USCGC Point Welcome (WPB-82329)
USCGC Point Welcome on patrol in Vietnamese waters
|Name:||USCGC Point Welcome (WPB-82329)|
|Namesake:||Point Welcome, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, U.S.|
|Owner:||United States Coast Guard|
|Builder:||Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, Maryland, U.S.|
|Commissioned:||14 February 1962|
|Decommissioned:||29 April 1970|
|Type:||Patrol Boat (WPB)|
|Length:||82 ft 10 in (25.25 m)|
|Beam:||17 ft 7 in (5.36 m) max|
|Draft:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 × 600 hp (447 kW) Cummins diesel engines|
|Speed:||16.8 knots (31.1 km/h; 19.3 mph)|
USCGC Point Welcome (WPB-82329) was an 82-foot (25 m) Point-class cutter constructed at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland in 1961 for use as a law enforcement and search and rescue patrol boat. Since the Coast Guard policy in 1962 was not to name cutters under 100 feet (30 m) in length, she was designated as WPB-82329 when commissioned and was named Point Welcome in January 1964 when the Coast Guard began naming all cutters longer than 65 feet (20 m). She was notable for being the victim of an inter-service friendly fire incident during the Vietnam War.
Construction and design details
Point Welcome was built to accommodate an 8-man crew. She was powered by two 600 hp (447 kW) VT600 Cummins diesel main drive engines and had two five-bladed 42 in (1.1 m) propellers. The main drive engines were later replaced by 800 hp (597 kW) VT800 Cummins engines. Water tank capacity was 1,550 U.S. gallons (5,900 L) and fuel tank capacity was 1,840 U.S. gallons (7,000 L) at 95% full. Engine exhaust was ported through the transom rather than through a conventional stack and this permitted a 360 degree view from the bridge; a feature that was very useful in search and rescue work as well as a combat environment.
The design specifications for Point Welcome included a steel hull for durability, and an aluminum superstructure and longitudinally framed construction was used to save weight. Ease of operation with a small crew size was possible because of the non-manned main drive engine spaces. Controls and alarms located on the bridge allowed one man operation of the cutter thus eliminating a live engineer watch in the engine room. Because of design, four men could operate the cutter; however, the need for resting watchstanders brought the crew size to eight men for normal domestic service. The screws were designed for ease of replacement and could be changed without removing the cutter from the water. A clutch-in idle speed of three knots helped to conserve fuel on lengthy patrols and an eighteen knot maximum speed could get the cutter on scene quickly. Air-conditioned interior spaces were a part of the original design for the Point class cutter. Interior access to the deckhouse was through a watertight door on the starboard side aft of the deckhouse. The deckhouse contained the cabin for the officer-in-charge and the executive petty officer. The deckhouse also included a small arms locker, scuttlebutt, a small desk and head. Access to the lower deck and engine room was down a ladder. At the bottom of the ladder was the galley, mess and recreation deck. A watertight door at the front of the mess bulkhead led to the main crew quarters which was ten feet long and included six bunks that could be stowed, three bunks on each side. Forward of the bunks was the crew's head complete with a compact sink, shower and commode. Accommodations for a 13-man crew were installed for Vietnam War service.
At the request of the United States Navy, in April 1965, she was alerted for service in South Vietnam and assigned to Coast Guard Squadron One in support of Operation Market Time, along with 16 other Point class cutters. While the crew completed overseas training and weapons qualifications at Coast Guard Island and Camp Parks, California, Point Welcome was loaded onto a merchant ship, and transported to Subic Bay, Philippines in May 1965. She was refit for combat service. Shipyard modifications included installation of new single-sideband radio equipment, additional floodlights, small arms lockers, additional sound-powered phone circuits, and the addition of four M-2 machine guns. The original bow-mounted machine gun was replaced with a combination over-under 50 caliber machine gun/81mm trigger-fired mortar that had been developed by the Coast Guard for service in South Vietnam. For service in Vietnam, two commissioned officers were added to the crew to add seniority in the mission of interdicting vessels at sea.
Point Welcome was assigned to Division 12 of Squadron One to be based at Danang, along with Point Arden, Point Caution, Point Dume, Point Ellis, Point Gammon, and Point Orient. After sea trials, the Division left Subic Bay for Danang on 16 July 1965 in the company of USS Snohomish County, their temporary support ship. After almost two weeks at sea, they arrived at their new duty station on 20 July and began patrolling the coastal waters near Danang. Duty consisted of boarding Vietnamese junks to search for contraband weapons and ammunition and checking the identification papers of persons on board. Permanent engineering and logistic support of Division 12 was provided by a U.S. Navy non-self-propelled floating workshop, YR-71. During this time, the WPB's were directed to paint the hulls and superstructures formula 20 deck gray to cover the Coast Guard's stateside white paint. This increased the effectiveness of night patrols.
Point Welcome was about three-quarters of a mile south of the 17th parallel, in the limits of the DMZ, when she was attacked in the pre-dawn hours of 11 August 1966 by three aircraft of the U.S. Air Force while on patrol in the waters near the mouth of the Cửa Việt River. Her commanding officer, LTJG David Brostrom, along with one crewman, EN2 Jerry Phillips, were killed in this friendly fire incident. Brostrom and Phillips were two of seven Coast Guardsmen killed in action during the Vietnam War. The ship's executive officer, LTJG Ross Bell was severely wounded leaving Chief Boatswain's Mate Richard Patterson in charge with several of the crew injured. A South Vietnamese liaison officer, LTJG Do Viet Vien, and civilian freelance journalist Tim Page, were aboard during the incident
"The first attack caused a blazing gasoline fire on the fantail of the cutter that threatened to engulf the entire after section of the vessel. Chief Patterson, displaying the finest qualities of bravery and leadership, took charge of the situation and using a fire hose, forced the flaming liquid over the side, thus extinguishing the fire. Even as he was accomplishing this task, he saw the second aircraft attack rip through the pilot house killing the cutter's commanding officer and seriously wounding the executive officer and the helmsman. Unhesitatingly, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, Chief Patterson climbed to the bridge and took command. He ordered the crew to carry the wounded to the comparative safety of the below decks area. Alone on the bridge, he then maneuvered the cutter at high speed to avoid subsequent attacks. When it became apparent that he could not successfully evade the attacking aircraft, he ran the cutter close ashore, and directed the crew to abandon ship. Under his composed leadership, the wounded were wrapped in life jackets and paired with the able bodied before going over the side. Chief Patterson kept his crew calm and organized while they were in the water and until they were picked up by rescue craft."
Point Caution came to the assistance of the Point Welcome and along with other units, rescued those in the water. Soon thereafter Patterson and those of his crew that were not seriously wounded returned to their cutter. They then sailed Point Welcome back to Danang under her own power. She was repaired after a three-month overhaul and returned to service. Investigations by the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) involving 37 witnesses were conducted from the 15th through the 23rd of August 1966 and concluded with a statement to the Commandant of the Coast Guard that: In 1966 the board of investigation issued its 159-page record and recommendations, including "That no disciplinary action be taken against any personnel involved in the incident."  And further:
"It is evident from the record that there was a lack of coordination between different component forces operating in the same area, and that existing orders and instructions pertaining to identification and recognition of friendly forces were not observed."
Tet 1968 action
On 29 February and 1 March 1968, Point Welcome assisted in the destruction of an SL-class North Vietnamese trawler near Cu Lao Re island, 70 miles (110 km) southeast of Danang. On the afternoon of 29 February 1968 the USCGC Androscoggin took the trawler under surveillance after it was first detected by a P-2 Neptune aircraft 150 miles (240 km) south of the demilitarized zone. Point Welcome and Point Grey, along with two U.S. Navy swift boats, waited close to shore as the trawler approached, with Androscoggin trailing. In the early morning of 1 March 1968 as the trawler closed to within seven miles (11 km) of the coast, Androscoggin closed and challenged the trawler. After receiving no response, Androscoggin illuminated the target with 5-inch (130 mm) star shells. The trawler, positively identified as a North Vietnamese SL-class vessel, opened fire on the cutter with recoilless rifle and machine gun fire. Androscoggin then opened fire with her 5-inch (130 mm) battery, scoring one hit on the trawler's "after starboard side." The trawler then headed for the beach. Two helicopters took the trawler under fire while the 82-footers and swift boats closed. Point Welcome illuminated the target with illumination rounds fired from her 81-mm mortar while Point Grey and the swift boats fired their .50 caliber machine guns into the trawler. It grounded 50 yards (46 m) from the mouth of the Song Tha Cau river. Point Welcome then hit the target with two high explosive mortar rounds from her 81-mm mortar. The trawler soon thereafter exploded, leaving little trace. The cutters were hit with debris but suffered no personnel casualties.
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