Attack on USNS Card

Attack on USNS Card
Part of the Vietnam War
USNS Card in Saigon Port on May 2, 1964.jpg
USNS Card in Saigon Port on May 2, 1964, after it was attacked by Viet Minh commandos Soài Rạp
DateMay 2, 1964
Location
ResultViet Cong victory
Belligerents
FNL Flag.svg Viet CongFlag of the United States.svg United States
Commanders and leaders
FNL Flag.svg Lâm Sơn NáoFlag of the United States.svg Unknown
Units involved
65th Special Operations GroupUSNS Card
Strength
2 commandos1 escort carrier
Casualties and losses
None1 escort carrier damaged
5 U.S. civilian employees killed.

The Attack on USNS Card was a Viet Cong (VC) operation during the Vietnam War. It took place in the port of Saigon in the early hours of May 2, 1964, and mounted by commandos from the 65th Special Operations Group (Đội Biệt động 65).

Card was first commissioned into the United States Navy during World War II. Decommissioned in 1945, Card was reactivated in 1958 and entered service with the Military Sea Transport Service, transporting military equipment to South Vietnam as part of the United States military commitment to that country.

As a regular visitor to the port, Card became a target for local VC commando units. Shortly after midnight on May 2, 1964, two Viet Cong commandos climbed out of the sewer tunnel near the area where Card was anchored, and they attached two loads of explosives to the ship's hull. The attack was a success and Card sank 48 feet (15 m), and five civilian crew members were killed by the explosions. The ship was refloated 17 days later, and was towed to the Philippines for repairs.

Background

USNS Card was a Bogue-class escort carrier that had served in the United States Navy. After 1945 Card was decommissioned and was transferred to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. On May 16, 1958, Card re-entered service with the Military Sea Transport Service, under the control of the United States Navy. The ship was manned by a civilian crew and was prefixed "USNS" (United States Naval Ship) instead of "USS" (United States Ship) as it was in service but not commissioned.[1]

With the escalation of the Vietnam War, the United States government stepped up military support for South Vietnam's fight against the Viet Cong. On December 15, 1961, USNS Card left Quonset Point, Rhode Island, with a cargo of H-21 Shawnee helicopters and U.S. soldiers from Fort Devens, Massachusetts, bound for Vietnam. At Subic Bay in the Philippines, the cargo and troops were transferred to USS Princeton, which arrived and unloaded off the coast of Da Nang the following month.[2]

Card while in service with the United States Navy

From 1961 onwards, Card and USNS Core regularly docked in Saigon to unload heavy artillery, M113 armored personnel carriers, aircraft, helicopters and ammunition for the South Vietnamese government. The Port of Saigon was situated between the Te and Ben Nghe Canals, and was about 700 meters (2,300 ft) wide from one side to the other.[3] To facilitate the arrival of Card and other American ships which pulled into Saigon, the South Vietnamese military often deployed navy vessels to conduct patrols around the port, while the surrounding shores were protected by an elite Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) Airborne battalion. The port itself was guarded round the clock by Republic of Vietnam National Police, as undercover South Vietnamese agents operated across the river in the Thu Thiem area to disrupt VC activities there. Undeterred by the level of protection which the South Vietnamese government normally afforded to American ships, Tran Hai Phung—commander of the Viet Cong's Saigon-Gia Dinh Military District—ordered the 65th Special Operations Group to attack USNS Card.[3]