This photo of the CROCKETT (PG-88) was provided by Paul McGurgan. Paul was an Electronics Technician (Communications) stationed on CROCKETT from March, 1973 until July, 1975. Additional thanks to Barry Stinson for providing much of the information contained in the Ship's History of the USS CROCKETT (PG-88).
USS CROCKETT (PG-88) was commissioned on 24 June, 1967 at Old Town Dock, Tacoma, Washington. Following the commissioning ceremony, CROCKETT prepared for her transit to San Diego, CA, her home for the next six month prior to her deployment to the Western Pacific.
In San Diego, CROCKETT underwent shakedown and type training in preparation for her imminent deployment. Her crewmembers trained with Vietnam bound Swift Boat crews at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, CA. This was the most detailed training to date, concluding with a night patrol problem under simulated combat conditions. In early October, the ship underwent it's final acceptance trials and inspections in preparation for post shakedown availability at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Friday, the 13th of October turned out to a good day for CROCKETT. It marked the start of a smoke laying exercise in which the ship distinguished itself, receiving a commendatory message from COMCRUDESFLOT ELEVEN.
On 16 October, CROCKETT left San Diego for Long Beach for a pre-yard design study and some independent ship exercises. It was during this period that CROCKETT won the Gunnery "E" for excellence by hitting a small remote control PT type target at long range. The yard period at Long Beach was completed by 8 December and on 2 January 1968, completed Prior Overseas Movement Inspection. On 3 January, she sailed from San Diego, bound ultimately for Cam Rahn Bay, Republic of Vietnam, it's un-country home port. The Pacific transit was extemely rough on both men and material, as CROCKETT encountered several storms on the way. CROCKETT traveled in company with the USS ESTES (AGC-12), receiving fuel, communications support and spare parts as needed. She made interim stops at Pearl Harbor and Guam en route. On 14 February 1968, CROCKETT went to condition three as she entered the combat zone off the coast of Vietnam. She was now officially part of operation Market Time.
Market Time was the unclassified code name for the combined U.S. and Vietnamese Coastal Surveillance Operations. These elements were tasked with the responsibility of denying the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese use of the sea as a logistics avenue. To effect this mission, Commander, Coastal Surveillance Force established barrier patrols along the entire length of the Vietnamese coast. Working with the Swift Boats, CROCKETT adapted perfectly to market Time operations. Her seaworthiness, radar surveillance, communications capability and high speed made her a natural for the offshore barrier patrols, replacing the more expensive DER's. CROCKETT achieved a 60% on station time in support of Market Time. The majority of her missions were harassment and interdiction gunfire support missions to keep the pressure on the Viet Cong. On one occasion in the Mekong Delta, while anchored in shallow water, she provided call fire for a Navy SEAL team inserted into hostile territory. She delivered a total of 2,519 combat rounds against the enemy.
On April 5, 1969, CROCKETT began a patrol that would take her deep into Viet Cong territory, becoming the first PG to venture into the rivers of Vietnam. CROCKETT acted as a support ship for a large-scale land, sea and river operation designed to clear the area of VC control. Entry into the Cau Bo De was made with extreme caution. The shallow entrance required use of a lead line for accurate measurements of the water depth.
Since the surrounding area was known to be VC infested, and riverine forces had encountered VC fire in previous weeks, CROCKETT kept a steady volley of fire into both banks of the river to discourage any would-be aggressors. After venturing 5 miles upriver and witnessing the successful landing of the amphibious assault forces, CROCKETT then exited the river without incident.
On May 10, Coastal Groups 26 and 27, operating south of Cam Ranh Bay, came under heavy VC fire and put out a call for help. Although the distress call came on a Saturday afternoon when the ship was moored and many crew members were on liberty, all available men were rounded up, a main engine (which had been disassembled for maintenance) was quickly put back together and CROCKETT got underway with two-thirds of the crew on board.
Going up on the turbine, the emergency transit to Phan Rang, site of the trouble spot, was expedited. Although she was without the services of several key personnel, CROCKETT relieved the smaller patrol craft that were on station and provided harassment and interdiction (H & I) fire through the night to suppress VC activity. CROCKETT returned to Cam Ranh Bay on the 11th, and was underway on the 12th for a regularly scheduled patrol in the vicinity of Dan Nang.
On June 5, CROCKETT supported a SEAL team on an intelligence gathering mission. In the predawn hours, the six-man SEAL team was loaded into CROCKETT's Boston Whaler, piloted by CROCKETT's Weapons Officer, for insertion into the Rach Duong Keo River. The operation went smoothly and the team was extracted after a harrowing five hour mission in the heart of VC territory. Mission accomplished!
After inaugurating the era of PG river operations, CROCKETT was called on to remain in a river for an extended period in support of Operation SEA FLOAT, a floating base situated in the middle of the Song Cua Lon, 18 miles inland.
SEA FLOAT was made up of floating pontoons attached together and anchored in the river. This manmade island held several prefabricated structures, including barracks, mess hall, storerooms and offices. It also had landing pads and berths for several helicopters and Swift Boats (PCF's). A Vietnamese hospital ship was located nearby to give medical treatment to the locals as part of the pacification program. CROCKETT's primary mission was the defense of SEA FLOAT.
In the early morning hours of June 26, CROCKETT entered the Song Bo De (which flowed into the Song Cua Lon) for the first of her extended river patrols, usually two weeks or more, in support of Operation SEA FLOAT. Due to a shifting six-to-eight knot tidal current that caused the ship to drag anchor on several occasions, and to guard against possible swimmer attacks, anchorages were frequently relocated. Another method of discouraging attacks from swimmers during the night was throwing grenades over the side.
H & I gunfire was conducted almost nightly. A total of 454 - 3"/50 rounds and 616 - 40mm rounds were expended. CROCKETT scrambled three times in response to enemy fire at Swift Boats. When a Swift Boat's side was riddled with holes from a Claymore mine and in danger of sinking, CROCKETT personnel went aboard with damage control equipment while CROCKETT provided suppressive gunfire. In a few short hours, the Swift Boat was underway back to SEA FLOAT.
On July 11, CROCKETT was relieved on station by ASHEVILLE (PG-84). Engineering problems with the starboard shaft developed during the river exit, which resulted in CROCKETT making a trip to the yards in Danang. Further inspection revealed trouble in the starboard reduction gear, demanding attention by more elaborate repair facilities. CROCKETT departed Danang for Subic Bay, Philippine Islands, where appropriate services were available.
Following repairs, CROCKETT returned to Cam Ranh Bay. While in port, CROCKETT was visited on two separate occasions by VIP's: Under Secretary of the Navy John WARNER and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Thomas H. MOORER.
On September 14, CROCKETT arrived at SEA FLOAT for her third trip up river. For two weeks, CROCKETT carried on gunfire missions as well as escort duty for the smaller boats during their psychological warfare operations (PSYOPS). During her 12 days upriver, CROCKETT went to general quarters 35 times and fired 350 rounds of 3"/50 and 500 rounds of 40mm ammunition.
During a subsequent patrol at SEA FLOAT, CROCKETT came under fire from a VC ambush. Four rockets were fired at her starboard side, with two causing no damage. The third rocket exploded when it hit a lifeline by the 3"/50 gun mount, wounding two crewmen. One crewman was Medevaced and received the Purple Heart, while the other was treated with first aid on the scene.
The fourth rocket turned out to be one of the luckiest shots ever taken! It detonated in the compartment forward of the Chiefs' quarters, blowing up the 220 volt control box for the 3"/50 gun mount. CROCKETT's Commanding Officer brought the ship to a stop while the crew retaliated with every available gun blazing away. The damage control crew quickly brought the fire under control. CROCKETT returned to Cam Ranh for repairs and was back in the river within days of the attack.
CROCKETT received accolades from many supporters. In his recommendation for Ship Of The Year, Commander Coastal Division 32 noted many accomplishments by CROCKETT. These accomplishments included:
In his endorsement of the nomination, Commander Task Force 115 wrote, "CROCKETT has indeed not only been responsible to the Operational Commander's desires, but also with her characteristic vigor and tiger spirit has anticipated CTF 115 and CTG 115.7's needs. The result has been a superlative performance which from CTF 115's point of view would provide ample justification for selection as Ship of the Year."
CROCKETT began June, 1971 in port Guam, undergoing Restricted Availability. On 8 July she got underway for Cam Rahn Bay, via Subic Bay, Philippines. Three days later she had to return to Guam for storm evasion and voyage repairs due to engineering casualties. By the 24th, she was again underway for Cam Rahn Bay, arriving at Subic Bay on 30 July. After further repairs she departed Subic Bay on 18 August, arriving at Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam on 20 August where she commenced Market Time operations under the operational control of CTF-115. She concluded her Market Time operations on 29 November, 1971 and returned to operational control of the Seventh Fleet, departing Vung Tau for Guam. She made a brief stop at Singapore, then proceeded to Subic Bay for engineering repairs. After additional repairs and storm evasion, she arrived in Guam on 10 January, 1972.
CROCKETT was moored at Oscar Pier, Guam on 1 January, 1973 and in the midst of completing a Restricted Availability which had commenced upon her return fro Vietnam. Significant work was accomplished, including installation of some new radar, replacing the casualty prone unit. On 17 February, following inspection, CROCKETT was found ready for further commissioned service.
During succeeding weeks of local operations, CROCKETT performed a number of missions, including acting as a target platform for units of SUBRON 15, carrying members of visiting National Newspaper Association personnel on a demonstration cruise and conducting gunnery exercises. On 23 February, while engaged in preparations for a change of command, CROCKETT was assigned to a search and rescue mission, and in company with USS MARATHON (PG-89) departed Apra Harbor to conduct a search of the Trust Territory LCM Dublon. After rendezvous with a Coast Guard vessel, radio contact was established with the lost vessel and CROCKETT was ordered to return to Guam to complete preparations for her pending deployment.
At 1400 on 26 February, CROCKETT was underway for a training cruise as an element of Task Force 18.104.22.168 proceeding southwest through the Western Carolines to conduct surveillance of the islands and render medical assistance to out-lying island personnel. On 1 March, while en route to Korror, Palau, the task force was directed to conduct a search and rescue mission for a stricken Trust Territory vessel, LCU-1499. After a 10 hour search, the vessel was sighted and escorted to Palau, arriving on 3 March, 1973. The task unit continued surveillance operations through the Western Carolines to Helens reef. On 7 March, the unit was dissolved and Task Unit 76.6.2 was established for the transit to Subic Bay via Zamboanga. CROCKETT arrived at Subic Bay and commenced training and gunnery exercises. Following a port visit in Manilla, CROCKETT sailed to Hong Kong, arriving on 3 May. Six days later she returned to Subic in preparation for a port visit to Taiwan, stopping in Kaohsiung and Keelung. She returned to Guam on 6 June after steaming over 7000 miles.
CROCKETT was home ported in Chicago, Illinois by 1975, conducting a winter upkeep. All projects were completed by the end of March. After a change of command in April, CROCKETT got underway for local operations on Lake Michigan in conjunction with reserve drills. On 1 July, CROCKETT was transferred from the active fleet to the Naval Reserve Force. The first effect of this transfer was felt as the crew was reduced from 24 to 19. Her first trip was to Grand Haven, Michigan, where she arrived on 29 July. Her home port was then changed to NTO, Great Lakes, where she arrived 5 October.
CROCKETT arrived at NAB, Little Creek, Virginia in March 1976. Many of her systems previously layed-up were being reactivated and tested to ensure readiness for fast approaching underway dates. Refresher training in underway skills was being conducted in various departments to ensure personnel readiness. After successful dock trials on 31 March, CROCKETT got underway with her reserve crew embarked. She arrived in Chicago during a severe snow storm and made preparations for local operations. On 11 May, CROCKETT cleared the harbor at Great Lakes and headed into Lake Michigan for 4 days of operations with USS MARATHON (PG-89) and a port visit at Traverse City.
CROCKETT slipped from her berth for the final time on 1 June. She sailed through Lake Erie and proceeded to Buffalo, New York for a short port visit. She then proceeded to Cleveland and Lake Ontario. Following her arrival in Little Creek, Virginia she commenced an upkeep period to correct an engineering problem, a vibration experienced while in High Speed Mode. Following dock trials, CROCKETT once again had a fully functional engineering plant. As the engineers were refueling on 30 November, the message came that CROCKETT and her four sister ships were to be decommissioned. USS CROCKETT was decommissioned on 31 January, 1977. She was transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC on 14 march, 1977. USS CROCKETT, along with USS READY, USS MARATHON and USS ASHEVILLE have since been scrapped.
The crew of CROCKETT has selected a design centered about two crossed long rifles superimposed over a ship’s wheel. The American long rifle of the early frontier period was famed as the most accurate and deadly small arm of its time. The Patrol Gunboat is the smallest and pound-for-pound the deadliest man-of -war in the U.S. Navy. The ship’s wheel is emblematic of the fact that our nation’s greatest deterrent and offensive strength is its Naval Forces. The sky and sea in the back ground is significant in that the ship has the capability to engage the enemy in the air as well as on the sea. The motto "SHARPSHOOTERS" typifies the firepower and accuracy inherent in the Patrol Gunboat CROCKETT. We have a new section for the web site now where former crewmembers can have their photographs published for others to look at and enjoy. As more pictures come in, I will upload them to the website.
Click here to look at Steve Bergren's Photo Album.
Narrative and photos provided by Dave Donaldson, updated by Terry W. McManuels.
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Muster list updated by Terry W. McManuels
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