Much more water has passed under the keel since my last newsletter. At that (text line lost in scan) for Hong Kong were we assumed the duties of "station ship." We continued to provide gunfire support to our troops and those of South Vietnam operating ashore, and to conduct MEDCAP'S (Medical Civil Assistance Program.) I could again tell you what a fine job the men are doing, but I'm always suspicious of a guy who appears to be "tooting his own horn" so I'll let the Commander of the Task Group we were working for, and the Commander of the Coast Group that we supported speak for us. The following was from the Commander of our Task Group:
"As you complete your Market Time duties in I Corps, I commend you for an extremely effective patrol. In addition to vigorous patrolling of the southern barrier, you further kept the pressure on Charlie (VC) by firing 5 naval gunfire support missions with a combined gun damage assessment of 26 structures destroyed, and 46 damaged, 6 bunkers destroyed and 15 damaged, 2 huts destroyed and 3 damaged, 1 grain storage destroyed, 1 fishtrap destroyed, 2 sampans destroyed, 2 secondary explosions and 7 sustained fires. You also contributed significantly to winning the hearts and minds of the people in conducting 5 MEDCAP'S, treating 390 persons. Such actions are indicative of a well trained crew. Well done."
From the Commander of the Coastal Group we received:
"As you depart my area please accept the grateful appreciation of the Vietnamese Navy personnel and the advisory team at Coastal Group 16 for the enthusiastic and generous support your ship has given this unit. To highlight significant assistance:
A. Conduct of five MEDCAPS, providing medical services to over four hundred people in an area sorely needing this service.
B. Accurate and effective gunfire support for several units in this area, which on at least one occasion resulted in secondary explosions.
C. Rescue and safe conduct for a junk from this base trapped by high winds and seas while on ocean transit.
D. Construction of an extension to the base pier of approximately eighteen feet, using all your own personnel, tools and materials.
E. Generous donations of tools, materials, technical skills, and supplies that contributed substantially to our ability to complete our mission.
Your ship has ably demonstrated the effectiveness of an aggressive and professional ocean unit in aiding the conduct of the coastal war. Many thanks."
Those two messages best explain why I am so proud of the men aboard SEBAGO and why you too may be. The words of the Commander of the Coast Group upon our departure were, "We'll never forget you."
So on to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is an island (British Crown Colony) rather than a city; however, while Victoria is the capital city, it is generally referred to as Hong Kong. The island has an area of 29 square miles, dominated by Victoria Peak - 1,809 feet high. The population of the colony is about 4,000,000, with 1,000,000 living in Victoria alone. About 98% of the population is Chinese, with thousands of refugees arriving from Communist China each year. Labor is plentiful and wages are low - hence we have generally found that if we haven't been able to do anything else, we've been able to "live in the manner to which we'd like to be accustomed." Many of the men have made worthwhile investments in items such as cameras (better than 50% off stateside prices), watches, clothes, ($38 for a finely tailored suit), items of furniture, oil paintings by local artists, electronics equipment, and some items of jewelry. Our Christmas shopping is almost done!
The men got together formed a basketball team and got a game up with a local school team. Most of our guys are fairly tall compared with the Chinese men who generally are quite a bit shorter. While our men figured to concede that the younger school boys might be in better shape, they figured to dazzle them with foot work and take advantage of their height. It turned out that none on the opposing team was under six feet and somehow the footwork wasn't what it used to be - I was never able to pin them down on the score, but they gave up basketball and tried softball. Here they did better, losing one game and winning the second. They never give up!
We've had our fun here in Hong Kong - no doubt about it. I don't think anything makes a skipper feel better than to see a crew work hard and play hard - and stay out of trouble - and we have done it all. Probably one of the funniest incidents occurred when one of the men took pity on the poor rickshaw driver pulling one of the other men and being well "fueled" took over the job himself; our shore patrol officer said he was really startled when he saw this rickshaw charge by with one sailor riding and the other pulling - but the china man was quite content. On the other hand, we all got a kick out of the crewman that unwittingly walked into the Bank of China (a Red Chinese Bank), in uniform to cash a check. The guard pointed a tommy gun at him and told him to scram - which, under the circumstances, was hardly necessary.
As you can see, our activities are many and varied. We all miss you at home, but at the same time it seems to be generally conceded that we are having experiences that make the whole trip worthwhile - and as a result I'm sure the time is going by faster for us than it is for you. Nevertheless I'm sure that you will take no little satisfaction out of the fact that the performance and conduct of your sons and husbands have thus far reflected great credit upon them. You can be proud of them - as I am.
Very truly yours,