Make your own free website on Tripod.com

                                             COMMANDER

RIVER DIVISION 513

FPO San Francisco 96627

 

                                                                                                                          1 November 1968

 

I would like to introduce myself and chat in an informal manner with you about our River Division. I know you are interested in hearing more in detail about what your loved ones, sons, and friends are doing during their tour in Vietnam.

To start out, I would like to tell you a little about our present base, the Binh Thuy Naval Base. The base is headquarters for Commander, River Patrol Flotilla FIVE, Capt. A. W. PRICE, Jr., and the location of a Naval Support Activity Detachment. Part of the River Patrol Force here also includes a SEAL detachment (Sea, Air, and Land Reconnaissance Team), three River (PBR) Divisions, and two helicopter detachments. All of these units help extend the Navy’s Seapower into control of the waterways of the Mekong Delta region.

Binh Thuy Naval Base is approximately 90 miles southwest of Saigon, along the Bassac River. Can Tho (the largest city in the Delta) is four mile to the southeast. It is the area’s cultural center. The surrounding Vietnamese countryside is a very beautiful land. Rice fields, water buffalos, tropical fruit, small canals, and wear worn junks are typical scenery in this area. I’m sure that there is never a day going by that our day patrols don’t have bananas, oranges, or grapefruit on their lunch menu. Though a war is being fought in this land, it will surely be hard to eliminate any of the native beauty of this country, Vietnam.

The main reason for the existence of this River Division is the use of and support of the PBR’s (River Patrol Boats). The PBR’s main function here in the Delta region is to control the waterways. This is done by interdicting river traffic. For example, on an average day, we board and search 500 hundred junks, checking for contraband cargo, draft dodgers, and suspicious personnel. During the later evening, and early morning hours, we enforce curfew periods on the waterways.

PBR’s have been so successful in their operations that they have expanded into many secondary functions. We conduct medical civic action programs (MEDCARS) where Navy Medical Corpsman administer treatment to 200-300 persons in an average village, while PBR sailors help Vietnamese officials distribute cigarettes, newspapers, soap, clothing, and similar items. Our division alone conducted two such Medcaps in September and five in October.

PBR’s have also been called on to deliver the voice of the government of South Vietnam to the people via tape recorder and speaker systems. Such themes as recent news events or the issuing of “CHEIU HOI” appeals to the Viet Cong (VC) controlled areas. “CHIEU HOI” means “OPEN ARMS”. It is an appeal to the VC to rally to the government cause. Last year over 27,000 Viet Cong so rallied and some are now serving in special units for the Government.  They make deadly opponents to their former comrades.

 

1.

                                                           

PBR sailors have also supported the local popular and regional forces in sweeping operations. For example we might convoy this Vietnamese force to a designated landing area and insert them into the area. While the troops sweep the area, PBR’s block the waterways to prevent the Viet Cong from escaping by these waterways. If any casualties occur, PBR’s have been called to medical evacuate (MEDVAC) the personnel to the local hospitals. In one recent operation one of our patrols was presented a captured VC flag for its assistance in an operation with the local Vietnamese forces. PBR’s and the men of this Division from interdicting water traffic to blockading waterways perform a valuable function in this Vietnamese war.

I have been talking so much about PBR’s I would now like to tell you a few details about the boat itself. Overall, the PBR is 31 feet long, heavily armed, and water jet-pump propelled. The weapontry includes: three (3) heavy machine guns, one (1) light machine gun, one (1) automatic grenade launcher, three (3) M-16 rifles, two (2) single fire grenade launchers, and an assortment of thrown hand grenades and flares. It is even possible to mount a 60mm mortar on a PBR, to be used during special operations. One can really tell that the PBR is well capable of protecting itself in his dealings with “Charlie”. Couple this asset with the PBR’s speed, maneuverability, and highly trained men, you have a formidable force that can deal with the Viet Cong with superiority if the needs arrise.

You have all probably heard from the men of the Division of how hard they have been working lately. Well all this work has not been only doing the job of patrolling the waterways. The men have also worked very much on their boats since we have been at Bhin Thuy Naval Base to prepare for our Command Inspection. While the Division was on the “LST” (Ship with a capability of supporting PBR’s), the boats were easily damaged by the rough treatment they received tieing up along-side the ship in frequently bad weather. Many of us would stand on the deck and watch our boats bouncing against one another.  At that time, because of the limited capability of an “LST” nothing could be done. 

Then came our transfer to Bhin Thuy Naval Base and to work on bringing up our boats began in earnest. Time in this situation was definitely not on our side, for we had three months’ work to be completed in six weeks. The six weeks passed rapidly, and the day of the Command Inspection, 17 October 1968, arrived. What all of our men worked so hard for -their boats- was “on the line”. Amid words of the inspection party, there occurred statements as “OUTSTANDING”, “PERFECT”, “GREAT”, and “I LIKE THE LOOKS OF THEM”. Needless to say we passed our inspection with an overall OUTSTANDING. I know the men deep down are very proud of the accomplishments (even though you won’t get one to admit it). I know I was proud of the men.

This letter contains an addendum of Officers and men arriving and departing the Division in September and October 1968. To the new men and their families, I extend “Welcome Aboard!” to the men and their families departing “Fair Winds and Smooth Sailing” on their new tours.

As another addition to this letter, we are adding a map of the area in which River Division 513 operates. It is hoped that when your friends loved ones, or sons mention various names, hamlets, towns, rivers, or islands, you will have a better idea where it is.

2

 

 

 

 

While I have the opportunity, to, I would like to make it known to everyone that if an emergency does exist in your family, PLEASE contact the American Red Cross. Any other method of notification causes undue delay. I do hope this advice will not have to be adhered to by anyone!!

I hope this letter has been of your assistance in explaining to you something of the purpose and function of PBR’s in South Vietnam. I intend to write to you all again in the future, and if you have any suggestions or comments concerning this letter or any other topics which you would like to discuss in the future, I would certainly appreciate hearing from you. If there is anyway in which I can be of assistance please feel free to write me directly and I will give you my immediate attention.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

 

 

H.J. FEENEY III

Lieutenant  USN

COMMANDER

RIVER DIVISION 513

FPO SAN FRANCISCO,CALIF

96627

 

                                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       

 

 

 

 

PERSONNEL ARRIVALS                                     PERSONELL DEPARTURES

 

                        LT (jg) W. L. MARGESON                                     LT. R. J. FERENCE

                        EMC (SS) E. E. CAIDITO                                       EN3 C. GILLILAND

                        BM1 K. G. DANIELS                                               ENC R. N. SCHOCK

                        BM1    H. C. MC LEOD                                            BMC O. L. BEARD

                        QM1    F. B. HEALEY                                              SN B. C. LAWRENCE

                        EN2    G. C. DOTY                                                   EN3 R. G. NICOLAYSEN

                        GMG3 W. A. KEEN                                                  GMG3 R. A. CHAVIERS

                        GMG3 ONDERDONK                                             GMG3 D. D. HENSLEY

                        EN3 D. R. ELLSWORTH                                       BMSN D. L. WHITLEY

                        SN P. C. WILLIAMS                                                ENC(SS) W. F. CATRON

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                ENCLOSURE (1)