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PT Boat Incident 1966

Submitted by
Tom Mealey, Lt.
(ASW Officer - 65-67)

My recollections about the PT boat incident.

KING had transferred most of the Senior Officers, including the C.O., over to COONTZ for a hands-on turnover of our duties in the Gulf. We had sent our helo south to ORISKANY for some repairs,and we headed south to cut down their return distance. I had just got relieved as OOD, and went into the Wardroom when General Quarters sounded. Captain Tesh had told us that once we passed the International Date Line, there would be no more practice GQ's, so I knew this was for real.

I started to go to my GQ station in Sonar, when I realized our GQ OOD was on the COONTZ! I had been GQ OOD until REFTRA in Pearl, when it was decided that it would be impractical for me to get from the Bridge to Sonar if we had to shift from an AAW to an ASW environment (about 7 decks of transit if I recall) . I determined that there wasn't much of an ASW threat in those waters, so I headed to the Bridge . Ed Lemasters, the 1ST Lt had the watch and told me what was going on as far as he knew. The XO was also there (Larry Layman). They said PT boats were trying to attack us, but there was no mention of torpedoes. We were maneuvering to get into some type of battle formation to combat the PT boats. Ed was the GQ Main Fire Control Director Officer for our 5'' gun, so I told him to get going there (more colorfully than that!) because that was our main armament. I believe the Commodore was trying to get us into a diamond formation, but we ended up in a column with KING at the front heading toward the PT boats. We pretty much had them bored in, but before we could get into range, the ORISKANY jets tore them apart.

We then got our people back on board and starting picking up survivors. Ed was in one of his boats and said later that the North Vietnamese refused to be picked up, and even faked throwing hand grenades at our men. Some had to be subdued with boat hooks and dragged aboard the boats. The total picked up was 19, and I believe we got 12 of them. They were all transferred to COONTZ because she was heading south to Danang .

It was quite an exciting first day on station that 1st of July,1966!!

As an aside-it was said that while the action was going on, Capt. Tesh was seething aboard COONTZ, pacing the wing of the bridge, saying “son-uv-a-bitch” over and over. Who could blame him? Here was his ship, which he had brilliantly trained for combat, going into battle without him.

Deck Log Entries

Below, Mark Donovan researched and compiled in chronological order the Deck Logs of the USS Coontz (DLG-9), USS King (DLG-10), USS Gurke (DD-783) and the USS Rogers (DD-876)

1 July 1966

0630 – USS COONTZ Made rendezvous with USS KING (DLG-10) and USS GURKE (DD-783) to effect relief of COMDESRON Seventeen by COMDESRON Fifteen as CTU 77.0.1. COONTZ and ROGERS to be relieved as units of Task Element by KING and GURKE respectively. COMDESRON Fifteen assumed SOPA.

0728 – USS KING (late entry) Captain and COMDESRON 15 depart for USS COONTZ.

1502 – USS GURKE c/s to 24 knots. Proceeding to take station 1000 yards astern of USS COONTZ (DLG-9). When on station guide will bear 230T. Base course is 230T. Base speed is 22 knots.

1506 – USS GURKE On Station.

1535 – USS KING Proceeding to rendezvous with the USS COONTZ. Maneuvering at various courses and various speeds while maintaining station on USS COONTZ, 1000 yards astern, base course 230T, base speed 22 knots.

1541 – USS COONTZ Formed a column formation upon joining of KING and ROGERS. COONTZ is guide in station one, KING in station two, GURKE in station three, and ROGERS in station four. Distance between ships is 1000 yards.

1541 – USS GURKE c/s to 12 knots. On signal from OTC proceeding to take station 3 in a column formation. USS COONTZ (DLG-9) is guide in station 1. USS KING (DLG-10) is in station 2 and USS ROGERS (DD-876) is in station 4. Base course is 230T, base speed 22 knots. When on station the guide will bear 230T, 4000 yards.

1544 – USS GURKE On station. Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to maintain station.

1548 – USS ROGERS On Station, c/c to 230T.

1551 – USS KING On station, USS GURKE 1000 yards astern of USS KING with USS ROGERS 1000 yards astern of the USS GURKE.

1558 – USS KING Signal in the air FORM E.

1600 – USS ROGERS Adjusted to column open order formation.

1600 – USS GURKE Proceeding to station #3 of a column open order. When on station the guide will bear 228T at 2000 yards.

1601 – USS GURKE On station.

1610 – USS COONTZ Sounded General Quarters. High speed surface contacts bearing 022, range 10 miles. Aircraft reported these contacts are three North Vietnamese PT boats.

1611 – USS KING c/s to 25 knots.

1611 – USS ROGERS c/bs to 25 knots, hold enemy PT boats on radar.

1612 – USS GURKE Form c/s to 25 knots.

1614 – USS COONTZ Formed a diamond formation. COONTZ is guide in station 1, KING in station 2 bearing 095, distance 2000 yards, GURKE in station 3 bearing 005, distance 2000 yards, ROGERS in station 4 bearing 050, distance 3000 yards.

1614 – USS KING c/c to 205T.

1614 – USS ROGERS Adjusted to formation Delta.

1614 – USS GURKE Went to General Quarters. Proceeding to station #3 in formation Delta, c/c to 250T.

1615 – USS ROGERS Went to General Quarters. Set material condition Zebra.

1616 – USS COONTZ Material condition Zebra set throughout the ship.

1616 – USS KING Sounded General Quarters by order of OTC.

1617 – USS KING c/c to 230T, c/s to 25 knots.

1619 – USS KING All stations manned and ready. Condition Zebra set.

1621 – USS KING 3 contacts bearing 135R evaluated as hostile PT boats.

1622 – USS COONTZ Launched Helo.

1622 – USS KING c/c to 235T.

1623 – USS KING c/c to 230T. High speed contact course 185T at 25 knots, bearing 020T. Maneuvering at various courses and various speeds while evading high speed surface contacts.

1623 – USS GURKE c/c to 220T.

1624 – USS ROGERS c/bs to 27 knots.

1624 – USS GURKE Form c/s to 27 knots, on station. Guide bears 185T 225T, 2000 1000 yards.

1626 – USS ROGERS Lighted fires under boilers no. one (1) and no. three (3).

1633 – USS GURKE c/c to 237T.

1634 – USS COONTZ c/c to 140T. Aircraft arrived to assist. Aircraft commenced attacking PT boats.

1634 – USS GURKE Visually identified hostile North Vietnamese PT boats bearing 025T, 21000 yards.

1635 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 140T.

1635 – USS GURKE c/c to 145T.

1636 – USS COONTZ c/c to 029T.

1636 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 036 to close contacts.

1638 – USS KING Friendly aircraft hold surface contacts under fire.

1638 – USS GURKE c/c to 020T.

1639 – USS COONTZ c/c to 270T.

1640 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 270T.

1640 – USS GURKE Form c/c to 270T.

1645 – USS ROGERS All four boilers on the line.

1646 – USS COONTZ c/c to 180T.

1647 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 180T.

1648 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 000T. This ship is the guide.

1648 – USS GURKE Form c/c to 180T.

1649 – USS COONTZ c/c TO 000T ROGERS designated guide.

1650 – USS ROGERS Friendly aircraft commenced attack on enemy PT boats.

1650 – USS GURKE Form c/c to 001T. USS COONTZ (DLG-9) and USS KING (DLG-10) proceeding to investigate two hostile PT boats dead in the water, disabled by aircraft. USS ROGERS (DD-876) and this ship patrolling between the disabled PT boats and the shore.

1654 – USS COONTZ Sighted smoke on horizon bearing 040. One PT boat destroyed.1700 – USS COONTZ c/c to 270T.

1702 – USS COONTZ c/c to 180T.

1704 – USS COONTZ c/c to 090T.

1705 – USS GURKE c/c to 090T.

1707 – USS COONTZ c/c to 045T. Aircraft have hit remaining twp PT boats. One boat dead in the water with other boat still proceeding toward land.

1708 – USS GURKE c/c to 045T.

1712 – USS GURKE c/c to 040T.

1716 – USS KING All contacts dead in water. Appear to be damaged.

1720 – USS ROGERS Three PT boats dead in water and smoking. Proceeding on various courses and speeds to close contacts.

1724 – USS GURKE c/c to 035T.

1728 – USS KING 5 men in water off Starboard Beam. KING designated for pickup. Maneuvering at various courses and various speeds while approaching survivors.

1729 – USS COONTZ Sighted survivors of destroyed PT boats. KING directed to pick upsurvivors. COONTZ proceeding to DIW PT boat bearing 038, distance 12000 yards. ROGERS and GURKE proceeding to PT boat attempting to reach land.

1730 – USS GURKE c/s to 27 knots, c/c to 345T.

1731 – USS COONTZ c/c to 030T. The Captain assumed the Conn.

1734 – USS COONTZ c/c to 025T. Closing PT boat to capture crew and PT boat.

1734 – USS KING Sighted 8 men in water. Stationed recovery detail.

1734 – USS GURKE c/c to 350T, c/s to 28 knots.

1736 – USS GURKE c/c to 258T.

1737 – USS GURKE c/c to 090T.

1739 – USS KING Utility boat in water.

1739 – USS GURKE c/c to 070T.

1740 – USS COONTZ Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to close PT boat. Boat is floating very low in the water with a port list and appears to be sinking by the bow.

1740 – USS ROGERS Enemy craft assigned this ship sunk. Commenced steering various courses and speeds to remain between mainland and COONTZ and KING while they pick up survivors.

1744 – USS COONTZ Attempted to get PT boat personnel to enter water to be picked up. Personnel not complying with directions.

1744 – USS GURKE c/c to 100T.

1750 – USS COONTZ c/c to 250T, c/s to 15 knots to recover Helo.

1750 – USS GURKE c/s to 15 knots, c/c to 290T.

1753 – USS COONTZ Helo recovered on fantail.

1753 – USS GURKE PT boat awash to port.

1755 – USS COONTZ c/c to 070T c/s to 20 knots to close PT boat again.

1759 – USS KING 2 survivors in utility boat, remaining refuse aid.

1803 – USS COONTZ Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to close PT boat and remain in vicinity of boat. Lowered Utility boat into water to make PT boat and capture personnel.

1806 – USS COONTZ PT boat capsized and sinking by the bow.

1807 – USS COONTZ PT boat sunk. Crew in the water.

1808 – USS GURKE c/c to 280T.

1810 – USS GURKE c/c to 060T.

1812 – USS GURKE c/s to 16 knots.

1815 – USS COONTZ Utility boat has recovered all PT boat crewmen – a total of 12 men.

1816 – USS KING 3rd survivor in utility boat. Motor Whale boat in water.

1818 – USS KING Set Helo flight quarters.

1823 – USS COONTZ All prisoners on board.

1824 – USS KING Helo on deck. COONTZ closing KING. KING utility boat picked up 6 survivors total. 4 still in water.

1825 – USS GURKE c/c to 250T.

1826 – USS COONTZ Hoisted Utility boat into the skids. c/c to 200T, c/s to 15 knots. Proceeding to KING.

1832 – USS KING Transferring all survivors to USS COONTZ.

1832 – USS GURKE c/c to 190T.

1833 – USS COONTZ c/c to 195.

1837 – USS COONTZ c/s to 10 knots.

1838 – USS KING Set condition Yoke.

1840 – USS COONTZ Maneuvering to remain in vicinity of KING. Lowered utility boat into water. Transferred COMDESRON 15 staff and KING personnel to KING.

1844 – USS KING Secure from General Quarters.

1845 – USS GURKE c/c to 090T.

1850 – USS KING Utility boat USS COONTZ alongside. Captain and COMDESRON 15 returned aboard.

1854 – USS KING Set General Quarters.

1854 – USS GURKE c/c to 254T.

1857 – USS KING All stations manned, condition Zebra set.

1857 – USS GURKE c/c to 240T.

1903 – USS KING 2 survivors in water close aboard to Port, resisting recovery.

1905 – USS COONTZ Received six (6) personnel from KING’s Utility boat.

1910 – USS COONTZ Hoisted Utility boat into the skids.

1913 – USS GURKE c/c to 060T.

1915 – USS COONTZ Received one (1) additional prisoner from KING’s boat. A total of nineteen prisoners are on board. Two of these are seriously wounded. Squadron doctor providing medical care.

1915 – USS KING 1 survivor recovered by force. Transferred to USS COONTZ. No further rescue attempts being made.

1915 – USS ROGERS Observed sunset.

1916 – USS KING Picked up Utility and Motor Whale boats.

1920 – USS COONTZ COMDESRON Fifteen embarked in KING relieved COMDESRON Seventeen as CTU 77.0.1.

1920 – USS KING Secured recovery detail.

1923 – USS COONTZ Formed a column formation. COONTZ is guide in station one. ROGERS is in station two, 1000 yards astern. Course is 225. Speed is 20 knots.

1923 – USS ROGERS Maneuvering to take station two (2) of a column formation. Base course 225T, base speed 20 knots with COONTZ in station one (1) as guide. KING and GURKE detached to go on duty assigned.

1924 – USS GURKE c/s to 10 knots, c/c to 170T.

1927 – USS GURKE c/c to 120T, c/s to 15 knots.

1928 – USS KING c/s to 15 knots, c/s to 20 knots.

1929 – USS GURKE c/s to 20 knots, c/c to 200T. Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to take station 1200 to 1500 yards bearing 205T to the USS KING (DLG-10).

1930 – USS COONTZ c/c to 185T.

1930 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 185T.

1932 – USS COONTZ c/c to 170, c/s to 25 knots. Enroute to rendezvous with USS CONSTELLATION (CVA-64). GURKE and KING proceeding to night SAR DD area.

1933 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 170T.

1934 – USS COONTZ Material condition Yoke set throughout the ship, secured from General Quarters. Set condition of readiness III.

1934 – USS KING c/c to 250T.

1935 – USS KING c/c to 240T.

1936 – USS KING c/s to 22 knots, c/c to 215T.

1941 – USS ROGERS Set material condition Yoke.

1943 – USS ROGERS Secured from General Quarters.

1945 – USS KING Numerous contacts bearing 126R 14 miles.

1947 – USS KING c/c to 210T.

1956 – USS GURKE On station, base course 210T, base speed 22 knots. Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to maintain station.

1958 – USS KING Set condition Yoke, secure from General Quarters.

2005 – USS GURKE Secured from General Quarters.