Operation Pocket Money
Operation Pocket Money, the mining campaign against principal North Vietnamese ports, was launched on 09 May 1972. Early that morning, an EC-121 aircraft took off from Danang airfield to provide support for the mining operation. A short time later, Kitty Hawk launched 17 ordnance-delivering sorties against the Nam Dinh railroad siding as a diversionary air tactic. Poor weather, however, forced the planes to divert to secondary targets at Thanh and Phu Qui which were struck at 090840H and 090845H, Vietnam time, respectively. Coral Sea launched three A-6A and six A-7E aircraft loaded with mines and one EKA-3B in support of the mining operation directed against the outer approaches to Haiphong Harbor. The mining aircraft departed the vicinity of Coral Sea at 090840H in order to execute the mining at precisely 090900H to coincide with the President's public announcement in Washington that mines had been seeded. The A-6 flight led by the CAG, Commander Roger Sheets, was composed of USMC aircraft from VMA-224 and headed for the inner channel. The A-7Es, led by Commander Len Giuliani and made up of aircraft from VA-94 and VA-22, were designated to mine the outer segment of the channel. Each aircraft carried four MK 52-2 mines. Captain William Carr, USMC, the bombardier/navigator in the lead plane established the critical attack azimuth and timed the mine releases. The first mine was dropped at 090859H and the last of the field of 36 mines at 090901H. Twelve mines were placed in the inner segment and the remaining 24 in the outer segment.
All MK 52-2 mines were set with 72-hour arming delays, thus permitting merchant ships time for departure or a change in destination consistent with the President's public warning. It was the beginning of a mining campaign that planted over 11,000 MK 36 type destructor and 108 special MK 52-2 mines over the next eight months. It is considered to have played a significant role in bringing about an eventual peace arrangement, particularly since it so hampered the enemy's ability to continue receiving war supplies.
On 11 May Naval aircraft flying from Coral Sea, Midway, Kitty Hawk and Constellation laid additional mine fields in the remaining ports of significance in NVN-- Thanh Hoa, Dong Hoi Vinh, Hon Gai, Quang Khe and Cam Pha as well as the Haiphong approaches. This early mining was not confined solely to the seven principal ports. Other locations, such as the Cua Sot, Cap Mui Ron, and the river mouths, Cua Day and Cua Lac Giang, south of Don Son and the Haiphong port complex, were also seeded early in the campaign.
The 72-hour delay arming time on the initial mines laid at Haiphong was up at 120900H Vietnam time on 12 May. Nine ships at Haiphong had taken advantage of the grace period to depart the port. Twenty-seven ships remained. Both Soviet and Soviet-bloc ships headed for Haiphong at the time had diverted to different destinations, thus avoiding a direct confrontation with the mine fields.
On 27 January 1973 Task Force 78 was formed to conduct minesweeping operations in North Vietnamese waters under the code name Operation Endsweep. It consisted of surface minesweeping elements and an Air Mobile Mine Countermeasures Command. The latter was made up of HM-12, HMH-463 and HMM-165, organized into units Alpha through Delta, an airborne mine countermeasures planning element, command and control element, an aircraft element and a material element.
By 06 February 1973 Surface minesweepers of Task Force 78 began preliminary sweeping to prepare an anchorage in deep water off the approaches to Haiphong Harbor. Ships of the force included New Orleans and Inchon. The ocean anchorage would be used by command and supply ships of the U.S. Navy in on-scene support of minesweeping of North Vietnamese harbors, coastal and inland waterways. During the operation Task Force 78 ships were joined by Tripoli. Airborne mine countermeasures began off Haiphong during Operation Endsweep. This was a "first" in mine warfare as airborne minesweeping had never been done with "live" mines. Minesweeping operations continued in and around Haiphong and the harbor was reopened in early March 1973 after being closed for ten months
On 27 July 1973 Operation Endsweep was officially closed and Task Force 78 was disbanded. During the six months of its existence, the airborne element made 3,554 sweeping runs totalling 1,134.7 sweeping hours in 623 sorties; the surface elements had made 208 sweeping runs of 308.8 hours. The aviation material casualties were three helicopters lost in operational accidents. Mine Logistics Carrier Station operations in the Gulf of Tonkin were conducted by Enterprise, Oriskany, Ranger, and Coral Sea at various periods and their respective aircraft flew support sorties for Operation Endsweep.
- Adapted from Naval Aviation Chronology 1970-1980 @ NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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