Moonriver and Black Ponies: My Year in Vietnam

A few days before Christmas 1969 I landed at Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam, to begin a one-year tour with NavComSta Philippines NavSecGruDet Delta at Camp Tien Sha (Monkey Mountain Receiver Site), ComSecTeam 3 at Vung Tau and various other locations throughout the Mekong Delta region, including the USS Hunterdon County (LST-838), and finally NavComSta Cam Ranh Bay. My story describes our efforts to protect Navy units from having their UHF/VHF communications exploited by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. Our monitoring targets were primarily Navy coastal and riverine forces whose mission was to deny the use of Vietnam's coastline and rivers for resupply and movement of forces. As 1970 progressed, the so-called "Vietnamization" program was ramping up as US forces increasingly turned over assets and missions to South Vietnamese forces.

In May and June 1970, while at Team 3 in Vung Tau, US and South Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia via land and water routes primarily in the Parrots Beak and Fishhook areas west of Saigon and up the Mekong River in an attempt to strike the sanctuaries being used by the NVA and VC forces. I remember looking out at the South China Sea from our base at Vung Tau as a line of riverine craft stretched west toward the horizon and the mouth of the Mekong River Delta in May at the beginning of the operation. We listened to Navy PBR, OV-10's, Seawolf helicopters, Seal teams, and Marine advisors to the RVN forces as they prosecuted the invasion.

By September 1970 we closed the Vung Tau site and I spent the remaining weeks of 1970 moving throughout the Delta with brief assignments at Nha Be, Dong Tam, and Ha Tien. When I boarded my "freedom bird" at Cam Ranh Bay for my flight to Seattle and my discharge from the Navy in early December, I was proud of our work and satisfied that we may just have saved a few lives conducting our mission. My year in Vietnam was the greatest "adventure" of my life, not a view I am sure shared by many who actually participated in combat. I was a noncombatant, a master of the keyboard, a so-called "Remington Raider" who was constantly close enough to the fighting to "hear" the war in our headphones and receivers, but fortunately mostly physically removed from direct action.

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