Operation Pocket Money

Operation Pocket Money was the title of a U.S. Navy Task Force 77 aerial mining campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from 9 May 1972 (Vietnamese time), during the Vietnam War. Its purpose was to halt or slow the transportation of supplies and materials for the Nguyen Hue Offensive (known in the West as the Easter Offensive), an invasion of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), by forces of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), that had been launched on 30 March. Pocket Money was the first use of naval mines against North Vietnam.


Nearly 85 percent of North Vietnam's import tonnage came through the port of Haiphong. Naval mining had been frequently considered, but always rejected because of the risk of provoking intervention by the Soviet Union or the People's Republic of China. United States withdrawal of military forces began in June 1969. The U.S. was unwilling to suffer the humiliation of accelerating withdrawal as Quảng Trị Province began to collapse before the North Vietnamese Easter offensive. On 4 May Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Thomas Hinman Moorer ordered Chief of Naval Operations Elmo Zumwalt to plan a naval mining mission under the code name of Pocket Money.[1]


The operation was timed to coincide with a televised speech by President Richard Nixon at 21:00 8 May (Eastern United States time). The opening phase of the mining mission was assigned to USS Coral Sea. Carrier Air Wing Commander Roger Sheets planned the mission with air wing mine warfare officer Lieutenant Commander Harvey Ickle, who was VA-22 operations officer, and United States Marine Corps Captain Charlie Carr, who would be bombardier-navigator in the lead plane establishing the critical attack azimuth and timing the mine releases. Three A-6 Intruders would carry 1,000-pound (450 kg) Mk-52 magnetic mines to be dropped in Haiphong's inner channel, and six Navy A-7 Corsair IIs would carry 500-pound (230 kg) Mk-36 acoustic mines to be dropped in the outer portion of the channel. Each plane would carry four mines.[2]

The Mk-52 mines were 80 inches (2.0 m) long and 19 inches (48 cm) in diameter. They were parachute-retarded and intended to be fitted with an aerodynamic nose cap during transport; but Coral Sea had only six nose caps, so each A-6 would suffer the drag penalty of two uncapped mines.[2]

There were 37 foreign-flag ships in Haiphong: 16 Soviet, 5 Chinese, 5 Somalian, 4 British, 3 Polish, 2 Cuban, and 1 East German. The mines were set with a series time fuze delay of 72 hours to allow these neutral ships time to leave port, and another series time fuze would disable the mine after 180 days.[2]

Guided missile cruisers USS Long Beach and USS Chicago moved north from the PIRAZ station off Hon Mat to within 40 miles (64 km) of Haiphong[2] to protect aircraft mining Haiphong harbor at low altitude. To avoid exposing F-4 Phantom fighters to North Vietnamese ground-based anti-aircraft defenses, these cruisers patrolling offshore were given a free-fire zone for RIM-8 Talos missiles to engage defending MiG fighters approaching the coast from Phúc Yên and Kép airfields near Hanoi.[3]

A free-fire zone above 1,000 feet (300 m) was proposed for the cruisers at a planning meeting aboard Coral Sea. Commander Sheets lowered the free fire zone floor to 500 feet (150 m) because the minelaying aircraft would stay under that ceiling and he had never seen MiGs above a few thousand feet.[4] As Rear Admiral Rembrandt C. Robinson, Commander of the Seventh Fleet Cruisers and Destroyers (COMCRUDESGRUSEVENTHFLEET) and his staff were returning from the meeting to his flagship USS Providence at 22:45 on 8 May, the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King carrying them lost power while approaching the flagship. The helicopter landed on the edge of the flagship flight deck and rolled overboard. The Admiral drowned with his chief of staff and operations officer. Only the staff aviation officer and helicopter crew survived by realizing, in the darkness, that the helicopter was inverted, and they were hunting for the door on the wrong side of the cabin.[5]


On 9 May 1972, a Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star made an early morning launch from Da Nang Air Base to support the operation. USS Kitty Hawk launched seventeen aircraft for a diversionary airstrike against the Nam Dinh railroad siding. The Kitty Hawk airstrike found bad weather over the primary target and struck the secondary targets of Thanh at 08:40 and Phu Qui at 08:45.[6]

At daylight on the 9th, a destroyer force struck the Haiphong Harbor air defense batteries with a 30-minute bombardment from their 5-inch (127mm) guns, which preceded the aerial mining. The strike force was commanded by Captain Robert Pace, who succeeded Admiral Robinson, and consisted of the USS Richard S. Edwards, Berkeley, Buchanan, and Myles C. Fox.

The VMA-224 A-6A Intruders left Coral Sea at 08:40 with A-7E Corsairs from VA-22 and VA-94 and a single EKA-3B Skywarrior for electronic countermeasures support.[6] Chicago set general quarters at 08:40, and within minutes launched two Talos missiles at two MiGs in a holding pattern awaiting air control vectors on the approaching bombers. One MiG was destroyed.[3]

Coral Sea bombers began releasing mines at 08:59. Sheets radioed the carrier at 09:01 to verify the mines were in the water. Coral Sea forwarded the message to the White House where President Nixon was speaking. Nixon had been speaking slowly to avoid jeopardizing the mission; but upon receiving the message he stated:

I have ordered the following measures, which are being implemented as I am speaking to you. All entrances to North Vietnamese ports will be mined to prevent access to these ports and North Vietnamese naval operations from these ports. United States forces have been directed to take appropriate measures within the international and claimed territorial waters of North Vietnam to interdict the delivery of supplies. Rail and all communications will be cut off to the maximum extent possible. Air and naval strikes against North Vietnam will continue."[7]

Additional mining missions began on 11 May. By the end of the year Navy and Marine Corps bombers had dropped more than eight thousand mines in North Vietnamese coastal waters and three thousand in inland waterways.[8]


On 4 August 1972 dozens of the mines spontaneously detonated. The U.S. Navy determined this was caused by magnetic radiation from a geomagnetic storm triggered by a coronal mass ejection on the Sun; this was confirmed by scientific research in 2018.[9][10]

One British and four Soviet ships left Haiphong before the mines' time fuzes armed. The remaining ships were immobilized for 300 days while the port of Haiphong was closed.[11] Harbor depth decreased by 2 feet (61 cm) because the mines prevented routine dredging. United States negotiators in Paris used an offer to remove the mines as a bargaining chip to encourage Hanoi to release prisoners of war. Operation End Sweep removed the mines between 6 February and 27 July 1973. USS Warrington was irreparably damaged when it detonated what was believed to be mislaid mines 20 miles (32 km) north of Đồng Hới on 17 July 1973.[12]


  1. ^ Sherwood (2001) pp.84&85
  2. ^ a b c d Sherwood (2001) pp.85&86
  3. ^ a b Osborne, Arthur M. (1974), "Air Defense for the Mining of Haiphong", Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland (Vol. 100, No. 4, September 1974), pp. 113–115, ISSN 0041-798X
  4. ^ Sherwood (2001) p.86
  5. ^ Robinson, John G. "Pounding the Do Son Peninsula" (PDF). Naval Institute Proceedings. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Operation Pocket Money". AvStop Online Magazine. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  7. ^ Sherwood (2001) p.87
  8. ^ Sherwood (2001) p.88
  9. ^ "Giant solar flare detonated mines during Vietnam War". Sky News. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  10. ^ Knipp, Delores J.; Fraser, Brian J.; Shea, M. A.; Smart, D. F. (10 November 2018). "On the Little-Known Consequences of the 4 August 1972 Ultra-Fast Coronal Mass Ejecta: Facts, Commentary, and Call to Action". Space Weather. doi:10.1029/2018SW002024.
  11. ^ Sherwood (2001) p.85
  12. ^ Elleman & Paine (2006) pp.177-179


  • Elleman, Bruce A.; Paine, Sarah C.M. (2006). Naval Blockades And Seapower: Strategies And Counter-Strategies, 1805-2005. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0415354668.
  • Sherwood, John (2001). Fast Movers: Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Experience. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0743206363.
John Darrell Sherwood

John Darrell Sherwood (born 1966) is an American author who has published five books and numerous articles. He specializes in military history, but has also published articles on travel, and skiing.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1972)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1972, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the Khmer Republic, the United States and their allies.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (1973–74)

This article is a list of known military operations of the Vietnam War in 1973 and 1974, conducted by the armed forces of the Republic of Vietnam, the Khmer Republic, the United States and their allies.

Naval mine

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any vessel. Naval mines can be used offensively, to hamper enemy shipping movements or lock vessels into a harbour; or defensively, to protect friendly vessels and create "safe" zones.

Operation End Sweep

Operation End Sweep was a United States Navy and United States Marine Corps operation to remove naval mines from Haiphong harbor and other coastal and inland waterways in North Vietnam between February and July 1973. The operation fulfilled an American obligation under the Paris Peace Accord of January 1973, which ended direct American participation in the Vietnam War. It also was the first operational deployment of a U.S. Navy air mine countermeasures capability.

Operation Linebacker

Operation Linebacker was the codename of a U.S. Seventh Air Force and U.S. Navy Task Force 77 air interdiction campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from 9 May to 23 October 1972, during the Vietnam War.

Its purpose was to halt or slow the transportation of supplies and materials for the Nguyen Hue Offensive (known in the West as the Easter Offensive), an invasion of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) by forces of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) that had been launched on 30 March. Linebacker was the first continuous bombing effort conducted against North Vietnam since the end of Operation Rolling Thunder in November 1968.

Pocket money

Pocket money may refer to:

In British English, an allowance for children

Pocket Money, a 1972 film starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin

Small Change (film), a 1976 film directed by François Truffaut, titled Pocket Money outside the United States

Operation Pocket Money, a U.S. Navy aerial mining campaign during the Vietnam War

Rembrandt C. Robinson

Rembrandt Cecil Robinson (October 2, 1924 – May 8, 1972) was a United States Navy officer who was stationed in the Tonkin Gulf during the Vietnam War. Robinson died in 1972, in a helicopter crash; he was the only Navy flag officer killed during the Vietnam War. His remains were cremated and the ashes were spread at sea from USS Orleck off San Diego, California. Admiral Robinson has a memorial cross in Arlington National Cemetery.

Robinson was the last American flag officer to die as a result of official duty in a combat zone until Lieutenant General Timothy J. Maude was killed at the Pentagon in the September 11 attacks of 2001, and the last killed in the line of duty abroad until Major General Harold J. Greene in Afghanistan in 2014.

USS Chevalier (DD-805)

USS Chevalier (DD/DDR-805) was a Gearing-class destroyer of the United States Navy, the second Navy ship named for Lieutenant Commander Godfrey DeC. Chevalier (1889–1922), a pioneer of naval aviation.

Chevalier was launched 29 October 1944 by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine; sponsored by Mrs. G. DeC. Chevalier; and commissioned 9 January 1945, Commander F. Wolsieffer in command.

USS Coral Sea (CV-43)

USS Coral Sea (CV/CVB/CVA-43), a Midway-class aircraft carrier, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Battle of the Coral Sea. She earned the affectionate nickname "Ageless Warrior" through her long career. Initially classified as an aircraft carrier with hull classification symbol CV-43, the contract to build the ship was awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding of Newport News, Virginia on 14 June 1943. She was reclassified as a "Large Aircraft Carrier" with hull classification symbol CVB-43 on 15 July 1943. Her keel was laid down on 10 July 1944 in Shipway 10. She was launched on 2 April 1946 sponsored by Mrs. Thomas C. Kinkaid and commissioned on 1 October 1947 with Captain A.P. Storrs III in command.

Before 8 May 1945, the aircraft carrier CVB-42 had been known as USS Coral Sea; after that date, CVB-42 was renamed in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the late President, and CVB-43 was named the Coral Sea.

Coral Sea was one of the last U.S Navy carriers to be completed with a straight flight deck, with an angled flight deck added on during later modernizations. All subsequent newly-built U.S Navy carriers have had the angled deck included as part of the ship's construction.

USS Richard S. Edwards

USS Richard S. Edwards (DD-950), named for Admiral Richard Stanislaus Edwards USN (1885–1956), was a Forrest Sherman class destroyer built by the Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company at Seattle, Washington and launched on 24 September 1957 by Mrs. W. B. Franke; and commissioned 5 February 1959, Comdr. Richard R. Law in command.

Richard S. Edwards served as plane guard for carriers on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf, participated in Sea Dragon operations, patrolled on search and rescue duties and carried out Naval Gunfire Support missions during the Vietnam War and underwent an ASW modernization at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard between 27 February 1970 and 15 January 1971.

VA-52 (U.S. Navy)

VA-52 was an Attack Squadron of the U.S. Navy. It was established as U.S. Navy Reserve Fighter Squadron VF-884 on 1 November 1949, and called to active duty on 20 July 1950. It was redesignated VF-144 on 4 February 1953, and VA-52 on 23 February 1959. The squadron was nicknamed the Bitter Birds from about 1951–1953, and the Knightriders from about 1960 onward. Its insignia evolved through several versions from 1951–1960. VA-52 was decommissioned on 31 March 1995.

VA-56 (U.S. Navy)

VA-56 was an Attack Squadron of the U.S. Navy. It was established on 4 June 1956, and disestablished thirty years later, on 31 August 1986. The squadron's nickname was the Boomerangs from 1957 to 1958, and the Champions thereafter.

VFA-195 (U.S. Navy)

Strike Fighter Squadron 195 (VFA-195), also known as the "Dambusters", is a United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter squadron stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni Japan. They are a part of Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) and their tail code is NF. Their radio callsign is "Chippy".


VFA-22, Strike Fighter Squadron 22, also known as the "Fighting Redcocks", are a United States Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Their tail code is NA and their radio callsign alternates between "Beef" and "Beef Eater".


Strike Fighter Squadron 94 (VFA-94), also known as the Mighty Shrikes, are a United States Navy fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore. They are an operational fleet squadron currently flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet. They are attached to Carrier Air Wing 17 (CVW 17) and based at NAS Lemoore, California. Their tailcode is NA and their radio callsign is Hobo.


Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 (VMFA(AW)-224) is a United States Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet squadron. Also known as the "Fighting Bengals", the squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 31 (MAG-31) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW). The Bengals are one of only two Marine F/A-18D Hornet Squadrons currently operating out of MCAS Beaufort, S.C. The other is the Hawks.


Sea Control Squadron 35 (VS-35), known as the Boomerangers was an anti-submarine/surface squadron of the United States Navy. Established on 3 January 1961, at Naval Air Station Los Alamitos, California, it was disestablished on 30 June 1973.

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