Operation Game Warden was a joint operation conducted by the United States Navy and South Vietnamese Navy in order to deny Viet Cong access to resources in the Mekong Delta. Game Warden and its counterpart Operation Market Time are considered to be two of the most successful U.S. Naval actions during the Vietnam War.
|Operation Game Warden|
USS Harnett County (AGP-821) part of Task Force 116
United StatesSouth Vietnam
|Commanders and leaders|
William Westmoreland |
David L. McDonald
|Casualties and losses|
|100 to 200 killed||
2,000 Viet Cong craft destroyed, damaged, or captured|
1,400+ killed, wounded or captured
The Mekong River Delta extends south and west from the city of Saigon and covers over 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers). During the Vietnam War the strategic importance of the Delta was undeniable as it housed almost 8 million civilians and land movement was extremely restricted a majority of the year during the wet season. The Delta contained just one hard surface road connecting Saigon to Cà Mau while most other roads were completely unusable due to damage from the war or flooding, therefore conventional wheeled or tracked vehicles were not reliable. Water travel quickly became the primary means of travel, transportation, and communication for both the allies and Viet Cong (VC). The Mekong Delta provided the VC with the ability to move virtually undetected as over 50,000 junks operated in the region. Numerous communist strong holds located in the Mekong Delta often went unchallenged and allowed for easy movement between the bases, especially at night. Viet Cong base areas in the region included installations in the Rung Sat Special Zone, Cocoanut Grove in Gò Công Province, Cam Son Secret Zone near Mỹ Tho, U Minh Forest on the western coast, and the Seven Mountains region on the Cambodian border. The VC utilized approximately 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of natural waterways in the Delta, complemented by an additional 2,400 miles (3,900 km) of man-made canals.
In response to the deficiencies of the South Vietnamese Navy (VNN), on 18 December 1965 the U.S. Navy established Operation Game Warden and placed Task Force 116 in command. Task Force 116, consisted of five divisions patrolling different sections of the Mekong Delta. The operation was originally placed under the command of Rear Admiral Norvell G. Ward, however command was later given to Captain Burton B. Witham, Jr. on 18 May 1966. Task Force 116 began as a small fleet of 31-foot river patrol boats (PBRs), each manned by a crew of four and equipped with radars, radios, two 50-caliber machine gun forward, a 50-caliber machine gun aft, a 7.62mm machine gun and a rapid fire 40mm grenade launcher, but expanded to include landing ships tanks (LSTs), mine sweeping boats (MSBs), large personnel landing crafts (LCPLs), landing ship docks (LSDs), and helicopters. At its height in October 1968, Task Force 116 had a total of 2,032 personnel, 250 PBRs, 7 MSBs, and 31 other assorted craft. The Navy established a training facility specifically for river patrol personnel in Coronado, California called the Amphibious Training Center. However, the training soon moved to the Naval Inshore Operations Training Center on Mare Island after the Navy recognized the similarities between the sloughs of the Sacramento River and those of the Mekong River Delta.
The principal objective of Operation Game Warden focused sought to interdict the Viet Cong infiltration of South Vietnam in the Mekong Delta. The Navy officially expounded upon this objective in February 1966 when it stated that Task Force 116's mission was to crack down on the transportation of VC troops and supplies on the ample inland waterways, eliminate enemy lines of communication, enforce night time curfews, and defend the main shipping channels to Saigon open with constant patrolling and minesweeping in the Long Tau River.
The U.S. Navy officially created Operation Game Warden in December 1965, however actual patrols did not officially begin until February of the next year. When the operation took effect the Navy divided Task Force 116 into two separate task groups and assigned them to specific regions within the Delta. Task Group 116.1, a force of 80 PBRs, patrolled the heart of the Mekong Delta and operated out of river's edge bases in Mỹ Tho, Vĩnh Long, Cần Thơ, Sa Đéc, and Long Xuyên. Task Group 116.2, was roughly half the size and guarded the Rung Sat Special Zone using base areas in Nha Be and Cat Lo.
Task Force 116 focused on instituting a curfew on all waterways for the first months of action, hence devoting much of its time to searching Vietnamese sampans and junks on the river. During this time the sailors and PBRs stuck to strict rules of engagement that permitted the boats to use deadly force only after fired upon by the enemy, but as time went on tactics on both sides changed. Not only did the VC adapt to frequent daytime patrols by conducting a majority of their operations at night to use the cover of dark, but they also attempted to blend in with heavy commercial traffic during peak daylight hours. Correspondingly, the communist forces began to hide contraband, including weapons and supplies, beneath false-bottomed floors and on the underside of their sampans. Patrolling of the Rung Sat Special Zone was particularly difficult for Task Group 116.2, due to the large open areas on the South China Sea as well as the maze-like meanderings of the Long Tau River through the sector. These factors granted the VC with ample opportunities to plant mines in hopes of obstructing traffic. The mining of the Panamanian ship SS Eastern Mariner, along with the attempted mining of two other ships in Nha Be, on 26 May 1966 merely underlined the substandard security in the area during the early operations of Game Warden. The tactics employed by Task Force 116 followed a general framework during Operation Game Warden, however several adaptations were instituted to properly deal with constantly changing enemy strategies as well the treacherous terrain. Patrol boats would frequently pair up and travel in a column formation about 400–600 yards apart, a distance close enough to cover one another but far enough away to increase the effectiveness of their radars while also minimizing the threat of an effective riverside ambush. Similar to most patrolling missions, the PBRs would approach suspicious watercraft from an angle that maximized the number of weapons the boat could bear on the potential target. Searches were carried out as close to midstream as possible in order to minimize the PBRs vulnerability to surprise attacks from the riverbanks. Once the nighttime curfew was in effect, encounters occurring at night were more likely than not hostile. Task Force 116 developed numerous effective tactics throughout Operation Game Warden including the silent or drifting patrol, which called for the PBRs to speed into their patrol zone upstream, cut the engines, and allow the current to carry them through their assigned sections of river in hopes of catching the enemy off guard. Unlike other units, much of Task Force 116's development came from trial and error since it had no predecessor to draw intelligence or tactics from. For example, LSTs were primarily positioned in the South China Sea near the river mouths, however this proved impractical because the choppy sea in those locations was too rough for the small PBRs. Therefore, to accommodate the patrol boats the LST's were moved further up river, eventually as far as the Bassac-Mekong crossover (less than 20 nautical miles from the Cambodian border).
Comparable to land fighting, as the fighting intensified in areas and decreased in others U.S. base areas often shifted location. Operation Game Warden's headquarters moved from Saigon to Nha Be, then from Nha Be to Tra Noc, and finally from Tra Noc to Binh Thuy. The Navy also deemed it necessary to expand the two task groups into five groups in January 1968 and reassign them to individual rivers in the Delta region. The new groups and assignments included Task Group 116.1 to the Bassac River, Task Group 116.2 to the Mỹ Tho River Task Group 116.3 Upper Delta, [Task Force 116.4 [Co Chien River]], and Task Group 116.5 was assigned the Rung Sat area.
The performance of Game Warden units during the Tet Offensive in early 1968 helped save several of the principal South Vietnamese capitals from falling to enemy hands. In January 1968 the Mekong Delta was defended by a various host of forces encompassing three Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) divisions, the U.S. Army 9th Infantry Division, Task Force 116, Task Force 117, and various South Vietnamese Regional Forces and Popular Forces. Though at the time of the Tet celebrations over half of the South Vietnamese forces were on leave with only skeleton crews remaining in their stead. The MRF and other Game Warden troops played a vital role in supporting the diminished Vietnamese forces across the Delta transforming a certain defeat into a tactical victory.
The Navy discontinued Operations Game Warden, Market Time, and Clearwater in March 1973. The efficiency of Game Warden is largely hard to determine, although the operation successfully accomplished most of its main objectives. Viet Cong defectors, referred to as "Hồi Chánh Viên", recurrently confirmed that Task Force 116's patrols greatly hindered movement in and around the Mekong Delta. One Hồi Chánh Viên stated that PBR patrols restricted the movement of supplies so much that troops in the Delta often went multiple days without food. Another Hồi Chánh Viên described a two-week period in which the VC were completely unable to transport their units across a river due to frequent PBR patrols. According to Admiral S. A. Swartztrauber, an average month of Game Warden operations would account for:
Game Warden forces lost 200 Sailors in the boats from its inception to its discontinuation, however Task Force 116's kill ratio (approximately 40 enemy KIA to every 1 American KIA) was one of the highest of U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. In total, two sailors of Task Force 116 were awarded the Medal of Honor: Petty Officer First Class James Williams and Seaman David George Ouettet. Nevertheless, the VC did not cease operations in the Mekong Delta but instead began focusing on disrupting traffic on the rivers and ultimately redirected their sampans and other watercraft to smaller rivers and canals to avoid combat with the more powerful PBRs.
Armored Troop Carriers (ATC), often called Tangos from the phonetic alphabet for T, were LCM-6 landing crafts modified for riverine patrol missions. They were used by the Mobile Riverine Force of the United States Army and Navy in the Vietnam War. The troops of the 9th Infantry Division and used them more than other groups in the earlier parts of the war, but as they proved themselves they were deployed elsewhere. They were also used by South Vietnamese and Cambodian troops.
Many were equipped with helicopter decks. They could be told from the LCM-6 by their distinctive bow ramp. They also had an armoured superstructure to protect from rockets. The ATC, the most common variant, carried four M1919 Browning machine guns, two Mk 16 20 mm cannons, and one Mk 19 grenade launcher. Some carried flamethrowers. These were known as "Zippos". The "Monitor" was another version, which was used as a floating tank. other modified LCMs carried an 81 mm mortar or a 105 mm howitzer. There was also a command and communications boat, known as the "Charlie". Many were also converted into refueling boats.
The ATC weighed 66 tons, and 56.5-foot (17.2 m) long. They had a crew of 7. They had a top speed of 8.5 knots (15.7 km/h; 9.8 mph). These transports carried up to 40 troops readily to deploy onto land.The Tango saw combat with the 113th Task Force of the Mobile Riverine Force in Operation Game Warden.Arnold Resnicoff
Arnold E. Resnicoff (born 1946) is an American Conservative rabbi who served as a military officer and military chaplain. He served in Vietnam and Europe before attending rabbinical school. He then served as a U.S. Navy Chaplain for almost 25 years. He promoted the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and delivered the closing prayer at its 1982 dedication. In 1984 the President of the United States spoke on his eyewitness account of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. After retiring from the military he was National Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee and served as Special Assistant (for Values and Vision) to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force, serving at the equivalent military rank of Brigadier General.Resnicoff holds several degrees, including an honorary doctorate. His awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Department of the Air Force Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, and the Chapel of Four Chaplains Hall of Heroes Gold Medallion.Brown-water navy
The term brown-water navy or riverine warfare refers in its broadest sense to any naval force capable of military operations in river or littoral environments, especially those carrying heavy sediment loads from soil runoff or flooding. It originated in the United States Navy during the American Civil War, when it referred to Union forces patrolling the muddy Mississippi River, and has since been used to describe the small gunboats and patrol boats commonly used in rivers, along with the larger "mother ships" that supported them. These mother ships include converted World War II-era LCMs and LSTs, among other vessels.
Brown-water navies are contrasted with seaworthy blue-water navies, which can independently conduct operations in open ocean. Green-water navies are the bridge between brown-water navies and blue-water navies.Glenn R. Brindel
Glenn R. Brindel (born 1943) is a former United States Navy officer. He was the commanding officer of USS Stark and was in command when the ship was attacked and struck by two Exocet missiles in the Persian Gulf on May 17, 1987. The incident review board, led by Rear Admiral Grant Sharp, recommended he be court-martialed for his actions. However, he was relieved of command and given non-judicial punishment by Adm. Frank B. Kelso II, commander of the Atlantic fleet. According to the New York Times, in 1987 he received a letter of reprimand and elected to retire early. He had not served as a captain long enough to retire at that grade, so he had to retire at the rank of commander. The U.S. Naval Register, however, lists Brindel as retiring October 2, 1990, as a captain. 37 sailors were killed in the attack.Helicopter Attack Squadron (Light) Five
Helicopter Attack Squadron (Light) Five, known by the US Navy designation HA(L)-5 (sometimes abbreviated as HAL-5), was the initial designation of a Naval Special Warfare and close air support helicopter squadron in the period following the Vietnam War, which, along with its sister squadron HA(L)-4 "Red Wolves", was one of the last two US Navy squadrons using HH-1K "Huey" gunships. In October 1989 the squadron was redesignated Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Special Five (HCS-5), it adopted the name "Firehawks" and it traded in its "Hueys" for HH-60H Seahawk Combat Search and Rescue helicopters. The squadron was deactivated on 13 December 2006.Mobile Riverine Force
In the Vietnam War, the Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) (after May 1967), initially designated Mekong Delta Mobile Afloat Force, and later the Riverines, were a joint US Army and US Navy force that comprised a substantial part of the Brown Water Navy. It was modeled after lessons learned by the French experience in the First Indochina War and had the task of both transport (of soldiers and equipment) and combat. The primary base was at Đồng Tâm Base Camp, with a floating base at the base of the Mekong River. It played a key role in the Tet Offensive.Naval offensive
A naval offensive is the aggressive deployment of naval forces during a military campaign to strategically, operationally or tactically provide secure use of shipping routes, or coastal regions for friendly shipping, or deny them to enemy shipping.
The aim of a naval offensive is usually in "exerting specific superiority at the point of impact", and has been considered the best strategy in Europe against a threat of invasion since the Middle Ages.A naval offensive may include use of surface or submarine combat vessels, or both as at the Battle of Heligoland Bight, and aircraft carrier or shore-based fixed-wing and helicopter aircraft and amphibious assault troops to conduct the offensive as a means of "projection of naval power against land objectives", or support one by transporting troops.The scale of a naval offensive need not be a massive ocean fleet operation, but may be conducted with relatively few and light forces on lakes.In the naval history the earliest naval offensives in the record of military history were the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage for the domination of the Mediterranean regional trade, while coastal offensives date to the earlier raids of the Sea Peoples. At least one naval offensive is claimed to have changed the course of history in Europe.The conduct of naval offensives may require construction of naval bases to support offensive action in the area, particularly in the case of submarines. One example is the Bay of Kotor base used by the Austro-Hungarian forces in the Adriatic Sea during the First World War.
A naval offensive may be active involving direct combat between units, or passive, involving use of sea route and operational area mining.Operation Sealords
Operation Sealords was a military operation that took place during the Vietnam War.Roy Boehm
Roy H. Boehm (April 9, 1924 – December 30, 2008) was born in Brooklyn, New York and was a veteran of 30 years of military service in the United States Navy, serving in three wars and various clandestine operations. Boehm was a mustang officer who rose up from the enlisted ranks and was commissioned to develop and lead what would become the US Navy SEALs as the first Officer In Charge of SEAL Team Two.Sa Đéc Base
Sa Đéc Base (also known as Sa Đéc Naval Support Activity or simply Sa Đéc) is a former U.S. Navy and Republic of Vietnam Navy (RVNN) base near Sa Đéc in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.Small Craft insignia
The Small Craft Insignia (more commonly known as the Small Craft Pin) is a military award of the United States Navy which was first created in the 1970s following the close of the Vietnam War. The intent in creating the Small Craft Pin was to give recognition to the specially trained naval personnel who comprised the inshore boat units and river assault commands.
The Small Craft Pin (commonly called the 'Coxswain Pin' or 'Boat Pin' by U.S. Navy Sailors) is issued in two grades for both officers and enlisted. The gold (officer) or silver (enlisted) metal pin consists of a small craft circumscribed by an anchor flukes on the sides and bottom and a three star pennant on top.
The three stars represent the three main areas of U.S. Navy Riverine operations in Vietnam; OPERATION GAME WARDEN, OPERATION MARKET TIME, and OPERATION SEALORDS.
To qualify for the Small Craft insignia, a service member must complete full qualifications at every watch station of a small craft. This normally includes positions as engineer, coxswain, gunner, and boat commander. Enlisted personnel must be the Petty Officer in Charge (POIC) of a small craft for six months before they qualify. Officers must hold the additional qualification of Watch Officer in order to be awarded the Small Craft Pin.
Sailors who have earned the silver pin while enlisted and later become commissioned officers are authorized to begin wearing the gold pin (this is the only enlisted device that is authorized to change color upon the wearer's commissioning without further qualification). Any officer who has earned the Surface Warfare insignia may automatically be awarded the gold Small Craft Pin upon joining a small boat command. The pin is also awarded, by default, to any officer given command of a unit which utilizes small boats, upon receipt of the Command Ashore Pin, regardless of previous qualifications. Some warrant officers who earn the pin while enlisted continue to wear the insignia as warrant officers.
The Small Craft Pin is authorized by local commanders and is not considered the same as a warfare qualification badge, such as the Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) insignia. The Small Craft Pin may also be retroactively awarded to the Second World War, upon request of the service member to the Department of the Navy.
The U.S. Navy maintains a similar pin, known as the Craftmaster Badge, intended for those qualified in the operation of non-combat support small craft such as tugs and barges.USS Benner (DD-807)
USS Benner (DD/DDR-807) was a Gearing-class destroyer of the United States Navy, named for Marine Second Lieutenant Stanley G. Benner (1916–1942), who was killed during the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Benner was laid down on 10 July 1944 at Bath, Maine, by the Bath Iron Works Corp.; launched on 30 November 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Gertrude A. Benner, 2ndLt Benner's mother; and commissioned at Boston, Massachusetts, on 13 February 1945, Commander John Munholland in command.USS Garrett County (LST-786)
USS Garrett County (LST-786) was an LST-542-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy during World War II. Named after Garrett County, Maryland, she was the only U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name.
LST-786 was laid down on 21 May 1944 at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by the Dravo Corporation; launched on 22 July 1944; sponsored by Mrs. E. B. Keckler; and commissioned on 28 August 1944 with Lieutenant Eli T. Ringler, USCG, in command.USS Harnett County (LST-821)
USS LST-821, renamed USS Harnett County (LST-821/AGP-281), was an LST-542-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was named for Harnett County, North Carolina and was the only U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name. She served the United States Navy in World War II and the Vietnam War. She was transferred to South Vietnam's Republic of Vietnam Navy, which named her RVNS My Tho (HQ-800).
After the Vietnam War, Harnett County was transferred to the Philippine Navy, which named her BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57). In 1999 the Philippine government deliberately had her run aground on Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands to serve as an outpost of the Philippine Marine Corps to assert Philippine sovereignty in the country's dispute with China over the ownership of the Spratly Islands. She still serves that function.USS Hunterdon County (LST-838)
USS Hunterdon County (LST-838) was an LST-542-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy during World War II, and later reconfigured and recommissioned for riverine warfare during the Vietnam War. Named after Hunterdon County, New Jersey, she was the only U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name.
USS LST-838 was laid down on 20 September 1944 at Ambridge, Pennsylvania by the American Bridge Company; launched on 8 November 1944; sponsored by Miss Margaret Foster; and commissioned on 4 December 1944 with Lieutenant Allan T. Larkins, Jr., in command.USS Jennings County (LST-846)
USS Jennings County (LST-846) was an LST-542-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy during World War II. Named after Jennings County, Indiana, she was the only U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name.
Originally laid down as LST-846 by the American Bridge Company of Ambridge, Pennsylvania on 27 October 1944; the ship was launched on 12 December, sponsored by Mrs. L. P. Quill; and commissioned on 9 January 1945.USS Tortuga (LSD-26)
USS Tortuga (LSD-26) was a Casa Grande-class dock landing ship in the United States Navy. She was the first Navy ship to be named for the Dry Tortugas, a group of desert coral islets 60 miles west of Key West, Florida, which were discovered in 1513 by Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon.
Tortuga was laid down on 16 October 1944 by the Boston Navy Yard; launched on 21 January 1945; sponsored by Mrs. George T. Paine; and commissioned on 8 June 1945, Lieutenant Commander Raymond G. Brown, USNR, in command.United States Seventh Fleet
The Seventh Fleet is a numbered fleet (a military formation) of the United States Navy. It is headquartered at U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is part of the United States Pacific Fleet. At present, it is the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with 60 to 70 ships, 300 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Its principal responsibilities are to provide joint command in natural disaster or military operations and operational command of all naval forces in the region.United States military beret flash
In the United States (US) armed forces, a beret flash is a shield-shaped embroidered cloth or metallic insignia that is usually attached to a stiffener backing of a military beret. Today, the attached flash is worn over the left eye of the wearer with the excess cloth of the beret folded and pulled over the right ear giving it a distinctive shape. The embroidered designs of the US Army beret flashes represent the approved distinctive heraldic colors of the unit to which they are assigned while the US Air Force's represent their Air Force specialty code (AFSC) or their assignment to a special unit, such as Combat Aviation Advisor (CAA) squadrons. Joint beret flashes, such as the Multinational Force and Observers and United Nations Peacekeeping flashes, are worn by all of the US armed forces on unique berets while assigned to a specific multinational mission.
With the exception of Joint beret flashes, US Army soldiers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) attach their unit's distinctive unit insignia (DUI) to the center of their beret's flash while warrant officers and commissioned officers attach their rank insignia. US Air Force commissioned officers who are in the Air Liaison Officer (ALO) carrier field (AFSC 13LX), Security Forces carrier field (AFSC 31PX), or assigned to CAA squadrons do the same while commissioned officers assigned to AFSCs authorized metallic flashes attach a miniature version of their rank insignia centered below their flash. US Air Force airman and NCOs only wear their metallic flash or cloth flash and crest on AFSC or unit specific berets.
Easter Offensive (1972)
Post-Paris Peace Accords (1973–1974)