Stars & Stripes version of what happened.
PT Boat Incident 1966
Tom Mealey, Lt.
(ASW Officer - 65-67)
My recollections about the PT boat incident.
KING had transferred most of the Senior Officers, including the C.O., over to COONTZ for a hands-on turnover of our duties in the Gulf. We had sent our helo south to ORISKANY for some repairs,and we headed south to cut down their return distance. I had just got relieved as OOD, and went into the Wardroom when General Quarters sounded. Captain Tesh had told us that once we passed the International Date Line, there would be no more practice GQ's, so I knew this was for real.
started to go to my GQ station in Sonar, when I realized
our GQ OOD was on the COONTZ! I had been GQ OOD
until REFTRA in
Pearl, when it was decided that it would be impractical for
me to get from the Bridge to Sonar if we had to shift from
an AAW to an ASW environment (about 7 decks of transit if I
recall) . I determined that there wasn't much of an ASW threat
in those waters, so I headed to the Bridge . Ed Lemasters,
the 1ST Lt had the watch and told me what was going on as far
as he knew. The XO was also there (Larry Layman). They said
PT boats were trying to attack us, but there was no mention
of torpedoes. We were maneuvering to get into some type of
battle formation to combat the PT boats. Ed was the GQ Main
Fire Control Director Officer for our 5'' gun, so I told him
to get going there (more colorfully than that!) because that
was our main armament. I believe the Commodore was trying to
get us into a diamond formation, but we ended up in a column
with KING at the front heading toward the PT boats. We pretty
much had them bored in, but before we could get into range,
the ORISKANY jets tore them apart.
We then got our people back on board and starting picking
up survivors. Ed was in one of his boats and said later that
the North Vietnamese refused to be picked up,
and even faked
throwing hand grenades at our men. Some had to be subdued with
boat hooks and dragged aboard the boats. The total picked up
was 19, and I believe we got 12 of them. They were all transferred
to COONTZ because she was heading south to Danang .
It was quite an exciting first day on station that 1st of
As an aside-it was
said that while the action was going on, Capt. Tesh was seething
aboard COONTZ, pacing the wing of the
bridge, saying "son-uv-a-bitch" over and over. Who
could blame him? Here was his ship, which he had brilliantly
trained for combat, going into battle without him.
Photos by John Kowalewski
1966 PT Boat Incident
by John Kowalewski
While standing on the deck outside the NDTS Shop aboard the USS King (DLG-10) on the 1st of July in 1966, I witnessed the launching of one of our motor whale boats and also its use in the rescue and retrieval of that last Vietnamese PT boat survivor/sailor. Once captured and brought aboard our whale boat, he and the other rescued survivor, who was already secured and in custody, were transferred to the USS Coontz (DLG-9).
My recollections are scattered and in parts because I was unable to witness the entire situation (start to finish) from when our ship initially went into “General Quarters” and then until the prisoner transfer occurred. Once GQ sounded, all hands headed for their assigned stations -- mine was in Upper and Lower Combat, where we, as Data Systems Technicians, provided assistance, if needed, on the NTDS radar tracking consoles. During the entire time the ship was at GQ status, the crew was constantly being updated as to the situation outside; that is, concerning the ongoing status with the Vietnamese PT Boats and our aerial attack upon them by the USS Oriskany. A few of us took quick and short visits out onto the NTDS deck to catch some of the live action for ourselves.
The NTDS deck happened to be on the starboard side of the ship, where all of the “action” was going on. Our deck was located a level or two below the bridge, where our Captain Tesh was observing and directing this delicate and dangerous operation.
When I went out onto the NTDS deck for the first time, I saw quite a few of our shipmates in our motor whale boat (which was still secured on the ramp or launch) and a number of others still waiting to climb in. The boat was being loaded and geared up prior to its being lowered into the water. There were also many hands on deck to assist in any way they were needed. I couldn’t stay out long, so I went back in. Roughly 10 minutes later, I went out again to view the action. The whale boat was already in the water and on its way to the area where I saw that last Vietnamese survivor in the water. As our whale boat got in close proximity to that survivor, I saw someone jump out of the boat and enter the water. The action was a distance away at this time, so I again re-enter the ship and relayed what I had seen.
On my last and longest visit onto the NTDS deck, I witnessed our whale boat roughly 20 to 25 feet to the right of the last survivor. Our boat was occupied with close to a dozen armed shipmates, all who looked as though they were ready and eager to do the captain’s bidding. This time I observed a couple of our “swimmers” in the water trying to close in on that last survivor. Our men were very cautious in approaching him. Later I found out that the survivor possibly had a weapon. He was constantly swimming (more like a “doggy paddle”) away from our boat and the 2 men we had in the water. Our boat and swimmers slowly and carefully closed in and approached the survivor a number of times and the officer in the boat attempted to grasp him with the long boat hook, hoping to bring him closer and thereby securing him. That last survivor was determined not to be captured and taken prisoner. All our efforts to capture him were not working. We were being very cautious in our approach to secure him. This lasted for at least another 5 to 10 minutes, while Captain Tesh was getting agitated and upset; and repeatedly shouting over and over again, “Son of a Bitch, Son of a Bitch, etc.”
Finally Captain Tesh had enough with this particular rescue tactic and took the situation into his personal control. He loudly and authoritatively shouted to the officer in the whale boat and to our swimmers to move away from that last survivor in the water. He then fired three warning shots into the water, with what looked like a rifle, a good 10 to 15 feet above and beyond that last survivor in order to intimidate him and hope to force him to turn around and give up. That approach did not work either. Captain Tesh was “not happy”. He again shouted to the officer in charge in our boat, loud and clear; “If that guy is not in your boat within the next few minutes, the next 3 warning shots will be above your head. Now get him into that damn boat!” This quote was pretty close to the original.
Our whale boat then began closing in on that survivor again. This time, rather than attempting to grasp the survivor with the boat hook, the officer struck him with it, either on the head or shoulder, forcing him to drop whatever he was holding. I later found out it was a knife. That last survivor was then immediately secured by our swimmers and hauled aboard our whale boat. Once he was on board and safely secured with the other captive, our boat made a final sweep along our ship’s starboard side where its’ crew received a praised acknowledgement for a “Job Well Done” from Captain Tesh. Immediately after that, those two captured Vietnamese sailors, which were now in our custody, were transferred over to the USS Coontz.
Our first day at the SAR station in the Tonkin Gulf was something to remember; and thanks to the fast reaction and response of the pilots & their planes from the USS Oriskany, we were protected and shielded from any possible damage or casualties. Thank You!!
This was a “Hell of a Way” to gain and earn my MEMBERSHIP into the “Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club”.
The photos above were taken that day of our heroic shipmates and their fearless effort in that rescue and retrieval mission during that combat situation.
The above charts were plotted and annotated based upon the Deck Logs of the involved US Navy Ships
by Mark Donovan - USS King's Ships Historian
Below, Mark Donovan researched and compiled in chronological order the Deck Logs of the
USS Coontz (DLG-9), USS King (DLG-10), USS Gurke (DD-783) and the USS Rogers (DD-876)
1 July 1966
0630 – USS COONTZ Made rendezvous with USS KING (DLG-10) and USS GURKE (DD-783) to effect relief of COMDESRON Seventeen by COMDESRON Fifteen as CTU 77.0.1. COONTZ and ROGERS to be relieved as units of Task Element 126.96.36.199 by KING and GURKE respectively. COMDESRON Fifteen assumed SOPA.
0728 – USS KING (late entry) Captain and COMDESRON 15 depart for USS COONTZ.
1502 – USS GURKE c/s to 24 knots. Proceeding to take station 1000 yards astern of USS COONTZ (DLG-9). When on station guide will bear 230T. Base course is 230T. Base speed is 22 knots.
1506 – USS GURKE On Station.
1535 – USS KING Proceeding to rendezvous with the USS COONTZ. Maneuvering at various courses and various speeds while maintaining station on USS COONTZ, 1000 yards astern, base course 230T, base speed 22 knots.
1541 – USS COONTZ Formed a column formation upon joining of KING and ROGERS. COONTZ is guide in station one, KING in station two, GURKE in station three, and ROGERS in station four. Distance between ships is 1000 yards.
1541 – USS GURKE c/s to 12 knots. On signal from OTC proceeding to take station 3 in a column formation. USS COONTZ (DLG-9) is guide in station 1. USS KING (DLG-10) is in station 2 and USS ROGERS (DD-876) is in station 4. Base course is 230T, base speed 22 knots. When on station the guide will bear 230T, 4000 yards.
1544 – USS GURKE On station. Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to maintain station.
1548 – USS ROGERS On Station, c/c to 230T.
1551 – USS KING On station, USS GURKE 1000 yards astern of USS KING with USS ROGERS 1000 yards astern of the USS GURKE.
1558 – USS KING Signal in the air FORM E.
1600 – USS ROGERS Adjusted to column open order formation.
1600 – USS GURKE Proceeding to station #3 of a column open order. When on station the guide will bear 228T at 2000 yards.
1601 – USS GURKE On station.
1610 – USS COONTZ Sounded General Quarters. High speed surface contacts bearing 022, range 10 miles. Aircraft reported these contacts are three North Vietnamese PT boats.
1611 – USS KING c/s to 25 knots.
1611 – USS ROGERS c/bs to 25 knots, hold enemy PT boats on radar.
1612 – USS GURKE Form c/s to 25 knots.
1614 – USS COONTZ Formed a diamond formation. COONTZ is guide in station 1, KING in station 2 bearing 095, distance 2000 yards, GURKE in station 3 bearing 005, distance 2000 yards, ROGERS in station 4 bearing 050, distance 3000 yards.
1614 – USS KING c/c to 205T.
1614 – USS ROGERS Adjusted to formation Delta.
1614 – USS GURKE Went to General Quarters. Proceeding to station #3 in formation Delta, c/c to 250T.
1615 – USS ROGERS Went to General Quarters. Set material condition Zebra.
1616 – USS COONTZ Material condition Zebra set throughout the ship.
1616 – USS KING Sounded General Quarters by order of OTC.
1617 – USS KING c/c to 230T, c/s to 25 knots.
1619 – USS KING All stations manned and ready. Condition Zebra set.
1621 – USS KING 3 contacts bearing 135R evaluated as hostile PT boats.
1622 – USS COONTZ Launched Helo.
1622 – USS KING c/c to 235T.
1623 – USS KING c/c to 230T. High speed contact course 185T at 25 knots, bearing 020T. Maneuvering at various courses and various speeds while evading high speed surface contacts.
1623 – USS GURKE c/c to 220T.
1624 – USS ROGERS c/bs to 27 knots.
1624 – USS GURKE Form c/s to 27 knots, on station. Guide bears 185T 225T, 2000 1000 yards.
1626 – USS ROGERS Lighted fires under boilers no. one (1) and no. three (3).
1633 – USS GURKE c/c to 237T.
1634 – USS COONTZ c/c to 140T. Aircraft arrived to assist. Aircraft commenced attacking PT boats.
1634 – USS GURKE Visually identified hostile North Vietnamese PT boats bearing 025T, 21000 yards.
1635 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 140T.
1635 – USS GURKE c/c to 145T.
1636 – USS COONTZ c/c to 029T.
1636 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 036 to close contacts.
1638 – USS KING Friendly aircraft hold surface contacts under fire.
1638 – USS GURKE c/c to 020T.
1639 – USS COONTZ c/c to 270T.
1640 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 270T.
1640 – USS GURKE Form c/c to 270T.
1645 – USS ROGERS All four boilers on the line.
1646 – USS COONTZ c/c to 180T.
1647 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 180T.
1648 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 000T. This ship is the guide.
1648 – USS GURKE Form c/c to 180T.
1649 – USS COONTZ c/c TO 000T ROGERS designated guide.
1650 – USS ROGERS Friendly aircraft commenced attack on enemy PT boats.
1650 – USS GURKE Form c/c to 001T. USS COONTZ (DLG-9) and USS KING (DLG-10) proceeding to investigate two hostile PT boats dead in the water, disabled by aircraft. USS ROGERS (DD-876) and this ship patrolling between the disabled PT boats and the shore.
1654 – USS COONTZ Sighted smoke on horizon bearing 040. One PT boat destroyed.1700 – USS COONTZ c/c to 270T.
1702 – USS COONTZ c/c to 180T.
1704 – USS COONTZ c/c to 090T.
1705 – USS GURKE c/c to 090T.
1707 – USS COONTZ c/c to 045T. Aircraft have hit remaining twp PT boats. One boat dead in the water with other boat still proceeding toward land.
1708 – USS GURKE c/c to 045T.
1712 – USS GURKE c/c to 040T.
1716 – USS KING All contacts dead in water. Appear to be damaged.
1720 – USS ROGERS Three PT boats dead in water and smoking. Proceeding on various courses and speeds to close contacts.
1724 – USS GURKE c/c to 035T.
1728 – USS KING 5 men in water off Starboard Beam. KING designated for pickup. Maneuvering at various courses and various speeds while approaching survivors.
1729 – USS COONTZ Sighted survivors of destroyed PT boats. KING directed to pick upsurvivors. COONTZ proceeding to DIW PT boat bearing 038, distance 12000 yards. ROGERS and GURKE proceeding to PT boat attempting to reach land.
1730 – USS GURKE c/s to 27 knots, c/c to 345T.
1731 – USS COONTZ c/c to 030T. The Captain assumed the Conn.
1734 – USS COONTZ c/c to 025T. Closing PT boat to capture crew and PT boat.
1734 – USS KING Sighted 8 men in water. Stationed recovery detail.
1734 – USS GURKE c/c to 350T, c/s to 28 knots.
1736 – USS GURKE c/c to 258T.
1737 – USS GURKE c/c to 090T.
1739 – USS KING Utility boat in water.
1739 – USS GURKE c/c to 070T.
1740 – USS COONTZ Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to close PT boat. Boat is floating very low in the water with a port list and appears to be sinking by the bow.
1740 – USS ROGERS Enemy craft assigned this ship sunk. Commenced steering various courses and speeds to remain between mainland and COONTZ and KING while they pick up survivors.
1744 – USS COONTZ Attempted to get PT boat personnel to enter water to be picked up. Personnel not complying with directions.
1744 – USS GURKE c/c to 100T.
1750 – USS COONTZ c/c to 250T, c/s to 15 knots to recover Helo.
1750 – USS GURKE c/s to 15 knots, c/c to 290T.
1753 – USS COONTZ Helo recovered on fantail.
1753 – USS GURKE PT boat awash to port.
1755 – USS COONTZ c/c to 070T c/s to 20 knots to close PT boat again.
1759 – USS KING 2 survivors in utility boat, remaining refuse aid.
1803 – USS COONTZ Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to close PT boat and remain in vicinity of boat. Lowered Utility boat into water to make PT boat and capture personnel.
1806 – USS COONTZ PT boat capsized and sinking by the bow.
1807 – USS COONTZ PT boat sunk. Crew in the water.
1808 – USS GURKE c/c to 280T.
1810 – USS GURKE c/c to 060T.
1812 – USS GURKE c/s to 16 knots.
1815 – USS COONTZ Utility boat has recovered all PT boat crewmen – a total of 12 men.
1816 – USS KING 3rd survivor in utility boat. Motor Whale boat in water.
1818 – USS KING Set Helo flight quarters.
1823 – USS COONTZ All prisoners on board.
1824 – USS KING Helo on deck. COONTZ closing KING. KING utility boat picked up 6 survivors total. 4 still in water.
1825 – USS GURKE c/c to 250T.
1826 – USS COONTZ Hoisted Utility boat into the skids. c/c to 200T, c/s to 15 knots. Proceeding to KING.
1832 – USS KING Transferring all survivors to USS COONTZ.
1832 – USS GURKE c/c to 190T.
1833 – USS COONTZ c/c to 195.
1837 – USS COONTZ c/s to 10 knots.
1838 – USS KING Set condition Yoke.
1840 – USS COONTZ Maneuvering to remain in vicinity of KING. Lowered utility boat into water. Transferred COMDESRON 15 staff and KING personnel to KING.
1844 – USS KING Secure from General Quarters.
1845 – USS GURKE c/c to 090T.
1850 – USS KING Utility boat USS COONTZ alongside. Captain and COMDESRON 15 returned aboard.
1854 – USS KING Set General Quarters.
1854 – USS GURKE c/c to 254T.
1857 – USS KING All stations manned, condition Zebra set.
1857 – USS GURKE c/c to 240T.
1903 – USS KING 2 survivors in water close aboard to Port, resisting recovery.
1905 – USS COONTZ Received six (6) personnel from KING’s Utility boat.
1910 – USS COONTZ Hoisted Utility boat into the skids.
1913 – USS GURKE c/c to 060T.
1915 – USS COONTZ Received one (1) additional prisoner from KING’s boat. A total of nineteen prisoners are on board. Two of these are seriously wounded. Squadron doctor providing medical care.
1915 – USS KING 1 survivor recovered by force. Transferred to USS COONTZ. No further rescue attempts being made.
1915 – USS ROGERS Observed sunset.
1916 – USS KING Picked up Utility and Motor Whale boats.
1920 – USS COONTZ COMDESRON Fifteen embarked in KING relieved COMDESRON Seventeen as CTU 77.0.1.
1920 – USS KING Secured recovery detail.
1923 – USS COONTZ Formed a column formation. COONTZ is guide in station one. ROGERS is in station two, 1000 yards astern. Course is 225. Speed is 20 knots.
1923 – USS ROGERS Maneuvering to take station two (2) of a column formation. Base course 225T, base speed 20 knots with COONTZ in station one (1) as guide. KING and GURKE detached to go on duty assigned.
1924 – USS GURKE c/s to 10 knots, c/c to 170T.
1927 – USS GURKE c/c to 120T, c/s to 15 knots.
1928 – USS KING c/s to 15 knots, c/s to 20 knots.
1929 – USS GURKE c/s to 20 knots, c/c to 200T. Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to take station 1200 to 1500 yards bearing 205T to the USS KING (DLG-10).
1930 – USS COONTZ c/c to 185T.
1930 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 185T.
1932 – USS COONTZ c/c to 170, c/s to 25 knots. Enroute to rendezvous with USS CONSTELLATION (CVA-64). GURKE and KING proceeding to night SAR DD area.
1933 – USS ROGERS c/bc to 170T.
1934 – USS COONTZ Material condition Yoke set throughout the ship, secured from General Quarters. Set condition of readiness III.
1934 – USS KING c/c to 250T.
1935 – USS KING c/c to 240T.
1936 – USS KING c/s to 22 knots, c/c to 215T.
1941 – USS ROGERS Set material condition Yoke.
1943 – USS ROGERS Secured from General Quarters.
1945 – USS KING Numerous contacts bearing 126R 14 miles.
1947 – USS KING c/c to 210T.
1956 – USS GURKE On station, base course 210T, base speed 22 knots. Maneuvering on various courses at various speeds to maintain station.
1958 – USS KING Set condition Yoke, secure from General Quarters.
2005 – USS GURKE Secured from General Quarters.
to read a crew members account from the standpoint of the U.S.S. Coontz (DLG-9)