All of my active duty was served aboard the USS Benner (DD-807) a WWII destroyer. Her main armaments for Vietnam operations were her six 5″ guns, 3 twin mounts that saw a lot of action off the coast of North Vietnam while Benner was involved in Operation Sea Dragon as a unit of Task Force 77. Our objectives were to engage enemy waterborne craft attempting to deliver supplies and ammunition to South Vietnam, and to locate and destroy enemy shore batteries along the coast of North Vietnam.
USS Benner was engaged by enemy shore batteries on numerous occasions; my battle station during these engagements was on the open bridge as Tactical Communicator. Two of these occasions are described briefly.
In January 1967 the USS Benner and USS Stoddard were taken under fire by 2 NVN shore batteries southeast of Vinh while the destroyers were shelling North Vietnamese waterborne logistics craft. The ensuing counter battery fire from the destroyers lasted several minutes; neither ship was hit but shell bursts were approaching both before the shore guns were silenced, as reported by spotter aircraft.
In February 1967 the USS Benner, in company with the cruiser USS Canberra and the guided missile destroyer USS Joseph Strauss, was involved in the first sustained naval engagement of the Vietnam conflict. This was the first time US Navy ships were authorized to initiate attacks on enemy targets. The 3 US warships dueled numerous North Vietnamese shore batteries several miles north of Dong Hoi in an intense battle that lasted 30 minutes or so. USS Benner encountered shell bursts close aboard on all sides, but was not hit. The USS Canberra was hit by 2 shells, but damage was minor.
We fired more than 400 rounds during this engagement. With our forward gun mounts firing aft to the port side, at my GQ station I could feel the heat and debris in my face from 4 of our 5″ guns firing past the bridge. All the enemy batteries were reported neutralized and other shore installations were reported destroyed.
In addition to her 5″ guns, USS Benner was configured with DASH, the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter. Our DASH was nicknamed “Snoopy” because it was outfitted with cameras and was flown on many occasions over NVN coastal areas to help locate and identify enemy gun emplacements and storage facilities which we would then shell. On most recon trips “Snoopy” would return with numerous bullet holes, but it was never shot down!
My Vietnam experiences all took place during my first Westpac Cruise on USS Benner.
See a video of Snoopy here.
Any exceptional or interesting anecdotes or incidents:
During my second Westpac Cruise in 1968, while I was a LT, still Communications Officer/Crypto-Security Officer, I was “asked” to accept a special assignment during US Navy/JMSDF joint operations in the Sea of Japan. So I agreed to Command’s “request” and spent approximately 2 weeks aboard the Japanese destroyer JDS 214 OHI as a liaison officer and observer of the JMSDF operational details.
Class: 1964 Degree: BS Geology Service: USNR
Years of Service: Active 1966-1968 Years in Vietnam: 1966-1967.
Commissioned August 1964; Active duty deferred to June 1966 for Graduate School at New Mexico Tech – received MS Geology.
Rank/Position while in offshore Vietnam: LTJG/Communications Officer/Crypto Security Officer on USS Benner (DD-807)
Medals/Ribbons related to Vietnam service: Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, Vietnam Campaign Medal. Commander Seventh Fleet Citation for outstanding service in communications and processing of encrypted traffic while ship was engaged in combat operations off the coast of North Vietnam.