Web site by Craig Slaughter © 2009
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Republic of South Vietnam - August 1965
When Operation Starlite was launched on August 18, 1965, I was aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Point Defiance LSD 31. This is my story.
USS Point Defiance had a crew of 300 sailors and it could accommodate 300 combat Marines and all of their equipment. On the morning of Aug. 17, we picked up 300 Marines just North of Van Tuong, at the beach near Chu Lai. Our ship moved to 2,000 yards from shore, opened the sterngate, ballasts the stern of the ship down to allow LCUs and LCMs to enter the ships welldeck. We loaded the trucks and jeeps first then the Tank Retrievers, Tanks, Ontos, and lastly the Amtrac's (LVTs). Once loaded and secured for sea, we made the short trip South to Van Tuong for the amphibious landing the next morning.
We were part of a large amphibious landing force. On the morning of the Aug 18, we cruised into the beach area near Van Tuong, 2,000 yards from shore, LCVPs from troop transport ships pulled along side. Marines had to climb cargo nets hanging from the ship to the main deck (in full combat gear) and proceeded to board the waiting LVTs in the welldeck. They closed the LVTs top hatch, the ship opened the sterngate, ballasted down and launched 15 LVTs.
I was an Assault Boat Coxswain, and I ran the Captains Gig (a mark IV), it was the command boat for our ship. An officer on my boat was in radio contact with Point Defiance Combat Information Center (CIC). It was my job to guide the LVTs into an assembly circle off our port stern when they came out of the ships welldeck. After about 15 or 20 minutes in the assembly area, we were given the order to straighten them out and head to the beach. The USS Cabildo-LSD-16 was right next to us and was also landing 15 LVTs . There were 30 LVTs in our assault area and came in two waves of 15 each, with Marines from the 3/3 and 3/7 making the amphibious landing.
The air was full of Marine UH 34s full of combat Marines, making their airborne assault. It was about 93 degrees (it felt much hotter) and the relative humidity at 80%, the heat index was 125 degrees by 1100 hours! Everyone's fatigues were soaking wet from sweat. The water was as clear as gin, the sky was blue, and a long white sandy beach with rolling hills close to shore in front of us. There were very few palm tree's in the area, it was beautiful!
The first shots in the Operation were fired when we were back in the assembly circle area, that's when the Crusier USS Galveston CLG-3 started things off by lobbing shell's over our heads at the beach and at a large hill that was just off to the right of our beach landing area. Marine jets started dropping cluster bombs and Skyraiders (props) would nose down, firing their machine guns and rockets and then drop napalm as they pulled up.
About same time the Amtracs were landing, tanks and Ontos came ashore on LCUs and LCMs and started moving inland. By early afternoon we had all the Marines and equipment ashore, the landing near Van Tuong was very close to the Phuoc Thuan peninsula. The Marine amphibious landing closed the door on the VC when they met up with units from 3/3 coming down south 9 miles from the Marine Airfield at Chu Lai and denied the Viet Cong a way out. They were now in the Marines "kill box".
by Frank Andrus
Boatswains Mate 3rd Class
After intense shelling from land and Navy ships and heavy bombing from the air, the Marines swept the peninsula of Viet Cong, while patrol boats made sure no one escaped by sea.
We stayed in the area for another 5 days, we could hear sporadic explosions and machine gun fire 24 hours a day. At night "Star Shells" would light up the sky for miles, and the air smelled of Cordite.
Our ship’s crew were cheering our Marine brothers on to give the VC hell, and they did exactly that!
It was an Honor to serve with them.
Frank Andrus, 1965
Boatswains Mate 3rd Class
Photos are by my shipmate Jerry Bass taken from the deck of the Point Defiance during the operation. Click an image to enlarge.