After three months at An Thoi, and five days of R & R in Bangkok, the ship moved to support PCF Division 103, and Coast Guard Division 13 located at Cat Lo. This brought us into the environs of Vung Tau, a former French resort city at the mouth of the Song Sài Gon (Saigon River) and the northern boundary of the Mekong Delta.
Perched on a headland, Vung Tau’s “back side” was the southern end of several hundred miles of what are among the most beautiful beaches in that part of the world. This is certainly one of the reasons why the French colonial masters chose Vung Tau – which they then called Cap Saint-Jacques – for a resort, and perhaps why MACV* chose the place as the location of the Army’s In-Country R & R facility.
It was here that we supported the swift boat and Coast Guard divisions at Cat Lo, and sometimes the B-Class Minesweepers stationed upriver at Nhà Bè, who were always busy keeping the channel clear for ship traffic from Saigon to the coast. We were also available to service any other vessels that came along requiring expert attention.
A principal focus of small boat activity, and that of the soon to arrive Ninth Infantry Division, centered on the nearby Rung Sat Swamp (or Special Zone), from which the Viet Cong would occasionally swarm, and which was an ideal place to hide and attack ship traffic on the river.
When the 2nd Brigade of the 9th Infantry was assigned to the Mobile Riverine Force, the Tutuila assumed a support role for those boats in the Vung Tau area, and aided in the preparation of their ASPB, or “Alpha” Boats, and other craft.
Seen objectively, Vung Tau was a beautiful city. But whatever else it was, it was at the time a city of bars, with some streets offering little else. But business was good. With the large numbers of temporary visitors (on R&R) and those of us who were stationed nearby, who could visit on a more regular basis, the bar business was booming. Despite the “exotic” environment, to attract attention most of these establishments had familiar sounding names. My favorite was the “Florida Bar”, where I would hang out – whenever the opportunity presented itself – and we could get a boat ride to the “front beach” landing.
When the time finally came, it was from Vung Tau’s small air strip that I began my journey home.
* Military Assistance Command – Viet Nam