- McConnochie, Ian, Lt Cdr, RAN
- RAN operations, Post WWII
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 1995 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Soon after the arrival of the fourth Team, arrangements were made to initiate a programme of ‘in country’ exchanges of EOD personnel between units. This exchange continued and provided a much wider experience for the CDs as the nature of tasks varied up and down the country.
Sapper activity increased later in the year. In November a USN LST was sunk by mines in the Mekong Delta and the next month a tanker was badly holed in Nha Trang Harbour. Security tightened noticeably and in an unfortunate incident at Cam Ranh Bay, a USN EOD swimmer was shot by a USN sentry. Operating procedures for Stable Door swimmers were revised.
In the Delta, operations to reduce enemy canal side positions were increased. In six hours the Team destroyed 65 bunkers, 13 structures and a concrete well. Sniper fire was experienced four times but no casualties resulted.
In March 1969 the Team was requested to clear a canal of a VC built log barricade. These obstructions became common in the Delta and CDT3 spent many hours clearing them in unsecured areas. Large hose charges (rubber tubing 30 ft long and packed with 50 lbs explosive) were entwined around the barricade and when detonated, effectively cleared the way.
In April, a tug reported a ‘mine’ in her propeller. This turned out to be two 4.2″ mortar bombs wedged near the propeller guard. One was easily removed but the other was completely jammed and required seven hours patient hacksaw work to cut it in half.
The first major sapper attack on the Vung Tau piers occurred in May. VC swimmers attempting to mine a USN LST were foiled by members of the Team. One swimmer was captured and his sabotage device, of a very modern design, was recovered. It was the first time this type of limpet had been encountered.
Team 6 arrived in August and became well known for their offensive work in the Delta against bunkers and barricades. In September one of the CDs was instrumental in stripping a water mine at Tra Vinh.
In March 1970, a major ordnance clearance task was mounted by a Joint Service EOD company at Dong Ha below the DMZ. The year previous, enemy rockets had detonated an ammunition dump and initial clearance efforts had led to EOD casualties. An area of 80 acres had been sealed off and was littered with damaged ordnance of all varieties. The particular danger lay in the thousands of golf ball size bomblets which required only ounces of pressure to detonate them. Between March and June, all members of CDT3 rotated singly through the large team employed on this task which resulted in the salvage of 1700 rounds of useable ordnance, 1500 rounds of 8″ shells which were dumped at sea and the destruction of a variety of other lethal material. The task required the transfer of some 1100 tons of explosives by hand.
The VC sappers tried again at Vung Tau on 28 June, their target was USS Meeker Country. Once again they failed. Members of the Team removed a large plastic covered charge slung under the ship and it was towed away. Five hours after removal the charge fired.
By August 1970 the gradual takeover of EOD responsibility by SV personnel caught up with CDT3 and they moved to Da Nang and reported to the Commander of the Naval Support Facility, Camp Tien Sha. CDT3 now assumed responsibility for Naval EOD in the whole of the 1 Corps area up to the DMZ.
With the move the nature of the task changed. Routine calls for assistance from ships in Da Nang Harbour and military authorities continued but operations in support of US Naval Coastal Groups increased. The Team was employed on booby trap clearance for USN Surveillance Groups which infiltrated into disputed areas by day and implanted sensitive acoustic sensors to monitor human movements at night.
On one such operation being assisted by two CDT3 members, one of the Surveillance Group trod on a booby trap killing himself and wounding two others. At that stage fire was taken on three sides and the force pinned down, unable to extract or bring in Medevac for the wounded. After about two hours gunships arrived and the force was able to extract.