RESCUE AT SEA
The readiness skills and dedication of the men who maintain the boats was demonstrated on the night of 9 May 1972 when the Duty Lifeboat Crew rescued four survivors of a downed helicopter at approximately 2200 hours off the Providence fantail in the Tonkin Gulf. As Per Cruise Book 1970-72
I remember approximately 6 small boats in the water in a slow quiet search in the dark with only red lights illuminating the sea. Providence was just floating lifeless on the sea as the search continued for several hours. I could sense our vulnerability in the water as we were in enemy waters, but a thorough search was made just the same.
That night it happened, a helo trying to land on the fantail touched down to close to the edge of the ship and plunged over the starboard side with the whole crew. It sunk like a rock. I understand there were no survivors. (Don Greenaway indicates that three (3) crewmembers were rescued and that the Rear Admiral and his staff died). I remember approximately 6 small boats in the water in a slow quiet search in the dark with only red lights illuminating the sea. Providence was just floating lifeless on the sea as the search continued for several hours. I could sense our vulnerability in the water as we were in enemy waters, but a thorough search was made just the same. It was cold that night, the search seemed to last a long time; you could barely make out the small boats under red lights. They had on those hard hats and life jackets with their eyes to the water.
Hours later, we were underway again to Haiphong Harbor on our mission. As we got closer I remember seeing bright lights flickering and glowing in the distance. It looked beautiful as if someone were celebrating a 4th of July or something of that sort. Then I was enlightened that shore guns were firing at the ship and that we were out of range at this time. We were approaching our target off Haiphong Harbor. It was reality time, (10 May 1972) I was on a ship somewhere off north vietnam and it was time for general quarters.
I was down in the computer
room for GQ and soon could hear rocks being thrown against the hull of
the ship and soon realized that it was shrapnel from exploding projectiles.
I understand we made a few assaults on the mainland and inflicted good
damage. All the ships then left the area in the zigzag formation
till we reached safe waters. The ship was vibrating from the engine
and prop noise as we steamed away. It was hard to get good
info on this happening for it seems that info is given on a need to know
basis and an E-4 doesn't need to know noth'in. Know what I mean?
I REMEMBER THE HELO CRASH.IT SEEMS IT WAS ABOUT 2200 HOURS. WE JUST GOT INTO
OUR BUNKS WHEN WE HEARD THE FIRE MAIN RUPTURE. THE COPTER HAD HIT IT. WE
THOUGHT WE WERE HIT. I REMEMBER AT GQ THAT I TALKED TO THE PILOT AND HE TOLD
ME HE LOST HIS HORIZON AND CAME IN TOO LOW. I HAVE A COPY OF THE STARS AND
STRIPES THAT TELL ABOUT IT. THE ADMIRAL'S NAME WAS ROBINSON AT THE TIME. I RAN
THE CARPENTER SHOP AT THE TIME AND I MADE THE FOOT LOCKERS THAT HIS BELONGINGS
WENT HOME IN.
IF I REMEMBER WE WERE ABOUT TO START THE MINING OF THE HARBOR AND THE ADMIRAL
WAS ON HIS WAY BACK TO THE CARRIER MIDWAY I THINK.?????
JAMES M. DEL MONTE.
Their prompt action in an emergency situation prevented additional losses of human life.