.1.2., which included USS Newport News (CA 148), an 8-inch gun cruiser; USS Providence (CLG 6), a 6-inch gun missile cruiser; USS Robison (DDG 12), a guided-missile destroyer; and USS Rowan (DD 782). The two cruisers and two destroyers conducted a brief night raid against the North Vietnamese forces protecting the port of Haiphong. This operation was a naval gunfire strike against targets in Haiphong, Do Son Peninsula and Cat Ba area. The purpose of the raid was to knock out coastal defense and SAM (surface-to-air missile) sites as well as other military targets in Haiphong Harbor or the “Lion’s Den,” as called by the Navy.

USS Providence (CLG 6), a 6-inch gun missile cruiser.*
USS Newport News (CA 148), with her 8-inch guns letting loose on targets in Vietnam.*

Vietnamese coastal defense gunfire were heavy during the attack. Newport News reported 75 rounds of very accurate hostile fire; Rowan reported 50 rounds of accurate fire as close as 20 yards and straddling the ship. Robison reported 140 rounds of very accurate fire, the closest being 15 yards off the port beam. Providence counted 60 incoming rounds.

Artwork by Dale Byhre. USS Rowan (DD 782) astern of USS Newport News (CA 148).[1]
USS Robison_DDG 12
USS Robison (DDG 12), a guided-missile destroyer.*

After the bombardment, the ships were threatened by four Russian-built torpedo boats. Two Navy A-7 Corsairs from USS Coral Sea (CV 43) assisted. The Task Unit’s ships and aircraft were able to sink three of the four torpedo boats….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,” use one of the links to booksellers: Amazon.com: Books, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, BAM –Books A Million and Smashword.com eBooks.

©2018 George Trowbridge

If you would like to purchase a copy signed by the author, George Trowbridge, with a “Striking Eight Bells” bookmark use this link: “Get a signed copy.”

The stories in these posts and the book; “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir,” reflect the author’s recollection of events. Some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect the privacy of those depicted. Dialogue has been recreated from memory. Dates, times, and locations were recreated from declassified U.S. Navy records and others. Photographs used are either public domain or owned by the author. Illustrations and maps used were either created by the author or in the public domain. The stories in these posts and the book are solely the opinion of the author and not the publisher, Richter Publishing, LLC.
*Image was found in public domain or it could not be established after reasonable search, that any claim existed to the image. Image used for illustrative purposes only and is not the property of the author. Where ever possible, credit for the image is indicated in the caption.
  1. https://marineartbydale.com/

11 thoughts on “Operation Lion’s Den

  1. I think we swamped a couple of those fast boats they sent after us that night – and yes – the Robison did get a lot of loving attention from the shore batteries. Some of the rounds were popping right off the side and several actually went right over us – sounded like a freight train. good times.


  2. Hello,
    Is there any mention in your book “Striking Eight Bells: A Vietnam Memoir” of the destroyer USS Brush DD-745?
    Thanks in advance for your assistance.


    1. Johnny Carmack, I found no information that the USS Richard E. Kraus (DD 849) was involved in this particular operation. I remember the Kraus being in Vietnam from about November 72 through early 1973. Do you have information otherwise regarding this operation?


      1. negative. As a very, very young BM2 I wasn’t involved or interested in anything other than my job. My interest stems from my attempts at reconstructing that part of my past history. I know what I did but little of what everyone else did. Guess I’m just trying to satisfy a longing for understanding as to my place and involvement in history.


  3. I was a QM on the bridge of Uss Newport News the night of Aug. 27, 1972. The first indication of PT boats came by way of Mstr. Chief QM Williams. We were navigating by radar and the chief was using radar ranges to a small island as a navigational aid.He all of a sudden muttered ” my island just got underway” The info was past to the CO and communicated to look outs and CIC. The fight was on. I have the complete attack and running gun battle on a recording. What I have just stated can be verified twice on this recording. I was hand recording the radar ranges and relaying them to QM 1 Mitch Rybczyk who plotted them on the chart. It was quit a night that feels like yesterday. I am 70 yr. old now, retired, and sometimes can”t remember what I had for breakfast. But that night and Oct. 1,1972 { T-2 explosion} were last night to me. BOB GOODLIN QM. USS NEWPORT NEWS CA 148


  4. I was serving in the aft fire room of the Rowan that night, wearing a headset, so I heard about the torpedo boats faster than the rest of the fire room. I did not realize just how serious the night had been until I read Chuck Packer’s account of that night. I found it highly ironic that the Rowan survived that night, only to sink after being deccomissioned…Rowan decommissioned at 32nd St Naval Base in San Diego, California, on 18 December 1975, was struck from the Navy List on 30 January 1976 and was transferred to the Republic of China on 1 June 1977. While under tow to Taiwan, the destroyer ran aground on 22 August 1977. Written off as a total loss, the wreck was later salvaged for parts


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