Interview with Jeff Bramblett, Part 2
This audio interview details Jeff Bramblett’s time with the U.S. Coast Guard during the Vietnam War. In this segment, Bramblett describes what he did while serving in the Coast Guard in Vietnam.
WONGSRICHANALAI: So, what unit were you deployed with?
BRAMBLETT: I was … When I went to Vietnam I was in Squadron One, Division Thirteen. There were three divisions of Coast Guard in Vietnam. We had Division Eleven in Da Nang, Division Twelve in An Thoi, which is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, and then Division Thirteen was in a little town called Cat Lo … C-A-T-L-O, very close to Vũng Tàu. It was … They … They had a boat was eighty-two feet long, about thirteen feet wide. It drew three feet of water. Very heavily armed it had four fifty caliber machine guns on the stern. It had a fifty caliber mounted on top of a eighty-one millimeter mortar, which … that mortar was totally different from the mortar like the Army or Marine Corps use, which is a fixed tube. This one was mounted. It actually had hydraulics on it and it was mounted transversely. It could be moved horizontally, vertically. The only thing that stopped the horizontal movement was to keep it from firing back into the boat. Shoots a twelve-pound projectile up to about just a little bit over two thousand meters. Fifty caliber is … is a half inch round bullet, weighs …the bullet weighs seven hundred grains and it leaves the barrel at 2,640 feet per second and is capable of firing about 550 rounds per minute. You have to … You can’t just latch it down and just fire continuously. It comes in hundred belts and you try to fire three to five round burst and even at that, when you get into a fight, you’ll wind up … the barrel will actually turn cherry red and you’ll burn barrels out pretty quickly if you’re not careful. We would charge an inch and a half fire hose on the boat, because, one if you get hit, you’ve got to stop a fire. When you’re on a boat, that’s it. You don’t have a place to hide. You can’t get down. You stand up and you have to be in it. It’s very personal. We had twenty-six, eight-two footers; they were all called point boats. I was on the Point Young for about six months and then I moved over to working with what was called the Mobile Rear Marine Force. And that was a combination of Navy, Army, and Coast Guard personnel. I ran the smallest boat in the Mekong Delta, a fourteen-foot Boston Whaler with a single forty harsh mercury outboard. We had three men on the boat. One man had to run the boat, so that left two of us to man weapons. And we tried to always work in at least two boats together. Sometimes we were in major operations, and there would be anywhere from thirty to fifty different types of boats. There were … Everything in the Mekong Delta is water. There is no highway that transverses that. The Mekong Delta in Vietnam, prior to the war, had fed most of Asia: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, any part of Indochina. During the war, their ability to produce rice dropped off. Rice is the staple. It’s what keeps people alive. I mean it’s … You can’t conceive how vital it is unless you’ve been there. We worked in an operation called “Market Time.” It was … at the … After the war, when they had time to look at what had worked and what hadn’t, “Market Time” was considered the most … or no … It was considered the best functioning operation. It was made to stop the flow of men, weapons, and food from going out of the Mekong Delta into the rest of Vietnam. We literally cut off their food supply from there. They had to start putting pressure on the local farmers to produce rice for them. We stopped the flow of arms from coming in. They were coming in by hundred and ten foot gun boat that was made for a one way trip from Haiphong into Vietnam. They would carry about 250 tons of weapons and supplies. One of the most critical supplies was medical supplies. The NVA, North Vietnamese Army, and the Viet Cong, which were the people that were trained by the NVA in fighting against the South Vietnamese government, therefore they fought against us, were the most experienced soldiers we fought against ever in America’s history. Their NCOs … Their sergeants had an average of combat experience of thirteen years. They knew what they were doing. They were very, very good soldiers. They were as tough as it got.