Operation Market Time was the United States Navy and South Vietnam's successful effort begun in 1965 to stop the flow of troops, war material, and supplies by sea, coast, and rivers, from North Vietnam into parts of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Also participating in Operation Market Time were United States Coast Guard Squadron One and Squadron Three. The Coast Guard provided heavily armed 82-foot (25 m) patrol boats and large cutters that included 5" cannon used in battle and gunfire support.
Radar picket escort ships, based in Pearl Harbor, provided long-term presence at sea offshore to guard against trawler infiltration. Originally built for WWII convoy duty, and then modified for distant early warning ("DEW") duty in the North Atlantic, their sea keeping capability made them ideal for long-term presence offshore where they provided support for SWIFT boats, pilot rescue and sampan inspection. There were two or three on station at all times. Deployments were seven-months duration, with a four- or five-month turn-around in Pearl. When off station, they alternated duty as Taiwan Defense Patrol, with stops in Subic and Sasebo for refit mid-deployment.
|Operation Market Time|
When a trawler was intercepted landing arms and ammunition at Vung Ro Bay in northern Khánh Hòa Province on 16 February 1965, it provided the first tangible evidence of the North Vietnamese supply operation. This became known as the Vung Ro Bay Incident. Operation Market Time was established by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff at the request of General William C. Westmoreland, commanding general of Military Assistance Command Vietnam. He requested that the U.S. Navy establish a naval blockade of the vast South Vietnam coastline against North Vietnamese gun-running trawlers. The trawlers, usually 100-foot-long Chinese-built steel-hulled coastal freighters, could carry several tons of arms and ammunition in their hulls. Not flying a national ensign that would identify them, the ships would maneuver "innocently" out in the South China Sea, waiting for the cover of darkness to make high-speed runs to the South Vietnam coastline. If successful, the ships would off load their cargoes to waiting Việt Cộng or North Vietnamese forces.
At the time of inception, the Coast Guard contributed seventeen 82-foot Point-class cutters while the Navy added approximately fifty ships known as fast patrol craft (PCFs) or Swifts that could reach a maximum speed of 28 knots. On 16 April 1965 United States Secretary of the Navy Paul Nitze requested Coast Guard assistance with Market Time. On 6 May 1965 seventeen Point-class cutters were loaded as deck cargo on merchant ships in New York City, Norfolk, New Orleans, Galveston, San Pedro, San Francisco, and Seattle for transport to U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay. At Subic Bay each cutter was armed with an 81 mm mortar and five .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns. Coast Guard Squadron One was organized into Division Eleven with eight cutters and Division Twelve with nine cutters. Division Twelve sailed on 15 July 1965 and arrived at Đà Nẵng on 20 July. Division Eleven sailed on 20 July and arrived at An Thoi on 31 July. Nine additional cutters formed Division Thirteen at Vũng Tàu in early 1966. Each cutter with an eleven-man crew would spend four days on patrol followed by two days alongside a support ship. All 26 cutters were turned over to South Vietnamese crews between 16 May 1969 and 15 August 1970.
In an effort to coordinate all coastal interdiction activities, coastal surveillance centers (CSC) were established at Da Nang, Qui Nhon, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, and An Thoi and were manned by South Vietnam Navy and U.S. Navy watchstanders. Reports of possible sightings of suspect vessels from aircraft and watercraft were reported to the CSC's and the appropriate response vessels and aircraft were dispatched to the scene by CSC personnel.
The objective of Operation Market Time focused on preventing communist ships from infiltrating the South Vietnamese coast in order to resupply North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong (VC) forces. Beginning officially on March 11, 1965, Market Time featured a picket line of ships along over 1,000 miles of South Vietnamese coast including forces from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and the South Vietnamese Navy. The operation was originally placed under the control of the Vietnam Patrol Force (Task Force 71), however command shifted to the Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam on 31 July 1965 and designated as Task Force 115. Operation Market Time was originally planned to acquire 54 Swift boats, but that number increased to a total of 84 in September 1965 in order to thoroughly guard the coast of South Vietnam. These Swift boats were further separated into five groups and assigned to different areas of operation including Division 101 located at An Thoi (working alongside Coast Guard Division 11), Division 102 at Da Nang (with Coast Guard Division 12), Division 103 at Cat Lo (with Coast Guard Division 13), Division 104 based at Cam Ranh Bay and Division 105 at Qui Nhon.
U.S. Navy Martin P-5 Marlin seaplane patrol squadrons, destroyers, ocean minesweepers, PCFs (swift boats) and United States Coast Guard cutters (USCGC) performed the operation. Also playing a key role in the interdictions were the Navy's patrol gunboats (PGs). The PG was uniquely suited for the job because of its ability to go from standard diesel propulsion to gas turbine (turboshaft) propulsion in a matter of a few minutes. The lightweight aluminum and fiberglass ships were not only fast but highly maneuverable because of their variable-pitch propellers. Most of the ships operated in the coastal waters from the Cambodian border around the south tip of Vietnam up north to Đà Nẵng. Supply ships from the Service Force, such as oilers, would bring mail, movies, and fuel.
A significant action of Market Time occurred on 1 March 1968, when the North Vietnamese attempted a coordinated infiltration of four gun-running trawlers. Two of the four trawlers were destroyed by allied ships in gun battles, one trawler crew detonated charges on board their vessel to avoid capture, and the fourth trawler turned tail and retreated at high speed into the South China Sea. LT Norm Cook, the patrol plane commander of a VP-17 P-2H Neptune patrol aircraft operating from Cam Ranh Bay, was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for discovering and following two of the four trawlers in the action.
Of the many vessels involved in Operation Market Time, one of the more notable was the USCGC Point Welcome which, on 11 August 1966, was brought under fire by a number of United States Air Force aircraft. This incident of a "blue-on-blue" engagement killed two members of the cutter's crew (one of whom was the commanding officer) and wounded nearly everyone on board.
To stop these infiltrations, Market Time was set up as a coordinated effort of long range patrol aircraft for broad reconnaissance and tracking. These aircraft, initially SP-5B seaplanes, later Lockheed P-2 Neptune and Lockheed P-3 Orions, were armed with Bullpup air-to-surface missiles and were therefore capable of engaging these craft directly. Under normal conditions, however U.S. and allied surface forces intercepted suspect ships that crossed inside South Vietnam's 12-mile coastal boundary. On the aviation side, some of the patrol squadrons that were involved and flying from South Vietnam, Thailand, or Philippine bases were: VP-1, VP-2, VP-4, VP-6, VP-8, VP-9, VP-16, VP-17, VP-19 VP-22, VP-26, VP-28, VP-40, VP-42, VP-45, VP-46, VP-47, VP-48, VP-49 and VP-50.
Aircraft flew constant and monotonous patrols along 1,200 miles of coast during Operation Market Time departing from bases ranging from Vietnam (Tan Son Nhut Airbase and Cam Ranh Bay) to the Philippines (Sangley Point) and Thailand (Utapao Airbase). Although the air support missions received little press coverage, their importance to the overall operation cannot be denied. Planes had the ability to cover large expanses of water in a relatively short time and could monitor suspicious vessels lingering in international waters waiting to make a dash for the coast. By October 1967 air surveillance expanded to monitor traffic bound to and from Cambodia as at this point it had become apparent that communist supplies were being diverted to the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port which were then transported over to the South Vietnamese border in large convoy trucks.
Market Time, which operated day and night, fair weather and foul, for eight and a half years, denied the North Vietnamese a means of delivering tons of war materials into South Vietnam by sea. Nonetheless, assessing the overall effectiveness of Operation Market Time is problematic for several reasons. The operation cannot be considered a failure in any sense, but debate over its success continues. The Navy's Operations Evaluation Group stated that in the case of trawler infiltration after the implementation of Operation Market Time just one out of every twenty trawlers were able to reach the South Vietnamese coast undetected. This number is certainly encouraging, yet it does not fully reflect all possible cases in which craft reached shore unbeknownst to American intelligence. Similar to the high body count numbers in accordance with the doctrine of attrition, scholars fear that boarding and inspection numbers were also inflated by soldiers and commanders. Even considering all of these factors, Market Time had an undeniable effect on Vietnamese infiltration into South Vietnam. Throughout the course of 1966 alone allied forces detected 807,946 watercraft, visually inspected 223,482 of them, and boarded 181,482. Forces also engaged in a total of 482 firefights, killed 161 VC soldiers, and captured 177 while experiencing 21 friendly deaths and 97 other casualties. A study by the BDM Corporation concluded that at the very least the operation forced the VC to drastically alter its logistic operations. The company also stated that at the beginning of 1966 almost 75 percent of enemy resupply came from the sea along the South Vietnamese coast, however by early 1967 this number had been reduced to just 10 percent.
The Action of 1 March 1968 refers to a co-ordinated attempt by four North Vietnamese trawlers to resupply the Viet Cong and the efforts of Operation Market Time elements to stop them during the Vietnam War. On 28 February 1968, United States Navy SP-2H Neptune aircraft on routine patrol detected a North Vietnamese SL class naval trawler heading towards the South Vietnamese coast from north of the DMZ. By the next morning, three more trawlers were discovered and units of Operation Market Time were deployed for a surprise interception. The suspect trawlers did not fly flags so it was not until the start of the engagement that their origin was discovered. The trawlers were steel hulled vessels, 100 feet long and armed with 57-millimeter recoilless rifles and machine guns. All four vessels were loaded with weapons and ammunition intended to be delivered to the Viet Cong. American and South Vietnamese forces that engaged in action included the United States Coast Guard cutters Androscoggin, Point Grey, Point Welcome, Winona, Point Grace, Point Hudson, Point Marone, the swift boats USS PCF-18, USS PCF-20, USS PCF-42, USS PCF-43, USS PCF-46, USS PCF-47 and USS PCF-48, two South Vietnamese navy junks and one patrol boat. Two U.S. Army helicopter gunships also participated in combat as well as aircraft used to fire flares.Coast Guard Squadron One
Coast Guard Squadron One, also known in official message traffic as COGARDRON ONE or RONONE, was a combat unit formed by the United States Coast Guard in 1965 for service during the Vietnam War. Placed under the operational control of the United States Navy, it was assigned duties in Operation Market Time. Its formation marked the first time since World War II that Coast Guard personnel were used extensively in a combat environment.
The squadron operated divisions in three separate areas during the period of 1965 to 1970. Twenty-six Point-class cutters with their crews and a squadron support staff were assigned to the U.S. Navy with the mission of interdicting the movement of arms and supplies from the South China Sea into South Vietnam by Viet Cong and North Vietnam junk and trawler operators. The squadron also provided naval gunfire support to nearby friendly units operating along the South Vietnamese coastline and assisted the U.S. Navy during Operation Sealords. As the United States' direct involvement in combat operations wound down during 1969, squadron crews began training Republic of Vietnam Navy (RVN) sailors in the operation and deployment of the cutters. The cutters were later turned over to the RVN as part of the Vietnamization of the war effort. Turnover of the cutters to RVN crews began in May 1969 and was completed by August 1970. Squadron One was disestablished with the decommissioning of the last cutter.
The squadron was awarded several unit citations for its service to the U.S. Navy and the South Vietnamese government during the six years the unit was active with over 3,000 Coast Guardsmen serving aboard cutters and on the squadron support staff. Six squadron members were killed in action during the time the unit was commissioned.
Squadron One, along with American and South Vietnamese naval units assigned to the task force that assumed the Market Time mission, were successful interdicting seaborne North Vietnamese personnel and equipment from entering South Vietnamese waters. The success of the blockade served to change the dynamics of the Vietnam War, forcing the North Vietnamese to use a more costly and time-consuming route down the Ho Chi Minh trail to supply their forces in the south.Combat Action Ribbon
The Combat Action Ribbon (colloquially "CAR"), is a United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, and United States Coast Guard military decoration awarded to those U.S. sea service members "who have actively participated in ground or surface combat."
Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen in clandestine, stealth, or special operations, where their ability to return hostile fire is curtailed, are deemed eligible for consideration of the award.The Navy Combat Action Ribbon was first authorized on 17 February 1969, and is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps in the grade of USN captain (O-6) and below and USMC colonel (O-6) and below.
Air combat does not meet the criteria for the Combat Action Ribbon; Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers and enlisted Naval Aircrewman, while in the performance of aerial flight, are eligible for consideration for the Air Medal, although this award requires far more combat exposure over a prolonged period.
The Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon was authorized on 16 July 2008, and may be awarded to members of the Coast Guard in the grade of captain (O-6) and below, "who have actively participated in ground or maritime combat."The Navy Combat Action Ribbon is retroactive to 7 December 1941 and the Coast Guard Combat Action Ribbon is retroactive to 1 May 1975.Creed of the United States Coast Guardsman
The Creed of the United States Coast Guardsman was written in 1938 by Vice Admiral Harry G. Hamlet, who served as Commandant of the Coast Guard from 1932 to 1936. According to former Commandant Robert Papp, the Creed described the duties and responsibilities that binds the group of Coast Guardsmen together as "shipmates".Operation Game Warden
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 Sealords
Operation Sealords was a military operation that took place during the Vietnam War.USCGC Taney (WHEC-37)
USCGC Taney (WPG/WAGC/WHEC-37) () is a United States Coast Guard High Endurance Cutter, notable as the last warship floating that fought in the attack on Pearl Harbor, although Taney was moored in nearby Honolulu Harbor not Pearl Harbor itself (a non-combatant vessel at Pearl Harbor, the US Navy tug Hoga, also remains afloat). She was named for Roger B. Taney (1777–1864), who was at various times: U.S. Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of the United States.
She is also one of two Treasury-class (out of seven total) Coast Guard cutters still afloat. Serving her country for 50 years, the Taney saw action in both theaters of combat in World War II, serving as command ship at the Battle of Okinawa, and as part of fleet escort in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. She also served in the Vietnam War in Operation Market Time. Taney patrolled the seas working in drug interdiction and fisheries protection.She was decommissioned in 1986, and has served as a museum ship in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Maryland since. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988.USS Canon (PG-90)
The first USS Canon (PGM-90/PG-90) was a Asheville-class gunboat in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War. She is currently on donation hold.Canon was laid down by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, Tacoma, Washington on 28 June 1966, and commissioned 24 June 1967.
Canon served off the coast of Vietnam as part of Operation Market Time. In one operation the ship took 8 rocket hits and 14 crew members wounded. One Navy Cross, three Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars were awarded to members of the crew.Canon was decommissioned on 31 January 1977.
She is currently on donation hold, and is berthed at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia, PA, while a group in Wisconsin works to bring her to Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Canon has been identified as pending dismantling by the 2015 US Navy 30 year Shipbuilding Plan.USS Crockett (PG-88)
The second USS Crockett (PGM-88/PG-88) was a Asheville-class gunboat in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.
Crockett was laid down by the Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, Tacoma, Washington, and commissioned 24 June 1967.
Homeported in San Diego, Crockett served off the coast of Vietnam as part of Operation Market Time.
Crockett transferred to the Naval Reserve Force on 1 July 1975 and was decommissioned in October 1976. She was then transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency and since has been scrapped.USS Engage (MSO-433)
USS Engage (MSO-433), an Aggressive-class minesweeper, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named Engage.
The second Engage (AM-433/MSO-433) was launched 18 June 1953 by Colberg Boat Works, Stockton, California; sponsored by Mrs. R. B. Richmond; and commissioned 29 June 1954, Lieutenant S. J. Martin in command. She was reclassified MSO-433, 7 February 1955. Originally intended to be USS Elusive it was changed to Engage to avoid potential phonetic conflict with USS Illusive (MSO-448).
From her home port at Long Beach, where she first arrived 21 July 1954, Engage operated in mine warfare and general training along the west coast, preparing for her deployments to the Far East in 1955-56, 1958, and 1960. During these, she trained with minecraft of the navies of the Republics of China and the Philippines, and the Royal Thailand navy, since an important duty for minecraft serving in the Far East is to improve the readiness of friendly navies to operate in mutual defense.
Engage participated in Operation Market Time (11 March 1965 to December 1972) which was created by joining the US Navy and the South Vietnamese Navy in an effort to stop the flow of supplies from North Vietnam into the south by sea. According to Navy reports, Operation Market Time was very successful, but received little credit. Eventually all the supply routes at sea became non-existent, which forced the North Vietnamese to use the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Engage also participated in Operation End Sweep which began in January 1973. The last provision of the Vietnam war cease-fire agreement that directly related to the Navy entailed removal of the U.S. sea mines laid along the North Vietnamese coast and the Mark 36 Destructors dropped into inland waterways. On 28 January, following months of extensive preparation and training, the Seventh Fleet's Mine Countermeasures Force (Task Force 78), led by Rear Admiral Brian McCauley, sailed from Subic Bay and shaped course for a staging area off Haiphong. On 6 February, one day after Commander Task Force 78 met in the city to coordinate actions with his North Vietnamese opposite, Colonel Hoang Huu Thai, Operation End Sweep got underway. A total of 10 ocean minesweepers, 9 amphibious ships, 6 fleet tugs, 3 salvage ships, and 19 destroyer types served with Task Force 78 during the six months of Operation End Sweep.
Engage was decommissioned 30 December 1991 in Mayport, Florida. After decommissioning, Engage (ex MSO-433) remained in the Philadelphia inactive ships facility until delivered to Baltimore Marine. She was scrapped 17 May 2002.USS Illusive (AM-448)
USS Illusive (AM-448/MSO-448) was an Agile-class minesweeper acquired by the U.S. Navy for the task of removing mines that had been placed in the water to prevent the safe passage of ships.
Illusive (AM-448) was launched by Martinolich Ship building Co., San Diego, California, 12 July 1952; sponsored by Mrs. Vito Marino; and commissioned 14 November 1953, Lt. Comdr. J. E. Ruzic in command.USS Implicit (AM-455)
USS Implicit (AM-455/MSO-455) was an Agile-class minesweeper acquired by the U.S. Navy for the task of removing mines that had been placed in the water to prevent the safe passage of ships.
Implicit was launched by Wilmington Boat Works, Wilmington, California 1 August 1953; sponsored by Mrs. Landon Horton, and commissioned 10 March 1954 Lt. Comdr. A. G. Filiatrault in command.USS Loyalty (AM-457)
USS Loyalty (AM-457/MSO-457) was an Aggressive-class minesweeper acquired by the U.S. Navy for the task of removing mines that had been placed in the water to prevent the safe passage of ships.
The second warship to be named Loyalty by the Navy, AM-457 was laid down by Wilmington Boat Works Inc., Wilmington, California, 9 November 1951; launched 22 November 1953; sponsored by Mrs. William L. Horton; and commissioned 11 June 1954, Lt. E. W. Riordan in command.USS Marathon (PGM-89)
USS Marathon (PGM-89/PG-89) was an Asheville-class gunboat acquired by the U.S. Navy for the task of high speed patrolling in shallow waterways.
The second ship to be named Marathon by the Navy, PGM-89, a motor gunboat, was laid down 21 June 1966 by Tacoma Boatbuilding Co., Tacoma, Washington; reclassified PG 89 on 28 March 1967; launched 22 April 1967; sponsored by Mrs. Robert W. Copeland; and commissioned 11 May 1968, Lt. L. W. Waterman in command.USS Phoebe (MSC-199)
USS Phoebe (AMS/MSC-199) was a Bluebird-class minesweeper in the United States Navy for clearing coastal minefields..USS Tombigbee (AOG-11)
USS Tombigbee (AOG-11) was a Patapsco-class gasoline tanker that was acquired by the U.S. Navy for the dangerous task of transporting fuel to warships in the fleet, and to remote Navy stations. It is named for the Tombigbee River.
Tombigbee was laid down on 23 October 1942 at Savage, Minnesota, by Cargill, Inc.; launched on 18 November 1943; sponsored by Mrs. F. R. Stoltz; and commissioned on 13 July 1944 at New Orleans, Louisiana, Lt. Comdr. A. O. Askland, USNR, in command.USS Vernon County (LST-1161)
USS Vernon County (LST-1161) was a United States Navy, Terrebonne Parish-class tank landing ship in commission from 1953 to 1973. She saw extensive service in the Vietnam War before being transferred to the Venezuelan Navy, where she became Amazonas (T-21).USS Widgeon (AMS-208)
USS Widgeon (AMS/MSC-208) was a Bluebird-class minesweeper acquired by the US Navy for clearing coastal minefields.United States Coast Guard officer rank insignia
United States Coast Guard officer rank insignia describes an officer's pay-grade. Rank is displayed on collar devices, shoulder boards, and on the sleeves of dress uniforms.
All Coast Guard officers are line officers, unlike the Navy, which has a staff corps to identify certain career fields.
Easter Offensive (1972)
Post-Paris Peace Accords (1973–1974)
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