The other day I was looking around the forum at the site “The Veterans Association of Sailors of the Vietnam War” ( http://vasvw.org ). 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.
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.