The Vung Ro Bay Incident refers to the discovery of a 100-ton North Vietnamese naval trawler unloading munitions on a beach in South Vietnam's Vung Ro Bay on 16 February 1965. The incident spurred further U.S. Navy involvement in the Vietnam War.
For years many American analysts had doubted that the Communists were using the sea to supply their forces in the South, but it was not until the Vung Ro event that they gained positive proof of such actions. The U.S. Seventh Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Paul P. “Brick” Blackburn, observed that the Vung Ro find was “proof positive.” He and General Westmoreland called for a major U.S.-Vietnamese anti-infiltration patrol operation.
On 16 February 1965, a U.S. Army officer flying his helicopter along the coast of central South Vietnam suddenly spotted a large, camouflaged vessel perpendicular to the shore. Cargo was being unloaded and stacked on the beach at Vung Ro, an isolated bay on the rocky coast. The pilot immediately radioed his sighting to Lieutenant Commander Harvey P. Rodgers, the Senior Advisor to the South Vietnamese 2nd Coastal District headquartered in Nha Trang, who in turn notified the coastal district commander, Lieutenant Commander Ho Van Ky Thoai.
Thoai dispatched South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders to the bay where they capsized and sank the ship. Additional air strikes pummeled the stores on the beach the next day, but not until 1100 the 19th were South Vietnamese escort Chi Lang II, medium landing ship Tien Giang, and submarine chaser Tuy Dong able to overcome command indecision and enemy small arms fire to land their embarked troops and naval commandos.
What the soldiers and naval commandos, the latter accompanied by their U.S. Navy advisor, Lieutenant Franklin W. Anderson, discovered in the wrecked ship and piled up on shore ended a long-running debate among U.S. military and intelligence officials. The allies recovered from the 130-foot North Vietnamese ship and from shore sites 100 tons of...