I served on board the U.S.S. Blue Ridge LCC 19 from 1970 to 1972. She was the flagship of the Seventh Fleet, and CTF76 (Commander Task Force 76).
She was a new class of command and control ship and was barely two years old in 1972. Now she is the oldest active-duty ship in the Navy.
My friend Artie Galindo and I served in the Navy and were homeported in San Diego at the same time. We were born and raised in Chino and lived one block away from each other.
Artie was on the U.S.S. Duluth LPD6. We were part of Amphibious Ready Group Squadrons 5 & 7. The Blue Ridge served as the command ship during several operations in Vietnam. The Duluth was a dock, tank and attack cargo ship rolled into one. Her primary mission was to transport ground forces, equipment and vehicles to enemy shores, so she got up close to the beach.
In one operation, “Song Thanh 6-72,” the Seventh Fleet assisted South Vietnam Marines in recapturing Quang Tri Province from North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops. It was an operation we will never forget.
On June 27, 1972, Task Force 76 assembled off the coast of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Before dawn, aircraft and gunfire ships including cruisers and destroyers commenced an all-out barrage along the DMZ just north of the Cua Viet River. Assault craft from Navy ships were already on course to the beach, some coming from the Duluth.
NVA shore batteries tried to thwart the invasion, unleashing salvos of 130mm artillery rounds on our ships. They bracketed several key ships including the Blue Ridge and Duluth.
Counter battery fire from Navy ships had coastal artillery sites under fire and kept the surface ships from being hit.
My GQ (general quarters) station was on the port side bridge wing. Tiger Island (Hon Co) on our port side began firing artillery rounds at the Blue Ridge. I could see the white muzzle flashes from the island and could see the shellburst land in the water towards us.
We returned 77 rounds of 3” x 50 caliber rounds. The heavy cruiser U.S.S. Newport News (CA-148) came in and opened fire on the island, quickly silencing their guns. She had awesome fire power.
I also remember seeing my buddy Artie’s ship the Duluth with artillery rounds splashing all around her. I thought she was going to take a hit. Suddenly she turned out to sea and getting underway as fast as possible, left a trail of black smoke from her stacks in her wake. Thankfully she was not hit.
I remember feeling the concussion waves on our ship from the B-52s bombing the beach (arc light). It was all unforgettable. We did repel the NVA who were trying to recapture the provincial capital of Hue in Quang Tri province.
We did not know at the time that the Easter offensive of 1972 was the largest amphibious invasion since the Korean War. It was the Blue Ridge’s first fire fight with coastal artillery. For this action, she was awarded the “combat action ribbon” along with the Duluth and many others.
I still keep in touch with Artie and another shipmate, Randy Platt from Ontario, California, who now lives in North Carolina.
I want to say to those who served in the Vietnam War, especially those who gave up their lives, that we honor you and you will never be forgotten. To all of us who made it back, I say “welcome home brothers.”
Henry Delgado now lives in Lindsay, California. Artie Galindo lives in Banning.