(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of Vietnamese, Cambodian naval actions in Vietnam War and late Cold War
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(From Soviet-empire): Chronology of Vietnamese, Cambodian naval actions in Vietnam War and late Cold War
SOURCES: alerozin.narod.ru (extremely valuable russian source with cold war knowledge), articles and reports from direct vietnamese sources as lichsuvn.net and infonet.vn or the invaluable “History of the Vietnam People’s Navy” published in 2015 by the Vietnamese Naval Command.
NOTE 1: originally the articles included Vietnamese terms for the conflict (as for "Anti-French Resistance War" or "Resistance War Against America" etc... this was changed to respect the political neutrality of the site.
NOTE 2: Most of western sources essentially focus on the so-called "Brown water warfare" paying little attention to the prolonged operations of blockade-runners to the South or the interesting sabotage actions by frogmen with limpet mines or other explosive devices. Similarly, there is great sileance among the western writers about the naval aspects of the conflict in Cambodia. I honestly believe this was the first work in english that stressed these aspects.
This article DO NOT explore riverine warfare, except few occasions of notable large ships operating or attacked inside rivers.
List of differences from the latest updated page on soviet-empire forum:
1) Added unclear loss of merchant "Battambang" in 1945 and "Kontum" in 1946 (both unclear details)
2) Rework of text for the Haiphong Massacre committed by the French Navy in 1946
3) Added loss of French river gunboat "Lave" on 16/Jun/67
4) Various corrections and extra details for the losses of French minesweepers "Glycine" and "Mysotis"
5) Added attack on "Amyot d’Inville" on 1950, some corrections to the subsequent loss of "Adour" in 1951
6) Couple of minor corrections for the attack on USNS Card
7) Added loss of American patrol boat PTF-9, while there is scarcety of info this actually match quite well with an anti-shipping attack made by Vietnamese An-2 biplanes in bomber configuration!
8) Added another attack by Vietnamese An-2 against naval target on 14/April/1966, this time no clear match
9) More details for losses of C-100 and Eastern Mariner in May 1966
10) Added American claim of two An-2 shot down on 14/Jun/66, but not confirmed by Vietnamese
11) Added the American air attack on a Soviet merchant plus a friendly-fire incident in August 1966
12) Added a failed sabotage attac on 22 February 1967
13) Added 3 incidents between May and June 1967 (two american ships damaged and one soviet vessel attacked)
14) Added sabotage attack on 31/January 1968 against tanker Pelican
15) Added two confirmed Vietnamese air losses by American naval fire on 23 May and 26 June 1968 (added also the third claim on 8 May 1972 but unproved)
16) Added the mysterious loss of PCF-19 on 16 June 1968 (maybe by Vietnamese helicopter, but unclaimed).
17) Added four new losses of South Vietnamese vessels sunk in summer/autumn 1969 by limpet mines or rockets.
18) Added two new attacks on American merchants in 1970 with limpet mines.
19) Removed a Cambodian craft lost (moved to Cambodian-section).
20) Added five attacks on American merchants between 1971 and 1972 (two of them sunk)
21) Added one clarification of Battle of Dong Hoi, pilot Van Bay was homonymous but not the same famous ace.
22) Added American air attacks on 2 Soviet merchants in May 1972 and the sinking of a Polish vessel in December (slight rewriting of final line, to give a more neutral political prospect)
23) Added sinking of a South Korean tanker on 3 June 1974
24) Added some details for the Battle of Phu Quy Island, according own S.Vietnamese sources, another of their vessels was damaged.
First Indochina War
2 September 1945
Official proclamation of Democratic Republic of Vietnam
French merchant Battambang (668 GRT) sunk on unclear day of 1945
8 September 1945
French Navy used locally acquired motor-junks as auxiliary patrol boats: patrol boat Crayssac (armed with 1 37mm gun and machine guns) operated close shore to support local anti-communist forces. Viet Minh dispatched two auxiliary armed boats: Bach Dang and Giao Chi, alongside ground troops (a platoon with a gun) using some canoes, surrounded and capturing Crayssac. 10 POWs, including an American officer (presence of an American officer not confirmed by all sources). French commander later executed. Some Vietnamese sailors later joined the Viet Minh. Vietnamese forces quickly renamed the captured ship as “Ky Con”.
11 September 1945
After some days of having no news from the missing boat, French Navy dispatched a second auxiliary patrol boat, L’Audacieuse, looking for the Crayssac. However, the same Ky Con (ex-Crayssac) confronted her, allegedly forcing crew to scuttle her to avoid the imminent seizure. 8 crewmembers of L’Audacieuse become POWs. Contrary to the French claim, Vietnamese sources indicated that French commander threw overboard some weapons and documents but could not scuttled the ship: Ky Con seized and brought her to harbor.
13-14 November 1945
Battle of Co To Island
Vietnamese forces dispatched a force of fighters on two landing crafts (converted junks) for an amphibious landing on Co To Island.
Despite suffering losses, the attacking party managed to seize a temple and burn a depot, however the French forces sunk the two landing crafts preventing the retreat. Blocked on the island, the group kept fighting until 18 November. There were 24 KIA and 22 POW (two executed, other 5 died in prison): seven men were killed during the landing, while a single fighter was successfully extracted from the island on a boat on the morning of 15 November.
1 April 1946
French merchant Kontum (1565 GRT) sunk by mine off Vung Tao NOTE: it is unclear if the ship sunk after old WW2 mine or it was related to the growing tensions between the French and Vietnamese tensions.
2 July 1946
Norwegian merchant Agnes (1311 GRT) (general cargo) sunk by mine in Haiphong river. 15 crewmembers died. NOTE: it is unclear if the ship sunk after old WW2 mine or it was related to the growing tensions between the French and Vietnamese tensions.
23 November 1946
The French Navy directly shelled the civilian areas of Haiphong city killing according modern-day western estimates up 6000 civilians (Vietnamese sources claimed 20.000 dead). The attack was "motivated" as retaliation for the previous killing of French soldiers three days earlier. Most sources indicate the presence of heavy cruiser Saffron, but it seems that the attack was rather carried out by avisos Chevreuil, Savorgnan de Brazza and Dumont D’Urville. The massacre was one of the key violent episodes that escalated the conflict into open warfare.
16 June 1947
French auxiliary riverine gunboat Lave sunk by mine in Rach Muong, 30 men (including 6 sailors) and 1 crewmember MIA. Viet Minh forces opened intense gunfire from the shore after the mine explosion.
21 April 1949
Note: sources indicating 28 May are apparently wrong.
French minesweeper Glycine sunk by mine placed by Viet Minh fighters in Mekong river. 32 killed (only 1 survivor).
Vieth Minh forces also attacked from the shore and later inspected the wreckage and took propaganda photos, but could not recover the ammunition (the French later further blew-up the hull to eliminate this possibility).
20 June 1949
French minesweeper Mysotis sunk by mine placed Viet Minh fighters in Mekong river. 18 killed. The attack appears very similar to the sinking of Glycine, with fighters opening fire from the shore after the mine explosion.
27 September 1950
An explosion onboard French aviso Amyot d’Inville caused 2 killed (including the commander) and 14 wounded. A Viet Minh female agent managed to infiltrate as passenger and brought with her an explosive device into her baggage: it detonated while she was in the infirmary (unknown if deliberately, because discovered or by premature explosion), killing her alongside the French casualties. Ship needed repairs in Japan.
17 May 1951
French landing ship Adour (ex-LST860) exploded at Nha Trang on the beach. 24 sailors and 54 soldiers died.
Later raised and recovered. According to French sources, the explosion was accidental and caused by mishandling of explosive material while unloading.
30 January 1960
The Vietnamese People’s Navy attempted the very first naval mission to supply the NLF in South Vietnam using a single unnamed sailing boat: however, the ship was small and due rough sea she capsized and lost close Ly Son Island. Local fishing boats contacted South Vietnamese patrol boats that recovered from sea the 6 sailors (only one survived prison and freed in 1974). The small cargo of 5tons of ammunition and medical supplies thrown at sea before the capsizing to avoid the enemy discovering the operation.
Similar operations would resume only in 1962 with larger ships.
16 July 1961
VPN patrol boats T-120 and T-126 (both Type-55A class) involved in the operations with local forces against Kuomintang commandos aiming to infiltrate from Vietnamese beach into China from Dam Ha Beach area. During the operations, 9 canoes were seized. Other commando parties killed or captured on Vietnamese ground forces on 28 and 29 July.
23 October 1961
VPN patrol boats T-122 and T-126 (both Type-55A class) intercepted another group of Kuomintang commandos, seizing 3 canoes in Tra Co beach (at the very border with China).
14 January 1962
The CIA used the junk Nautilus-1 to land agents; a double agent successfully led the capture of all the agents and crew and seizure of the vessel by a Vietnamese patrol boat . All prisoners were South Vietnamese. It is unclear which Vietnamese People’s Navy boat took part at the seizure (almost surely a Type-55A class).
30 June 1962
Battle of Quang Khe.
CIA organized a raid on the naval base of Quang Khe: a team of 4 South Vietnamese special forces (trained in Taiwan) were landed by the junk Nautilus-2 and attacked three Chinese-built Type-55A patrol boats. T-185 was sunk and the attacking force paid a heavy price because the entire assault team was killed or captured alive (the operation failed due accidental early detonation of a limpet mine, killing a frogman). VPN patrol boat T-161 (another Type-55A) successfully intercepted and sunk Nautilus-2 with gunfire and ramming. Only one member of the assault team evaded death or capture, there were 10 prisoners. T-185 later raised, repaired and returned to service. T-161 awarded for the victory. Nautilus-2 remains the only enemy unit confirmed as sunk by Vietnamese People’s Navy into a direct naval clash during the War.
Following CIA operations of agent insertions in the next years resulted in heavy losses of agents (once landed) due infiltration from double agents.
After the failures with the junks, they used Swift PTF patrol boats, hiring Norwegian mercenaries as commanders.
Operations included also psychological warfare and spreading fake news about a supposed resistance movement operating in northern Vietnam against the communist government. CIA units often seized fishing boats (to indoctrinate the civilians) and then release them: once again, the operation brought no real result due infiltration from the Vietnamese intelligence.
An increase of operations in 1964 resulted in local material damages and victims in PAVN/VPN garrisons and military installations, Type-55A often attempted to intercept the PTF boats but failed due the superior enemy speed. Despite some American or South Vietnamese claims, no Vietnamese People’s Navy vessel ever sunk by PTF attacks, most of clashes involved only brief exchange of fire.
11 October 1962
The first-ever official naval shipping departed, on the wooden boat “Orient-1” successfully landing five days later 30 tons of cargo. The ship commander, Le Van Mot, was a sailor veteran from South Vietnam who smuggled weapons from Thailand to Vietnam during the independence war against France. His experience was of key importance for the subsequent establishment of the 125th Naval Brigade (Le Van Mot survived the war and was awarded post-mortem the title of Hero).
By the end of 1962, other three successful voyages (in addition to the first one in October), brought to Ca Mau Bay 111tons of weapons without being detected by enemy.
All the other ships employed were wooded, except for "Binh Minh" that was however a riverine ship. From these early operations it was revealed the need for proper metal boats with larger capacity.
During 1963 in the first 6 months of the year, the newly reorganized “Group 759” accomplished 5 voyages, and during the last 6 months of the same year made other 18 voyages.
No interception occurred, for overall 1318tons of weapons and ammunition successfully carried South Vietnam.
The wooden blockade-runner n°41 however risked to be attacked by nearby South Vietnamese units but she successfully unloaded her cargo (18tons of weapons) after sailing into the Ray River, and departed to return north on 4 October. Other known blockade-runners were: n°43, n°54, n°55 and n°56 (all first class awards like n°41), and n°42, n°67 and n°68.
29 January 1964
Establishment of the 125th Naval Brigade: the formation was entirely focused on supplying the NLF in South Vietnam trough naval supplies, employing larger ships.
2 May 1964
A NLF commando of the 65th Special Operations Group achieved one of the most significant propaganda coup in naval warfare during the war. Commandos attached explosive devices to the American Aircraft carrier USNS Card. The blast temporarily sunk the ship, killing 5 Americans. While the sinking was only partial (and she was quickly refloated on 19 May, to be returned in service on December of the same year), and despite the fact the ship was an auxiliary carrier, the achievement gained a quite resounding local propaganda coup for the NLF. Interestingly, NLF commandos previously attempted to attack USNS Core (sister ship) but explosives failed to detonate.
30 July 1964
CIA-led raid with the crafts PTF-2, PTF-3, PTF-5 and PTF-6 attempted a raid against Vietnamese coast: after random strafing, they retreated with damage on PTF-6 (4 WIA) being chased by patrol boat T-142 (a Type-55A). No actual damage reported on VPN side. The raid triggered a response from the Vietnamese People’s Navy that was on high alert for further intrusion, culminating in the subsequent Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
2 August 1964
Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
The famous incident that ignited the direct participation of USA in Vietnam War.
The destroyer USS Maddox was sailing on spy mission on the border of Vietnamese water after days of growing tensions and raid by CIA Special Forces on Vietnam’s territory. These attacks has been confirmed in recent time as deliberately attempted provocations on the American and South Vietnamese side to escalate the conflict.
3 motor torpedo boats of project123K (T-333, T-336 and T-339) were dispatched and the encounter resulted into a firefight. Torpedoes were launched but all missed the American ship, in the end USS Maddox suffered a single 14.5mm bullet hit from T-333. American fighters F-8 Crusader from carrier USS Ticonderoga also attacked the VPN boats rockets and 20mm fire, T-333 and T-336 suffered damages (4 KIA, 6 WIA), one F-8 Crusader damaged by defensive fire. Patrol ships T-142 and T-156 (both Type-55A) on sea did not engage. The whole engagement occurred inside the 12-nautical miles claimed by Vietnam as national waters (according the past French and the current Soviet and Chinese naval laws). Two days later, Americans claimed a second naval engagement (never occurred) and deliberately lied about it to further enflame their public opinion.
5 August 1964
A large air strike from the American aircraft carriers USS Ticonderoga and USS Constellation directed against multiple Vietnamese harbors as official retaliation for the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Americans claimed to have destroyed the 10% of the entire Vietnamese national petroleum storage, and sinking 8 armed boats (21 damaged). This claim is widely reported by American literature (sometimes inflated to “25 boats sunk/destroyed”, when direct military assessment downplayed it to 1-3 vessels sunk.
In reality, no Vietnamese People’s Navy vessel sunk in action, but many suffered damages: submarine chasers T-225, T-231, motor torpedo boat T-336, patrol boats T-130, T-132 (commander KIA), T-146, T-161, T-167, T-181, T-187 (heavy casualties). Interestingly, T-130, T-132, T-146 and submarine chaser T-231 quickly repaired and returned to service in September 1964. The Air Raid in the end failed to inflict decisive losses to the Navy (other raids in 1965 caused far heavier losses, but this information is unknown to most of American literature). Vietnamese sources officially claimed 8 planes shot down, even if the number is overestimated the Navy scored two confirmed anti-air victories.
During the raid in Hong Gay harbor, the A-4C Skyhawk (serial n°149578, VA-144 from carrier USS Constellation) (pilot Everett Alvarez Jr POW) shot down by submarine chaser T-227 and patrol boat T-134. Other vessels (submarine chaser T-225, patrol boats T-122, T-124, T-144) defended the harbor alongside AA batteries but the plane shot down during the attack run.
During the raid in Lach Truong Bay (north of Than Hoa) the A-1H Skyraider (serial n°139760, VA-145 from carrier USS Constellation) (pilot Richard C. Sather KIA) shot down by patrol boats T-130 and T-132. Also motor torpedo boats T-333, T-336 and patrol boat T-146 sailed close (and Vietnamese sources praise T-146 with a claim), but it appears clear that the latter group suffered an attack by 5 A-4 and 3 F-4 (without American losses) while T-130 and T-132 attacked by 4 A-1 (including Sather’s plane).
28 November 1964
VPN blockade-runner C-401 after a difficult voyage and change of destination delivered her cargo of 33 tons of weapons in Vu Rong Bay before returning north.
November 1964 – February 1965
VPN blockade-runner C-41 accomplished 3 different supply missions at Vu Rong Bay: landing on 5 December (43.9 tons), 31 December (46.7 tons, including also 3tons of rice) and 9 February (45.9 tons).
Overall, since the establishment of the 125th Naval Brigade to February 1965, 20 different blockade-runners accomplished 88 missions carrying 4000tons of weapons (average of 45.4tons for mission).
30 January 1965
VPN patrol boats T-163 and T-171 (both Type-55A) report a clash with two enemy ships (almost surely PTF boats) at Quang Binh.
16 February 1965
Vu Rong Bay Incident
VPN blockade-runner C-143 attacked on beach by A-1 bomber while unloading cargo. Americans claimed hit but actually she was scuttled due manned detonation however the charge was not enough to fully destroy the wreck that simply split in to, allowing the Americans to seize a claimed 100tons of the cargo (weapons and ammunition). On ground a fierce fight erupted between NLF fighters and South Vietnamese soldiers landed by ships. This was the first enemy successful destruction of a VPN supply vessel. Americans and South-Vietnamese used the seized cargo as a propaganda tool to show the Vietnamese People’s Navy actions, however they inflated the numbers because actually C-143 carried 63,1 tons of cargo, and part of it was unloaded before the attack. The loss of C-143 temporarily halted all the blockade-runner operations until October 1965.
17 February 1965
VPN patrol boats T-124 and T-187 (both Type-55A) report a clash with two enemy ships (almost surely PTF boats) at Nghe An.
29 February 1965
VPN patrol boats T-126 (Type-55A) report a clash with an enemy ship (almost surely a PTF bot), claimed as damaged, at Quang Binh.
In March 1965 Vietnamese People’s Navy Special Forces frogmen commandos begun operating in South Vietnam for attacks on anchored ships with limpet mines and mines. Most damages inflicted during the war occurred in riverine operations and they are not reported here.
31 March 1965
An American A-1H Skyrider bomber (serial n°137584, VA-215 from carrier USS Hancock)(pilot: Gerald W. McKinely MIA) was lost on a mission in Quang Binh province while attacking a naval radar station. The Vietnamese account detail a heated day (culmination previous attacks of 25 and 24 March) with involvements of naval units in air-defense and claim of 5 aircrafts shot down. It is difficult to identify how the bomber was shot down, but most likely by ground AAA (24th naval company with 37mm).
22 April 1965
VPN patrol boats T-183, T-185 and T-187 attacked by enemy aircrafts. T-185 damaged with 4 KIA.
28 April 1965
VPN patrol boats T-161, T-163 and T-173 sunk by AD-6 and F-105 bombers in Song Gianh, while T-126, T-165 and T-175 damaged (all Type 55A).
High casualties: 37 KIA, 73 WIA. In term of casualties and damages, this was indeed the worst blow suffered by the Vietnamese People’s Navy during the entire War (not, as Americans believe, the 5/August/64 raid)
26 May 1965
VPN patrol boat T-136 hit in Lach Troung (Type 55A) sunk by air attack, 7 KIA. Ship received damages by air attack also 5 days earlier.
In July 1965 the Vietnamese People’s Navy employed the first decoy “dummy” ships in rivers and coastal area.
Such fake ships (often-simple wooden barges with wooden super-structure and fake guns), were used both defensively (to divert attacks on them rather real targets), or as traps in coordination with nearby pre-alerted AAA batteries.
31 August 1965
VPN patrol boat T-181 sunk in Ben Thuy (Type 55A) by air attack.
17 September 1965
During the night, VPN patrol boats T-140 and T-146 escorted the transport ship V-411 to deliver people and cargo to Bach Long Vi Island. A group of four A-6A Intruder bombers planned to bomb the island searching for patrol boats and they commenced the attack dropping flares (Vietnamese sailors identified only two planes). While gunners were temporarily blinded by the flares, as soon as they extinguished, they shot down one A-6A Intruder (serial n°151488, VA-75 from carrier USS Independence)(pilots Robert F.Barber and Leonard F.Vogt KIA). From the American account of the action, there was no knowledge of the presence of the important transport ship, and the mission aimed to simply search patrol boats: crewmembers also listed as KIA on 18 September, but the Vietnam Navy account indicate the attack occurred shortly before midnight.
15 October 1965
Blockade-runner C-42 departed for significant supply operation: among the cargo of 60tons, there were also four soviet-made limpet mines. NLF used the mines to damage the American cargo “SS Baton Rouge” on 23 August 1966, killing seven Americans. This was the first operation since the Vu Rong Bay incident; the Vietnamese People’s Navy prepared further training and concealing efforts for all the ships involved. American and South Vietnamese naval forces already established a naval blockade, but C-42 managed to penetrate it.
The success of C-42 convinced on few further missions until the end of the year: C-69 successfully delivered 60tons of weapons on November despite heavy enemy air presence on the way back north, however, on December C-100 failed on her mission and forced to sail back to north due excessive enemy air-ship naval presence without delivering the cargo. On the other hand C-68 (departed also in December) successfully carried 67tons of weapons.
26 October 1965
A group of American fighters searched for naval targets off Bach Long Vi Island. The fighter F-4B Phantom (serial n°151505, VF-88, Carrier USS Independence) (pilots Grover Erickson and John Perry saved) was shot down by anti-aircraft fire after a rocket attacks reportedly against VPN motor torpedo boats. So far it’s unclear which ships they attacked but the Vietnamese navy reported no boats lost or damaged after T-181 in August.
1 February 1966
American sources claim to have sunk one project-201 M submarine chasers with air attack. While some western sources describe how the Navy received up to 7 units (and lost all of them), actually Vietnam sources reveal how only 4 units were delivered (T-225, T-227, T-229 and T-231) and none lost in combat.
14 February 1966
Fighters of the NLF set-up an elaborated ambush near the shore in the Bay of Rach Gia. A small raft with a NLF flag was left floating, attracting the American patrol boat PCF-4 that sailed close to inspect and likely retrieve the flag. The raft was connected with an underwater mine anchored to the seabed while a wire-command connected the anchor with NLF guerrillas stationed on the nearby shore. The ship sunk (4 KIA and 2 WIA), later the wreck was raised but damage was too heavy for recovering.
The patrol boat was the first of the four “Swift”-class type of patrol boats sunk during the Vietnam War, two lost in combat with NLF forces in rivers, while the final loss was the mysterious sinking of PCF-19 in 1968.
7 March 1966
A rare anti-ship raid conducted by a pair of Vietnamese An-2 biplanes armed with rockets, claiming one target sunk.
The claim match quite well with the loss of the American patrol boat PTF-9 (“Nasty” class), reportedly grounded by accident on a reef according US sources and “finished off” by air raid to prevent enemy capture. It appears quite likely the ship either grounded while avoiding An-2 attack or targeted just after the incident. Vietnamese sources also indicate one of the two An-2 as damaged during the action by enemy anti-aircraft fire, but landed at the base safely.
16 March 1966
Panamanian-flagged merchant Kettara IV (708 GRT) directed to Danang was shelled and sunk by PAVN artillery nearby the DMZ. All crew lost. Cargo of Cement and general cargo.
11 April 1966
VPN blockade-runner C-42 after successfully delivering 60tons of weapons in Ca Mau, was detected by the enemy blockade: ship avoided the enemy units and sailed back to north.
14 April 1966
Another raid of a pair of Vietnamese An-2 biplanes armed with rockets claimed a naval target sunk, this time there is no clear match or even record of an encounter on American or South Vietnamese sources.
27 April 1966
An American bomber A-6A Intruder (serial n°151788, VA-85 from USS Kitty Hawk)(pilots: William R Westerman and Brian E Westin recovered) was attacking barges in the mouth of Song Ca River and was stuck by light fire possibly coming from the barges themselves. Plane crashed in the Gulf of Tonkin.
29 April 1966
An American fighter F-8E Crusader (serial n°150867, VFA-211 from USS Hancock)(pilot Thomas E. Brown, KIA) reportedly crashed while hitting a “karst” rock while making a strafing run against a naval target near Cong Dong Island. Vietnamese sources actually indicate how T-144 and T-146 (both Type55A) were on a mission to Cong Dong Island on 1 May and they claimed an American aircraft shot down and seems likely the two incidents are connected.
Possibly the aircraft suffered damages and then crashed on the rock or the pilot attempted to avoid the incoming fire.
Also T-229 and T-231 (both project201M) stationed at Hang Ma made two claims but this appears unrelated.
11 May 1966
VPN blockade-runner C-100 intercepted by USCGC Point Gray on 9 May, resulting into a ferocious fight. On day 11 May South Vietnamese aircrafts bombed the ship causing her explosion. Cargo was 62.6 tons of weapons and ammunition. South Vietnamese sources claim activity of patrol boat RVNS Song Tu on 19 May but there was no blockade-runner incident, and it seems likely the regime propaganda mixed the alleged claim with the real loss of C-100.
26 May 1966
Australian merchant Eastern Mariner (3155 GRT) sunk by an attached mine in Saigon River (cargo:4000tons of cement). Wreck recovered in 1968 and briefly renamed by Japanese company but ultimately scrapped. The ship served during WW2 as auxiliary minelayer HMAS Bungaree for the Australian Navy. Details of the operations are unclear; possibly it was sunk by floating mine.
Other sources claim the ship suffered also from shelling, after the mine damage, but these as apparently wrong: the attack occurred at Nha Be and another mine was recovered intact by Americans.
14 June 1966
Some American sources claim a pair of F-4B fighters shot down two Vietnamese An-2 during a night combat, while the biplanes apparently engaged in anti-ship attack against South Vietnamese vessels. No An-2 actually lost in combat that day, details of the anti-ship mission (targets, damage, etc.) currently unclear.
19 June 1966
VPN blockade-runner C-187 (62.6 tons of cargo) attacked by USS John A. Bole, USS Haverfield and USS Tortuga. While trying to evade them, she accidentally stranded: captain ordered scuttling but explosives did not worked and South Vietnamese seized C-187 intact with cargo. Of the 18 crewmembers, one was captured and the rest joined the NLF.
1 July 1966
VPN motor torpedo boats T-333, T-336, T-339 (the three units involved in Gulf of Tonkin incident) sunk by aircrafts while attempting the American destroyers USS Rogers and USS Coontz, the latter recovered from sea 19 sailors (later exchanged for American POWs).
7 July 1966
VPN patrol boats T-195, T-197, T-199, T-201 (all project 62) engaged for more than 1 hour against enemy aircrafts over Haiphong area. They claimed up 4 aircrafts shot down during a heavy anti-aircraft battle, but actually there are no confirmed American losses matching these claim.
5 August 1966
Soviet merchant ship Medyn (9695 GRT) while moored in Haiphong was stuck by bullets during an US air raid. She was the first Soviet vessel damaged during the war, after ambassador protests, Americans alleged the ship was hit by Vietnamese anti-aircraft fire. One year later, American officials once again denied to have inflicted damage to another Soviet vessel but later admitted their involvement. Subsequent attacks in 1972 saw no denial attempts, culminating in the deadly sinking of a Polish cargo.
11 August 1966
An interesting friendly-fire attack occurred when three USAF jets attacked the American Coast guard patrol boat USCGC Point Welcome. Two Coast Guard crewmembers killed and several wounded including a photojournalist.
23 August 1966
A NLF frogmen team used two of the four Soviet-made limpet mines (delivered by Blockade-runner C-42 the last year) to carry on a successful operation.
The American merchant Baton Rouge Victory (7612 GRT) (cargo of military trucks, tractors and general cargo) in Long Tau River, suffered heavily by the limpet mines explosion and 7 crewmembers died. The wreck recovered but she was a total-loss and scrapped in 1967 in Taiwan.
Vietnamese sources describe clearly how it was a NLF unit to achieve the success, and it was not an external operation of the VPN special forces.
1/2 October 1966
South Vietnamese landing ship RVNS Le Van Binh sunk by Vietnamese People’s Navy Special Forces of 126th Naval Commando Brigade with limpet mines. The ship not recovered. The attack was only one of the many successful attacks committed by the elite Brigade.
27 November 1966
Another VPN failure with the blockade-running operations went unnoticed to the enemy.
C-41 reached after some troubles (due strong sea) the shore of Duc Pho with 59tons of cargo but could not deliver it in time. With presence of enemy vessels patrolling nearby waters and fearing an impending discover, commander decided to destroy the ship to prevent capture and discovery. When the self-detonation time appeared exhausted, two sailors walked closer the grounded ship to check the devices and at that moment, the ship exploded killing them. The rest of the crew joined nearby NLF forced and returned north.
On December 1966, also C-43A failed to penetrate the blockade and forced to sail back north.
1 January 1967
VPN blockade-runner C-69 (100tons) successfully unloaded 61tons of cargo on 21 April 1966 but later technical issues to propeller delayed her return to North. The loss of C-100 alerted the enemy forcing C-69 to hiding in mangroves for 6 months until a final attempt to go back home toward the end of the year. After being discovered by the South Vietnamese Navy on 31 December, a fight erupted the following day against 5 enemy ships. C-69 suffered 121 hits (of all size) forcing her to sail back. South Vietnam Navy claimed to have sunk her but actually C-69 went into hiding of the mangroves of Ca Mau until the end of the war. It appears clear how the ships engaged by the VPN ship were indeed the American PCF-71 (at first engaged alone, and suffered damage, 30 bullet holes and 4 3-inch holes), and then PCF-68 (suffering damage: 2 caliber 50 holes) and USCGC Point Gammon. Both the PCF American vessels suffered 3 WIA each. Some American reports at first claimed the target stranded or “exploded” without visual confirmation and the same American sources rather point how the ship could have escaped inside river because she was never found. Prior April 1966, C-69 made 7 successful voyages to South Vietnam. South Vietnamese sources claim the participation of patrol boat RVNS Tay Sa, but it seems likely regime propaganda considering it was American ships that actively engaged the blockade-runner.
9 January 1967
The American large dredger Jamaica Bay sunk in the Mekong River, after the detonation caused by 2 explosive charges placed on the hull by NLF frogmen special commandos. 3 American sailors died, the wreck recovered in March but sunk on tow off Vung Tau and further attempts were abandoned. The attack deliberately planned to do slow-down the building of Dong Tam base.
22 February 1967
An American “skimmer” speedboat (Boston Whaler type) intercepted a suspected junk with saboteurs in Quy Nhon harbor. The launch of an hand grenade killed an American (body recovered in water later) and mortally wounded a second one but the attempted infiltration was foiled and the commandos reached the shore avoiding the fire of the survived American on the skimmer.
15 March 1967
VPN blockade-runner C-43A was on mission to load 50tons of weapons when was intercepted by the US Navy. After 3 hours of fighting the ship was badly damaged and was scuttled. Between 1963 and 1967 the ship accomplished successfully 2 travels (first cargo was 50tons) while a third time was forced to return due enemy naval presence.
12 April 1967
British tanker Amastra (12273 GRT) suffered heavy damages in port after explosion due limpet mine. Attack committed by NLF frogmen unit, there were no casualties and ship later recovered.
9 May 1967
American army dredger Hyde damaged after detonation of two different limpet mines attached on the hull while stationed in Cua Viet. The vessel was grounded but quickly returned to service.
2 June 1967
American F-105 fighters strafed the Soviet merchant Turkestan in Cam Pha harbor, killing a sailor and wounding other six. At first, the Americans denied to have committed such attack, just to admit it later.
29 June 1967
American landing ship USS Coconino County heavily damaged by mines (flooding and loss of power) at Cua Viet. The ship was towed away and later sent to Guam for repairs. Details of the attack unclears, but likely she was attacked with limpet mines.
14 July 1967
USS Wilhoite USS Gallup USS Walker PCF- 79 USCGC Point Orient intercepted VPN blockade-runner C-198 (100tons) with a cargo of 100tons and after a fight she was stranded. Captain prepare for the scuttling but he was killed by enemy fire alongside the political commissar and Americans managed to seize the ship defusing the self-explosion system. The ship was carried to Da Nang where the local NLF committee was informed about the situation and with a team of saboteurs they managed to sunk in harbor the vessel. Some of the weapons recovered however were displayed as proof of Vietnam’s involvement and a fake ship was also put on display. C-198 successfully accomplished a voyage earlier that year. South Vietnamese sources claim contribution of patrol boat RVNS Hon Troc but there is no clear evidence of some effective help provided to the numerous American group in stopping the blockade-runner and seems (once again) regime propaganda.
On the same day, VPN motor torpedo boats T-343 sunk by air attack in Day River, T-346 damaged and sunk the next day while under tow. Details of the attacks are unclear, interestingly the Americans indicate the loss of a A-1H Skyrider fighter bomber (serial n°135288)(pilot Robin B.Cassell KIA) approximately in the area while attacking water crafts officially on day 15 (possibly attacking T-346 and being shot by reaction fire).
2 November 1967
An American bomber A-6A Intruder (serial n° 152629, VA-196 from USS Constellation)(pilots: Richard D. Morrow and James J. Wright KIA) was shot down while attacking a ferry at Kim Quan during a night attack. It is unknown how the aircraft was brought down, but seems more likely by ground AAA rather than weapons onboard the ferry.
31 January 1968
A Vietnamese frogman was captured inside Cam Ranh Bay, shortly later the Norwegian tanker Pelican suffered moderate damage at the hull after an explosion.
Action of 1 March 1968
The most significant naval action involving VPN blockade-runners saw the coordinate attempt from four vessels to surpass the enemy naval blockade.
The four vessels involved were C-43B, C-56, C-165 and C-235: all attempting to land supplies during the Tet Offensive on different location of Vietnamese coast.
C-165 engaged by USCGC Winona and sunk in battle with direct hit suffered and explosion: the American vessel suffered minor damages and casualties (wounded) due debris and splinters from the same explosion of the VPN vessel.
C-235 was at first engaged by a South Vietnamese patrol boat, then augmented by American PCF boats: eventually PCF-47 scored direct hit (using 81mm mortar) and exploded the vessel: at least 14 KIA, ammunitions and weapons were recovered on the location of the sinking. While the Americans claimed direct hit, on Vietnamese People’s Navy account it is confirmed how the detonation was caused by self-explosion decided by Captain Nguyen Phan Vinh. Part of the crew managed to reach the shore swimming, but the captain and the mechanic were later found by South Vietnamese troops and killed in a firefight (Captain received post-mortem the title of Hero and a small island was renamed after him).
C-43B was engaged by USCGC Androscoggin: after an exchange of fire and arrival of other American vessels and helicopters, 81mm direct hits were scored by USCGC Point Welcome and the ship grounded. VPN sailors managed to scuttle the vessel after two attempts: the very explosion caused some damage to USCGC Point Welcome. Vietnamese People’s Navy sources describe the grounding as result of the fighting: 3 died on the ship and others wounded including captain and second-in-command.
The fourth vessel, C-56, was faced by USCGC Minnetonka but there was no direct naval clash and C-56 turned back without attempting to force the blockade. C-56 successfully completed other 3 missions during the war (for a total of 109 tons of cargo unloaded).
13/14 March 1968
The loss of three ships at once was a critical hit, but the situation of the ground forces demanded a successful mission at any cost.
The 125th Naval Brigade hastily converted 12 vessels giving an extra disguise as fishing vessels for a repeated attempt: each ship was carrying about 24 tons of cargo. Differently from past operation, the mission was meant to be without return: crew was scheduled to return north by ground. Due the nature of the ships, they were not given an official “C-“ designation. An attack by enemy aircrafts at first sunk 4 vessels, while the remaining 8 vessels continued their journey: a fifth vessel was later hit by naval fire and scuttled to prevent the enemy find proof the operation. The American Navy believed there was just this vessel on sea, engaged by USS Brister, USCGC Point Ellis, PCF-78 ( 11 bullet holes), and were unaware of the other vessels. 3 vessels intentionally grounded nearby Gio Linh, they were scuttled and the cargo was successfully unloaded. The other four vessels grounded themselves at Trieu Phong where the cargo was unloaded successfully. The operation took the lives of 19 sailors (of the 74 combined crewmembers) and successfully provided the needed cargo for the frontline (and balancing the enemy success scored on 1 March 1968).
During the Tet Offensive, the 126th Naval Commando Brigade (alongside NLF groups) was particularly active: many vessels part of the American and South-Vietnamese “Brown Water” riverine navies sunk or damaged by limpet mines or floating mines. Sometimes vessels were recovered, in other cases there are little fragmented record concerning minor local barges or ferries.
23 May 1968
American cruiser USS Long Beach shot down with an anti-aircraft Talos missile a Vietnamese MiG-21 (921st Regiment, pilot Ha Quang Hung). It was the first of the only two Vietnamese confirmed air losses by enemy warship (both victories achieved by the same vessel).
16 June 1968
Mysterious loss of the American patrol boat PCF-19 near the Demilitarized Zone, killing 5 and wounding 2. Officially blamed to a friendly-fire attack by US fighter, American naval sources and some veterans contests the claim claiming a Vietnamese helicopter attack (identified as a Mil Mi-4). USCGC Point Dome recovered the wounded crewmembers and observed, alongside PCF-12, other unidentified air activity. There is no official Vietnamese claim over this possible sinking (quite puzzling considering other incidents or claims occurred). American sources claim the friendly-fire accident was a mix-up with the concurring (but confirmed) friendly fire air attack on Australian destroyer HMAS Hobart (2 KIA and 8 WIA), while also the American cruiser USS Boston was hit by fragments of a nearby missile explosion: it’s also believed American Phantom fighters attacked the two ships while searching for the original aggressor of PCF-19.
26 June 1968
American cruiser USS Long Beach shot down with an anti-aircraft Talos missile a Vietnamese MiG-21 (921st Regiment, pilot Vu Ngoc Dinh). It was the second of the only two Vietnamese confirmed air losses by enemy warship (both victories achieved by the same vessel).
1 November 1968
American landing ship USS Westchester County, damaged by limpet mines with 26 KIA (later repaired and returned to service). Apparently, she was the largest US warship damaged by Vietnamese limpet mine after the USS Cole.
22 December 1968
British tanker Helisoma (12149 GRT) suffered heavy damages in port after explosion due limpet mine. Attack committed by NLF frogmen unit, there were no casualties and ship later recovered. The attack followed the same pattern and outcome of the one against tanker Amastra in April 1967 (both attacked almost in the very same place, at Nha Trang harbor).
After the losses occurred, the Vietnamese People’s Navy re-organized the supply operation for NLF exploiting the area at the mouth of Gianh River liberated after the Tet Offensive.
This operation (Code-name VT5), carried into northern Vietnamese waters, could avoid the enemy blockade and exploited the extended territory gained by NLF and PAVN after the victorious Siege of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive allowing the delivered supplies to reinforce directly the northern combat units. Only between November 1968 and January 1969, 125 missions delivered 21.373 tons of cargo.
Unclear day of June 1969
The South Vietnamese military water barge RVNS HQ-480 sunk in Saigon’s harbor. Unclear detail if she sunk by accident or sabotage.
7 June 1969
South Vietnamese merchant Phong Chau (499 GRT) sunk in Da Nang harbor after being hit by artillery rockets.
6 July 1969
Panamanian merchant Welfare (3363 GRT) sunk in Nha Be river after limped mine attack by NLF frogmen.
15 October 1969
Panamanian merchant Kin Wah (1262 GRT) (cargo: corrugated iron) sunk in Nha Be harbor after a limped mine attached to the hull by NLF frogmen. 3 crewmember and two South Vietnamese on the dock died because of the explosion.
After a long pause, on 17 October 1969 the 125th Division resumed operations in southern waters when blockade-runner C-154 successfully delivered 59tons of weapons and returned home on 31 October 1969.
1 March 1970
VPN blockade-runner C-41, after an earlier failed attempt in February, departed to successfully deliver 58tons of weapons (including anti-tank rockets and 12.7mm artillery).
Ship returned home on 30 May.
After this early success, the Vietnamese People’s Navy organized other 14 voyages for the year. However only 4 Blockade-runners succeeded passing through the enemy patrols: C-54 (54 tons of cargo in June), C-154 (58 tons of cargo in September) and again C-54 (56 tons of cargo in October), finally C-121 for the first time used rubber boats to indirectly unload the cargo in October.
12 March 1970
Merchant Americo suffered heavy damages after a device attached by NLF frogmen at Cam Ranh. At the time of the explosion, she was unloading ammunition, but American sources describe as a sabotage attack and not some kind of incident. Also reported as “Americloud”.
5 July 1970
American repair ship USS Krishna (ARL-38, a modified LST landing ship) damaged by limpet mines while anchored in Nam Can. The explosion killed one sailor onboard the nearby patrol boat PCF-40 (Swift-class). The ship returned in service after five weeks of repairs.
30 July 1970
South Vietnamese landing ship RVNS Nguyen Van Tru sunk by Vietnamese People’s Navy Special Forces. The ship capsized because of the explosion, killing 17 sailors. This was one of the rare losses of larger South Vietnamese naval vessels. American sources sometimes called her “LSSL-105” mixing their own codes for landing ships with the Vietnamese hull number.
3 October 1970
South Vietnamese landing ship RVNS Le Trong Dam sunk by Vietnamese People’s Navy Special Forces. This was one of the rare losses of larger South Vietnamese naval vessels. With her loss, by now the South Vietnamese Navy lost her third LCS(L) (Landing support ship) of the 7 available since the beginning of the conflict (one loss in 1966 and two in 1970).
21 November 1970
VPN blockade-runner C-176 (65 tons) surrounded by enemy ships and forced to beach on sand dune before being scuttled by setting fire. Previously the ship attempted 2 voyages the same year but failed each time to deliver supply due enemy presence. The loss prompted another temporary stop to the blockade-running operations.
10 February 1971
Vietnamese People’s Navy sources report about South Vietnamese PTF boats attacking fishing boats. A similar intrusion also observed on 12 February.
19-20 February 1971
Battle of Cua Hoi and Hon Gio Island
Four South-Vietnamese PTF patrol boats were on sea again, but this time Vietnamese People’s Navy used radars to detect them and directed armed transport ships T-257 and T-268. Use of such ships instead than faster and smaller fight ship was due the already established superior speed of PTF against every VPN combat craft. After fishing boats reported being fired upon (South Vietnamese sources alleged they were only “observing Chinese merchants”), T-257 individually opened fire with 12.7, 14.5 and anti-tank rocket. Vietnamese People’s Navy sources claim to have directly sunk one vessel, and the following day crew of fishing boats recovered fragments and material from sea (this claim remain unconfirmed).
On day 20 February, it was the turn of armed transport VT-113 and VT-114, however due mistake VT-113 found herself alone attacking the enemy, she suffered damages with 2 KIA but the PTF fled. South Vietnamese sources wrongly claim to have engaged proper military vessels (they claim the sinking of one 123K motor torpedo boat, the damaging of one project062 patrol boat, one project055A patrol boat and two other project123K motor torpedo boats), but no unit of these classes was damaged or lost on these days. South Vietnamese sources admit 1 KIA on the group of PTF boats.
While the skirmish was ultimately poor of results, Vietnamese People’s Navy successfully prevented further raids on fishing boats.
On the first months of 1971, the 125th Division dispatched four different blockade-runners: C-49, C-54, C-56 and C-69 (not to be confused with the ship operating in 1967), all of them forced to sail back north without delivering the cargo.
21 March 1971
American merchant Robin Hood (4968 GRT) suffered damage on the starboard side apparently after limpet mine attack in Qui Nhon.
14 June 1971
American merchant American Hawk (7909 GRT) sunk in Qui Nhon harbor with limped mines attached by NLF frogmen. The ship sunk with full cargo, later raised only for scrapping in September 1971.
17 August 1971
NLF frogmen achieve their biggest coup sinking the large American merchant Green Bay (11021 GRT) in Qui Nhon harbor with limpet mines, capsizing in the dock. 2 crewmembers wounded. A total loss, raised only for scrapping in May 1972.
5 April 1972
VPN blockade-runner C-69 attempted a second time to deliver a cargo but was intercepted nearby Bac Lieu by enemy ships and engaged in combat (suffering 6 KIA), until the commander ordered to scuttle the ship and survivors reached the shore. She was not the same ship engaged in 1967 and trapped inland until the end of the war. Apparently, the loss match with a Cambodian claim made by their own navy, it is currently unclear but it is possible that while chased by South Vietnamese vessels, C-69 strayed into Cambodian waters.
9 April 1972
American merchant Transcolorado (10014 GRT) damaged by a soviet-made limpet mine attacked by NLF frogmen. It was the first attack committed in Danang harbor.
16 April 1972
VPN patrol boat T-213 (project 062) suffered from splinters during an air attack in harbor, commander wounded. During the same attack in the Haiphong harbor, the ground AAA and the patrol boats T-215, T-219 (both type 062), T-229 (project201M) and T-130 (type55A) collectively shot down the bomber F-105G Thunderchief (serial 63-8342, 17th Tactical Fighter Squadron)(pilots: Alan P.Mateja, Orvin C.Jones, both declared MIA). American sources indicate both pilots as MIA with allegations of capture, but the Vietnam Navy account make no reference of captured pilots.
19 April 1972
Battle of Dong Hoi
A group of American ships was shelling Vietnamese targets alongside the border zone: they were cruiser USS Oklahoma City and USS Sterett, destroyer USS Lloyd Thomas and frigate USS Highbee. To stop this attack, for the first time it was dispatched a pair of MiG-17 fighter jets (pilots Le Xuan Di and Nguyen Van Bay). USS Highbee suffered a direct hit (scored by Le Xuan Di) from a 250kg bomb that destroyed a gun turret (4 WIA, there were no other casualties because the turret has been previously evacuated), cruiser USS Oklahoma City minor damage on stern due near-miss by the other attacking fighter (pilot Nguyen Van Bay). The attack successfully forced the Americans to a more prudent naval use, marking an end for daylight raids by their Navy. American sources claimed to have shot-down a (not-existing) third MiG-17, plus another “probable” shooting down, additionally they believed to have been attacked by a combined air-naval attack force: an anti-ship naval missile P-15 Termit was claimed as intercepted, and later USS Sterett claimed to have sunk a couple of attacking motor torpedo boat. In reality, the Vietnamese People’s Navy was not involved at all in the battle and the American overclaims are probably the result of the commonly happened misidentification or deliberate claims to counter-balance the damages. The Vietnamese People’s Navy received her first four missile boats (project183R) only in December 1972.
Pilot Nguyen Van Bay was homonymous to the famous Ace pilot who also flied MiG-17, often incorrectly reported as the same person.
Since 9 May 1972, the American forces begun an active campaign of aerial mine-laying of harbors and coasts of northern Vietnam with the aim to further blockade the nation. The Vietnamese People’s Navy organized every available vessel for minesweeping duties, destroying hundreds of mines during the whole year. While the campaign successfully blocked some ships into northern Vietnam and prevented others to reach the country, the political outcome only advantaged the Vietnamese.
No ship was lost due the successful minesweeping; however, in August 1972 the minesweeper V-412 suffered damages and one sailor MIA.
8 May 1972
The American cruiser USS Chicago claimed a Vietnamese aircraft shot-down with anti-aircraft missile. Differently from two similar confirmed losses in 1968, this third one is denied by actual losses of Vietnamese aircrafts: the target was either assumed hit by missile detonation or simple overclaim.
9 May 1972
Soviet tanker Pevek (3300 GRT) suffered strafing damage by a American air attack in harbor.
10 May 1972
The Soviet merchant Grisha Akopyan (3224 GRT) previously delivered a cargo of flour and was located in Cam Pha to take up a load of coal (intending to sell it in Japan) when she was attacked and damaged by F-105 American aircrafts. Seven crewmembers wounded (including the captain) one of them died of wounds.
21 May 1972
American merchant Jefferson City Victory (7606 GRT) damaged by limpet mine attack. One NLF frogman killed by guards during the action.
10 July 1972
British merchant London Statesman (10892 GRT) (cargo of rice) damaged by flooding in harbor, after sabotage in the engine room. Ship later recovered and returned to service.
27 August 1972
USS Newport News, USS Providence and USS Robison bombed ground target in northern Vietnam at Haiphong Harbor (focusing at radar-sites).
VPN motor torpedo boats attempted to attack the American formation and USS Rowan damaged and set afire two of them, with aircrafts from the carrier USS Coral Sea finishing them: this is confirmed by Vietnamese sources, with T-319 and T-349 (both of 123K class) lost in action. The attack is likely the very last classic MTB-attack committed in naval warfare against a larger target!
19 December 1972
VPN missile boat T-906 sunk in Ha Long, by air attack in coincidence with the “Operation Linebacker-II” (a massive bombing operation that due losses and high civilian casualties backfired on the US administration due the international protests). She was the only missile-boat lost by Vietnamese People’s Navy during the conflict, despite some American claim the much-feared “Termit” missiles was never fired in combat operation during the war. That same day, the Americans lost an A-6A Intruder bomber (serial n° 155594, VA-196, carrier USS Enterprise)(pilots Gordon R. Nakagawa and Kenneth H. Higdon POW) while attacking ships in Haiphong harbor but it appears unrelated to the attack on missile boat and there is no clear claim by Vietnamese naval units.
20 December 1972
A serious international incident occurred when the Polish merchant Jozef Conrad (5720 GRT) sunk in the harbor by American planes, killing 3 sailors and wounding 5. Despite strong protests, no active measure was taken to compensate the families (the current Polish goverment dropped interest in the case for political reason).
17 July 1973
American destroyer USS Warrington was damaged beyond repair when she struck two aerial-dropped mines, previously laid by Americans to blockade the Vietnamese harbor of Dong Hai on 9 May 1972 (no ship was sunk but the harbor has been temporarily blocked). Ironically, the Americans were forced by the Paris Peace Accord to sweep the fields between February and July 1973 (2 helicopters were lost during the minesweeping operations). As double irony, the ship was the only confirmed sinking achieved by the own American mine laying operations.
The Paris Accords, while officially pulling out the USA from the conflict saw no actual end to the war. While the PAVN forces and NLF prepared for the final offensive in 1975, on 1974 operations of NLF and sabotages kept on: on unclear dates, the South Vietnamese Navy lost two landing ships: RVNS Long Dao and RVNS Than Tien, likely by ground artillery/rocket fire or sabotage. The South Vietnamese Navy operated 5 LCI(L) units before the two losses in 1974.
3 June 1974
South Korean small tanker Yu Chang (178 GRT) sunk near Nha-Be after an explosive device (limpet mine or floating mine) set by NLF. 4 South Korean crewmembers MIA. The small tanker commonly sailed between Saigon and Cambodia.
4 April 1975
During the final offensive in South Vietnam, it was decided to liberate all the Vietnamese islands in the East Sea (South China Sea). Possessing no proper landing ship, it was once again dispatched the 125th Naval Brigade: a naval special force composed by the transport ships T-673, T-674 and T-675. No escort of military ship was provided to exploit secrecy and operating undetected, despite the heavy South Vietnamese naval force.
13 April 1975
Landing at Song Tu Tay Island.
The three transport ships T-673, T-674 and T-675 successfully landed troops on the island, taking by surprised the South Vietnamese garrison that surrendered with little resistance: enemy suffered 6 KIA and 33 POW. Two days before the landing, American helicopters observed the ships but wrongly believed they were civilian trawlers from Hong Kong. South Vietnamese forces planned a counter-attack with transport HQ-402 and frigate RVNS Ly Thoung Kiet, but they were diverted to attempt defending Dao Nam Yet Island.
T-641 sailed back to the mainland to land the enemy prisoners.
Ironically, Song Tu Tay Island was previously controlled by Philippines before 1975: despite being allied in War, South Vietnam managed to “conquer” the island luring the Philippines garrison during a birthday party on another island offering prostitutes (!!): once the Philippine soldiers were back, South Vietnam had taken over the garrison.
25 April 1975
Landing at Son Ca Island
Having lost the element of surprise to attack from Dao Nam Yet Island (heavily defended) the VPN transport ships T-641 and T-673 directed to Son Ca Island. After a successful landing, the local enemy garrison was quickly defeated (suffering 2 KIA and 23 POW). As consequence of this loss, South Vietnam retreated from Dao Nam Yet Island and Sinh Ton Island: VPN ships landed on the abandoned islands on 27 and 28 April, thus completing the liberation of the Spratly Islands (Quan Dao Truong Sa).
27 April 1975
Battle of Phu Quy Island.
Phu Quy Island is located closer the Vietnamese coast and differently from the previous landing operation, the PAVN forces had to face a stronger garrison of soldiers and armed militia. However the South Vietnamese Navy had dispatched only the corvette RVNS Chi Linh to defend the island and during a naval clash with transport ship T-643 of the 125th Naval Brigade transports, the enemy ship suffered damage and was forced to retreat (escaping to Philippines, after no reinforcements arrived). South Vietnamese sources does not indicate damage on the corvette (but their reports are overfilled with censorship and propaganda) however they also say patrol boat RVNS Le Ngoc An suffered 4 hits. After heavy fighting into the island, the remained South Vietnamese forces surrendered (382 POW, unclear number of KIA). There are little details of the ship-to-ship fighting, the transport was armed with only 12.7mm but crew also had RPG rockets, that likely constituted an advantage also in term of psychological effect.
1-5 May 1975
Con Dao Archipelago uprising.
Con Dao Island (larger island of the Archipelago) was a significant South Vietnamese garrison, and the airfield proved to be important during the evacuation phase of the enemy forces from Vietnam. However, the island was also important for the presence of a prison, where 7000 political and military prisoners were detained (including 500 women). Encouraged by the news from the mainland, the prisoners staged a successful uprising (on the Labor’s Day), taking weapons and ammunitions from their guards and organizing attacks on the key points of the island. During the battle, the South Vietnamese forces often escaped or panicked, providing undisciplined defense due the loss of morale. In one day, the prisoners took control of the island, seizing also 27 aircrafts from the airfield and capturing the enemies who did not escaped.
After having successfully established communication with the mainland, the prisoners (after establishing a Provisional Committee) prepared to defend the island for a possible enemy counter-attack. On 5 May 1975 it was VPN transport ships (T-574 and T-683) that landed and in the following day the mixed regular units and armed prisoners coordinated to establish control of the nearby smaller islands of the Archipelago without facing enemy presence.
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Re: (From Soviet-empire): Chronology of Vietnamese, Cambodian naval actions in Vietnam War and late Cold War
((Including both operations concurrent to the Vietnam War and later conflicts))
NOTE: The first half of the entire section it's entirely new from the older thread in Soviet-empire! Including all attacks
between 1970 and 1975
Other differences with the old thread on soviet-empire:
1) Mayaguez Incident: some minor clarification of known "Swift" boats in Kampuchean service
2) Added clarification for E-311 defection
3) Heavy rework and corrections for the incidents on 24 May and 5 June: basically the bulk of action occurred in the early incident, previous version of the article stated the opposite.
4) Four different western yachts/schooners detained by Khmer Rouges in 1978 routinely blamed to be drugs-traffickers and/or CIA agents, while western media simply claim they were tourists. While the Khmer Rouges claims seems mostly took after torture (none of the detained westerners survived), and likely there was no "CIA-connection", it seems likely the seafarers engaged in small traffick of drugs with Thais or carried personal quantities onboard.
5 May 1970
Cambodian landing ship T-919 sunk by sabotage with an explosive mine. She was officially the largest vessel of the Cambodian Navy sunk during the conflict. Unclear who attacked the vessel: possibly a group of the Cambodian FUNK trained by Vietnamese commandos (the notorious 126th Naval commando Brigade).
Former American LCU-1577: it is interesting that Americans did not passed the ship, but Royal Cambodian Navy seized it with force on 17 July 1968. At the time, King Sihanouk ruled Cambodia: a notorious pragmatist who attempted a neutral policy and socialist-friendly looks, for this reason he was ousted by a CIA-sponsored coup in 1970 (reasonably, replacing him with a more authoritarian regime only strengthened the leftist opposition).
30 May 1970
A small Cambodian landing craft, TA-13 (an American LCM type) sunk on unclear circumstances (either sabotage or shelled).
23 March 1972
Panamanian merchant Man On (2090 GRT) sunk by frogmen in Tonle Sap river. Possibly operation carried on by Vietnamese special forces or Vietnamese-trained Cambodians. Another vessel suffered damage in the nearby Chroy Changvar while floating mines damaged two oil barges.
3 May 1972
Cambodian barge Kompot Trader reportedly lost either by explosive charges or grounding. Unclear case.
4 August 1972
Merchant Facloo Dispatch sunk by frogmen while at anchor in Phnom Penh.
11 August 1972
Merchant Poh Soon sunk by ground shelling.
11 November 1972
South Korean merchant Dogye (1816 GRT) sunk (cargo of cement) by mine. She was later refloated and commissioned as “Hay An” but sunk again on 10 August 1974 by rockets. On the very same day, also the South Korean merchant Pohang was damaged in Phnom Penh.
7 December 1972
Frogmen accomplished a good success sinking the Panamanian merchant Bright Star (2881 GRT) (cargo: 1700 tons of food) in Phnom Penh. 4 KIA, 14 WIA. The loss caused some accusations between the ranks of the governmental military, over responsibility for the loss.
15 December 1972
Frogmen sunk a fuel barge in Phnom Penh.
21 January 1973
A Vietnamese frogmen raid during the night between 20 and 21 January reportedly caused only slight damage to a merchant anchored at Kampong Som, Cambodia.
During 1973 and 1974, the FUNK focused on crippling the riverine transports of the enemy: many vessels sunk or destroyed by artillery and rocket shelling.
Some vessels also fell victim of Vietnamese NLF forces operating close the border. While these are effectively “Brown water” warfare, here an incomplete brief list of the most significant ships sunk:
Panamanian merchant Ally (1527 GRT) on 8/Apr/73 at Tan An (likely by NLF),
South Korean merchant Boo Heung n°9 (679 GRT)(cargo of oil) on 9/Apr/73,
Cambodian merchant Angkor Wat (882 GRT) on 25/Apr/73 at Neak Luong,
Panamanian merchant Ever Success (2051 GRT)(133tons of cargo) on 17/May/73 16 miles from Phnom Penh,
Panamanian merchant Paclog Surfer (1200 GRT) (802tons of rice) on 6/Jul/73, interestingly she was former LSM-547 landing ship.
Panamanian merchant Hay An (1816 GRT) on 10/Aug/73 near Peam Reang, she was formerly the South Korean merchant Dongye sunk in 1972
January - February 1975
The final offensive was set in motion: rather than an all-out attack against Phnom Penh, the FUNK worked to cut off supply convoys in Mekong River, inflicting heavy losses to the enemy with artillery and rocket fire. Numerous tugs, barges and small transports sunk in the river, as well as many riverine vessels of the Cambodian Navy. Among notable foreign-flagged vessels sunk there were South Korean Hon Seung-2 and Hon-Seung-7 as well as the Panamanian merchant Wah An (also named Vira-4) on or shortly before 30 January, Philippines tugboats Hawkeye, Buckeye and tanker Bayon Trader on 3 February by a minefield set in the river to block navigation.
Many riverine vessels of the Cambodian Navy also were lost, among the most prominent losses a tanker grounded on 11 February with its load of 200tons of fuel that was pumped out by the Khmer Rouges for their own use.
17 February 1975
FUNK forces entered the capital. As soon as the revolutionary forces scored the victory, the predominant Khmer Rouges marginalized the other factions that struggled for independence including pro-Soviet/Vietnamese factions.
2 May 1975
Kampuchean vessels seized a group of 7 fishing boats from Thailand (27 fishermen captured), including the vessel named “Sinvari” individually seized by PC-126 of “Swift” class
4 May 1975
Kampuchean vessels opened fire against the South Korean merchant Masan Ho.
7 May 1975
Kampuchean vessels seized the Panamanian cargo Vira-II (carrying 2200tons of oil) but detained only for 35 hours and then released.
11 – 14 May 1975
The Kampuchean submarine chaser E-311 (PC-461 class) seized a undefined number of small Thai fishing boats.
12 – 15 May 1975
The merchant Mayaguez (10485tons) seized by Kampuchean vessels and crew was removed. “Swift” patrol boats but also the submarine chaser E-311 involved.
It is strongly believed the ship was carrying secret materials taken off Vietnam with the downfall of the South Vietnamese regime.
The American armed forces carried on a military operation to retrieve the vessel, even if the Khmer Rouge government was already working on the release, thus making the whole operation useless.
On 13 May, American aircrafts claimed hit and destroyed three patrol boats of “Swift” class, including one strafed by 20mm fire from an A-7 plane; and reportedly four patrol boats suffered damages. Eight “Swift” boats were lost during the whole 1975-1979 period, including losses in combat with Vietnam Navy (P-121, P-123, P-125, P-133, P-134, P-135, P-136 and P-137).
Other American planes attacked the harbor of Kampong Sam: the only two motor torpedo boats of Yugoslavian origin, VR-1 and VR-2 (built over the “Higgins” design) sunk.
Western sources often mistakenly reports four “Swift” vessels sunk, but the actual toll was three “Swift” and two “Higgins” motor torpedo boats.
Wrongly believing the imprisoned sailors were kept in Ko Tang Island, the Americans prepared a hasty ill-devised rescue operation: on 13 May evening a CH-53 that was going to take part at the rescue crashed in Thailand killing the 12 men onboard.
On day 15 May, the American destroyer USS Harold E. Holt approached and seized-back the empty Mayaguez (10485tons), meanwhile the Khmer Rouge government released the crewmembers using the previously captured Thai fishing vessel Sinvari, to de-escalate the situation. (NOTE: despite the American claim the action was a ship-to-ship boarding, the government already decided to return the ship exactly like it occurred for the Panamanian vessel on 7 May, thus making the operation a not-hostile and harmless endeavor).
While part of the American Administration and military chain of command were aware the Khmer Rouge removed the sailors from Koh Tang, it was too late to stop of divert the attack on the Island.
600 US Marines made an airborne landing with helicopters encountering a fierce resistance by the smaller garrison of Khmer Rouge fighters composed by just 67 men. The landing was a disaster: 3 helicopters CH-53 completely lost due heavy anti-aircraft gunfire and launch of RPG rockets, while two CH-53 and two HH-53 suffered heavy damages. Americans lost 15 KIA and 41 WIA, in addition to other 23 killed due a CH-53 crashing in Thailand while bound to take part at the operations. Interestingly, the stiff ground Khmer Rouge forced the US Marines to a hasty and confused retreat, leaving behind bodies of soldiers and 3 men still alive (declared MIA) despite the American claimed “no man left behind” rule. The ground commander of the Khmer Rouge forces, Em Son, later revealed one Marine captured wounded and executed as reprisal for the death of one of his men in the firefight and finally the other two Marines captured on the island one week after the battle and brought to the mainland where they eventually executed.
Khmer Rouge fighters lost 13 men on the island’s defense, while losses of the Navy and ground personal during the bombing of the mainland are unknown.
The overall result was a large US military failure rendered pointless by the political decision of the Khmer Rouge to release both ship and crewmembers: while the Khmer Rouge ground forces performed well in battle, the Navy could do little to counter the American air-superiority and suffered heavily.
19 May 1975
The Kampuchean submarine chaser E-311 (PC-461 class) defected to Thailand. Some sources indicate the sister-ship E-312 as having defected on 21 May to Philippines, but actually she left the country before the takeover of the country and was never in service under the new Khmer Rouge government.
24 May 1975
Vietnamese transports T-643 and T-657 made a landing and re-captured Tho Chu Archipelago: Kampuchea previously seized the islands using LSM ship and with support of 3 PCF boats. The two Vietnamese vessels were escorted by three PCF boats and performed landing with use of two LCM-8 type landing crafts: interestingly a number of formerly South-Vietnamese sailors engaged in the operation (their knowledge in using US-made watercrafts was invaluable). Eventually also two Vietnamese Project062 gunboats joined the operations, to shell the enemy garrisoned forces. At one point, T-643 alongside a LCM-8 type landing boat encountered an enemy ship carrying 40 troops of reinforcement: the vessel was captured (according Vietnamese description, the Khmer Rouge members onboard displayed many red flags onboard the ship).
At the same time, T-657 encountered an enemy motorboat (likely not a PCF “Swift” but a lightly armed boat) and sunk her with gunfire.
Operations to liberate the island successfully concluded in three days (Vietnamese forces suffered 4 KIA and 14 WIA).
29 May 1975
Clash between Kampuchean patrol boats with two Thai warships, unclear results
5 June 1975
After liberating the archipelago, the very same Vietnamese task force sailed toward the larger Pho Quoc Island, this time the operations lasted until 13 June but also resulted in the defeat of the garrisoned Kampuchean forces.
12 June 1975
Clash between a Kampuchean patrol boat with a Thai patrol boat, unclear results
1976 – 1978
The Kampuchean Navy converted 10 fishing vessels (including some captured from Thai) into auxiliary patrol boats, armed with 75mm mortars and machine guns.
Numbers, names and details of these vessels are unknown and all data likely lost with the downfall off the Khmer Rouge.
22 February 1976
A clash between six Thai warships with the Kampuchean Navy reportedly resulted in the loss of a Kampuchean patrol boat (a “Swift” class or aux. patrol boat).
31 August 1977
Two Kampuchean vessels (either “Swift” or aux. patrol boat) sunk one Vietnamese fishing boat.
1 April 1978
A Vietnamese warship reportedly sunk two boats of the Kampuchean Navy northeast of Hon Doc Island (“Swift” class or aux. patrol boat).
On unclear day of 1978 a yacht or a sailing vessel with two Australian citizens seized by Kampuchean vessel (allegedly engaged in drug trafficking). Both later executed.
Late April 1978
Kampuchean boats seized the yacht Mary K. off Koh Wai allegedly engaged in drug trafficking.
The ship seizing the yacht was likely an auxiliary patrol vessel, that also opened fire, hit and wrecked the yacht.
The two American citizens eventually killed in a Khmer Rouge jail. Both men reportedly confessed to be CIA agents, but this remain unproved.
13 August 1978
Kampuchean boats seized the sailing ship Foxy Lady off Koh Tang allegedly engaged in drug trafficking (ship sailed to Thailand to retrieve a cargo). One Canadian killed during the boarding, while a New Zealander and Briton citizens imprisoned and later killed in jail. Traffickers reportedly confessed to be CIA agents (likely under torture) but this remain unproved.
8 September 1978
Two Vietnamese warships reportedly sunk two boats of the Kampuchean Navy close Hon Doc Island (“Swift” class or aux. patrol boat).
23 November 1978
Kampuchean boats seized the American yacht Iwalani, allegedly engaged in drug trafficking and arresting two American citizens. Reportedly, the yacht scuttled and the two Americans allegedly admitted to be spies: they were the last western citizens executed (burned alive) by their jailers during the downfall of the Khmer Rouge government. While it is known they planned to meet on sea a Thai military vessel with a corrupted officer to receive a cargo of drugs, the connection with CIA remain unproved and likely obtained due torture.
One of biggest mysteries of the Kampuchean Navy it’s the amount of support and ships transferred from the People’s Republic of China before the downfall of the Khmer Rouge government.
While some western sources keep silent of this due lack of their own data and knowledge of this transfer, some traces can be found in Russian evaluation, scant details of Chinese admission and the (likely inflated) data from Vietnamese.
According the Chinese sources, plans were agreed in May 1976 and included the delivery of four large patrol vessels of Type037, 10 patrol boats of type 062, 12 motor torpedo boats of type 026 (and transfer of 48 torpedoes), one 80-tons minesweeper, one 300-tons tanker. All patrol boats and motor torpedo boats planned for delivery between 1977 and 1978.
According own Chinese sources, plans could not be properly completed: between 1975 and 1977 the Kampuchean Navy received only four Type 062 patrol boats and two unidentified “800 tons fast ships” (note: the size of these undefined vessels is the double of the type037 patrol ships! It is possible they were just large trawlers or small cargo vessels intended for not-military purpose).
On the other hand, Vietnamese sources assessed in January 1979 the Kampuchean Navy as composed by following vessels:
10 Type 062 patrol vessels, 10 Type26 motor torpedo boats (often incorrectly reported as Soviet-made project123K), between 10 and 16 “Swift” class patrol boats (NOTE: at real there were likely between 9 and 14 survived “Swift” boats), two unspecified “anti-submarine ships” (possibly a misidentification) and a number of small fast boats).
6 – 7 January 1979
Battle of Ream
The key naval battle of the conflict, usually unreported by Western sources and press, was indeed an active gunnery fight; it was also likely the very last all-gunfire naval battle of history between two combat fleets of significant size! Indeed the battle occurred after the Battle of Paracels Island (often reported as the last all-gunfire naval battle), while the Battle of Chigua Reef occurred in 1988 can be hardly classified as an equal naval battle between two fleets. The subsequent description of battle follow the Vietnamese view, due lack of direct Cambodian sources, but due realistic losses of Kampuchean Navy, the report is likely!
The Vietnamese Navy deployed a task force with the purpose to block or lure in battle the Kampuchean Fleet and allow the amphibious landing of troops on different location.
Interestingly, the Vietnamese Navy made heavy use of former American vessels: the frigates HQ-01 and HQ-03, the corvettes HQ-05 and HQ-07 and the patrol boat T-613 (a former PGM-39 patrol boat), in addition to the following Project062 patrol boats: T-197, T-199, T-203, T-205 and T-215.
There is no Kampuchea record of the battle, but given the near-total destruction of the Fleet, it is likely Vietnamese claim match reality.
The first engagement saw T-203 and T-215 sinking two unidentified Kampuchean vessels and damaging a third one.
After midnight, the Kampucheans attempted a sortie from Ream harbor with five vessels they engaged the corvettes HQ-05 and HQ-07 that sunk an unidentified vessel and damaged a second one. Both Vietnamese ships suffered light damages, while also T-613 suffered heavy damages and forced to retreat. Identity of Kampuchea vessels is unclear.
Vietnamese identify them as Type026 motor torpedo boats, but their delivery is denied by China (this denial is of course unconfirmed nor confirmed by neutral source), so they could also have been PCF “Swift” boats (5 units were lost between 1976 and 1979: identity of 5 losses of the Kampuchean Navy between 1976 and 1978 it is unclear).
Four Kampuchea Type062 patrol boats made another attack, believing to have heavily damaged the corvettes and aiming to finish them, however the Vietnamese organized a combat line to exploit the longer rage of their stronger artillery, while T-203 and T-215 fought on closer rank: T-197 and T-205 joined them, while corvettes HQ-05 and HQ-07 covered them. At some point the combat lines become so confused that corvettes had to halt fire to avoid friendly-fire hits (like also because both Kampuchean and Vietnamese used the same class of units: the Type062), while HQ-01 joined the combat. During the close-quarter fight, T-197 and T-205 attempted to finish a damaged unidentified Type062, however forced to pullback due enemy fire.
Kampuchea shore-artillery helped their ships, targeting HQ-05 and HQ-07 and forcing them to turn south. At the same time HQ-05 was further attacked by four Kampuchean units and was saved only by T-203 and T-215 that damaged two unidentified attacking units. T-215 however suffered direct hits with 37mm and 25mm, with 4 sailors KIA (including captain) and 6 WIA: she was saved by T-205 while the rest of Kampuchean units retreated under the combined Vietnamese fire.
At the end of the battle, Vietnamese forces successfully blocked the Kampuchea Navy to prevent raids on the amphibious landing, at the cost of (at least) 2 patrol boats heavily damaged, and 2 corvettes lightly damaged, Kampuchean units lost an estimated amount of 3 unidentified units while other 5 suffered damages.
10 January 1979
While approaching the harbor of Ream (after the end of the naval battle), The Vietnamese patrol boats PCF T-102 and T-107 came under fire from harbor. T-107 suffered 2 hits with 1 KIA and 6 WIA.
It appears the fire come from two unidentified Kampuchean ships, however they suffered a reaction combined fire from HQ-01,HQ-03, T-203, T-205, T-197 and T-199 and sunk.
Currently it is unclear the identity of the ships (if Type062, Type026 or auxiliary patrol boats (ex-trawlers)).
There is no detailed Vietnamese account of all the Kampuchean vessels found in harbor by advancing troops or the ones scuttled in harbor to avoid capture, while these losses appears to be heavy the lack of a detailed list make impossible to figure out details of the Battle of Ream and the clash on 10/January.
LATE COLD WAR CONFLICTS
8 January 1979
Reports concerning the seizure of three Vietnamese patrol boats (24 alleged POW) captured by a Chinese landing ship supported by an armed barge (on unclear date) are currently unconfirmed.
This event can be related with the contact between Vietnamese patrol boats and a Chinese motor barge (40 tons) entering Vietnamese waters and soon joined by two Chinese warship: this event however, reported by Soviet sources on 8 January, led to no seizures or losses.
End of February 1979
Vietnamese patrol boat n°17 (or T-17? Unclear class) shelled, damaged and seized a Chinese fishing junk (4 POWs).
With the establishment of the People's Republic of Kampuchea, aligned to Vietnam and the Soviet Union, to rebuild the Navy was a primary objective. By February 1979, nine “Swift” patrol boats were the backbone of the new navy: P-122, P-124, P-126, P-127, P-128, P-129, P-130, P-131 and P-132 (out of the 17 available in 1975 to the Kampuchean Navy, meaning 8 were lost in action against US/Thai/Vietnamese forces: P-121, P-123, 125, P-133, P-134, P-135, P-136, P-137).
While indeed China never had time to deliver the Type 037 ships before the 1979 war: Soviet sailors observed project206 boats in Cambodian harbor in 1982 (before the real delivery of such ships) and while a Russian source propose they could have seen ex-Kampuchean Type-037, it is likely they were genuine project206 of the Vietnamese Navy stationed in Cambodia.
28 December 1981
A Kampuchean patrol boat (likely a “Swift” type) engaged and sunk in battle by 3 Thai warships close Koh Kang province. Of 13 crewmembers, there were 6 Vietnamese advisors and 7 Cambodians. 8 KIA, 5 POW.
Soviet Union begun transferring new Soviet-made warships only since 1984.
By the end of 1982, the Kampuchean Navy operated only 6 “Swift” class patrol boats (including P-122, P-124 and P-126), meaning 3 were lost or scuttled. The Navy rebuilt since 1984 with Soviet-provided ship.
On unclear day, Vietnamese patrol boats attacked a group of ten Thai fishing trawlers/pirates, seizing five trawlers (130 men captured).
There are scarce details over this report, but appears there were other similar incidents all ended with the release of the crafts after fines.
Late May – Early June 1984
Unidentified Vietnamese patrol boats attacked multiple Thai fishing boat/pirates on different incidents, causing 3 killed.
8 January 1985
Vietnamese auxiliary patrol boats reportedly attacked a group of four fishing boats manned by Thai nationals, killing 1 and wounding 7 and impounding the fished catch. While there are scant details, it appears the Vietnamese intentionally placed armed guards and men on fishing boats to lure the Thai pirates (often fishermen themselves who “made an extra” assaulting Vietnamese fishing boats).
14 March 1988
Battle of Truong Sa Islands (Vietnamese name) / Nansha Islands (Chinese name)
Spratley Archipelago include islands contested by different nations, including China and Vietnam (the dispute is still unsolved).
Growing tensions in 1988 culminated in Vietnamese operations that involved the landing ship HQ-505 and the armed transport HQ-604 and HQ-605.
Chinese units were more powerful: frigates Nanchong (065 class), Xiangtan (053H1 class) and Yingtan (053K class).
The conflict included hand-to-hand clashes between marines over contested flags on the reefs, resulting in the naval fight with overwhelming Chinese superiority. Frigate Nanchong shelled and sunk HQ-604, a couple of hours later Xiangtan sunk the HQ-605.
Finally frigate Yingtan focused her fire on the transport ship HQ-505, that retreated after suffering damages even if Vietnamese sources state the ship was intentionally grounded to prevent a Chinese landing. After the battle, Vietnamese tried to recover HQ-505 but she sunk before reaching the port. Details of the battle are disputed todays. Vietnamese claims that many of their victims (64 killed) occurred when Chinese warships strafed the marines on the reef. Chinese reported just one wounded. As consequence of this engagement, China took control of the reef.
21st CENTURY VIETNAMESE NAVAL OPERATIONS (anti-piracy)
22 November 2012
Vietnamese Coast guard patrol boats CSB-4041 and CSB-4031 sailed alongside the tug CSB-9001 to intercept the Malay tanker MT Zafirah (496 GRT)(cargo: 300tons of light crude oil) seized by 11 Indonesian pirates. Pirates re-named the ship “MT Sea Horse” while manning her, while the original crew has been disembarked. The Vietnamese units successfully intercepted and blocked the ship opening fire with light weapons and 12.7mm until CSB-4031 seized the ship and captured the pirates.
2 October 2014
The Vietnamese tanker Sunrise-689 (4080 GRT) (cargo: 5220tons of oil) was seized by pirates nearby Singapore, with some damages inflicted to the vessels. 2 sailors were wounded and Pirates successfully unloaded 2000tones of oil before releasing the vessel on 9 October 2014. Vietnamese coast guard boats CSB-2001 and CSB-2004 found the tanker and rescued the crew, but they had failed to capture the pirates and prevent the thief of cargo.
19 June 2015
Malay tanker MT Orkin Harmony (5081 GRT) (cargo: 6000 tons of petrol) has been seized by 8 Indonesian pirates (they temporarely renamed the ship “MT Kim Harmon”). Chased by Malay ships, the pirates fled the vessel on a motorboat only to be intercepted and captured by the Vietnamese coast guard patrol boats CSB-2002 and CSB-2004. Pirates were deteined before extradition.