Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cayuga County and the Viet Nam War

This year the United States is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the War in Viet Nam, to thank and honor all those men and women who served our nation as well as their families. Listed on the Cayuga County Government website in the Veteran Service area are 27 brave Cayuga County servicemen who gave their lives for us in Viet Nam. Many more Cayuga County residents than that represented us. While I was looking for more information about those who served, I found some information on a Cutter ship named for Owasco Lake, that also served in Viet Nam and thought it was interesting.

The Cutter Owasco was named for Owasco Lake, Cayuga County, NY and was built for the Coast Guard by the Western Pipe and Steel Company in San Pedro, California. She was launched on 18 June 1944 and was commissioned on 18 May 1945. She was the very first of the 255-foot cutters to enter service.
While at sea on Friday, 13 October 1967, Owasco was notified of her new assignment to Coast Guard Squadron Three in Vietnam. From 10 August 1968 to 6 March 1969, Owasco served with that Squadron. Her crew numbered 160 men.
While in Vietnam she participated in Operation Market Time, the attempt to interdict communist supply lines by sea. Owasco began her first Market Time patrol on 10 August 1968 just south of the Demilitarized Zone in the South China Sea. Per the Coast Guard, Market Time units were assigned primarily to keep the Communists from getting men, arms and other supplies into the Republic of Vietnam. They include U.S. Navy aircraft, destroyer escort radar picket ships, ocean minesweepers and swift boats and Vietnamese Navy Junk Force craft, as well as 82 foot and high endurance Coast Guard cutters.
Six Owasco crew members were cited for their meritorious service as a result of direct action with the enemy, while the Owasco was on a Market Time patrol on 6 November, 1968.
These six men had just completed a mission ashore in Phoucthan (Phouc Thanh was a Province in South Viet Nam from 1959 to 1965, when it was dissolved into Phước Long Province). They went in aid of a Navy Swift boat; this action is detailed in the official cutter scrapbook of her deployment to
Vietnam, entitled: "USCGC Owasco (WHEC-39): A Pictorial History of Its Deployment to Southeast Asia-Viet Nam During 1968-1969".
By the end of her tour overseas, the Owasco had supplied logistical support to 86 Navy Swift boats and 47 Coast Guard 82-foot patrol boats. She was decommissioned on 27 June 1973 and sold for scrap on 7 October 1974, after almost 30 years of service, a record to be proud of.
Photos of the Owasco and a more complete story can be found online in US Coast Guard histories.

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