!!! THE YRBM 20 !!!
YRBM stands for "Yard Repair Berthing and Messing" It is not self propelled. A barge tied to the stern had diesel outboards to move the YRBM when needed when tugboats were not available. It also functioned not unlike a pocket helicopter carrier supplying fuel and ammo continuously for days in support of nearby air operations.
The local town of Chou Doc had a gravel airstrip, a communication station on a nearby mountain and a MACV detachment and Army Bar near the high Sea Wall that looked like an old French foreign Legion Fort.
This is one of the few YRBM 20 photos that I still have. This and other pictures were taken by me when I was assigned to the YRBM 20 from October 1969 until September 1970.
During that time the Brownwater Navy was being slowly turned over to the South Vietnamese. The other pictures on this page are sure to evoke memories for anyone who had the chance to spend some time there.
This is the first of many web pages for the Vietnam picture album.
The YRBM 20 had Freezers and Refrigerators and at times was the best dining spot in the Province
The YRBMS were vulnerable to mines, A swimmer could float down the river in the 1 to 6 knot current and place the mine on the hull.
In the day time the bow watch would shoot under any debris or water plants floating near with a carbine.
At night an outboard motor boat would circle and the bow watch would randomly toss concussion grenades into the river.
When the current stopped in the dry summer season there was also a stern watch on the with a carbine and grenades. This was on a stern fuel and pusher barge with it's diesel outboard motors.
HOT TURN AROUNDS
Around Easter in 1970 a unit of the North Vietnamese Army was approaching. For a period of from 48 to 72 hours helicopters both Hueys and Cobras landed on the deck for a hot turn around. Each received full belts of gatling gun or machine gun ammo, a load of rockets and the pilot got a few bites of a meal or a soda in the pilots seat. The hilocopters began to unload their weapons soon after passing out of sight beyond the tree lined banks.
The Crew of the YRBM 20 passed the ammo from a docked ammo supply ship hand over hand to the flight deck for loading. There was always another Helicopter to load or fuel.
Near the end the pusher barge outboards were manned, the 4 large morters were manned and a crew was standing by to cut and drop the anchor chain. Then President Nixon gave the order for US forces to enter Cambodia. The helicopters soon left. I laid down on a pile of rope on the deck and slept. I remember being wakened and hearing somebody talking. Later someone told me that an Admiral had dropped in to thank the crew.
THE (PUSHER)& REFUELING BARGE FIRE
The Pusher Barge contained 13,000 gallons of gasoline and had 100 drums of Oil stacked on top. The current in the river in July was very slow and an aft watch station was manned at night to toss gernades in the water and deter swimmer zappers. The YRBM was out of concussion gernades and so 2 or 3 cases of frag gernades were stacked on the oil drums. A shipment of 15,000 2 3/4 inch Helicopter rockets was stored nearby.
On the 19 of July 1970 a sunday morning it caught fire. Someone was refueling the night watch boat which circled the YRBM and something happened. The sound of the fire alerted Paul Fogle and 2 others cut it loose from the YRBM. General Quarters was sounded . As the Barge floated aft burning with 20 foot flames to about 200 feet away when a case of gernades exploded. The explosion created a large spectacular red mushroom shaped explosion cloud.
Paul Fogle and 2 others grabbed a fire pump and followed the burning barge down river in a landing craft Mike boat until it hit the bank about a half mile away. The fire was very hot and it was difficult to get close enough to put water onto the fire. When they started to get water onto it an oil durm exploded splattering very hot oil on the three crewmen.
Help arrived and took the crew back to the YRBM 20 sick bay. Two crewmen were sent to Siagon for a month with extensive 2nd degree burns and Paul Fogle spent 4 or 5 days in sickbay. When the fire burned out the refueling barge was towed back. Fuel could be heard boiling inside its compartments. The leafs on the trees on both sides of the river were scorched brown. The pusher barge had 3 large diesel outboard engines connected to 3 foot diameter propellers. The entire barge and outboad diesels had to be replaced.
FINDING THE YRBM 20
When I first got my orders no one could tell me where the YRBM 20 was. Even the Naval Air OPS at Tan Son Nhut Airport did not know. The next day someone told me that they pick up their mail at Long Xuyen on the Bassac River. The next day I flew to the air strip at Long Xuyen.
I was dropped alone with the mail bag at a deserted air strip surrounded by rice paddies and water buffalo. Four hours later a piper cub with sidewinder missles on the wing tips landed and flew me to the Chou Doc air strip.
It was in the middle of a large lake of flooded rice paddies. The only structure was a tent where I could buy a soda or beer. An hour later a jeep arrived. I put my bags up high and sat with my feet on the dash board as the jeep entered the lake. The water was almost up to the seat cushion. The jeep had to stop once to let a sampan go by. The Bassac River Bank Road only had only 8 inches of water on it.
I was dropped at a place called the MACV Bar in Chou Doc. It had an air conditioner that produced fog. It was over 100 degrees and 99 percent humidity outside. Someone from the YRBM dressed in tennis shoes and shorts showed up.
The outboard motor boat was half full of water. The bassic was so swollen by the monsoons there were
white brown water rapids and a very fast currrent. I had to balance my bags on a seat and keep my feet off the bottom. The first quarter mile was a wild ride but then the river became wide and smoother.
The sides of the YRBM had moss growing on it. It took a week to adjust to the wet heat. Uniforms became soaked in sweat that would not evaporate. A little Seagram's VO and life was again tolerable.
In March 1969 the crew of the YRBM 18 was preparing to transfer to a new YRBM, which is believed to have been the YRBM 20.
According to Greg Wilkey - EMAIL:egwilkey[ at ]bellsouth.net the YRBM was towed freshly constructed from a shipyard in Japan to Vinh Long in February 1969.
It was anchored Northwest of Vinh Long on the Mekong River.
PBR Squadrons 52 and 57, Seal Team 1, Charlie Platoon and HAL 3 Det ? were on board.
The [Shack Out Back] beer Lounge was on the first starboard ammie.
In May 1969 it was towed to An Long on the Mekong River which is closer to Cambodia.
It was not yet called the Delta Hilton.
Was it ever on the Co Chien River ?????
The YRBM 20 was towed to Chou Doc in August? or September? 1969 ???
Before the YRBM 20 arrived in Chou Doc in 1969 there was a PBR Mobile Base there.
The YRBM 20 was towed down river in August 1971 to Nha Be NSA Naval Support Base.
The YRBM 20 is now (1998) moored to the Delta South Pier at the Trident Refit Facility,
Naval Submarine Base, Bangor, Washington on the Hood Canal.
The YRBM 16 and YRBM 18 have been reported to be there also.
THE YRBM 20
YRBM 20 Outboard diesels on the stern fuel barge moved the YRBM when the anchor was weighed.
In one incident the gas barrels stacked here ignited and this barge was set adrift.
A case of frag grenades then went off. What a fireball!! Burned for 48 hours.
Three Crewmen recieved burns. Click here to see photos of the Fire
YRBM 20 in 1998
She is moored to the Delta South Pier at the Trident Refit Facility.
Naval Submarine Base, Bangor, Washington on the Hood Canal.
Submarine Crews use her now.
Photo courtesy of Ray F. Longaker Jr.
EMAIL:longaker[ at ]kendaco.telebyte.com >
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