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Rear Admiral Arthur W. Price Jr., USN (Ret.) (1920-2007)

Rear Admiral Arthur W. Price Jr.Based on four interviews conducted by Etta-Belle Kitchen from May through July 1978. The volume contains 642 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1980 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.

Admiral Price enlisted in the Navy in November 1939 and became an aviation metalsmith in 1940. After various tours of duty in World War II--in the USS Wright (AV-1) and Patrol Squadron 14 at NAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii--he entered the Navy aviation flight program and became a pilot, receiving a commission as ensign in 1944. After various tours of duty in night fighter squadrons and fighter bomber squadrons, his designation was changed to that of an unrestricted line officer. Ultimately his career gravitated to amphibious warfare. He served in many areas, especially in Vietnam, where be became Deputy Commander of U.S. Naval Forces and finally Commander in June 1972.

 

An index to this volume can be viewed here (.pdf).

 


Rear Admiral Price: One of the first big turning points, as far as the U.S. Navy was concerned in the Vietnamese War, the delta war, the way I look at it, happened on 10 June 1968, when we turned over the command of command-detonated mine sweeps in the strategic Long Tau River, the shipping channel to Saigon, over to the Vietnamese Navy. In other words, prior to this time, it was strictly a U.S. Navy job, and we trained them with our boats, and now, starting 10 June, it was their responsibility to patrol this river every day prior to the approach of a convoy.

Another milestone was 29 July when we proceeded to move our patrols in the upper Mekong and Bassac rivers near the Cambodian border. As I said before, we stationed Mobile Base-2 and we also had a YFMB-16 at Chau Duc - we had Mobile Base-2 at Tam Chau, the YFMB-16 in the Chau Duc area. This gave us coverage of the two major water­ways coming in from the enemy-held Cambodian area.

August 12, 1968 was the first time in our Game Warden history that a river patrol boat was rebuilt after being assessed at 80 percent damaged. On this date PBR-130 was launched for the second time by the Navy Support Activity at Dinh Thuy. This boat was 80 percent destroyed by a recoilless-rifle attack on river section 511 patrol from Chau Duc in early May, where the lieutenant patrol officer was killed. The boat was salvaged, brought down to Binh Thuy, and I happened to see it in the dump one day, as I was making an inspection tour of the base. I also saw another boat that was about 80 percent damaged. Here I saw the front end of one boat and the stern of another boat, so I brought the CO of the detachment over and said:

"It looks like, with a little initiative, we could make a boat out of those two parts."

And believe it or not, with the can do spirit, we made it work.

Well, a story goes with this because, when a boat was destroyed, it had a number assigned by the chief of naval operations, and when it was destroyed that number was stricken from the record once, and now you're bringing it back. I decided I would not go through that bunch of paper work, so as far as the CNO was concerned PBR-130 was stricken from the record, but it actually existed. We were just going to have an extra boat and let it go at that.

The next big milestone, you might say, was when Admiral Zumwalt on September 30th assumed command of the 38,000 navy and coast guard people in Vietnam.

Etta Belle Kitchen:  Was that in '68?From left: VADM Zumwalt, General Abrams, CDR Bunker, ADM McCain, and RADM Veth

Rear Admiral Price: Yes, '68, when he relieved Admiral Veth.

Prior to this change of command, I was approached by the staff in Saigon with:

"Can you bring one of your LSTs up the river to Saigon?"

My answer to that was:

"I can, but I don't know why I should," because it would mean I had to take it off station.

Then, I figured, well, maybe we'll be able to conduct this - we had four LSTs and we always kept one in reserve and upkeep up in Yokosuka - so on one of these transfers we used the Garrett County and brought it up to Saigon for a two-day period. It was during this period, on 30 September, Admiral Zumwalt was able to assume command of Naval Forces, Vietnam.

Etta Belle Kitchen:  Was that part of the ceremony?

Rear Admiral Price: Part of the ceremony, that's right.

During the fall of 1968 there were certain changes in the employment of our in-country naval assets that seemed both possible and desirable. Before, the basic pattern had been one of rather well-defined and separate operations in the three major task forces. Task Force 115, which was the coastal surveillance force, conducted Market Time patrols off the coast of Vietnam, trying to prevent infiltration from the sea. Task Force 116, which I commanded, the river patrol force, ran the Game Warden Operation and enforced established curfews and regula­tions on the rivers. Finally, Task Force 117, the mobile riverine force, conducted very successful search-and-destroy missions in support of the army's 9th Infantry Division. While these units and various task forces did occasionally combine for joint operations, what was envisioned now, in the early fall of 1968, was a new task organization, which would regularly employ assets of all three of these major task forces in pursuit of the common operation and objectives.

These objectives were (1) the interdiction of the Viet Cong infiltration routes crossing the border from Cambodia into the III and IV Corps tactical zones, (2) the opening and pacification of certain vital transdelta inland waterways, and (3) the penetration of rivers in the enemy-held Cau Mau Peninsula in preparation for the reestablishment of a government presence there. The Cau Mau Peninsula is the lower tip of the delta area on the South China Sea.


 
 

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