Aids to Navigation
In 1966, the tender Planetree responded to a MACV request to set buoys. Accustomed to working in U.S. waters, the crew founds themselves setting buoys from an LCM in eight-foot seas using such navigational aids as “VC tree”, “grassy knoll”, “prominent rock”, and others. MACV requested a full-time tender be assigned in country. Instead, several tenders rotated the duty. In August 1967, CINCPAC requested the Coast Guard assume responsibility for the installation, maintenance, and servicing of all U.S.-sponsored aids in Vietnamese waters. Coast Guard personnel trained VNN personnel in the art and science of ATON. By January 1972, the VNN assumed control of the renovated lighthouse tender. On 27 January, the Coast Guard ATON advisory role ended. In the spring of 1972, the last servicing by a Coast Guard buoy tender occurred.
Port Security and Waterways Detail
From the beginning, COMUSMACV recognized the need for port security and dangerous cargo handling regulations in the major Vietnamese ports. Since this is a major mission of the Coast Guard in U.S. ports, on 4 August 1965, CNO requested a Coast Guard officer be assigned as Port Security Officer to the MACV staff. On 17 February 1966, Coast Guard Explosive Loading Details were brought into the ports of Nha Be and Cam Ranh Bay. Eventually, ELDs were established at Da Nang, Qui Nhon and Vung Tau. The main duty of the ELDs was to assure the safe loading and unloading of explosives. This included enforcing regulations on ships and barges as well as on shore. Coast Guard personnel could shut down the operation for any U.S. flag vessel and had carte blanche to do what was needed to enforce regulations. There was some initial friction with the Army harbormasters, but eventually a routine was established. The ships’ masters, familiar with Coast Guard operations, often insisted that ELD personnel be on hand when their vessels were loaded or unloaded. In January 1971, the Coast Guard began training Vietnamese personnel in the safe handling of ammunition. The Vietnamese learned quickly and by soon satisfied the finicky ships’ masters of their competency. The last ELD was disestablished on 1 November 1972. Coast Guard Port Security and Waterways Detail Vietnam was disestablished on 30 January 1973.
Shipping Advisor/Merchant Marine Detail
The escalation of the Vietnam War meant an increased volume of material being transported by ship, specifically, merchant ship, more specifically, Military Sealift Command (MSTS) ships. The merchant officers and shipping companies, familiar with Coast Guard operations in the US, complained about the lack of a Merchant Marine Detail in Vietnam. In August 1966, MSTS asked MACV to request an MMD and in December 1966, MMD Vietnam was established. The three Coast Guard officers assigned to MMDs had considerable authority when dealing with merchant vessels and personnel. They could remove sailors from ships, order violations corrected, or stop a ship from sailing. Cases investigated included suicide, missing at sea, assaults, drug use, desertion, misconduct, pilfering of cargo, sodomy, drunkenness, incompetence, murder, sabotage, expired licenses, malingering, racial incidents, and violations of other laws and statutes. The MMD ran into the same friction as the ELDs. The Army also had the authority to arrest merchant seamen for the same offenses. Eventually, a workable arrangement was agreed on and the duties were accomplished. Due to the draw down, the MMD was disestablished 1 May 1973 and their duties given over to the U.S. Consular General.
Marine Police Advisor
This was a relatively short-lived position, lasting from 7 May 1970 to 18 March 1971. The duty was to collect, prepare and catalog a law library of Vietnamese laws and decrees pertinent to enforcement of laws on Vietnamese territorial waters. These included maritime laws, ship inspection regulations, ship licensing, crew licensing, motor boat licensing and inspecting, fisheries laws, and navigation laws. The advisor also helped the Vietnamese Marine Policy procure boats suitable to their mission.
Command and Control
When CGRONONE arrived in country, it was commanded by a captain. A commander was assigned to each division. As Coast Guard duties expanded, the captain just took them on in stride. He coordinated all Coast Guard activities in country. On 11 January 1967, to more accurately reflect the duties, the Coast Guard established Coast Guard Activities Vietnam (CGACTV). The staff remained the same and 75% of the time was spent on RONONE. When RONONE was disestablished, the Coast Guard established the position Senior Coast Guard Officer Vietnam (SCGOV). The main duties continued to be the coordination of all Coast Guard activities and provide support for Coast Guard personnel arriving in country. Other duties included administrative control of Coast Guard personnel and operational control of the ATON detail and all buoy tenders deployed in country. The position was also a liaison with NAVFORV for the turnover of assets to the Vietnamese. SCGOV was on the operations staff of NAVFORV and worked closely with MACV. The position was disestablished on 11 February 1973.
The Coast Guard basically adopted the village of Song Ong Doc. They donated playground equipment, painted buildings, donated clothing and toiletry supplies and provided medical treatment. They also provided similar services to the Saigon School for Blind Girls. In August 1966, they started an island adoption program in an effort to counter VC propaganda. Coast Guard personnel assisted several other Vietnamese in several different circumstances, but these were three on-going initiatives. Personnel from LORSTA Tan My often drove sick or injured Vietnamese to the hospital at Da Nang.