174th Assault
Helicopter Company


Major Derald Smith's Photos

Captured NVA Trawler

Story, photos and a
Stars and Stripes Article from July 1967

From Derald Smith: "In July 1967, Maj. John Coates and I (after I'd left the 174th and was in the 14th CAB S-3 shop) were called out in the middle of the night to fly from Chu Lai south to the Republic of Korean (ROK) Marine Brigade command post. The brass had been secretly tracking a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) trawler as it sailed slowly south along the coast. The trawler was supposedly carrying a large load of arms and munitions. The plan was to be prepared to air assault the off-loading point when it was determined the trawler would turn into shore.

We planned a joint operation involving most of the 14th Battalion. As it turned out, the trawler did turn toward the coast in the ROK Marine area. We launched Shark gunships and, in coordination with the numerous Navy vessels who were engaging the trawler while in the pursuit, the Sharks also fired rockets and miniguns on the ship. In addition to Major Coates and Derald, Rod Bither was also one of the Shark pilots that night.

The Navy had been tracking the trawler for days and were waiting for the trawler's turn to shore to off-load their arms cargo. When they did, the Navy engaged this trawler with several of their seaborne assets.

A Navy Swift boat put a white phosphorous mortar round right onto the top of the trawler's pilot house and killed the crew inside, thus eliminating the trawler crewmen who were to blow it up in case of imminent seizure or other potential loss. The trawler was so rigged.

Derald reports that eventually the ROK Marines were air assaulted in to secure the beach site after the trawler burned. The 174th was part of that air assault. "I have a 'cherry' CHICOM rifle souvenir from this encounter," reports Derald. An interesting note: this was on what we called the Batangan Peninsula, the area where the My Lai massacre occured almost a year later."

This engagement was essentially a Navy operation which the Sharks supported when called upon in the middle of the night. For those interested in seeing a fascinating and very detailed account of the Navy's documentation of this event, which they have called the "Sa Ky River Victory," please see their site at http://pcf45.com/trawler/trawler.html. It is indeed fascinating reading. Our hats are off to the Swift boats and their crewmen. Their courage and dedication is without question, and it was a pleasure for the 174th Dolphins and Sharks to work with them from the air on many different occasions.

The below three photos were taken at the dock at Chu Lai by Derald. The first is of the bow of the trawler. The second photo is of the NVA trawler showing the disabling hit to the pilot house that took out the trawler crew. The third photo shows a good portion of the cache of weapons and ammunition the trawler was carrying. It is amazing that all these arms survived the intense fire the trawler received that night, and the fact the trawler burned as one of the Swift boat crewmen reported, like "a burning pig on a spitfire."

Following these photos is a short Stars and Stripes article that appeared in July 1967.