Gunline records

The other day I was looking around the forum at the site “The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War”  ( ).  I found that the National Archives now has the gunline records for every ship involved in NGFS.  The Combat Naval Gunfire Support File (CONGA), 3/1966 – 1/1973 contains a record for every naval gun fire mission during that period of the Vietnam War.  Each record contains the date, time, target coordinates, rounds expended, etc.

DE-1067 gunline records

Click for detailed view.

Some comments about the table.  I’m not sure how to read the mission start and end times.  At first I thought they were regular military time with hours, mins, secs, but then there were some starting with “29”.  I suspect they are some sort of minute counts.  With some simple math you can figure out how long some of the missions were.  Yeah, I remember some of those 5 hour periods at General Quarters!  Note that I color coded the left column so you can easily see the months of April, June and July.  These 70 missions are not totally inclusive of all of our time on the gunline.  There were many times we were there, but no ordnance was expended, meaning that no report was filed to show in these records.  There were the times that we were there acting as a decoy or running interference for the guided missile light cruiser USS Oklahoma City (CLG-5), while they pounded inland targets with their 5″/38 and 6″/47 guns.  Note that we fired a total of 4043 rounds.  Another concern is the last column that shows range to target in thousands of yards.  Those numbers cannot be right.  I saw some other ships records displayed this way, too.  I suspect the zero on the end needs to be dropped or maybe was intended to have a decimal point preceding the zero.  Anyway, drop the zero and the distances will make sense, as I recall.  Maybe a weapons guy can confirm this.One reason for posting this is for the guys that were below decks (snipes, admin, etc.) and may not have always been aware of what we were doing.  This is to confirm that we weren’t always going to GQ just for the hell of it!  When at battle stations you sort of go into a different mode of concentration on your particular job and don’t always realize what’s happening in the “bigger picture”.

Source:   The raw .CSV CONGA data was downloaded from NARA AAD June 2012, and edited by Dennis Clevenger (OS3) into a usable spreadsheet in MS Excel, then imported into Adobe Dreamweaver for further editing.  It was saved as a HTML file which was then imported into Adobe Acrobat and saved as the PDF file you can view HERE.

I’m adding a post here that LT(jg) Kent Grealish posted elsewhere in this blog providing some more details and corrections, but I felt it was more relevant to this article as well as the article titled “Combat Action in 1972” located HERE.

Hi Dennis –

Hope you are doing well.

Excellent descriptions of life aboard the Franny Maru (aka Cosmic Ship)! Great details and the pictures were a real bonus.

I agree with you about the ranges for NGFS being way too far. Even with RAP (rocket assisted projectiles) I seem to remember our max range was something like 20+ miles.

I don’t want to seem like a nit-picker but were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon for an incident that happened in the middle of a gunfire mission during the day. I know ’cause I was on the bridge at the time.

We were in the middle of the fifty-round mission and within a mile or so of the beach when the gun crapped out (which it did pretty regularly – I shared my stateroom with a number of “tech reps” who kept coming aboard to fix the gun). GMC “Speedy” Gonzales said they would have the casualty fixed in 10 or 15 minutes so LT(jg) Chuck Goewey who was OOD and I (I was the JO) went out on the port bridge wing to try to catch any kinds of breeze. The CO and XO staked out the starboard wing. We were at bare steerageway (to keep our position steady) so there was no relative wind and little to relieve the heat and humidity so we took off the huge steel pots and flack jackets when a round landed somewhere around midships to port. We all bolted through the hatchways, dogged the hatches and Chuck ordered the rudder over hard right and the engines all ahead full and then…. we waited…. and waited… and waited….. We just weren’t getting any way on ’til the CO (CDR Doerr) realized the rudder was acting like a sea anchor, holding us back and he ordered rudder amidships. We started getting some forward momentum then he had us come around and we finally started heading out to sea. The rounds kept dropping and some spent shrapnel actually landed somewhere on the ship. I was told a round landed squarely in our wake. In the meantime all the other ships on the gunline started to open up on the guy and that was that.

Some guys collected the shrapnel but were forced to give it up to NIS (or FBI or some investigative group) who wanted to know what they were firing at us (I later heard something like 101mm / 5″). They were supposed to give back the shrapnel souvenirs but that never happened (nor did we get to keep the busted up AK-47 someone gave us either).

Also that gunner who told you we zipped around trying to draw fire must have been reading “The Arnheiter Affair.” Didn’t happen any time I was standing bridge watches nor would it have made any sense, There were tons of targets just sitting a mile or two off the beach but even then they had very little time to adjust their fire once they opened up so a moving target even at close range wouldn’t have been worth the effort.

Other than those minor criticisms these were excellent recollections (as near as I can remember). Thanks for the walk down memory lane shipmate.


Kent Grealish (at that time, ENS/LT(jg), SC)
P.S. I’m going to pass on your blog to Steve Alden who I’ve since reconnected with.

15 Responses to Gunline records

  1. Rod Ries GMG3 says:

    yeah…we produced a lotta brass…and a lot of ‘ringing in the ear…lol

    • Yep I hear ya, sort of, LOL. I wonder if that’s where some of my hearing loss comes from. Not that we were “in” the gun like you guys. Working up in combat (CIC) it was pretty muffled. Where I experienced it the loudest was when we would go to a “relaxed GQ” battle condition during the nighttime H&I missions. If you weren’t on watch, then you could go down and hit your rack for 4 or 8 hours before going back on watch. My bunk in the Ops berthing compartment was about 25 feet aft and 1 deck below the gun mount. My bunk was the top one (3 high), so I was about 4 feet or so below the main deck. Funny thing is I don’t think I ever had a problem getting to sleep during that firing.

      A couple years ago on the 4th of July I went to bed close to midnight. As I laid there, I could hear sporadic stuff still going off throughout the neighborhood. It made me think of hitting the rack during those H&I missions and was a sort of creepy feeling.

      My hearing problems probably stem from working that damn needle gun to chip paint off the deck when I was a seaman apprentice. “We don’t need no stinkin’ ear protection!”

      Rod, if you feel you have significant hearing loss you should file a claim with the VA. It’s documented what your job was and now we find documentation of all the gunfire you were exposed to.

      Stay thirsty, my friend!

  2. Rod Ries GMG3 says:

    Heya, Dennis…with my tinnitus from that gun booming, I couldn’t hear your question…lol…
    It is entirely possible, buddy…we were firing in 3 man shifts, with me doing two of them…
    The mount could ideally fire 40 rounds per minute, so, you do the math…
    We fired so much sometimes that the gun would get so hot that we had to be extra careful of a hang-fire, cuz the projectile could explode in the barrel from the heat…buncha dead Gunners and Boatswains then…lol
    we fired so much that the gun was actually shaking itself apart and I was having to go around with a wrench in between firing and tighten stuff back up…
    The hydraulic oil (the blood of the mount) got so hot that I was getting burned from the leaks we were producing…
    So, to answer your question, yeah, I think it’s possible we fired 4k+…
    And the VA did check out my hearing…lol…they gave me 10% disability rating…heheh…no money, just rating…so, congratulations…I’m a Disabled Vet…someone buy me a cup of coffee…lol

  3. […] You can get more details of our 70 NGFS missions like dates, areas, targets, range etc. from my article titled Gunline Records HERE. […]

  4. Rick Wooley says:

    DD858 – nam 1966,
    I have tried many combinations of parameters but can not get “range to target” numbers to appear. Can you help me with this?

    • Derned if I know what the problem could be. They show up here on my PC, iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

    • E.(robbie)Robetson says:

      Hey Rick I was on FT Berry in Nam , Just found this site! If you can give me a shout out.

      • Rick Wooley says:

        Hi Robbie,
        As you can see, I sought that information back in 2013. Since then, I have been told that MACV did not forward that information to the National Archives until sometime after 1966, and/or ship’s did not provide that information to NARA. My personnel opinion is that MACV screwed up (again), and didn’t forward that information. In case you didn’t know, the FTB was added to the Agent Orange alphabetized ship list. That information is now on our ship’s website……..If this info helped, let me know………Rick

      • Rick Wooley says:

        Robbie, add your name to the fredtberry crew list [.org]………Rick

  5. Scott Gillespie OS3 says:

    Dennis you reminded me that Herb Helpingstine was evaced off FH while we in the Gulf in 1972. I talked to Herb recently. He’s doing fine. But it reminded me that another sailor was evaced about that time. He was a GM2, I believe. I knew him because we did a Shore Patrol stint together when we first got to Subic. As I recall he had been serving on PBRs in Vietnam prior to his assignment on FH and joined us just prior to our leaving for Westpac. I heard that he was hurt during a fire mission. He was working in the gun mount and got caught by the machinery. I have no recollection of this shipmates name.

    Does this sound familiar to anyone or am I completely round the bend?

    • Frank White says:

      GMG2 White
      I remember the incident. he was on the other watch. I was in the OMC with GMG3 Ries. He had the bad duty station where the gun recoiled right in front of him. Back to the evaced gunner, he was working on the gun and it cycled and closed the breach block on about his elbow

  6. I remember the Gunners Mate, although I can’t recall his name. He came to the FH well into our Westpac as a replacement. I recall he was a PBR veteran with a Purple Heart. We had a malfunction during a shore bomb mission and pulled out of the line to fix the problem. The gunner was in the mount trying to clear the round in the bore when the loading arm came up and caught his arm. I recall that he was evacuated in record time and sent to Da Nang. He never rejoined the ship.

    • Is this the Mr. Alden that was our Navigation Officer or maybe you were in the Weapons Dept on the Frannie H? I don’t believe I’d ever heard about this particular gun mount incident before. Thanks for the recall and welcome!

      • Dennis. I was originally the First Lieutenant and my General Quarters Station was either the Gun Director or in CIC for Shore Bomb. Later I became the ASW Officer and Jack Stumpff, the Coast Guard LTJG took over as First Lieutenant. He and I went Port and Starboard as the GLO for shore bomb in CIC during the Easter Offensive for all of those missions in your article. Your blog articles have been a real treasure of memories after all of these years and I have thoroughly enjoyed them all. To this day when I describe Olongopo people think that I am making it up.

  7. Stephen says:

    I was a boatswain mate age 17, USS Joseph Strauss 1975, shoe shine boy he was age 14, fell in love and 10 years later he was still my love, returned to the islands 3 times during my tours in the navy. My navy buddies always couldn’t figure out why I didn’t go to the many bars, I told them I had a girl and would head off to her place when really it was me and Raul having the times of our life, He was a hot young Filipino and so beautiful. At age 30 I married my shoe shine boy Raul. He died last year at age 58 car accident, and I miss my Raul, I loved him all the years we were together, he came back with me stateside then and graduated from UT Austin, Nursing, but i always called him my little shoe shine boy, people would laugh and never knew why I had that nick name for him and he will always be my little shoe shine boy from Olongapo. I still remember him as if it was yesterday in his shorts and white shirt with words emblazoned “BOOT BLACK” .Thanks for the memories, especially White Rock the first place Raul took me as a sailor and many weekends at Shakey’s.

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