Time Life May 1972
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BUCHANAN was stationed on the DMZ for last half of March 1972 firing H and I ( Harassment and Interdiction). Reporters came aboard for few days and wrote article on what we were doing. problem was article was not published until month later ( on April 17, 1972 the same day we were hit). By that time we had been in heavy combat for several weeks and the editor appears to have attempted to update with leading paragraph.

Many members of crew was not happy with parts that we were just setting at sea bored. I remember we had hard time keeping Jim Fagan from swimming to Da Nang and dragging the reporter back aboard to show him just how bored we really were.

When we went to Da Nang to repair Battle Damage, reporters were allowed on board with cameras. The crew was confined to inside ship and 6 officers and chiefs escorted reporters outside. The reports that my family saw on TV said we were in Subic Bay undergoing repairs ( we were actually in Da Nang). My family was relieved that we were out of the combat zone and were quite surprised when my letters home said otherwise.

Dean Myers


The Sea War: Barrages and Boredom

During the first stages of the North Vietnamese offensive, gunfire from the U.S. destroyers that patrol the Tonkin Gulf succeeded in turning back 300 Communist troops from an attempted crossing of the Dong Ha River. Shortly before the Navy became engaged in the battle for Quang Tri province. TIME'S Saigon Bureau Chief, Stanley Cloud, was a guest aboard one of those destroyers. There he was able to observe a vital but underreported U.S. contribution to the war:


The U.S.S BUCHANAN, a guided missile destroyer, rolls gently in the waters of the Tonkin Gulf, 5,000 yards offshore of the demilitarized Zone. Overhead, a full moon slips in and out of wispy tangles of cloud. Crew members who are not needed to fire the guns or run the ship are down in the mess deck watching Jane Fonda in BARBARELLA.
One of the BUCHANAN'S two automatic five-inch guns, with a maximum range of twelve miles, is trained to starboard. A voice rasps over the ships loudspeaker: "Stand by. Mount 52. Two salvos." Five seconds later, the gun shreds the night. A pale orange flame shoots from the muzzle, and a 70-lb. shell whistles through the air en route to a target more than three miles inland from the Vietnamese coastline.
In the pilot house, the officer of the deck watches the flight of the projectile on the radar. Then a second round is fired "Bore's clear," comes the voice on the loudspeaker. "Next target is Number 17." So it goes until 5:30 the next morning, when 200 rounds of the BUCHANAN'S "H and I" (harassment and interdiction) fire will have been spent on 25 targets inside the DMZ. Another night in the U.S. Navy's long war off the coast of Viet Nam has ended.
U.S. Navy destroyers first began patrolling the Tonkin Gulf in 1961, and providing gunfire support for troop on the ground in 1965. Largely because the small North Vietnamese Navy has steered clear of combat, the naval war has been consistently overshadowed by American fighting on the ground and in the air. The major exception occurred in August 1964, when two American destroyers, the MADDOX and the TURNER JOY, reported that they had been attacked in the gulf by North Vietnamese torpedo boats. the incident, whose authenticity is still in doubt, led directly to passage by Congress of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which Lyndon Johnson used as authority for massive U.S. intervention in the Viet Nam War.


Last week, for the first time in two years, the ships that have been daily pounding the coast drew return fire from shore-based Communist artillery. One round hit the U.S.S. LLOYD THOMAS, inflicting minor damage and injuring three crewmen.
Normally, though, war aboard the BUCHANAN and other destroyers is an impersonal war. The chief ingredients are radarscopes, computers, control panels, microswitches and radios - plus movies in wide-screen color. the only time the ammunition is touched by human hands is when it is loaded into the automatic hoist. Deep in the bowels of the ship. Fire Controlman Second Class Jim Fagan of Miami holds the portable trigger in his hand, nonchalantly squeezing the lever when he gets the signal over his headphones. "I don't feel like I'm part of this war" says one sailor. "I never see what we're shooting at, or whether it does any good."
In the style of Admiral Zumwalt's "New Navy," officers and enlisted men alike sport beards, waxed mustaches and hair long enough to have them put one report three years ago. The chief disciplinary problems are drug abuse and racial tension, though in scope they barely match similar problems suffered in the Army. Boredom is pervasive. As one BUCHANAN sailor puts it: "I sometimes go topside and stand at the rail, watching the moon on the water. i just stand there for hours like some damn U.S.O. ad."
It bothers many of the sailors that they are fighting a passive, unseen enemy. "We've been shooting at the same place for seven years." says one radarman. "By Now, the Viet Cong must have the area roped off and posted with signs that say," Keep out, the ship is firing." Still unlike the ground units in South Viet Nam, the Navy is not setting an immediate course for home. "When they talk about the U.S. withdrawing from Viet Nam, "says a chief petty officer, "they don't count the Navy, because we're not in the country. I figure we'll be staying around a while."





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