SIXTH “WESTPAC” DEPLOYMENT AND

THIRD VIETNAM COMBAT CRUISE

U. S. AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA

OVERHAUL AT HUNTERS POINT, SAN FRANCISCO, CA.

& LOCAL TRAINING OPERATIONS

Iran History & Air Arm

(26 July 1967 to 6 September 1968)

CHAPTER XXII

 

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) with Commander J. B. Linder (serving since February 1967), command of Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) (tail code NL), Rear Admiral John P. Weinel broke his flag, relieving Rear Gerald E. Miller, Commander Carrier Division Three prior to assuming command of COMCARDIV THREE in May 1967 and Captain Martin G. O’Neil, Chief of Staff, Carrier Division Three embarked departed Naval Air Station, Alameda, California 26 July 1967, with Captain William Henley Shawcross, as Commanding Officer and Commander “J” “D” Ward, as Executive Officer serving since April 1967 embarked, on her sixth “WestPac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet (25 January 1960 to Present) and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet in the Far East, her fifth South China Sea deployment, on her third Vietnam Combat Cruise (NHC Battle Order p 9), participating in in support of ARVN and Third Marine Division forces in Operation Niagara, a counteroffensive aimed at the major infiltration routes on the Laotian border and Operation Formation Star cold weather training. Prior to her deployment she conducted CarQuals and refresher training, operating Grumman A-6A Intruders for the first time and landed a Vought A-7A Corsair II in June for the first time, marking the first fleet CarQuals for that aircraft, proceeded by two months of restricted availability at Hunters Point Naval Ship Yard, San Francisco, Calif., during which time Captain Shawcross, William H. became the new Commanding Officer arriving at Hunters Point NSY on 18 March 1967 (NHC Battle Order p 9), completing her 1st & 2nd Vietnam Expeditionary Force (VEF) deployments during her 1st & 2nd “WestPac,” (first CVA in the Bering Sea during 12 December 1961 to 17 July 1962 deployment). She will undergo her sixth foreign water deployment since her visit to Vancouver, B.C. (18 to 22 March 1960) when she deployed from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington upon completion of sea trials and a post-overhaul inspection and survey evaluation, commencing once recommissioned, following SCB 110A conversion (16 April 1957 to 25 January 1960), decommissioned on 24 April 1957, completing nine tours of duty in the Mediterranean Sea operating with the 6th Fleet (7 June 1948 to 13 August 1956); reclassified hull classification symbol CVA-43 on 1 October 1952. She will under go her 17th Foreign Water Fleet Deployment (FWFD) since her commission 1 October 1947” (Ref. 1-Coral Sea, 2-USS Coral Sea “Welcome Aboard” brochure, 34, 35, 72, 405 & 1275T5, 1275T6, 1275T7, 1275T8, 1275T10 & 1275V4).

 

WestPac Cruise Book 1967-68 - Ref. 1275T

San Francisco's Own - Ref. 1275T1

The Cruise and Ports of Call - Ref. 1275T2

Command - Ref. 1275T3

Captain William H. Shawcross, CO, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) - Ref. 1275T4

 

USS CORAL SEA (CVA-43) with CVW-15 (NL)

(26 July 1967 to 6 April 1968) 

Hull No. /

Fleet

Foreign Water Fleet

Deployment

 Air Wing

Tail

Code

Depart

Return

Days at Sea

Fleet D. No.

USS Coral Sea (CVA-43)

Pacific & 7th

6th WestPac

5th SCS

3rd Vietnam Combat

CVW-15

NL

26 Jul 1967

6 Apr 1968

Vietnam Conflict/War

17th FWFD

256-days

 

SQUADRON

SQUADRON NICK NAME & PRIMARY

ROLE

AIRCRAFT DESIGN

NICK NAME &

PRIMARY ROLE

TAIL

CODE

Modex

AIRCRAFT

DESIGNATION

VF-151

Vigilantes -

Fighter Squadron

McDonnell-Douglas - Phantom II Jet Fighter

NL100

F-4B

VF-161

Chargers -

Fighter Squadron

McDonnell-Douglas - Phantom II Jet Fighter

NL200

F-4B

VA-153

Blue Tail Flies -

Attack Squadron

Douglas - Skyhawk -

Jet Attack Bomber

NL300

A-4E

VA-25

Fist of the Fleet -

Attack Squadron

Douglas - Skyraider' -

Attack

NL400

A-1H  / A-1J

VA-155

Silver Foxes -

Attack Squadron

Douglas - Skyhawk -

Jet Attack Bomber

NL500

A-4E

VAH-2 Det. 43

Royal Rampants -

Heavy Attack Squadron

Douglas - Skywarrior - Jet Attack Fighter - Tanker

ZA600

 

A-3 (KA-3B)

*VAW-13 Det.

Zappers - Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron

Douglas -Skyraider' -   Attack Fighter

VR700

A-1 - EA-1F

VFP-63 Det. 43

Eyes of the Fleet or Gators - Light Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron

Vought - Crusader -

Jet Fighter - Reconnaissance

NL710

RF-8G

VAW-116

Sun Kings - Carrier Airborne Early Warning

Grumman - Hawkeye

NL700

E-2A

HC-1 Det.                              43

Pacific Fleet Angels -Helicopter Combat Support Squadron

Kaman - Seasprite - Transport (Utility)

UPxx

UH-2A & UH-2B HU2K-1 (UH-2A) / HU2K-1U (UH-2B)

**VAP-61 Det.

Heavy Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron

Douglas - Skywarrior -

Photographic reconnaissance/Survey

 

A3D-2P (RA-3B)

*VAW-13 did not submit a Command History Report for 1967; consequently, it is not possible to verify all the squadron’s detachments operating aboard carriers on “Yankee Station” in 1967.  On 20 April 1967 Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 111 (VAW-111) was established and VAW-11 detachments became part of VAW-111.  VAW-11 Det Q became VAW-111 Det 20.

HC-7 was established on 1 September 1967.  In 1968 an HC-7 detachment was formed and given the mission of maintaining year-round combat configured helos aboard carriers and other ships operating on “Yankee Station” for combat search and rescue missions. The 1968 Command History Report for HC-7 does not identify all the specific ships that detachment 110 operated aboard.

VQ - Electronic Countermeasures Squadron and or Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron. VQ-1's Command History Report for 1967 did not identify the detachments or carriers they operated from in support of combat operations against Vietnam.

**VAP-61's Command History Report for 1968 indicated continued support of 7th Fleet carriers on “Yankee Station.”  However, the squadron's report does not identify the detachments deployed aboard carriers in “WestPac” during 1968.

USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) sixth “WestPac” saw the last cruise of A-1 Skyraider by VA-25.

“Significant change for CVW-15 this cruise was the addition of VF-161, providing the wing with all F-4Bs” (Ref. 43).

Ref. 34, 35, 39, 41 & 76

 

 

Two views of USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) taken at 11AM on July 26, 1967 as she left San Francisco headed for WestPac and her third Vietnam deployment — an eventful cruise, involving many of the heaviest strikes of the war. Air Wing was CVW-15. NS024348 54k. Courtesy of William T. Larkins http://www.navsource.org/archives/02/024348.jpg

 

    “While on the line, 26 July 1967, USS Oriskany (CVA-34) with CVW-16 embarked provided medical assistance to the fire-ravaged attack carrier USS Forrestal (CV-59)” (Ref. 1-Oriskany & 72).

 

     “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) was adopted by the city of San Francisco. Two ceremonies consummated the adoption. On 29 July 1967, Coral Sea was inducted into the Great Golden Fleet of San Francisco and on 24 July 1967, Mayor Shelly officiated at the formal adoption ceremony in the City Hall” (Ref. 1275U16).

 

    “USS Forrestal (CVA-59) was operating on “Yankee Station” off the coast of North Vietnam conducting combat operation, when she cut a wake through the calm waters of the Gulf of Tonkin on 29 July 1967, launching aircraft from her flight deck on strikes against an enemy whose coastline was only a few miles over the horizon” (Ref. 1-Forrestal & 72).

 

    “For four days, the planes of Attack Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW-17) had been launched on, and recovered from, about 150 missions against targets in North Vietnam. On the ship's four-acre flight deck, her crewmen went about the business at hand, the business of accomplishing the second launch of the fifth day in combat” (Ref. 1-Forrestal & 72).

 

    “On the fifth such day of operations and at 10:52am the crew was starting the second launch cycle of the day, when suddenly a Zuni rocket accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom into a parked and armed A-4 Skyhawk” (Ref. 84A).

 

    “The launch that was scheduled for a short time later was never made. Lt. Cmdr. John S. John McCain III, later a prisoner of war in Vietnam and still later U.S. Senator from Arizona, said later he heard a "whooshy" sound then a "low-order explosion" in front of him. Suddenly, two A-4s ahead of his plane were engulfed in flaming jet fuel — JP-5 — spewed from them. A bomb dropped to the deck and rolled about six feet and came to rest in a pool of burning fuel” (Ref. 1-Forrestal, 72 & 84A).

 

    “The accidental launch and subsequent impact caused the belly fuel tank and a 1,000 pound bomb on the Skyhawk to fall off, the tank broke open spilling JP5 (jet fuel) onto the flight deck and ignited a fire. Within a minute and a half the bomb was the first to cook-off and explode, this caused a massive chain reaction of explosions that engulfed half the airwings aircraft, and blew huge holes in the steel flight deck. Fed by fuel and bombs from other aircraft that were armed and ready for the coming strike, the fire spread quickly, many pilots and support personnel were trapped and burned alive. Fuel and bombs spilled into the holes in the flight deck igniting fires on decks further into the bowels of the ship. Berthing spaces immediately below the flight deck became death traps for fifty men, while other crewmen were blown overboard by the explosion. Nearby ships hastened to the Forrestal aid. The USS Oriskany (CV-34), herself a victim of a tragic fire in October 1966, stood by to offer fire-fighting and medical aid to the larger carrier. Nearby escort vessels sprayed water on the burning Forrestal and within an hour the fire on the flight deck was under control. The crew heroically fought the fire and carried armed bombs to the side of the ship to throw them overboard for 13 hours. Secondary fires below deck took another 12 hours to contain” (Ref. 84A).

 

    “Once the fires were under control, the extent of the awful conflagration or devastation was apparent. Most tragic was the loss to the crew, 134 had lost their lives, while an additional 64 were injured, this was and still remains the single worst loss of life on a navy vessel since the USS Franklin (CV-13) was bombed in WWII. The ship proceeded to Cubi Point in the Philippines for temporary repairs. In only eight days enough repairs were made that she could start the long trip back to her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia for permanent repairs. On her way home she was capable of operating aircraft if needed.

 

With over a dozen major detonations from 1,000 and 500 lb bombs and numerous missile, fuel tank, and aircraft explosions no ship has ever survived the pounding USS Forrestal (CVA-59) underwent that day, before or since. She and her crew proved the toughness and dangers associated with the operation of super-carriers, this is one of her greatest legacies” (Ref. 84A)

 

    “The entire nation felt the tragedy, and Life magazine reported, "In five minutes, everyone became a man” (Ref. 1-Forrestal & 72).

 

    “USS Forrestal (CVA-59) returned to Norfolk, Va. for extensive repairs” (Ref. 1-Forrestal & 72).

 

    “Steaming via Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) reached Yokosuka, Japan on 14 August 1967, relieving USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)” (Ref. 43)

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) made a port of call at Yokosuka, Japan from 14 to 17 August 1967 and sailed for Subic Bay, Philippines” (Ref. 43 & 405).

 

    “USS Arlington (AGMR-2) arrived in the Tonkin Gulf for communications her first line period on patrol on "Yankee Station" on 21 August 1967” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) made a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines on 25 August 1967, headed to “Yankee Station” to resume strikes against targets in the North when on the 26th she loses a propeller blade causing a 2-week return to Yokosuka, Japan” (Ref. 34).

 

Iran History & Air Arm

 

     “The IIAF took delivery from the USA up to 104 Northrop F-5A/Bs Freedom Fighters, and an order for 16 F-4Ds in 1967” (Ref. 22).

 

    “USS Kearsarge (CVS-33) reached Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and on 27 August 1967, she prepared for future action” (Ref. 1-Kearsarge & 72).

 

    “Attack Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW-2) embarked on board USS Ranger (CVA-61) on 15 September 1967, with the new Corsair II jet attack plane and the UH-2 C Seasprite turboprop rescue helicopter, making Ranger the first carrier to deploy with these powerful new aircraft” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “During USS Arlington (AGMR-2) first communications patrol in Tonkin Gulf and first line period on "Yankee Station" from 21 August to 18 September 1967, she provided reliable message handling facilities for ships of the 7th Fleet in support of combat operations; and, in addition, assisted ships in repairing and better utilizing their electronic equipment” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “On returning to the Philippines after her first communications patrol in Tonkin Gulf and first line period on "Yankee Station" from 21 August to 18 September 1967, USS Arlington (AGMR-2) received a new satellite communications terminal; and, on 2 October 1967, she departed Subic Bay, Philippines on for Taiwan, and continued on to Tonkin Gulf, where she resumed her communications relay duties on her second line period on "Yankee Station” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “Departing Yokosuka, Japan and back on “Yankee Station,” on 18 September 1967, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) pilots thrice struck the North Vietnamese port of Haiphong, on the heels of strikes carried out earlier in the month on the country's third largest port, Cam Pha (46 miles east-northeast of Haiphong). The veteran carrier's pilots dropped a highway bridge and rendered a rail and a highway bridge unusable in the teeth of heavy antiaircraft fire” (Ref. 43).

 

    “The first MiGs of the deployment for USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) pilots were encountered 21 September 1967, near Haiphong, in a brief and inconclusive engagement in which neither side suffered loss. A Phantom pilot of CVW-l5 reported at least four MiG-17s and thought he damaged one with a near-miss by an air-to-air missile. At the time of the explosion, however, he was already turning to fire at a second MiG, losing sight of the first” (Ref. 43).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) made a port of call at Yokosuka, Japan from 1 to 11 Occtober 1966 and sailed for home” (Ref. 43 & 405).

 

Twenty Years of USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) History 1 October 1967 - Ref. 1275U

 

    “A week after the encounter with the MiGs, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) A-4E pilots dropped the southern section of the Haiphong Rail and Highway Bridge, the last of four such spans linking the city with the mainland. In five days of attacks on three of that port's bridges, Coral Sea's planes struck nine times, flying through moderate-to-heavy flak each time while dodging numerous SAM's at the cost of one aircraft” (Ref. 43).

“In late September USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) departed “Yankee Station” for Subic Bay, arriving on 2 October 1967” (Ref. 43).

 

    “Following upkeep at Subic Bay, Philippines on (2-11 October), USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) returned to the Tonkin Gulf and resumed strikes against North Vietnam two days later. As the result of a collision during underway replenishment with Mount Katmai (AE-16) 18 October 1967, two of Coral Sea's aircraft elevators were rendered inoperable. She managed to retain her capability to maintain combat effectiveness by extensive modification of operational techniques through experimentation and coordination between the air wing, operations and air departments” (Ref. 34 & 43).

 

    “USS Ranger (CVA-61) and her air wing participated in every aspect of a major fleet combat operation” (Ref. 1-Ranger).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) participated in the implementation of the MiGCAP plan for positive control of the combat air patrol (CAP) in direct support of strike groups, a plan originated by ComCarDiv Seven while embarked in the ship” (Ref. 43)

 

    “On 21 October 1967, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) gained her first "PT-boat Ace," when a VA-155 pilot sank four North Vietnamese patrol boats. LT Wilmer P. Cook and his wingman LTJG M. L. Watson, detected six such boats at first light, cleverly screened by a fishing fleet, about a mile east of Thanh Hoa harbor. Cook executed a shallow diving turn that enabled him to pick up the patrol boats in his sight; his bombs impacted squarely in the midst of the formation of enemy boats, sinking four of the six and damaging the others. Cook's "airmanship, revolutionary tactics, and courage in the face of a determined enemy" earned him his third DFC. Cook had previously sunk one Swallow class patrol boat 6 August 1966 at the Hong Gay Naval Base, for which he had received his second DFC” (Ref. 43).

 

    “A SH-3A helicopter from USS Kearsarge (CVS-33) hits USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), causing fatalities on aircraft 23 October 1967” (Ref. 34).

 

    “On 24 October 1967, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) air wing CVW-15, led by CAG, CDR J.H. Linder, braved a heavy SAM barrage as they coordinated their efforts with other Navy and Air Force units to pound North Vietnam's largest and previously unstruck MiG base at Phuc Yen, 11 miles north of the capital of Hanoi. In the course of the attack, the Americans spotted at least 30 SAMs in the air as they battered the revetment area and taxiways with 500- and 750-lb bombs. The following day, Coral Sea's Skyhawks and Phantoms hit Phuc Yen again, encountering only moderate resistance. None of the several airborne MiGs sighted closed the strike group” (Ref. 43).

 

    “Shortly before USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) was to leave “Yankee Station”, tragedy struck the ship 25 October when a Zuni rocket ignited during a routine test in the forward assembly area; nine sailors suffered burns (three critical) in the accident. The Zuni penetrated a bulkhead 20 feet from the testing area and its warhead lodged in a power panel. That panel was isolated, securing the ventilation to number two-engine room, which had to be evacuated as temperatures shot up in excess of 200 degrees. Fortunately, well-trained Coral Sea sailors promptly extinguished the blaze and removed their injured shipmates to sickbay for treatment, and the ship remained fully operational, launching strikes as scheduled the following morning” (Ref. 34 & 43).

 

    “On 26 October 1967, John McCain flew off of the USS Oriskany (CVA-34) with CVW-16 embarked on his 23rd bombing mission of the Vietnam War. He was shot down that day and became a Prisoner of War until January of 1973” (Ref. 1-Oriskany & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) departed “Yankee Station” on 27 October 1967 and headed to Subic Bay, Philippines” (Ref. 34 & 43).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) pulled in for a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines the morning of 29 October 1967, where both of the damaged elevators were repaired and then Typhoon Emma compelled the ship to put to sea for three days of evasive steaming” (Ref. 34 & 43).

 

    “On 3 November 1967, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) shifted south to provide communications support to ships in the "Market Time" area off South Vietnam, inport from 29 October 1967, and headed north for Hong Kong after three days of evasive steaming to avoid Typhoon Emma, when she altered course 6 November 1967 to go to the assistance of the Liberian flag freighter Loyal Fortunes at Pratas Reef, 170 miles southeast or the British Crown Colony. At about 0730, on 7 November 1967, Coral Sea launched two helicopters that shuttled between the two ships, eventually bringing off all 37 Chinese crewmen. They were disembarked upon the carrier's arrival at Hong Kong the following day” (Ref. 1-Saipan, 34, 43, 72 & 405).

 

    “After 34 days on her second line period and communications patrol on "Yankee Station" in Tonkin Gulf, USS Arlington (AGMR-2) departed for Hong Kong, arriving around 9 November 1967, then returned to Subic Bay, Philippines after a five day port visit” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) departed Hong Kong and returned to “Yankee Station” on 11 November 1967, inport from 9 to 11 November 1967, and three days later her pilots took advantage of a break in the monsoon weather 15 and 16 November to bomb a previously untouched shipyard a mile west of Haiphong. Braving an increasingly devastating SAM threat, her aviators kept up a relentless pressure on the North Vietnamese transportation system with strikes airfields, rail yards and highways around Haiphong” (Ref. 43 & 405).

 

    “USS Worden (CG-18) was part of USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) battle group” (Ref. 84A).

 

    “USS Ranger (CVA-61) arrived Yokosuka, Japan on 21 November 1967, where she relieved USS Constellation (CVA-64)” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “A deck accident on board USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) claimed a Skyhawk on 25 November 1967, when jet blast from another aircraft taxiing forward knocked CDR W.H. Searfus' plane into the sea; the A4 sank, carrying Searfus with it” (Ref. 43).

 

    “USS Ranger (CVA-61) sailed for the Subic Bay, Philippines on 24 November 1967” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “USS Ranger (CVA-61) arrivied at Subic Bay, Philippines on 29 November 1967, making final preparations for combat operations in the Tonkin Gulf” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “Commander, Carrier Division 3, embarked USS Ranger (CVA-61) on 30 November 1967, as Commander, TG 77.7” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “USS Ranger (CVA-61) departed Subic Bay, Philippines on 1 December 1967 for “Yankee Station” in the Tonkin Gulf” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “Arriving on station on 3 December 1967, USS Ranger (CVA-61) commenced another period of sustained combat operations against North Vietnam, attacking a wide variety of targets, including ferries, bridges, airfields and military installations. Truck parks, rail facilities, antiaircraft guns and SAM sites were also treated to doses of Air Wing 2's firepower” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) departed “Yankee Station” returning to Subic Bay, Philippines for a period of upkeep arriving on 9  December 1967, inport from 9 to 15 December 1967” (Ref. 43 & 405).

 

    “USS Arlington (AGMR-2) departed Subic Bay and steamed to Tonkin Gulf in early December for her third line period on"Yankee Station" and communications patrol” (Ref. 1- Saipan & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) returned to the line at “Yankee Station” on 17 December 1967, mounting four major efforts at the outset against two important highway ferries - one near Thai Binh and the other south or Nam Dinh. CVW-l5 pilots inflicted heavy damage on 19 December 1967b to dual storage complexes located in caves near Ninh Binh. Later that same week, CVW-15 planes streaked into the airspace over North Vietnam just minutes after a controversial 24-hour truce ended and bombed streams of trucks headed south laden with war supplies, destroying at least 455 such vehicles. Describing the scene south of Thanh Hoa, LTJG M.J. Foley remarked: "It looked like the New Jersey Turnpike"” (Ref. 43).

 

    “On 18 December 1967, USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) suffered a three-hour fire which was centered in an airplane tire stowage area while the ship is docked in Subic Bay, Philippines” (Ref. 84A).

 

    “As the tragedy of war continued, LT Wilmer P. Cook, pilot on board USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) would die three days before Christmas attacking a pontoon bridge in his A-4E” (Ref. 43).

 

    “USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) took part in Operation Fortress Ridge, launched on 21 December 1967. Air-landing her troops at a point just south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the ship provided continual supply and medical evacuation (MedEvac) services for this "search and destroy" operation aimed at eliminating North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units which threatened American and South Vietnamese troops” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “Bob Hope's "Christmas Show" came to USS Ranger (CVA-61) in the Tonkin Gulf on 21 December 1967” (Ref. 1-Ranger, 34 & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) departed “Yankee Station” and headed for Hong Kong on 22 December 1967” (Ref. 34).

 

    “On 23 December 1967, USS Kearsarge (CVS-33) suffers a fire while docked in Sasebo, Japan, for the holidays, killing three and injuring two” (Ref. 84A).

 

    “The completion of Operation “Fortress Ridge” on the day before Christmas 1967 did not mark the end of USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) operations for this year, however, as she was again in action during Operation Beaver Tooth, near Quang Tri in northern South Vietnam” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) celebrated Christmas Day celebration headed for “Yankee Station” (Ref. 34 & 43).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) departed Hong Kong shortly after the Christmas Day celebration for “Yankee Station” (Ref. 34 & 43).

 

    “On 27 December 1967, USS Arlington (AGMR-2) ended her third line period on "Yankee Station," concluding her communications patrol in the Tonkin Gulf and headed north” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “On 29 December 1967, Lt J.F. Dowd and his RIO, LTJG G.K. Flint, of VF-161, embarked on board USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), were flying a routine weather reconnaissance mission when antiaircraft fire hit their F-4B near a small island east or Haiphong. Both men ejected as the cockpit filled with smoke, and were spotted in minutes later by VA-25 pilots, flying A-1 Skyraiders. Guided to the scene by the "Spads" a rescue helicopter rescued Dowd and Flint who commented later: "It went like clockwork. Except, in the cold water it was an awfully slow clock"” (Ref. 34).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) with embarked CVG-15 (tail code NL) flew numerous major strikes on significant military targets in Vietnam, overcoming determined defense and hazardous weather conditions while projecting aggressive, effective Naval air power against the enemy” (Ref. 1-Coral Sea).

 

    “On 2 January 1968, USS Saratoga (CVA-60) sailed for Philadelphia and an overhaul and modernization program which was to last 11 months” (Ref. 1-Saratoga).

 

Policy, Politics

 

       By early spring of 1968, the Johnson administration was forced to recognize that the bombing zones around Hanoi and Haiphong harbor had become the heaviest anti-aircraft defenses ever devised resulting in the highest number of losses in air raids. Also, numerous secret CIA briefings, now declassified, reported that the bombing in the North was not effective. Their conclusion, which was bitterly resisted by senior military chiefs, was that in spite of an estimated $600,000,000 worth of damage to North Vietnam, the North retained the initiative, adjusting the level of combat in the South to their available manpower and munitions.

 

The Players

 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953 - 1961)

President John F. Kennedy (1961 - 1963)

President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963 - 1969)

President Richard M. Nixon (1969 - 1974)

Vietnamization - McGeorge Bundy

 

      American public official and educator, one of the main architects of U.S. foreign policy in the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Under Johnson, Bundy was a forceful advocate of expanding the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War. In February 1965, after visiting South Vietnam, he wrote a crucial memorandum calling for a policy of "sustained reprisal," including air strikes, against North Vietnam if it did not end its guerrilla war against the South Vietnamese government. Later, however, after he had left government service, he advised Johnson against further escalation of the War (Ref. 102G). To say that the United States was ‘dragged’ into the bloody mess that became Vietnam is to ignore the historical record. The question of whether or not the United States should have been fighting over there is of course a different matter. One thing that cannot be questioned however is the bravery and honor of soldiers who fought and died for their country. French Indochina, which included Vietnam, Cambodia (Kampuchea), and Laos, was occupied by Japanese forces during World War II.

 

      “Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh movement organized strong resistance against the Japanese and in 1945 declared Vietnam an independent republic. Fearful of the spread of communism, the United States supported restoration of French rule over Vietnam. When fighting erupted between France and the Viet Minh in 1947 the Americans aided the French and backed the French-sponsored government of Emperor Bao Dai. By 1953 the United States was providing 80 percent of the cost of France's war effort (Beginnings)” (Ref. 102).

 

    “The northeast monsoon hampered air operations in January 1968 with low overcast, rain squalls, and reduced visibility over most or North Vietnam, causing a diversion of sorties to hit targets in South Vietnam and Laos. Ground activity; too, had increased at that time, causing the cancellation of a proposed New Year's truce. As weather permitted, CVW-15 struck targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong and Thanh Hoa areas - sometimes three Alfa strikes per day. On the final four days of the line deployment, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) planes bombed a succession of railway and highway bridges connecting Haiphong with the mainland” (Ref. 34).

 

    “On 4 January 1968, USS Arlington (AGMR-2) arrived at Yokosuka, Japan (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “Upkeep at Danang preceded USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) deployment to her new station off Dong Hoi, in early January 1968, where she provided her necessary resupply and MedEvac support for Allied troops operating against communist forces” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) made a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines on 8 January 1968” (Ref. 405).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) pulled in for a port of call at Hong Kong on 11 January 1968 and then returned to “Yankee Station” on 16 January 1968 to again find poor weather prevailing” (Ref. 43 & 405).

 

    “USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) arrived Yokosuka, Japan on 17 January 1968 and after two days of upkeep continued on to the Gulf of Tonkin” (Ref. 1-Ticonderoga & 72).

 

    “On 19 January 1968, USS Arlington (AGMR-2) departed Yokosuka, Japan and returned to Vietnam” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “Soon after USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) planes of CVW-15 had carried out strikes against the Dong Phong Thuong railway and highway bridges, a significant change in the war came on 20 January 1968. North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops, who had been massing near the 17th parallel in South Laos, infiltrated the I Corps area south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) under cover of the monsoon rains” (Ref. 43).

 

    “NVA forces overran the Lang Vei Special Forces camp and laid siege to Khe Sanh, both bases which lay astride, and controlled, the main infiltration route, Highway Nine, into the I Corps area. The prop-driven Spads of VA-25 flew close air support in both sectors; some-times attacking enemy forces entrenched within the Khe Sanh perimeter. Meanwhile, VA-153 A-4Es assigned to CVW-15 embarked on board USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) concentrated on artillery positions, supply routes, and troop concentrations in Laos and the western I Corps area” (Ref. 43).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) pulled in for a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines on 21 January 1968” (Ref. 405).

 

    “After a stop at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USS Yorktown (CVS-10) arrived in the Far East late in January 1968” (Ref. 1-Yorktown & 72).

 

    “Instead of putting in at a Japanese port for turnover USS Yorktown (CVS-10) headed directly to the Sea of Japan to provide ASW and search and rescue (SAR) support for the contingency force assembled in the wake of the North Korean capture of USS Pueblo (AGER-2)” (Ref. 1-Yorktown & 72).

 

    “Operation Badger Catch, commenced on 23 January 1968” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “On 23 January 1968, when word was received of the capture of USS Pueblo (AGER 2) by a North Korean patrol boat, a Task Group, composed of USS Enterprise (CVA(N)-65) and screen, was ordered to reverse course in the East China Sea and to run northward to the Sea of Japan where it operated in the vicinity of South Korea for almost a month” (Ref. 1-Enterprise)

 

    “Contingency operations dictated detachment of Ranger to join USS Enterprise (CVA(N)-65) already en route from Sasebo to the Sea of Japan. As USS Ranger (CVA-61) left the line and steamed north, with her went all hope of USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) returning to San Francisco on schedule” (Ref. 43).

 

    “Operation Badger Catch commenced on 23 January 1968 and extended through 18 February 1968” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “USS Arlington (AGMR-2) arrived on "Yankee Station" on her fourth line period 24 January 1968 and continued her communications patrol in the Tonkin Gulf” (Ref. 1- Saipan & 72).

 

    “In the meantime, the war continued unabated. On 25 January 1968, SAMs downed CDR Thomas Woolcock, CO of VA-153, embarked on board USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), flew a strike against a North Vietnamese coastal defense site that had taken the Australian guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth under fire. Woolcock ejected safely, and was recovered off the enemy shore by helicopter, ironically then taken to Perth. LT Fred Myers, his plane damaged by the same exploding SAM that claimed Woolcock's, managed to nurse his crippled bird back to the ship, refueled continuously by a KA-3B tanker from VAH-10, and executed a barricade arrestment, emerging unhurt. His plane, however, was a strike” (Ref. 43).

 

    “USS Arlington (AGMR-2) departed "Yankee Station" on 26 January 1968, ending her fourth line period and communications patrol in the Tonkin Gulf and steamed to the Sea of Japan where she participated in exercises; then returned to "Yankee Station” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) arrived on “Yankee Stations” on 26 January 1968 and began flight operations conducting combat sorties against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces”  (Ref. 1-Ticonderoga & 72).

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) rounded out that line period with 28 January 1968 Alfa strikes against the infamous Thanh Hoa railroad/highway bridge, as well as the transshipment and staging area at Vinh. Soon after, the enemy Tet offensive got underway; with Air Force and USMC units disabled because of mortar attacks on key fields, the burden of the air war fell upon the Navy's shoulders and carrier sorties were diverted to targets in South Vietnam and Laos. In the midst of this activity, the date projected to be the last on the line in Tonkin Gulf passed unnoticed” (Ref. 43).

 

    “Operation Badger Catch commenced on 23 January and extending through 18 February 1968, took off for the Cua Viet River, south of the DMZ, before USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) set her course for Subic Bay, Philippines and much-needed maintenance” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

     “Captain John E. Kennedy, Chief of Staff, Carrier Division One in February 1968” (Ref. 1275V7).

 

    “Closing out the line period in support of ARVN and Third Marine Division forces in Operation Niagara, a counteroffensive aimed at the major infiltration routes on the Laotian border, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) departed “Yankee Station” on 20 February 1968 and then sailed for the Sea of Japan, relieving USS Ranger (CVA-61) en route to Sasebo” (Ref. 43).

 

    “On 20 February 1968, the last combat sortie for A-1 Skyraider was flown on board USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) off the coast of Vietnam” (Ref. 34).

 

    “On station for 30 days in the Sea of Japan in the wake of the North Korean capture of Pueblo (AGER-2), USS Yorktown (CVS-10) was released from that duty 1 March 1968, and the warship headed for Subic Bay, Philippines” (Ref. 1-Yorktown & 72).

 

     “Captain James Ferris assumed command of USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), on 2 March 1968 at Sasebo, Japan, relieving Captain William Henley Shawcross, 21st Commanding Officer, serving from 18 March 1967 to 2 March 1968” (Ref. 34 & 35A).

 

    “Operation Badger Catch II commenced on 6 March 1968” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “Subsequently returning to the fray in Vietnam, USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) operated as "Hero Haven" for Marine helicopter units whose shore bases had come under attack by Communist ground and artillery fire” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “USS Arlington (AGMR-2) remained at "Yankee Station" on her fifth line period, continuing her communications patrol in the Tonkin Gulf from 13 February to 10 March 1968” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “USS Arlington (AGMR-2) returned to Yokosuka, Japan on 14 March 1968” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “After conducting Operation Formation Star cold weather training, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) put in to Yokosuka, Japan on 19 March 1968” (Ref. 34).

 

    “USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) relieved USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), allowing her to sail for home on 27 March 1968” (Ref. 43).

 

    “USS Arlington (AGMR-2) remained at Yokosuka, Japan until 3 April 1968, arriving on 14 March 1968” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “Another welcome break in the intense pace of operations came when USS Ranger (CVA-61) made a call at Yokosuka, Japan during the first week of April 1968” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “On 6 April 1968, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) with Commander J. B. Linder, Commander, Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) (tail code NL), relieving Commander Kenneth W. Wallace (serving since February 1967), CO, Carrier Air Wing 15, Rear Admiral F. A. Bardshar, Commander Carrier Division Seven (EQNEEDF Note: Seven relieving Three) relieving Rear Admiral John P. Weinel (broke his flag at deployment or before), relieving Rear Gerald E. Miller, Commander Carrier Division Three, assuming command of COMCARDIV THREE in May 1967 and Captain Harold F. Lang, Chief of Staff, Carrier Division Seven serving since November 1966, relieving Captain Martin G. O’Neil, Chief of Staff, Carrier Division Three embarked arrived Naval Air Station, Alameda, California or Hunters Point Naval Ship Yard, San Francisco, Ca., with Captain James Ferris, as Commanding Officer, relieving Captain William Henley Shawcross, 21st Commanding Officer, serving from 18 March 1967 to 2 March 1968 at Sasebo, Japan and Commander “J” “D” Ward, as Executive Officer serving since April 1967, ending her sixth “WestPac” deployment operating with the Pacific Fleet (25 January 1960 to Present) and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet in the Far East, on her fifth South China Sea deployment, her third Vietnam Combat Cruise and tour of duty with the 7th Fleet in the Far East, participating in in support of ARVN and Third Marine Division forces in Operation Niagara, a counteroffensive aimed at the major infiltration routes on the Laotian border and Operation Formation Star cold weather training (NHC Battle Order p 9) (132 line days on 5 line periods). Coral Sea was adopted by the city of San Francisco. Two ceremonies consummated the adoption. On 29 July 1967, Coral Sea was inducted into the Great Golden Fleet of San Francisco and on 24 July 1967, Mayor Shelly officiated at the formal adoption ceremony in the City Hall. Steaming via Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Coral Sea reached Yokosuka, Japan on 14 August 1967, relieving USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) inport from 14 to 17 August 1967 and sailed for Subic Bay, Philippines. Coral Sea made a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines on 25 August 1967, headed to “Yankee Station” to resume strikes against targets in the North when on the 26th she loses a propeller blade causing a 2-week return to Yokosuka, Japan. Departing Yokosuka, Japan and back on “Yankee Station,” on 18 September 1967. Coral Sea pilots thrice struck the North Vietnamese port of Haiphong, on the heels of strikes carried out earlier in the month on the country's third largest port, Cam Pha (46 miles east-northeast of Haiphong). The veteran carrier's pilots dropped a highway bridge and rendered a rail and a highway bridge unusable in the teeth of heavy antiaircraft fire. The first MiGs of the deployment for Coral Sea pilots were encountered 21 September 1967, near Haiphong, in a brief and inconclusive engagement in which neither side suffered loss. A Phantom pilot of CVW-l5 reported at least four MiG-17s and thought he damaged one with a near-miss by an air-to-air missile. At the time of the explosion, however, he was already turning to fire at a second MiG, losing sight of the first. Coral Sea made a port of call at Yokosuka, Japan from 1 to 11 Occtober 1966 and sailed for home. Twenty Years of USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) History 1 October 1967 (Ref. 1275U).  A week after the encounter with the MiGs, Coral Sea A-4E pilots dropped the southern section of the Haiphong Rail and Highway Bridge, the last of four such spans linking the city with the mainland. In five days of attacks on three of that port's bridges, Coral Sea's planes struck nine times, flying through moderate-to-heavy flak each time while dodging numerous SAM's at the cost of one aircraft. In late September Coral Sea departed “Yankee Station” for Subic Bay, arriving on 2 October 1967. Following upkeep at Subic Bay, Philippines on (2-11 October), Coral Sea returned to the Tonkin Gulf and resumed strikes against North Vietnam two days later. As the result of a collision during underway replenishment with Mount Katmai (AE-16) 18 October 1967, two of Coral Sea's aircraft elevators were rendered inoperable. She managed to retain her capability to maintain combat effectiveness by extensive modification of operational techniques through experimentation and coordination between the air wing, operations and air departments. Coral Sea participated in the implementation of the MiGCAP plan for positive control of the combat air patrol (CAP) in direct support of strike groups, a plan originated by ComCarDiv Seven while embarked in the ship. On 21 October 1967, Coral Sea gained her first "PT-boat Ace," when a VA-155 pilot sank four North Vietnamese patrol boats. LT Wilmer P. Cook and his wingman LTJG M. L. Watson, detected six such boats at first light, cleverly screened by a fishing fleet, about a mile east of Thanh Hoa harbor. Cook executed a shallow diving turn that enabled him to pick up the patrol boats in his sight; his bombs impacted squarely in the midst of the formation of enemy boats, sinking four of the six and damaging the others. Cook's "airmanship, revolutionary tactics, and courage in the face of a determined enemy" earned him his third DFC. Cook had previously sunk one Swallow class patrol boat 6 August 1966 at the Hong Gay Naval Base, for which he had received his second DFC. A SH-3A helicopter from USS Kearsarge (CVS-33) hits Coral Sea, causing fatalities on aircraft 23 October 1967. On 24 October 1967, Coral Sea air wing CVW-15, led by CAG, CDR J.H. Linder, braved a heavy SAM barrage as they coordinated their efforts with other Navy and Air Force units to pound North Vietnam's largest and previously unstruck MiG base at Phuc Yen, 11 miles north of the capital of Hanoi. In the course of the attack, the Americans spotted at least 30 SAMs in the air as they battered the revetment area and taxiways with 500- and 750-lb bombs. The following day, Coral Sea's Skyhawks and Phantoms hit Phuc Yen again, encountering only moderate resistance. None of the several airborne MiGs sighted closed the strike group. Shortly before Coral Sea was to leave “Yankee Station”, tragedy struck the ship 25 October when a Zuni rocket ignited during a routine test in the forward assembly area; nine sailors suffered burns (three critical) in the accident. The Zuni penetrated a bulkhead 20 feet from the testing area and its warhead lodged in a power panel. That panel was isolated, securing the ventilation to number two-engine room, which had to be evacuated as temperatures shot up in excess of 200 degrees. Fortunately, well-trained Coral Sea sailors promptly extinguished the blaze and removed their injured shipmates to sickbay for treatment, and the ship remained fully operational, launching strikes as scheduled the following morning. On 26 October 1967, John McCain flew off of the USS Oriskany (CVA-34) with CVW-16 embarked on his 23rd bombing mission of the Vietnam War. He was shot down that day and became a Prisoner of War until January of 1973. Coral Sea departed “Yankee Station” on 27 October 1967 and headed to Subic Bay, Philippines. Coral Sea pulled in for a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines the morning of 29 October 1967, where both of the damaged elevators were repaired and then Typhoon Emma compelled the ship to put to sea for three days of evasive steaming. On 3 November 1967, Coral Sea shifted south to provide communications support to ships in the "Market Time" area off South Vietnam, inport from 29 October 1967, and headed north for Hong Kong after three days of evasive steaming to avoid Typhoon Emma, when she altered course 6 November 1967 to go to the assistance of the Liberian flag freighter Loyal Fortunes at Pratas Reef, 170 miles southeast or the British Crown Colony. At about 0730, on 7 November 1967, Coral Sea launched two helicopters that shuttled between the two ships, eventually bringing off all 37 Chinese crewmen. They were disembarked upon the carrier's arrival at Hong Kong the following day. Coral Sea departed Hong Kong and returned to “Yankee Station” on 11 November 1967, inport from 9 to 11 November 1967, and three days later her pilots took advantage of a break in the monsoon weather 15 and 16 November to bomb a previously untouched shipyard a mile west of Haiphong. Braving an increasingly devastating SAM threat, her aviators kept up a relentless pressure on the North Vietnamese transportation system with strikes airfields, rail yards and highways around Haiphong. A deck accident on board Coral Sea claimed a Skyhawk on 25 November 1967, when jet blast from another aircraft taxiing forward knocked CDR W.H. Searfus' plane into the sea; the A4 sank, carrying Searfus with it. Coral Sea departed “Yankee Station” returning to Subic Bay, Philippines for a period of upkeep arriving on 9  December 1967, inport from 9 to 15 December 1967. Coral Sea returned to the line at “Yankee Station” on 17 December 1967, mounting four major efforts at the outset against two important highway ferries - one near Thai Binh and the other south or Nam Dinh. CVW-l5 pilots inflicted heavy damage on 19 December 1967b to dual storage complexes located in caves near Ninh Binh. Later that same week, CVW-15 planes streaked into the airspace over North Vietnam just minutes after a controversial 24-hour truce ended and bombed streams of trucks headed south laden with war supplies, destroying at least 455 such vehicles. Describing the scene south of Thanh Hoa, LTJG M.J. Foley remarked: "It looked like the New Jersey Turnpike." As the tragedy of war continued, LT Wilmer P. Cook, pilot on board Coral Sea would die three days before Christmas attacking a pontoon bridge in his A-4E. Coral Sea departed “Yankee Station” and headed for Hong Kong on 22 December 1967. Coral Sea celebrated Christmas Day in port at Hong Kong while on liberty 25 December 1967 and shortly after the Christmas Day celebration headed for “Yankee Station.” On 29 December 1967, Lt J.F. Dowd and his RIO, LTJG G.K. Flint, of VF-161, embarked on board Coral Sea, were flying a routine weather reconnaissance mission when antiaircraft fire hit their F-4B near a small island east or Haiphong. Both men ejected as the cockpit filled with smoke, and were spotted in minutes later by VA-25 pilots, flying A-1 Skyraiders. Guided to the scene by the "Spads" a rescue helicopter rescued Dowd and Flint who commented later: "It went like clockwork. Except, in the cold water it was an awfully slow clock." Coral Sea with embarked CVG-15 (tail code NL) flew numerous major strikes on significant military targets in Vietnam, overcoming determined defense and hazardous weather conditions while projecting aggressive, effective Naval air power against the enemy. The northeast monsoon hampered air operations in January 1968 with low overcast, rain squalls, and reduced visibility over most or North Vietnam, causing a diversion of sorties to hit targets in South Vietnam and Laos. Ground activity; too, had increased at that time, causing the cancellation of a proposed New Year's truce. As weather permitted, CVW-15 struck targets in the Hanoi-Haiphong and Thanh Hoa areas - sometimes three Alfa strikes per day. On the final four days of the line deployment, Coral Sea planes bombed a succession of railway and highway bridges connecting Haiphong with the mainland. Coral Sea made a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines on 8 January 1968 and pulled in for a port of call at Hong Kong on 11 January 1968 and then returned to “Yankee Station” on 16 January 1968 to again find poor weather prevailing. Soon after Coral Sea planes of CVW-15 had carried out strikes against the Dong Phong Thuong railway and highway bridges, a significant change in the war came on 20 January 1968. North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops, who had been massing near the 17th parallel in South Laos, infiltrated the I Corps area south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) under cover of the monsoon rains. NVA forces overran the Lang Vei Special Forces camp and laid siege to Khe Sanh, both bases which lay astride, and controlled, the main infiltration route, Highway Nine, into the I Corps area. The prop-driven Spads of VA-25 flew close air support in both sectors; some-times attacking enemy forces entrenched within the Khe Sanh perimeter. Meanwhile, VA-153 A-4Es assigned to CVW-15 embarked on board Coral Sea concentrated on artillery positions, supply routes, and troop concentrations in Laos and the western I Corps area. Coral Sea pulled in for a port of call at Subic Bay, Philippines on 21 January 1968. Contingency operations dictated detachment of Ranger to join USS Enterprise (CVA(N)-65) already en route from Sasebo to the Sea of Japan. As USS Ranger (CVA-61) left the line and steamed north, with her went all hope of Coral Sea returning to San Francisco on schedule. In the meantime, the war continued unabated. On 25 January 1968, SAMs downed CDR Thomas Woolcock, CO of VA-153, embarked on board Coral Sea, flew a strike against a North Vietnamese coastal defense site that had taken the Australian guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth under fire. Woolcock ejected safely, and was recovered off the enemy shore by helicopter, ironically then taken to Perth. LT Fred Myers, his plane damaged by the same exploding SAM that claimed Woolcock's, managed to nurse his crippled bird back to the ship, refueled continuously by a KA-3B tanker from VAH-10, and executed a barricade arrestment, emerging unhurt. His plane, however, was a strike. Coral Sea rounded out that line period with 28 January 1968 Alfa strikes against the infamous Thanh Hoa railroad/highway bridge, as well as the transshipment and staging area at Vinh. Soon after, the enemy Tet offensive got underway; with Air Force and USMC units disabled because of mortar attacks on key fields, the burden of the air war fell upon the Navy's shoulders and carrier sorties were diverted to targets in South Vietnam and Laos. In the midst of this activity, the date projected to be the last on the line in Tonkin Gulf passed unnoticed. Closing out the line period in support of ARVN and Third Marine Division forces in Operation Niagara, a counteroffensive aimed at the major infiltration routes on the Laotian border, Coral Sea departed “Yankee Station” on 20 February 1968 and then sailed for the Sea of Japan, relieving Ranger en route to Sasebo. On 20 February 1968, the last combat sortie for A-1 Skyraider was flown on board Coral Sea off the coast of Vietnam. Captain James Ferris assumed command of Coral Sea, on 2 March 1968 at Sasebo, Japan, relieving Captain William Henley Shawcross, 21st Commanding Officer, serving from 18 March 1967 to 2 March 1968. After conducting Operation Formation Star cold weather training, Coral Sea in to Yokosuka, Japan on 19 March 1968. USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) relieved Coral Sea, allowing her to sail for home on 27 March 1968, with the toll for her third combat tour resulting in 1 KIA, two MIA and 11 POWs, (2 killed in Captivity & one died in Captivity) while CVW-15 suffered 15 aircraft combat losses. Ports of call include: Pearl Harbor, Hi.; Yokosuka, Japan, a city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, covering an area of 100.7 km² and is the 11th most populous city in Greater Tokyo, 12th in the Kantō region; Subic Bay, Republic of Philippines, U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay three consecutive visit. (Source: Coral Sea Command History Report for above ports of call and ref. 43 & 72). Squadrons: VF-151, F-4B; VF-161, F-4B; VA-153, A-4E; VA-25, A-1H/J; VA-155, A-4E; VAH-2 Det. 43, A-3 (KA-3B); VAW-13 Det. 43, A-1 - EA-1F; VAW-116, E-2A; VFP-63 Det. 43, RF-8G; HC-1 Det. 43, UH-2A/B and VAP-61 Det.*, RA-3B. (*1) VAH-2 redesignated VAQ-132 on Nov. 1, 1968; completing her 1st & 2nd Vietnam Expeditionary Force (VEF) deployments during her 1st & 2ndWestPac,” (first CVA in the Bering Sea during on 12 December 1961 to 17 July 1962 deployment). Her sixth foreign water deployment since her visit to Vancouver, B.C. (18 to 22 March 1960) when she deployed from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington upon completion of sea trials and a post-overhaul inspection and survey evaluation, commencing once recommissioned, following SCB 110A conversion (16 April 1957 to 25 January 1960); decommissioned on 24 April 1957, completing nine tours of duty in the Mediterranean Sea operating with the 6th Fleet (7 June 1948 to 13 August 1956); reclassified hull classification symbol CVA-43 on 1 October 1952. Her 17th Foreign Water Fleet Deployment (FWFD) since her commission on 1 October 1947 (26 July 1967 to 6 April 1968)” (Ref. 1-Coral Sea, Forrestal, Saipan, Kearsarge, Ranger, Oriskany, Valley Forge, 2-USS Coral Sea “Welcome Aboard” brochure, 34, 35, 43, 72, 84A, 405, 1275U, 1275U16, 1275T5, 1275T6, 1275T7 1275T10, 1275V4).

 

USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) Air Wing: Carrier Air Wing Fifteen (CVW)-15

 

DEPLOYMENT

DATES

K

I

A

M

I

A

P

O

W

PLANES LOST

LINE DAYS

LINE PERIODS

WESTPAC

& Combat

Mission

CVW-15 (NL)

26/07/67-06/04/68

4

1

4

 15

 132

 5

 6th / 3rd

 South China Sea

Reference 34, 35 & 43 reflect Chat info.

 

 26/07/67 - 06/04/68

 AWARD OR CITATION

 AWARD DATES

  “WESTPAC”

 Vietnam Service Medal for Combat

 Operations

 26 December 1966 - 1 Feb 1967,
 26 August – 1 October 1967,
 12 – 28 October 1967,
 4- - 5 November 1967
 11 November – 8 December 1967

 6th & 3rd

 Vietnam

 Combat

 Navy Unit Commendation

 13 August 1967 - 19 Feb 1968

 6th

 Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross

 Unit Citation

 23 Nov, 2, 4, 20 & 22 Dec 1967,

 20, 23 & 29 January 1968

 6th

 National Defense Service Medal and or

 Korea Expeditionary Service Medal

 23 Jan - 22-March 1968 * J

 6th

 Exceptional Meritorious Service

 1967

 

 Battle Efficiency Award

 22 August 1967

 6th

Reference 34 & 35 reflect Chat info.

 

Sixth “Westpac” deployment and Third Vietnam Combat Cruise

(26 July 1967 to 6 April 1968)

(1 Aviator KIA, 2 MIAs and 11 POWs -

2 killed in Captivity & one died in Captivity)

NAME

RANK

SQUADRON

DATE of LOSS

LOSS-COUNTRY
HOW

COMMENT

Frederick J. Fortner

LT JG
U. S. Navy Reserves

VA 155
A-4E

17 Oct.
1967

North Vietnam
Own Rockets

Status in 1973: Missing in Action

Richard C. Clark

LT JG
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

24 Oct.
1967

North Vietnam
SAM

Status in 1973: POW
Died in Captivity

Robert F. Frishmann

LT JG
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

24 Oct.
1967

North Vietnam
SAM

Status in 1973: POW/ Released

Charles R. Gillespie, Jr.

Comdr.
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

24 Oct.
1967

North Vietnam
SAM

Status in 1973: POW/ Released

Earl G. Lewis

LT JG
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

24 Oct.
1967

North Vietnam
SAM

Status in 1973: POW/ Released

Verlyne W. Daniels

Comdr.
U. S. Navy

VA 155
A-4E

26 Oct.
1967

North Vietnam
SAM

Status in 1973: POW/ Released

Timothy B. Sullivan

LT JG
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

14 Nov. 1967

North Vietnam
SAM

Status in 1973: POW/ Released

Paul H. Schultz

LT Comdr.
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

16 Nov.
1967

North Vietnam
SAM

Status in 1973: POW/ Released

Theodore G. Stier

LT JG
U. S. Navy Reserve

VF 151
F-4B

19 Nov.
1967

North Vietnam
MIG

Status in 1973: Released POW

James E. Teague

LT JG
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

19 Nov.
1967

North Vietnam
MIG

Status in 1973: Killed in Captivity

Walter O. Estes

LT JG
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

19 Nov.
1967

North Vietnam
MIG

Status in 1973: Killed in Captivity

Claude D. Clower

LT CDR
U. S. Navy

VF 151
F-4B

19 Nov.
1967

North Vietnam
MIG

Status in 1973: Released POW

Wimer P. Cook

LT Comdr.
U. S. Navy

VA 155
A-4E

22 Dec.
1967

North Vietnam
Own Bomb MK-82

Status in 1973: Killed/ Body not Recovered

Joseph P. Dunn

LT JG
U. S. Navy

VA 25
A-1H

14 Feb. 1968

China
MIG

Status in 1973: Missing in Action

USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) Association http://www.usscoralsea.org/ (Ref. 34)

Reference 43 four KIA, one MIA and four POWs, one of whom died in captivity. CVW-15 suffered 15 combat losses.

 

    “A visit to Sydney followed completion of USS Arlington (AGMR-2) in April 1968 communications patrol in the Tonkin Gulf on her sixth line period on "Yankee Station," arriving on 10 April 1968” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “Returning to “Yankee Station” on 11 April 1968, USS Ranger (CVA-61) again struck objectives in North Vietnam” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “During Operation Badger Catch II, from 6 March to 14 April 1968, Marine "choppers" landed on board USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) while their land bases were being cleared of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

     “In mid-April 1968, following USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) line period, she made a port visit to Singapore and then, after upkeep at Subic Bay, returned to duty off Vietnam” (Ref. 1-Ticonderoga & 72).

 

    “On 26 April 1968, USS America (CVA-66) complement of men and machines was brought up to full strength as America recovered the remainder of CVW-6's aircraft off the coast of the Carolinas. En route, she conducted one last major training exercise” (Ref. 1-America & 72).

 

    “Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was the next stop enroute to southeast Asia, USS America (CVA-66) first to that city and continent. Now with her course set almost due east, America sailed through waters she had never traveled before. Across the southern Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, past Madagascar and out into the broad expanse of the Indian Ocean towards the Sunda Strait and Subic Bay, Philippine Islands” (Ref. 1-America & 72).

 

    “Following a routine refit at Subic Bay, USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) took part in Operation Badger Catch III commencing on 28 April 1968” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “After 5 months of intensive operations, USS Ranger (CVA-61) called at Hong Kong on 5 May 1968 and then steamed for home” (Ref. 1-Ranger & 72).

 

    “USS Princeton (LPH-5) became flagship for Amphibious Ready Group Alpha, providing amphibious assault carrier services for operations "Fortress Attack" III and IV, "Proud Hunter", "Swift Pursuit", and "Eager Hunter” (Ref. 1-Princeton & 72).

 

    “From Subic Bay, USS America (CVA-66) first sailed northwest through the South China Sea towards "Yankee Station” (Ref. 1-America & 72).

 

    “En route to "Yankee Station" from Subic Bay on 26 May 1968, USS America (CVA-66) participated in exercise "NEWBOY" and the next day held carrier qualifications” (Ref. 1-America & 72).

 

    “At 1000, 30 May 1968, USS America (CVA-66) arrived at "Yankee Station", and at 0630 the next morning the first aircraft since commissioning to leave her deck in anger was launched against the enemy” (Ref. 1-America & 72).

 

    “USS America (CVA-66) aircraft pounded at roads and waterways, trucks and waterborne logistics craft (WBLCS), hammered at petroleum storage areas and truck parks and destroyed bridges and cave storage areas in the attempt to impede the flow of men and war materials to the south” (Ref. 1-America & 72).

 

    “During the initial stages of USS Constellation (CVA-64) fifth “WestPac” deployment President Lyndon B. Johnson made a visit in June 1968” (Ref. 1-Constellation & 72).

 

    “USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) took part in Operation Badger Catch III from 28 April to 3 June 1968” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “Rear Malcolm W. Cagle assumed command as Commander Carrier Division One on 8 June 1968” (Ref. Ref. 1275V6).

 

    “USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) moved to Danang and prepared for Operation Swift Saber which took place from 7 to 14 June 1968” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72).

 

    “By mid-June 1968, USS Arlington (AGMR-2) was back on "Yankee Station" on her seventh line period and communications patrol in the Tonkin Gulf” (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

    “USS Yorktown (CVS-10) concluded her last tour of duty in Vietnamese waters on 16 June 1968 and set a course for Yokosuka, Japan conducting three tours of duty with TF 77 on “Yankee Station.” In each instance, she provided ASW and SAR support for the fast carriers launching air strikes on targets in Vietnam” (Ref. 1-Yorktown & 72).

 

    “USS Yorktown (CVS-10) stopped at Yokosuka, Japan from 19 to 21 June 1968 before heading back to the United States” (Ref. 1-Yorktown & 72).

 

    “Landing Exercise Hilltop XX occupied the ship early in July 1968, and upon conclusion transferred her Marines and helicopters to USS Tripoli (LPH-10) and headed home via Hong Kong, Okinawa in the Sea of Japan and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii” (Ref. 1-Valley Forge & 72)

 

    “On 10 July 1968, Lt. Roy Cash, Jr. (pilot) and Lt. (j.g.) Joseph E. Kain, Jr. (radar intercept officer), in an FT "Phantom" from VF-33 downed a MiG-21, 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Vinh, North Vietnam, for USS America (CVA-66) first MiG "kill" in the Vietnam War” (Ref. 1-America & 72)

 

    “Following an overhaul at Hunters Point, USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) operated locally off the California coast through the 1968 summer; she conducted carrier suitability trials for the F-4K Phantom, a Royal Navy variant on 18 July” (Ref. 43).

 

USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) Pre-Deployment - Ref. 1275V9

 

    “From 20 to 22 July 1968, USS Arlington (AGMR-2) again visited Hong Kong, then sailed for Yokosuka, Japan (Ref. 1-Saipan & 72).

 

USS CORAL SEA (CVA-43) with CVW-15 (NL)

(July to 18 August 1968) 

Hull No. /

Fleet

Foreign Water Fleet

Deployment

 Air Wing

Tail

Code

Depart

Return

Days at Sea

Fleet D. No.

USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) - Pacific

EastPac

CVW-15

NL

Jul 1968

18 Aug  1968

Training Ops

 

SQUADRON

SQUADRON NICK NAME & PRIMARY

ROLE

AIRCRAFT DESIGN

NICK NAME &

PRIMARY ROLE

TAIL

CODE

Modex

AIRCRAFT

DESIGNATION

VF-151

Vigilantes -

Fighter Squadron

McDonnell-Douglas - Phantom II Jet Fighter

NL100

F-4B

VF-161

Chargers -

Fighter Squadron

McDonnell-Douglas - Phantom II Jet Fighter

NL200

F-4B

VA-153

Blue Tail Flies -

Attack Squadron

Douglas - Skyhawk -

Jet Attack Bomber

NL300

A-4F

VA-52

Knightriders -

Attack Squadron

Grumman - Intruder -

Jet Attack Bomber

NL400

A-6A

*VFP-63 Det.43

Eyes of the Fleet or

Gators - Light Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron

Vought - Crusader -

Jet Fighter - Reconnaissance

NL500

RF-8G

VA-216

Black Diamonds

Douglas - Skyhawk -

Jet Attack Bomber

NL600

A-4C

VAW-116

Sun Kings - Carrier Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron

Grumman - Hawkeye - Electronics

NL010

E-2A

VAW 13 Det. 43 Changed to:

Zappers -

Carrier Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron

Douglas - Skywarrior -   Jet Attack - Special electronic installation

(VR)
734-736

 

EKA-3B

VAQ-130 Det. 43

Zappers - Carrier Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron or Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron

Douglas - Skywarrior -   Jet Attack - Special electronic installation

(VR)
014-016

 

EKA-3B

VAH-10 Det. 43

Vikings -

Heavy Attack Squadron

Douglas - Skywarrior -  Jet Attack Fighter - Tanker

NL   720-017

 

 

EKA-3B /

A-3 (KA-3B)

HC-1 Det. 43

Pacific Fleet Angels - Helicopter Combat Support Squadron

Kaman - Seasprite - Transport (Utility)

(UP)
70-72

(UP)
04-06

 

UH-2C

*These squadron detachments were not aboard the carrier for the entire deployment.
Ref. 34, 35, 39, 41 & 76

 

    “USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) operated locally off the California coast through the 1968 summer; she conducted carrier suitability trials for the F-III B from 23 to 24 July 1968 - the latter proving to be a large, unwieldy aircraft for the size of the ship in which it was embarked. Subsequent CarQuals and weapons training evolutions followed, marking the first time that an A-6A squadron had operated from a Midway-class carrier, as VA-52 reported to CVW-15. The ship was awarded the Battle Efficiency "E" (Ref. 43).

 

    “USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) departed “Yankee Station” in July 1968, and entered Subic Bay, Philipines for upkeep on 25 July 1968” (Ref. 1-Ticonderoga & 72).

 

    “On 27 July 1968, USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) headed north to Yokosuka, Japan where she spent a week for upkeep and briefings before heading back to the United States” (Ref. 1-Ticonderoga).

 

    “USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) departed to Yokosuka, Japan and headed back to the United States on 7 August 1968” (Ref. 1-Ticonderoga & 72).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER XXII

 USS CORAL SEA (CV 43)

Operations Evening Light and Eagle Claw, A Sailors tale of his Tour of duty in the U.S. Navy (August 1977 to February 1983)

 

A Sailors tale of his Tour of duty in the U.S. Navy - Operation Evening Light And Eagle Claw -

 

Book - ISBN NO.

978-1-4276-0454-5

EBook - ISBN NO.

978-1-329-15473-5

 

Operations Evening Light and Eagle Claw (24 April 1980) Iran and Air Arm History (1941 to Present)

 

Operations Evening Light and Eagle Claw (24 April 1980) Iran and Air Arm History (1941 to Present)

 

Book ISBN NO.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

EBook ISBN NO.

978-1-329-19945-3

 

USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA  Vol. I (10 July 1944 to 31 December 1975)

 

USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA Vol. I (10 July 1944 to 31 December 1975) -

 

Book ISBN NO.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

EBook ISBN NO.

978-1-329-54596-0

 

USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA DURING HER TOUR OF SERVICE Vol. II (1 January 1976 to 25 August 1981)

 

USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA DURING HER TOUR OF SERVICE Vol. II (1 January 1976 to 25 August 1981) -

 

Book ISBN NO.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

EBook ISBN NO.

978-1-329-54790-2

 

USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA DURING HER TOUR OF SERVICE Vol. III (20 August 1981 to 26 April 1990)

 

USS CORAL SEA CV-42, CVB-43, CVA-43 & CV-43 HISTORY, AND THOSE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS OPERATING WITH CORAL SEA DURING HER TOUR OF SERVICE Vol. III (20 August 1981 to 26 April 1990) -

 

Book ISBN NO.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

EBook ISBN NO.

978-1-329-55111-4