Dedication to Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN, 1971-75

Eagle and Flag

This Page is Dedicated to the five "DD/DDG's" of Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN--USS Gurke (DD-783), USS Rowan (DD-782), USS Bausell (DD-845), USS Parsons (DDG-33), and USS Richard B. Anderson (DD-786), were permanent members of the SEVENTH Fleet. Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN departed its San Diego homeport in 1971 for permanent forward deployment in Yokosuka, Japan. Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN ship operations, as permanent members of Task Group 75, during the early to mid 1970's were highlighted by intensive combat operations off the coasts of both South and North Vietnam, as well as deployments to the Indian Ocean during the heightened threat of war between India and Pakistan in 1971.

Seventh FleetDesRon15 Crest

This Page also is dedicated to the personnel who were casualties aboard the USS Worden (DLG-18) (attached to and fully part of Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN) caused by an Anti-Radiation Missile launch from a friendly aircaft engaged in SAM evasion over North Vietnam. Casualties also were inflicted on the crews of other Destroyers during this period by our own mislaid mines, by North Vietnamese longrange coastal gun batteries, by NVNAF MIG's and by their surface-to-surface missiles. Every one of our casualties deserves our gratitude for their sacrifice, our respect, and great honor.

There were many other destroyers of Task Group 75.2 assigned to strike units of Operations "Freedom Train" and "Linebacker," attacking targets as far north as Haiphong harbor during the period 1 April to 15 December 1972. At least one ship of Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN was usually assigned to them all. Quite often, the Commander Seventh Fleet's flagship, the USS Oklahoma City (CLG-5), also homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, would accompany us and participate in strikes with her eight-inch guns.

En Route Haiphong
"Freedom Train" En Route Haiphong, April 1972,
Copyright Mark Trombley

While the details presented on this page are primarily those of the Richard B. Anderson, the other ships of Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN were equally engaged and at risk during their periods on Strike Operations. There are links to those DesRon FIFTEEN ships that have homepages on the last page, titled "POD."
Vietnam ribbons

Principal naval gunfire targets in North Vietnam were: railroad yards, coastal highways, SAM missile sites, airfields, early warning radar sites, loading docks, warehouses, storage depots and other logistical areas used to sustain the NVN offensive in the South. The story of these operations, conducted day and night almost daily, for seven months, under intense hostile fire while in close proximity to the North Vietnam coast, is still to be written.

Washington Post Picture

This 30-year old newspaper photo is not of the Richard B. Anderson, as the caption says, but it is actually the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764). She is shown being attacked by the big guns of Hon Mat island which protected the southern approaches to Vinh, one of the most heavily defended targets in North Vietnam, and especially dreaded by destroyermen for the gauntlet of guns on three shores of the inlet which had to be traversed in order to get close enough to attack assigned targets. This news photo represents a normal situation on strikes against the North--BIG splashes close aboard! You can tell by the squat (down by the stern), and the heights of the bow wave and wake that she is hauling axx at flank speed, probably about 33 knots! I mean, wouldn't you do the same if there were 190mm projectiles weighing about 150 pounds each raining down on your wake?!

One night, as we were on an inbound run to attack the railway yards in Vinh, we found that the North Vietnamese had placed a neatly spaced-out column of junks carrying artillery on an east-west line about a mile in length along the northern perimeter of our normal approach track (as far away as possible from the guns on Hon Mat to the south but still reasonably safe from rounds fired from batteries on the northern shore. I mean, cross-fire can't be entered into lightly!)

RBA was the northernmost ship. While racing through the pitch-black of night, intensified by the loom of the totally darkened ships of our line-abreast attack unit, our fire control director officer saw the large armed junks in his night vision binoculars. They looked harmless enough, but we always regarded big junks with suspicion. Within seconds after the first muzzle flashes and hostile rounds from their direction, all six junks were quickly set ablaze with WP rounds and destroyed. They never tried that tactic again!


The USS Richard B. Anderson (DD-786), was one of only five Destroyers available to be assigned to the DMZ defense forces when the North invaded on 30 March, 1972. The first ship to arrive off the mouth of the Cua Viet River just south of the DMZ was the USS Buchanan (DDG-14), originally assigned to routine NGFS calls in MR-1 and thus, as luck would have it, was quickly on the scene when the NVA started their main attacks at about 1215 on 30 March. Low clouds, fog and rain precluded any sort of air support for the next four days. Thus, Buchanan was the ONLY long-range artillery available for most of the first 24 hours of the invasion. Her guns were used to strike the enemy main tank, troop forces and heavy artillery which were concentrated north of the DMZ just beyond the range of the guns of the ARVN Marine Corps units assigned to the defense of the DMZ area but close enough for them to strike across the Cua Viet into the city of Dong Ha which sat at the south end of the only bridge strong enough to permit tanks to cross the Cua Viet River.

Four other DD's were escorting the aircraft carriers USS Hancock and USS Coral Sea assigned to Yankee station. Quickly detached from plane-guarding to join the Buchanan, the USS Hamner (DD718) and the Richard B. Anderson arrived in the early evening of the 31st of March and later the next morning, the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) and the Waddell (DDG-24)arrived. Thereafter, we all provided NGFS for the VN Marines defending Dong Ha, day and night, for several days, during the loss of the Cua Viet Naval Base and the subsequent attack on Quang Tri City. The intensity of our barrage did not decrease until a very brave Marine advisor, Captain John Ripley took it upon himself to almost singlehandedly drag out explosives and detonators to finally destroy the bridge, while hanging under its girders and dodging continuous hostile small arms and tank gunfire, a feat for which he was awarded the Navy Cross.

USS Hamner en route North Vietnam coast, April 1972
Copyright=Mark Twombley

During the first few days of April there were so many southbound tanks trying to cross the bridge at Dong Ha that it was difficult to miss a tank or troop-laden truck with your gunfire. As COL G.H. Turley USMC, said in his book [The Easter Offensive, Vietnam 1972], "Because of inclement weather conditions, no tactical air support was brought to bear on the North Vietnamese ground forces. Naval gunfire became the only reliable source of supporting arms during the first 48 hours of the offensive. History will record that the US destroyers were of immeasurable value in holding back the North Vietnamese attack down Highway 1 to Dong Ha and Quang Tri City." Further, later in his book he states: "During the first critical week, when weather precluded all but a few flights of high performance aircraft, these destroyers provided a vital backup to the 3d Division's depleted artillery assets. Since by 3 April the South Vietnamese forces lost over sixty of their eighty artillery pieces, naval gunfire was the only certain supporting arm. By 5 April five destroyers were off the Cam Lo-Cua Viet Rivers delivering critically needed fire support on NVA targets." So much fire that by the time RBA returned to Yokosuka in late May she needed a new set of four gun barrels because the old ones were rapidly losing their accuracy from wear.

Empty Brass---short fire mission-----------If they won't leave, cool'em down!

Then, starting on April 5, we made each of the first dozen daylight strikes (then known as "Operation Freedom Train") against targets in North Vietnam. The RBA took part in 90 day and night strikes against North Vietnamese targets from April through early December during which she was the target of over 1,500 rounds of incoming without any damage other than some chipped paint from shrapnel shards. (See photos below) Approximately 20 of these were daylight strikes during "Operation Freedom Train", some were made so close to the North Vietnam coast that at flank speed the standby helmsmen in after steering often reported that they could hear gravel scouring the bottom after being sucked up by the screws. We ran close enough to shore to actually see the coastal gunners in their gun pits loading and firing at us as we conducted a running duel with them!

During these strikes, and in support of Vietnamese Marines in MR-1, we fired over 32,000 rounds of 5"/38 ammo, wore out three sets of gun barrels (See photos below) and had three OV-10 spotter aircraft shot down while spotting targets for our guns and observing the fall-of-shot on the targets. One of these was an OV-10 spotter aircraft struck in one of its engines by a Stinger heatseeking missile fired from a Russian SA-6 launcher. The pilot, Air Force Captain Steve Bennett, struggled to keep his wounded aircraft aloft long enough to get to seaward where he ditched the aircraft bcause his Marine observer, in the back seat, was unable to eject. He survived the crash, but the pilot was unable to get out and went down with the aircraft. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his rescue. (From the book "OV-10 Bronco in Action" by Jim Mesko) We monitored his descent, helpless to do more than give him vectors to the coast.

During the period of heaviest strike activity we refueled or rearmed from a replenishment ship every other day.

What rapid fire on missions does to the paint on your barrels

Pull GunsBurnt out
All barrels changed three times at Yokosuka SRF
Copyright=Mark Twombley

B-52s shake the coast (and the ship!)----------------------A-4 spotter low "flyby" celebrates destruction of targetted NVN gun battery on first "call-for-fire!"

Vietnam map
DesRon15 area of operations
March-December 1972

Note: the background is dedicated to "Wolfman," our OV-10 Spotters in MR-1 and the DMZ

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This Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club site owned by Joe Felt.
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Page last updated 4 January 2003