Operation Song Than

Operation Song Than

By: Captain Jim Barton


On May 13, 1972 the first South Vietnamese counteroffensive Operation Song Than 5-72 just south of the DMZ began in order to retake the areas lost in the NVA Easter Offensive 6 weeks before. An earlier attempt by 5000 ARVN soldiers airlifted in to retake the areas lost had been largely decimated. It was give and take over the next couple of weeks.

Early the morning of the 24th, it seems every cruiser and destroyer in the 7th Fleet lined up to provide Naval Gunfire Support and to prepare the beach for the renewed South Vietnamese helicopter and amphibious assault in Operation Song Than 6-72.

My ship USS George K. Mackenzie (DD-836) was positioned 2000-3000 yards from the beach between the 8 inch heavy gun cruiser Newport News (CA-148) and the 6 inch light cruiser USS Oklahoma City (CG-5).

Just prior to amphibious landings by the Republic of Viet Nam’s 369th Marine Corps Brigade, B-52s from Anderson AFB in Guam laid down a line of 500 pound bombs along the beachhead.

The concussion from the bombs and the gunfire from the ships was unreal and prompted us to say, “I love the smell of cordite in the morning.”

Support for the troops ashore continued over the next several weeks but I had never before or after seen such an array of ships shooting at the beach on this particular D-Day/H-Hour.