The SEALORDS Campaign
As U.S. forces prepared the South Vietnamese military
to assume complete responsibilityfor the war, they also worked to
keep pressure on the enemy. In fact, from 1968 to 1971, the allies exploited the Communists' staggering battlefield losses
during the Tet attacks by pushing the enemy's large main force units out to the border areas, extending the government's
presence into Viet Cong strongholds, and consolidating control over population centers.
The Navy in particular spearheaded a drive in
the Mekong Delta to isolate and destroy the weakened Communist
forces. The SEALORDS (Southeast Asia Lake, Ocean, River, and Delta Strategy) program was a determined effort by U.S.
Navy, South Vietnamese Navy, and allied ground forces to cut enemy supply lines from Cambodia and disrupt operations
at his base areas deep in the delta. It was developed by Vice Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., appointed COMNAVFORV in
When Admiral Zumwalt launched SEALORDS in October
1968 with the blessing of the new COMUSMACV, General
Creighton Abrams, allied naval forces in South Vietnam were at peak strength. The U.S. Navy's Coastal Surveillance Force
operated 81 Swift boats, 24 Coast Guard WPBs, and 39 other vessels. The River Patrol Force deployed 258 patrol and
minesweeping boats; the 3,700-man Riverine Assault Force counted 184 monitors, transports, and other armored craft;
and Helicopter Attack Squadron Light (HAL) 3 flew 25 armed helicopters. This air component was soon augmented by the
15 fixed-wing OV-10 Bronco aircraft of Attack Squadron Light (VAL) 4, activated in April 1969. The lethal Bronco flown
by the "Black Ponies" of VAL-4 carried 8 to 16 5- inch Zuni rockets, 19 2.75-inch rockets, 4 M-60 machine guns, and a
20-millimeter cannon. In addition, five SEAL platoons supported operations in the delta.
Complementing the American naval contingent were
the Vietnamese Navy's 655 ships, assault craft, patrol boats, and
other vessels. To focus the allied effort on the SEALORDS campaign, COMNAVFOR appointed his deputy the operational
commander, or "First SEALORD," of the newly activated Task Force 194. Although continuing to function, the Game
Warden, Market Time, and Riverine Assault Force operations were scaled down and their personnel and
materialresources increasingly devoted to SEALORDS. Task Force 115 PCFs mounted lightning raids into enemy- held
coastal waterways and took over patrol responsibility for the delta's larger rivers. This freed the PBRs for operations
along the previously uncontested smaller rivers and canals. These intrusions into former Viet Cong bastions were possible
only with the on-call support of naval aircraft and the heavily armed riverine assault craft.
In the first phase of the SEALORDS campaign allied
established patrol "barriers," often using electronic
sensor devices, along the waterways paralleling the Cambodian border. In early November 1968, PBRs and riverine assault
craft opened two canals between the Gulf of Siam at Rach Gia and the Bassac River at Long Xuyen. South Vietnamese
paramilitary ground troops helped naval patrol units secure the transportation routes in this operational area, soon
named Search Turn. Later in the month, Swift boats, PBRs, riverine assault craft, and Vietnamese naval vessels penetrated
the Giang Thanh-Vinh Te canal system and established patrols along the waterway from Ha Tien on the gulf to Chau Doc
on the upper Bassac. As a symbol of the Vietnamese contribution to the combined effort, the allied command changed
the name of this operation from Foul Deck to Tran Hung Dao I. Then in December U.S. naval forces pushed up the Vam
Co Dong and Vam Co Tay Rivers west of Saigon, against heavy enemy opposition, to cut infiltration routes from the
"Parrot's Beak" area of Cambodia. The Giant Slingshot operation, so named for the configuration of the two rivers,
severely hampered Communist resupply in the region near the capital and in the Plain of Reeds. Completing the first
phase of the SEALORDS program, in January 1969 PBRs, assault support patrol boats (ASPB), and other river craft
established patrol sectors along canals westward from the Vam Co Tay to the Mekong River in Operation Barrier Reef.
Thus, by early 1969 a patrolled waterway interdiction barrier extended almost uninterrupted from Tay Ninh northwest of
Saigon to the Gulf of Siam.
For more history go to ALLIED NAVIES ON THE OFFENSIVE
This page of history downloaded from: By Sea, Air, and Land; AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE U.S. NAVY AND THE WAR IN SOUTHEAST ASIA BY EDWARD J. MAROLDA.