The following documents are 
the recollections of March,17 1967
when the Stoddard was hit by enemy fire

William P. Hunter Lcdr, USN, Retired 

I was Chief Engineer on Stoddard during the period March 17, 1967. I can remember vividly the late night excursion that Stoddard took toward the "beach" to attempt the recovery of the downed pilot from a spotter aircraft on March 17, 1967. I can remember sitting on my ChEng "high stool" in the after engine room and hearing the shrapnel from enemy shore fire raining down on the deck above as we proceeded at flank speed into the shore to pick up the downed pilot.

As was the norm for engineering personnel, we were not informed of what was going on at the time, but rather had to respond faithfully to the speed requirements of the bridge, which we did particularly well that late evening or probably early morning (my recollection is dusty). Part way into the situation, I can recall a report from DC Central as to a hit in an aft berthing compartment with no flooding but concern as to proximity to a fuel tank. As I remember, there was also some concern as to personnel casualties in the after fire control room, which were later unfounded. As it turned out, the hit was at the deck of the Engineering Berthing compartment which bordered on a fuel tank below. We operationally extracted ourselves from the situation without further damage. As I recall, our ship fitters did a superb job of patching the hole, while underway, and we proceeded on our way providing service to "Rogerson's Raiders". Commodore Rogerson, was COMDESDIV 212 that supported "Sea Dragon" operations at that time north of the Naval DMZ. As I recall, we were operating with the USS New Jersey and USS Canberra. Soon after this, we proceeded to Sasebo to enter dry-dock to accomplish permanent repairs to the hole in our starboard side. I can again remember the shipyard workers in Sasebo building the required staging for our repairs in dry-dock in record time....before the dry-dock was even empty of water, there was a bevy of workers building a bamboo network of staging, the likes of which is unique to Sasebo shipyard. 

 

Brad Petersen RD3

I was a RD3 on the day we were hit trying to retrieve the downed pilot who was spotting for us while shelling the coast and remember it well. Due to the amount of shelling we were doing at that time, we were on port and starboard general quarters. I was on watch and manning a radar in the combat information center (CIC). Lt. Jg Steve Small was the aircraft control officer and controlling an A1 aircraft who was spotting for us. We had completed firing and the A1 pilot requested to drop his ordinance. We had a Commodore on board (can't remember his name) who was exiting the CIC and instructed Lt. Small to deny the pilot's request. I will never forget the pilot's response. He said "for crying out loud, Buckboard (our call sign), I have been flying out here all day. I say again. I request permission to drop ordinance"? The Commodore then gave his permission and the pilot and his wingman proceeded to drop ordinance. It wasn't ten minutes later when we heard the pilot yell a May Day distress signal and ask if we had him on radar. That was my job and I had been plotting him all along. He went in the water about three miles off the coast and his wingman headed back for the carrier Hancock.

The Captain decided to go in and get this pilot. We started for the coast at flank speed and started to slow down as we turned broadside and the VC opened up on us with every thing possible. The flack was hitting everywhere. One shell hit the starboard aft of the ship at the waterline and entered a berthing compartment. We were not able to pick the pilot up due to the fact that we were taking on water and had to list the ship to port. A SAR unit finally picked the pilot up after a long time in the water. While all this was going on there was also a mid air collision with two other A1 aircraft from the Hancock that flew in to fire suppression. I never did hear about them.

I hope this will help in some way. I can only tell you about what went on in CIC at that time and the things that I remember from immediate stories from other shipmates.

 

Captain Clint Coneway USN (RET) 

I was aboard the ship in 1967 when we were hit by enemy gunfire while trying to rescue several downed aviators off the Song Giang River. As I recall, we were supporting some A-1s (SPADS) on a mission to stop a ferry which was crossing the river with war supplies. One of the A-1s got hit and the pilot ejected off the coast. The STODDARD made an attempt to rescue the pilot, but as we got closer to him the North Vietnamese opened fire on the ship. The ship began to avoid the intense shore fire and was not able to rescue the aviator in the water. This is when The STODDARD was hit by shore batteries. Shortly thereafter, two of the remaining A-1s collided (it was extremely foggy) while trying to prevent the pilot in the water from being captured. We then had three aviators in the water and it was starting to get late in the evening and dark. At that point then CDR Connolly (the CO) considered putting our boat in the water and trying to rescue the pilots. He decided not to do so when an helicopter from an aircraft carrier (I think the HANCOCK) arrived on scene. With a lot of help from STODDARD and another Navy helo, we finally were able to rescue all three of the aviators. This is why the STODDARD was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation Award for action in March, 1967. 

 

Frank Kasmarski

I was on the ship at that time. I believe it was March 17, 1967. We went to pick up a downed pilot and was under shore battery and was hit on the starboard side just at the water line. The explosion ripped a whole through the hull and destroyed part of the engineering berthing compartment. Damage control team shored up the hole while we were in counter battery. I was water king on the ship and me and the oil king shifted water and fuel to put the ship on a port list to keep the starboard side far enough out of the water. I believe the Canneberra a cruiser was shelling over the top of us at the target while we were getting out of there. While we were steaming to Japan for emergency repairs the ship fitters were over the side welding temporary steel plates over the hole. We steamed all night and went into dry dock for repair. I believe we were in Japan for 2 weeks. The one thing I remember was we were shooting rapid-fire salvo which we have done many times and the vibration of us shooting I didn't feel us get hit. A lot of our missions were at night going up rivers shooting at tree top levels and turning around and coming back down doing the same thing. As I said earlier we were under counter battery many times. We earned the Navy Unit Citation for what we did. We were also flagship and had Commodore Rogerson or Rogers on board. 

 

SUMMARY OF ACTION OF 17 MARCH 1967

Friday afternoon, after completion of conducting destructive fire against shore installation, the two (2) spotter aircraft were taken under fire and hit, STODDARD in attempting to close the pilot who ditched, received heavy fire from the shore batteries and sustained some light shrapnel damage to one life raft, port side of bridge, and one hit in the Engineering Berthing Compartment, just above the water line. Fortunately, no one on the STODDARD received wounds. The prompt action taken by all hands was outstanding. Repair parties rapidly shored the hole and the gun crews left behind about 125 rounds "STODDARD SPECIALS", when they returned the fire.

The downed pilot was sighed by other aircraft and the helo. The helo was just over the pilot, ready for pickup when he received heavy small arms fire from small craft closing. His abrupt change of position in clearing the area of small arms fire caused two aircraft to maneuver violently to clear the helo and the aircraft concerned evidently had a mid-air collision. Now 3 pilots were known to be in the water, the playmate of the spotter who first ditched was unaccounted for.

STODDARD & INGERSOLL were joined by 2 other DD's, the GRIDLEY and MANSFIELD to conduct a search. Numerous aircraft, shipmates of the downed pilots, also were on the scene. The picture became cloudy; for a short while we thought a rescue helo and crew might also have went down enroute to the scene. We received the "good word" that the helo was O.K., he was still on board the Carrier awaiting the call.

Two pilots were finally located and retrieved. The flare ship lighting the way for the helo as the helo closed in and sighted the pilot's light.

After the 2 pilots were recovered, a sweep of the area was conducted by the aircraft. No further signs of the remaining 2 pilots and the search was discontinued.

About 0150 Saturday morning CIC heard a pilot's distress "beeper" in the water, STODDARD and INGERSOLL immediately started a search and were joined by aircraft and a helo. No contact was made. The weather closed in and we temporarily abandoned the search until day light hours.

Saturday morning a message was received stating a third pilot had been picked up by the Ponchatoula, approximately 100 miles from the scene of action. He was identified as the pilot of the second spotter aircraft originally with STODDARD.

In summary, the missing pilot was one involved in the mid-air collision.

   
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