Sealords Completes First Year of Operations
One year ago this week the United States Navy in Vietnam announced the beginning of "Operation Sea Lords", a new offensive effort designed to interdict enemy infiltration into the III and IV Corps Tactical Zones.
An acronym for "Southeast Asia Lake, Ocean, River, Delta Strategy", SEALORDS started on October 18, 1968 when a Navy Swift boat (PCF) reconnoitered the entrance to the Cua Lon River on the Gulf of Thailand side fo the Ca Mau Penisula. Following this mission, Swift boat crewmen conducted a series of incursions along the southern rivers and canals upsetting base camps and cutting Viet Cong supply and communication lines.
On November first, Vietnamese Marines from the 4th Battalion and elements of the 21st ARVN Division boarded Vietnamese and American riverine craft and the force swept through the Rach
Gia-Long Xuyen Canals. The force worked with Kien Giang Province Regional Force and Popular force troops during the sweeps and uncovered large quantities of enemy weapons and munitions. Since that first landing, river patrol boats and riverine craft have regularly patrolled the canals.
Further north, on November 16th, the Navy launched Operation Tran Hung Dao, a series of interdiction patrols on two waterways along the Cambodian border from Ha Tien to Chau Doc. Swift boats (PCFs) patrolled the western end and river patrol boats (PBRs) the eastern end.
Then in December of last year, the Brown Water Navy announced Operation "Giant Slingshot", another part of Sea Lords. River Patrol boats (PBRs) and river assault craft (RACs) of the U.S. and Vietnamese Navies were dispatched to the Vam Co Dong and Vam Co Tay rivers, which form a natural boundary around the "Parrot's Beak" section of the Cambodian border protruding into Vietnam.
Within two months after Giant Slingshot began, Allied forces uncovered over 100 enemy caches of munitions and inhibited enemy plans for an attack on Saigon. During the hunt for enemy caches, the U.S. Navy worked closely with the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and the joint force became known locally as the "NavCav".
Vietnamese RAIDS and RAGS (River Assault and Interdiction Divisions and River Assault Groups) have played an ever-increasing role in Giant Slingshot since U.S. gunboats were turned over to the Vietnamese Navy in February and June of this year. Vietnamese PBR divisions are also expected to start patrols on the two rivers this month.
In January 1969, the U.S. Navy moved a task force of PBRs and armored assault craft into a 56-mile-long canal complex across the Plain of Reeds, establishing the final link of a 250-mile-long naval blockade extending from Ha Tien in IV Corps to Tay ninh City in III Corps. Dubbed "Barrier Reef", this operation is impeding enemy movement along the two canals.
The most recent operation by combined Vietnamese and American naval forces is called Tran Hung Dao III or SEAFLOAT, an advance tactical support base set on floating barges in the Cua Lon river some 200 miles southwest fo Saigon. Republic of Vietnam troops, and the two navies, protect woodcutters and fishermen from Viet cong extortionists and attract local citizens back into an area which was formerly a Viet Cong stronghold/
Since Sea Lords began a year ago, over 2,000 enemy soldiers have been killed throughout the Delta, and nearly 550 tons fo enemy weapons, munitions and supplies captured, destroyed or damaged.
Brown Water Navy sailors have not been solely responsible for all the enemy losses. Vietnamese Navymen have moved into the operational areas since the beginning of 1969. VNN sailors are either serving on U.S. patrol boats in a training capacity, or operating their own gunboats which have been transferred to the Vietnamese Navy.
Two-hundred twenty-nine U.S. craft have already been turned over to the Vietnamese Navy and approximately one-third of these are now deployed in portions of the Sea Lords operating areas.
Operation Sea lords continues today combining with other armed forces to interdict enemy supply lines in III and IV Corps, relieve the threat of attack on major population centers, and keep enemy troops off blance in their once-secure sanctuaries.