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TRANSPORTATION RIVER & CANAL OPERATIONS VIETNAM

 

River & Canal Transportation:     

The southern portion of Vietnam is defined by the rivers and canals that line the countryside.  Earlier, the French dug an intricate canal system in the Mekong Delta that was better than any road network in the country.

Cholon canal One of the larger canals on the Cholon Canal, Vietnam, 1966.

 

Right, two views of a canal near Cat Lai, used frequently by the local population as well as military watercraft.

canal views

 

Navy LCU on Cam Lo River

   At Dong Ha, the TC “Navy” delivers cargo for the 1st Logistics Command.  This LCU carried supplies and equipment for units near the DMZ.  It is unloaded by US Marine Corps and Navy personnel on the Cam Lo River, 1965.

    Operating LCMs (landing craft, mechanized) and LCUs (landing craft, utility), these heavy and medium boat units delivered cargo up and down the Saigon and Mekong Rivers.

vessel caravan (convoy on the river/canal)

   Their primary destinations were the major terminals of Newport, Vin Long, Cat Lai, and to ports like Co Ji Do, Can Tho and the 9th Infantry Division base at Dong Tam.

Nha Trang Canal

A canal near Nha Trang

canal near Cat Lai and sampan

A canal near Cat Lai.

   The 5th Heavy Boat and 544th Medium Boat Companies out of Vung Tau, and the 1099th Medium Boat Company out of Cat Lai made these rivers and canals their home.

LCUs assisting in river operations.

LCU river opns

An LCU in the background with US Navy armed riverboats, called Monitors.

 

LCU and Navy patrolling rivers

 

The 544th Transportation Company (Heavy Boat) left Fort Eustis in late 1965 for Vietnam and was inactived at Fort Eustis in March 1972 in Vietnam, serving  7 years in country.  It was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation in 1967.

544th patch

544th Transportation Company (Heavy Boat)

LCM at Dong Tam

   Above, the 544th LCM at Dong Tam in March 1970.  Next to the LCM is a Vietnamese boat which had priority on repair materials over Army LCMs.  Behind the two boats is an LST (Landing Ship Tank).

gunner LCM

A gunner on an LCM.

  The crews of the LCM-8s lived aboard their boats and only reported to their home bases periodically.  Receiving their taskings from local harbor masters, the boats would haul barges or cargo up and down the rivers.

 The crews built hooches to live in and overhead platforms to protect the troops or cargo they carried.

hootch on LCM

   Rapid currents made up-river trips twice as long as down-river missions.   Camping at local bases or midstream at night and moving during the day, these line haulers of the river kept the cargo moving in an area made for their unique capabilities.

LCM 8 - Infantry offload at Dong Tam

 Infantry debarking at Dong Tam from LCM-8s

offload supplies and equipment

LCMs unloading equipment on the beach.

 

1099th MEDIUM BOAT COMPANY, “RIVER RATS”

   The 1099th Transportation Company was a Medium Boat Company.  It was comprised of 17 LCMs, 1 picket boat and two 65-foot barges for use as company headquarters.

line drawing of LCM-8

 

LCM and medevac helo

 

Mike boat underway

   The LCMs, popularly called "Mike boats," were steel boats with twin screws powered by two twin marine diesel engines.  The boats were 73 feet long with a 24 foot beam.  They could accommodate up to 200 personnel or 60 short tons at a speed of 10 mph. 

   They were outfitted with two .50 caliber machine guns, two M60 machine guns, an M-79 grenade launcher, and an endless amount of ammunition.

.50 cal on Mike boat

   The 1099th worked directly with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in the Mekong Delta region.  After dropping off the 199th for patrol or assault, the 1099th remained close to make emergency pickups or to lend fire support from the decks.

waiting for pickup along the river

    They also carried supplies and ammo for the troops, reducing the loads they carried on their backs.  The waterways provided cover for the troops before re-boarding the LCMs.

   The 1099th hauled general cargo and ammunition throughout the Mekong Delta.  They could carry 10,000 gallon bladders of aviation fuel for the 164th Combat Aviation Group, and also transported refugees and their belongings.

River Rats at ease

   Men of the 1099th Transportation Company earned more decorations than any other boat company in Vietnam.  These included 11 Bronze Stars with Valor, 15 Bronze Stars, 8 ARCOMS with Valor, and 103 ARCOMS.

 

* * * 

ATTACK ON ARTILLERY BARGES

   In June 1967, the 1097th Medium Boat Company, commanded by Captain William G. Pagonis, moved from Cam Rahn Bay to Dong Tam.  The unit was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, and became the only tactical boat company in the Transportation Corps.

1097th Patch

1097th Medium Boat Company patch 

9th ID patch

 9th Infantry Division patch, subdued

         The 1097th's mission was to tow artillery barges for the 3rd Battalion, 34th Artillery.  It was not possible to establish fire bases for the artillery batteries in the Mekong Delta because there were few landing zones.  The problem was solved by mounting two howitzers on barges and towing the barges with LCM-8s.

layout of arty on a barge

 

arty barges on Rod Ruong canal

   On 31 January 1968, the 1097th was moving the artillery barges for the 3/34th Artillery down the Rod Ruong Canal in Dinh Tuong Province. 

   As the boats of Captain Pagonis' company were moving through a hazardous portion of the narrow canal, enemy forces attacked with intense automatic weapons fire and high explosive recoilless rifle rounds.

CPT Gus Pagonis

Then Captain Gus Pagonis, who retired as a Lieutenant General.

    Pagonis received word by radio that one of his LCM-8 boats had been hit and was dead in the water.  He turned his command boat around and wove his way through both friendly and enemy fire to the damaged craft.

   Calmly issuing instructions to his boat crews while directing return fire against the enemy, CPT Pagonis successfully got the column moving.  His actions earned him the Bronze Star Medal.

 * * *

 

sunrise on the Mekong delta

Sunrise on the Mekong Delta.

 

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