Criteria The Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal may be awarded to members of the Armed Forces in the grades of lieutenant commander (or major) and below. It is awarded for meritorious service or achieveme... The Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal may be awarded to members of the Armed Forces in the grades of lieutenant commander (or major) and below. It is awarded for meritorious service or achievement in either combat or noncombat based on sustained performance or specific achievement of a superlative nature but which does not warrant a Navy Commendation Medal or higher. It may not be awarded for service involving participation in aerial flight after January 1, 1969. MoreHide
Criteria The Combat Action Ribbon is a personal decoration awarded to members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard (when operating under the control of the Navy) in the grade of captain (or colonel in th... The Combat Action Ribbon is a personal decoration awarded to members of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard (when operating under the control of the Navy) in the grade of captain (or colonel in the Marine Corps) and below who have actively participated in ground or surface combat. MoreHide
Criteria The Navy Unit Commendation may be awarded by the Secretary of the Navy to any unit of the Navy or Marine Corps that distinguishes itself by outstanding heroism in action against an enemy (but not suff... The Navy Unit Commendation may be awarded by the Secretary of the Navy to any unit of the Navy or Marine Corps that distinguishes itself by outstanding heroism in action against an enemy (but not sufficiently to justify the award of the Presidential Unit Citation). It may also be awarded to a unit that distinguishes itself by extremely meritorious service not involving combat (but in support of military operations), which renders that unit outstanding when compared to other units performing similar service. MoreHide
Criteria The Navy Good Conduct Medal is awarded on a selective basis to recognize four years of continuous active duty, above average conduct and proficiency by enlisted service members in the regular Navy or ... The Navy Good Conduct Medal is awarded on a selective basis to recognize four years of continuous active duty, above average conduct and proficiency by enlisted service members in the regular Navy or U.S. Naval Reserve. MoreHide
Criteria The National Defense Service Medal is awarded for honorable active service as a member of the Armed Forces during the Korean War, Vietnam War, the war against Iraq in the Persian Gulf, and for service... The National Defense Service Medal is awarded for honorable active service as a member of the Armed Forces during the Korean War, Vietnam War, the war against Iraq in the Persian Gulf, and for service during the current War on Terrorism. In addition, all members of the National Guard and Reserve who were part of the Selected Reserve in good standing between August 2, 1990, to November 30, 1995, are eligible for the National Defense Service Medal. In the case of Navy personnel, Midshipment attending the Naval Academy during the qualifying periods are eligible for this award, and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Midshipmen ae only eligible if they participated in a summer cruise that was in an area which qualified for a campaign medal. MoreHide
Criteria The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who, after July 1, 1958, participate in specified United States operations or those in direct support of the United Natio... The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who, after July 1, 1958, participate in specified United States operations or those in direct support of the United Nations or friendly foreign nations MoreHide
Criteria The Vietnam Service Medal was awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who served at any time between July 4, 1965, and March 28, 1973, in Vietnam or its contiguous waters or airspa... The Vietnam Service Medal was awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who served at any time between July 4, 1965, and March 28, 1973, in Vietnam or its contiguous waters or airspace; or, for any period of service during the same time period in Thailand, Laos, or Cambodia or the air spaces thereover and in direct support of operations in Vietnam. MoreHide
Criteria This medal is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who: 1. Served for 6 months in South Vietnam during the period 1 Mar 61 and 28 Mar 73; or 2. Served outside the geographical l... This medal is awarded to members of the Armed Forces of the United States who: 1. Served for 6 months in South Vietnam during the period 1 Mar 61 and 28 Mar 73; or 2. Served outside the geographical limits of South Vietnam and contributed direct combat support to the RVN Armed Forces for an aggregate of six months. Only members of the Armed Forces of the United States who meet the criteria established for the AFEM (Vietnam) or Vietnam Service Medal during the period of service required are considered to have contributed direct combat support to the RVN Armed Forces; or 3. Did not complete the length of service required in item (1) or (2) above, but who, during wartime, were: a. Wounded by the enemy (in a military action); b. Captured by the enemy during action or in the line of duty, but later rescued or released; or c. Killed in action or in the line of duty; or 4. Were assigned in Vietnam on 28 Jan 73, and who served a minimum of 60 calendar days in Vietnam during the period 29 Jan 73 to 28 Mar 73. MoreHide
Description This Campaign period was from 30 March 1972 to 28 January 1973. By 1973, both the logistic establishment and the combat arm of the Vietnamese Navy possessed the material resources to carry on the fighThis Campaign period was from 30 March 1972 to 28 January 1973. By 1973, both the logistic establishment and the combat arm of the Vietnamese Navy possessed the material resources to carry on the fight alone. The 42,000-man naval service marshalled a force of 1,500 ships and craft for warfare on the rivers and canals, in coastal waters, and far out to sea. The supply, training, and repair facilities were structured to man and support the operational navy for a long-term struggle.
Despite these advantages, the Vietnamese Navy still was burdened with the old problems of poor leadership, low morale, and lack of dedication on the part of many personnel. The departing Americans in the Naval Advisory Group concluded that the relatively young, recently expanded, and still developing Vietnamese Navy had the potential to add great strength to the defense of South Vietnam, but only if given the time to mature.
The nature of the campaign changed in May when President Nixon ordered the virtual isolation of North Vietnam from external Communist support. Aside from the obvious military rationale, the President sought by this action to end North Vietnamese intransigence at the stalled Paris negotiations. For the first time in the long Southeast Asian conflict, all of the Navy's conventional resources were brought to bear on the enemy. On 9 May, in Operation Pocket Money, Coral Sea's A-6 Intruders and A-7 Corsairs dropped magnetic-acoustic sea mines in the river approaches to Haiphong, North Vietnam's chief port. Shortly thereafter, the other major ports were mined as well. Over 85 percent of the country's military imports passed through these ports. Washington gave foreign ships three days to depart the country, after which the mines armed themselves. Despite this advance notice, 32 foreign, mostly Communist ships elected to remain trapped in North Vietnamese waters.
The fleet's surface combatants also helped deny the enemy unhindered use of the inland coastal areas. On 10 May the 8-inch guns of heavy cruiser Newport News bombarded targets near Hanoi from a position off Do Son while guided missile cruisers Oklahoma City and Providence and three destroyers suppressed the enemy's counterbattery fire from the peninsula. Normally three or four U.S. ships made up the surface action group that cruised along the coast ready to provide air-spotted or direct fire. From April through September, the cruiser destroyer group fired over 111,000 rounds at the enemy, destroying or damaging thousands of bunkers and buildings; knocking out tanks, trucks, and artillery sites; killing 2,000 troops; and sinking almost 200 coastal logistic craft and 4 motor torpedo boats. In August, Newport News, destroyer Rowan (DD 782), and naval air units sank two of the PT boats that attacked the American ships off Haiphong.
The North Vietnamese fought back hard. Earlier in the year Higbee (DD 806) became the first U.S. naval vessel attacked by enemy MiGs, one of which dropped a bomb on the destroyer's stern, wounding four sailors. In addition, while Communist coastal batteries hit 16 ships offshore in 1972, no ship was sunk then or at any time in the Southeast Asian conflict. In July, Warrington (DD 843) struck what was determined to be a wayward U.S. mine that caused extensive damage to the ship. Naval leaders later decided to scrap the already obsolete destroyer rather than spend money on her repair. These few human and material casualties suffered by the Seventh Fleet contrasted with the great punishment absorbed by the North Vietnamese.
From May through December 1972, no large merchant vessels entered or left North Vietnamese harbors. An attempt by the Communist to lighter cargo to shore from ships in international waters was foiled when fleet ships and aircraft, including Marine helicopter gunships, intercepted and destroyed the shuttling craft. The deployed American fleet even curtailed the enemy's intracoastal movement.
Complementing this effort at sea was the massive aerial offensive by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force named Linebacker. In contrast to the earlier Rolling Thunder campaign, in Linebacker Washington gave operational commanders authority to choose when, how, and in what order to strike and restrike targets. Commanders could adjust to changing weather and the enemy's defenses and concentrate their aerial firepower to best effect. As a result, American air squadrons interdicted the road and rail lines from China and devastated North Vietnamese warmaking resources, including munition stockpiles, fuel storage facilities, power plants, rail yards, and bridges.
Using Boeing B-52 bombers and new, more accurate ordnance, such as laser guided bombs and advanced Walleye bombs, the Air Force and the Navy hit targets with great precision and destructiveness. For instance, the U.S. air forces destroyed the Thanh Hoa and Paul Doumer bridges, long impervious to American bombing, and the Hanoi power plant deep in the heart of the populated capital city. They also knocked out targets as close as 10 miles to the center of Hanoi and 5 miles from Haiphong harbor. Between 9 May and the end of September, the Navy flew an average of 4,000 day-and-night attack sorties each month, reaching a peak of 4,746 in August. This represented over 60 percent of the American combat support sorties during the same five-month period.
The North Vietnamese attempted to counter the American onslaught. Employing thousands of antiaircraft weapons and firing almost 2,000 surface-to-air missiles in this period, the enemy shot down 28 American aircraft. In one day alone, the Communist air force challenged U.S. aerial supremacy by sending up 41 interceptor aircraft. On that day, 10 May, Navy pilot Lieutenant Randy Cunningham and his radar intercept officer Lieutenant (jg) William Driscoll became the war's only Navy "aces," adding three kills to the two already credited to them. American air units destroyed a total of 11 North Vietnamese aircraft that day, but lost 6 of their own. The Navy's ratio of kills to losses had improved by the end of air operations on 15 January 1973, when the total stood at 25 MiGs destroyed in air-to-air combat for the loss of 5 naval aircraft. During the Linebacker campaigns, the fleet's SAR units rescued 30 naval air crewmen downed for various reasons in the North Vietnamese theater of operations.
By the end of September 1972, the North Vietnamese diplomats in Paris were much more amenable to serious negotiation than they were at the end of March. Allied air, naval, and ground forces had repulsed the Communist offensive in South Vietnam and in I Corps even regained much lost ground. After drastically reducing the enemy's reinforcements and munitions infiltrated into the South, the U.S. air and naval campaign in the North gradually destroyed Hanoi's ability to prosecute the war.
Believing that a negotiated settlement of the Southeast Asian conflict was within reach in Paris, on 11 October the Nixon administration ordered U.S. Pacific forces to cease bombing in the vicinity of Hanoi. Then on the twenty-third, Washington restricted allied strikes to targets below the 20th parallel. Nevertheless, negotiations with the North Vietnamese again bogged down in Paris while the enemy strengthened the air defenses of the capital and Haiphong and restored the rail lines to China. The Communist once more stockpiled war reserves.
In response to these developments, President Nixon ordered a massive air assault by Air Force B-52 bombers, tactical aircraft, and the Navy's carrier attack units against military targets deep within Hanoi and Haiphong. On 18 December the joint attack, designated Linebacker II, fell on the enemy capital. That night and on succeeding nights of the operation, wave after wave of B-52 bombers and supporting aircraft struck Hanoi, hitting command and communication facilities, power plants, rail yards, bridges, storage buildings, open stockpiles, truck parks, and ship repair complexes. Because of the precision of the air crews and their weapons, there was minimal damage to nonmilitary property. The North Vietnamese met the Linebacker II attack with 1,250 surface-to-air missiles, which brought down 15 of the big American bombers and 3 supporting aircraft; antiaircraft defenses and MiG interceptors destroyed another 4 carrier planes.
The loss of six B-52s on 20 December alone, however, called for a change in tactics and more reliance on technologically superior equipment. Thereafter, the American air forces employed the most advanced precision-guided weapons and electronic countermeasure, target finding, and other equipment. They also concentrated on the destruction of the enemy's missile defense network, including command and control facilities, missile assembly and transportation points, and the missile batteries themselves. To spread thin Communist defenses, the American command broadened the operational arena to include not only Hanoi, but Haiphong, Thai Nguyen, Long Dun Kep, and Lang Dang. This redirection of effort succeeded. By 29 December, the last day of Linebacker II, U.S. forces had neutralized the enemy's surface-to-air missile system while reducing friendly losses to a minimum. Not surprisingly, at year's end the North Vietnamese resumed serious discussions in Paris. On 15 January 1973, both sides ceased combat operations in the North.
Withdrawal from the War
On 27 January 1973, U.S., South Vietnamese, North Vietnamese, and Viet Cong representatives finally signed the long-sought cease- fire agreement at Paris. Under its provisions, the Communist agreed to release all American prisoners of war within a space of two months in exchange for U.S. military withdrawal from South Vietnam and the U.S. Navy's clearance of mines from North Vietnamese waters.
During February and March, U.S. aircraft touched down at Gia Lam Airfield in Hanoi to repatriate 138 naval aviators, some of whom had been prisoners in North Vietnam since 1964. The men were flown to reception centers in the Pacific and the United States, where they received a joyous welcome from families and friends. The repatriation program, appropriately named Operation Homecoming, ensured that the men received extensive medical, psychological, and emotional support for the transition from captivity to freedom. Another five men captured in the war were released earlier by the North Vietnamese while two escaped. Thirty-six naval aviators died while in the hands of the Communist, whose treatment of American prisoners was always harsh and often bestial. The Navy listed over 600 naval flight crew personnel missing and presumed dead at the end of the conflict.
In these same two months, the Navy closed down all remaining base facilities, offices, and commands in South Vietnam. Advisors, the first naval personnel to deploy to Vietnam in 1950, were also the last to leave. The men gathered in Saigon for flights home. On 11 February, the Coast Guard disestablished the office of the Senior Coast Guard Officer, Vietnam, and airlifted out all of its personnel. Soon afterward, the fleet air reconnaissance and communications detachments at Danang relocated to Cubi Point in the Philippines. Finally, on 29 March 1973, the Naval Advisory Group and Naval Forces, Vietnam, were formally disestablished. Thereafter, only 9 Navy and Marine Corps officers assigned to the U.S. Embassy's Defense Attache Office and 156 Marine embassy guards remained in South Vietnam.
The last provision of the cease-fire agreement that directly related to the Navy entailed removal of the U.S. sea mines laid along the North Vietnamese coast and the Mark 36 Destructors dropped into inland waterways. On 28 January, following months of extensive preparation and training, the Seventh Fleet's Mine Countermeasures Force (Task Force 78), led by Rear Admiral Brian McCauley, sailed from Subic Bay and shaped course for a staging area off Haiphong. On 6 February, one day after Commander Task Force 78 met in the city to coordinate actions with his North Vietnamese opposite, Colonel Hoang Huu Thai, Operation End Sweep got underway. Ocean minesweepers Engage (MSO 433), Force (MSO) 445), Fortify (MSO 446), and Impervious (MSO 449) swept areas off the coast near Haiphong while being escorted by guided missile frigate Worden (DLG 18) and destroyer Epperson (DD 719). By the end of the month, amphibious ships New Orleans (LPH 11), Dubuque (LPD 8), Ogdon (LPD 5), Cleveland (LPD 7), and Inchon (LPH 12) had joined the force off North Vietnam. These ships carried 31 CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters from the Navy's Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 12 and from Marine helicopter squadrons HMM-165 and HMH-463. These aircraft towed minesweeping sleds and other devices to carry out aerial mine countermeasures along the inland waterways and the shallow port areas. A total of 10 ocean minesweepers, 9 amphibious ships, 6 fleet tugs, 3 salvage ships, and 19 destroyer types served with Task Force 78 during the six months of Operation End Sweep.
The Americans began airborne minesweeping in the primary shipping channel to Haiphong on 27 February and in the ports of Hon Gai and Cam Pha on 17 March. During the early part of April, MSS 2, an old, decommissioned LST, filled with foam and other buffers and crewed by a few daring volunteers, made eight check runs up the Haiphong channel to ensure that no mines threatened the vital waterway. Meanwhile, U.S. naval instructors trained 50 North Vietnamese personnel to conduct minesweeping operations on rivers and inland waterways. Further, U.S. C-130 transport aircraft flew into Cat Bi Airfield to transfer minesweeping gear to the North Vietnamese. Airborne and ocean sweeping operations continued in the Haiphong and northern areas until 17 April, when U.S. leaders temporarily withdrew the task force to persuade the North Vietnamese to adhere to the terms of the Paris agreement. Convinced that Hanoi had received the intended message, on 18 June Washington restarted Operation End Sweep. The task force returned to the anchorage off Haiphong. In little more than a week, Admiral McCauley declared the water approaches to Haiphong and the harbors of Hon Gai and Cam Pha free of danger from mines. Afterward, the American flotilla worked the coastal areas off Vinh in southern North Vietnam. Finally, on 18 July 1973, with Operation End Sweep completed, the Seventh Fleet departed North Vietnamese territorial waters. Thus ended the U.S. Navy's long, arduous, and costly deployment off the Communist mainland.... More