South Vietnam - So Phong Ve Duyen Hai
Sea Commandos (Coastal Security Service)
The Coastal Security Service (CS5) was the cover name for the Vietnamese Maritime Operatmns Force. It was formed as a part of the Strategic Exploitation Service (SE5) as of 1 April 1964 in Da Nang. CCS was successor to PACIFIC sub-branch which was changed with the mission of infiltrating and exfiltrating agents and equipment into and out of NVN by sea. On l April 1964, the Special Branch was split; one portion becoming the Strategic Exploitat1on Service and the other a separate entity, the Liaison Servicea. The Strategic Exploitation Service (SE5) remained under administrative control of the SF Command and operational control of the CofS, the Jo1nt General Staff/RVNAF. The mission of the SES was conduct of intelligence gathering operations in NVN.
As a Joint Special Operations Task Force, the Studies and Observations Group (SOG) managed the unconventional war effort focused on North Vietnam from 1964 to 1971. After SOG's initial formation in January 1964, Secretary of Defense McNamara was eager to strike North Vietnamese targets and increase pressure on the Communists to stop fomenting the insurgency. SOG was given the job of leading the unconventional warfare campaign against North Vietnam by the President when he approved OPLAN34A.
SOG's Naval Advisory Detachment (NAD) at Danang ran a variety of seaborne operations, including the training and support for the Vietnamese Coastal Security Service, which was actually a raiding, sabotage, and intelligence force. NAD had a small fleet of high speed, low-slung Norwegian-built woodentorpedo boats, hard to detect on radar. From 1964 to 1969, the covert maritime division conducted numerous covert operations, the most famous of which contributed to the Gulf of Tonkin incident inAugust 1964.
Colonel Russel, with guidance from McNamara, selected the maritime division as the first SOG unit to strike targets in NorthVietnam. The division had five Norwegian Nasty class gunboats purchased by the DOD. Unfortunately, in order to preserve deniability, no US personnel were allowed on the missions. This decision hampered the unit's ability to operate successfully on numerous occasions. Furthermore, the level of training and leadership capabilities of the South Vietnamese mercenaries who carried out the maritime missions were not at the level needed to conduct covert operations in hostile territory. To counter this deficiency, CIA hired Norwegian boat captains for SOG to lead the newly trained Vietnamese Coastal Survey force. The US trainers for the mercenary force were from the Naval Advisory Detachment (NAD). US personnel included personnel from Detachment Echo, SEAL Team One, Boat Support Unit One, and USMC Force Reconnaissance advisors.
The article "A Special Naval Unit of the Republic of Vietnam - The Coastal Security Service" by Tran Do Cam, translated from Vietnamese by Donald C. Brewster, is an excellent source on SOG naval operations, especially covert operations at the tactical level. The article also discusses the tactical contribution of SOG's SEALs andpatrol boats that conducted numerous raids.
The first attack on 16 February 1964 used the Nasty boats in conjunction with the South Vietnamese Sea Commandos to target a North Vietnamese bridge. The attack failed when they came under heavy fire. Later, they attacked the bridge again with demolition swimmers and lost eight men. After that, they trained for an additional three months before their next attack. On 12 June 1964, they successfully damaged a storage area and barracks 100 miles north of the demilitarized zone. During the next two months, they raided numerous targets in North Vietnam with success.
Some of these operations had strategic implications. SOG naval forces contributed to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Several naval raids were conducted within North Vietnam territory by the Vietnamese Coastal Survey force just prior to the North Vietnamese attack on the US destroyer USS Maddox on 2 August 1964. During the month of July 1964 for example, SOG conducted numerous naval raids against key military and defensive installations in North Vietnam. In addition, they engaged multiple enemy positions and some North Vietnamese naval craft during the conduct of the raids.
On 22 July 1964, four SOG patrol boats conducted a raid against selected military outposts and a coastal radar facility near Vinh, North Vietnam. On 30 July 1964, they used all five boats to strike radar sites on Hon Me and Hon Ngu. Later on 2 August 1964, the Destroyer Maddox was attacked in the Tonkin Gulf by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. The North Vietnamese claimed their attack was in retaliation for raids against their own military facilities. On 3August 1964, the SOG boats attacked another radar site and base facility which may [or may not] have precipitated a second enemy counterattack on the US warships Maddox and Turner Joy. In response to the counterattacks by the North Vietnamese, the US issued the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Johnson the ability to broaden the US military effort in Vietnam.
In subsequent years, the division accomplished numerous tactical missions in North Vietnamese waters using its South Vietnamese mercenaries. In 1965 MACV opined that the marops program was 'the most productive of all 34A programs and the most lucrative from the viewpoint of accomplishments. However, none of the sabotage missions had a significant impact on the enemy's strategy for the war. They merely caused the North Vietnamese to beef up their coastal defenses and move critical assets farther north.
Basically, there were two types of MAROPS missions: across-the-beach, CADO, and the boat missions. Within the boat missions were MINT and LOKI. LOKI was a mission which left Danang on a fixed track and went up into the northernmost area of Vietnam. It stayed on a fixed track so that the Seventh Fleet forces knew where the boat was in case it had to call for help. These were unsuccessful. When on a fixed track, the boat would go up, turn around and someback on a fixed track. The MINT mission, however, was one where the boat left on a fixed track and then entered the colored aress (operating area) through a gate. There were several gates and the missions were varied every time. They went into the colored area and were free to maneuver in the area, and to do anything they wanted to do. They could attack anything or capture anything they wanted in that given time frame. Usually, they stayed in that area six to eight hours and then came out.The LOKI missions were generally unsuccessful.
The pounding away at the beach by the US forces from air and sea increased. This forced the North Vietnamese to harden up their coast. They had radar, all types of guns, and boast were forced many times to stay out beyond 12 miles.
CADO missions were across-the-beach missions. In these, boast inserted SEAL-trained Vletnanese to go in to either capture prisoners or to hit targets and come out. The latter were generally unsuccessful to a point where Saigon had decided in 1967 to discontinue them. CADO operations were completely out of the picture, since they were not getting adequate results.
After the Tet offensive in 1968, the boats were prohibited by the Johnson administration from going into North Vietnamese waters. This ended their usefulness in meeting SOG's OPLAN 34A objectives. As a side note, after 1968 they continued to contribute tactically to the overall war effort by conducting US led raids on enemy forces in South Vietnam.
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