SEA TIGERS OF VUNG RO BAY
US Army 458th Transportation Co.
US Army 18th Military Police Brigade
During the Vietnam War the United States Military employed heavily-armed high-speed gunboats to intercept and disrupt enemy travel on the rivers and bays of South Vietnam. While the US Navy operated over 250 of these specialized watercraft, the US Army had less than 40.
Vung Ro Bay was one of nine outposts of the US Army 458th Transportation Company (PBR)
JUNE 28, 1970
RPG Attack on PBR J-7832 "Magic Christian"
On a quiet, sleepy Sunday morning just after 9:00 AM the PBR-32 was attacked by B-40 rockets just off the west end of "Bravo Sector" on the East side of Vung Ro Bay.
The crews at Vung Ro were all cross-trained to perform each others duties if necessary. On this particular Sunday morning the crew was supposed to be Mike Hebert (458 Trans. Co), Donald Markin (127th MP Co), and John Vorwick (127th MP CO).
Jimmy Lee, an MP with the 127th, was to be on desk duty that morning, however, Hebert and Lee switched places and the PBR went out with an all-MP crew!
The boat crews had been to the east end of Bravo sector for the previous two days. On this Sunday morning, unfortunately, they returned once more. The old World War II adage of "Three on a match" proved absolutely correct!
Hebert was at the MP desk when Lou Baumann came up the steps and entered the room. He had noticed the boat down in the cove next to the beach and thought nothing of it. Hebert was working on the radio while he and Baumann discussed how he got to be the radio man that morning. Suddenly they heard a loud explosion. Hebert asked "What was that"? Baumann replied that the crew probably just threw a grenade on the beach. They liked to do that - it made a very loud noise! Hebert came around from behind the desk and he and Baumann went and looked out the door, and both saw the red flare in the distance. Hebert yelled "They've been hit" and ran off to the hootch barracks to alert everyone.
Bob McCabe and two other crew ran down to the docks and took off in the other PBR. They had the gun covers off and were firing the 50-calibers into the cove from almost the second they left the dock.
Hebert and Baumann made several attempts to contact the boat by radio, but all they could get was static. They then called the COC on the phone and alerted them to the situation.
As the PBR got closer, the damage became evident. Everyone ran down to the docks to assist them in landing. It seemed to take forever to get the boat in to the dock. They were just about in, when to add to the drama, an LST was about to make a landing on the beach next to our docks. The LST almost plowed into them as they approached the pier.
Baumann was standing on the dock, having called COC again for a medic, telling them that we had wounded. The boat was close to the pier at this time, and one of the MP's, John Vorwick, looked like he wanted to jump. When the boat got closer, he did, and collapsed on top of Baumann. Baumann took his arm, put it around his neck, and started walking him up to the barracks. He had gone into shock and was only semi-concious. Baumann took him up to the area outside of the dayroom, laid him down, and treated him for shock. He elevated his feet, put him on a stretcher, and covered him with a blanket. Jimmy Lee, Donald Markin, and the medic showed up and the medic treated everyone's wounds. Someone had called for a Medivac chopper. When it arrived someone helped Baumann carry Vorwick to the chopper. Baumann had covered Vorwick's head with the blanket so sand wouldn't blow in his face. After loading Vorwick in the chopper, Baumann told them "He ain't dead, he's in shock", and uncovered his face. Jimmy Lee and Donald Markin were able to get on the chopper unassisted. As the chopper lifted off the Koreans on the bluff above us began firing on the cove with 105 Howitzers.
It turns out that one of the crew was blown into the water by the explosion but was retrieved immediately. Jimmy Lee attemped to contact the base by radio but the antenna was blown away.
Jimmy Lee heroically made the treacherous journey back across the bay, keeping the boat at half speed to hold the bow up out of the water to prevent flooding.
John Vorwick suffered a blown ear drum, and Donald Markin had the top of his ear shot off.
All of the crewmen on board were wounded and all were awarded Purple Hearts.
Thanks to Lou Baumann