Eye Witness Report to this Event

I served in the USN Coastal Ops. Unit (LCM-8's) surveying rivers and hauling cargo from south of DaNang to the DMZ from 65-68. I was over every foot of most of the rivers we could navigate and did to re-supply Marines on the move.

The morning that this happened (about 0630) a group of about eight LCM-8's were loaded and pushed up on the beach, not near any 'fuel dump' (it [the fuel dump] was on the other side of the camp, up the river a little). We were waiting for the word to move out in convoy with LCU's for the ramp at Dong Ha. The fog was so thick that we would have to run the river again 'blind' but with crude charts we had, using rev's and time. The good news was that 'Charlie' couldn't see us either!

Directly in front of my boat (about 50' and sitting on top of a dune) was a pile of pallets of gas in 55 gal drums. There was no 'rocket attack'...a single 40 mm mortar was fired from across the river and hit square in the middle of the gas drums. We didn't hear the 'thump' of it being fired because our engines were idling but when it hit we all hit the deck!

We got the word from base to 'get the hell out of there and head up river!' It was one mad scramble as we backed off the beach and headed out. As we neared Dong Ha the fog lifted and we could tell from the radio chatter that other than that one round all hell was breaking loose because they could not fight the fire. As it quickly grew and spread it lit off the tons of munitions stored for transport on the ramp, there was ordnance of all types being bounced and thrown all over the place by the secondary explosions!!!

We were trapped for most of the day up-river and were told not to attempt to return. Towards evening we were informed to make a run for the South China Sea and tie up at a fueling buoy which we did. For almost two full days we watched the ramp blow and burn 'till there was nothing left of anything. The 'ship backing away' in the picture was an LST that was beached beside us for off-loading, there are several LCM-8's stranded between the ramp and seaside and you can see our little patrol boat and our LCM-6 minesweeper in the photo.

I can't remember the date of this incident and would love to have someone let me know just when it happened.

Bob Johnston

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