Small Tug ST2110 in Action at Vinh Long

from Scott Higginbotham with Ralph Grambo

Scott in the galley of st2110

I was drafted in 1967 and chose "harbor craft operator" school therefor I was in for three years. Basic was in Ft. Bliss, TX. I was trained in Ft. Eustis, VA. I was also in Ft. Story, VA. for amphibious training on "LARC". In Vietnam I was in the 539th Trans Det.. We didn't live with the rest of our unit. As far as I know our unit was in Saigon or Cat Lai. Our tug was sort of a loner in Vinh Long. As far as I know, we didn't formally report to anyone in Vinh Long. The first week I worked in Vietnam, I operated a shuttle boat from Cat Lai to Saigon. This was a "J" boat. I slept on-board. After that week I was assigned to ST2110.

The 65 foot ST is used to move barges in ports and harbors and to berth ocean going vessels. One diesel engine that develops 600 bhp at 750 rpm propels this tug at 12 knots light. This craft can be transported overseas in the well deck of a LSD or deck-loaded aboard a larger vessel.

The Small Tug has two warrant officers and five enlisted men as the crew. One warrant officer is the tug's master, the other is the chief engineer. The enlisted men include an assistant engineer, a boatswain, a marine engineman and two harbor craft crewmen.

At one time we had four men on the tug. Two warrant officers and two enlisted men. This only lasted for a few weeks. Mostly we had two warrant officers and four enlisted men. Trying to remember names: Mr. Torr, Sgt. Johnson, Jesus Castro and DeNome. That's about all the US Army I can remember now. We also had "Bip" our civilian Vietnamese cook.

In the summer of '68 ST2110 worked out of Vinh Long. We had a large buoy permanently anchored in the middle of the river. Usually civilian tugs ( mostly Philippine ) would deliver large groups of barges to the buoy. Our job was to deliver them individually. I remember barges of gravel, lumber, ammo, pop & beer and fuel. I remember delivering the gravel to a pier miles west of Vinh Long for road construction. The lumber barges caused a bit of a problem with the civilians (like gold to them ). The PX barge with all the pop & beer was a beaching barge with a ramp to drop. The fork lifts worked through the night to off load. The beaching barge was not manned. It was a larger than normal barge with a simple ramp elevated in front, lowered by cables rolling through vertical post using hand crank wenches. It may have had "RMK" written on the side. I only mention this because I remember seeing "RMK" or "RMK-BRJ written on the side of several civilian vessels that came up the river to Vinh Long.

Our usual docking spot was on a "sea-wall" in front of a South Vietnamese fort east of downtown Vinh Long. The US fort was west of Vinh Long. Therefore we pulled our own guard duty. South Vietnamese boats would dock there occasionally. We were armed with two 50 caliber and two M60 machine guns. One of each on both sides. Our personnel weapons were M14's. If you ever hear of a 65' tug boat with a day room built suspended 8' over the aft of the boat, it was us. The structure was mainly supported from the rear of the second deck and two four by four holding up the rear. The rear 4x4,s were hinged to swing up when we were making a stern tow. The rear of the structure was also suspended with wire rope from the mast.

Several times during my tour, we moved a company of men who lived and worked on two barges. One barge was a pile driver with materials and machinery for that purpose. The other was living quarters. This had kitchen, dining, sleeping, shower and toilet facilities on board. I enjoyed this very much because of the visiting I could do.

We also assisted Navy LST's in beaching near the US fort at Vinh Long. We saw Navy tugs occasionally cruising by, but I never saw them working. I never saw one with a barge. They were "OD" green which I thought was strange since we were Army with light gray bulk-heads and black hull. Their hatches and port holes were always shut tight so we figured they had air conditioning. I don't know directly but I think the Navy skippers really liked us being there ( the river flow could get really strong ). Once they pulled their anchor in without getting off the beach. We pulled up to their rear and lashed their anchor to our port bits. We took their anchor out toward the middle and cut the lashings with an ax. LST's were a big treat for us ( movie every night ).

We went to Dong Tam quite a bit. I can't remember taking loaded barges to Dong Tam. I do remember taking empty ones though. I do remember taking an empty barge from Dong Tam to My Tho once. I also remember Dong Tam having a buoy in their river for storing barges. Got hit by a B-40 rocket in the channel between the river and Dong Tam. It entered the port side behind galley, through the air lines for engine control, through another bulk head into the galley where it blew. The rocket we took in Dong Tam as far as I know was a single rocket with no other action. The hole from the rocket was about 8 inches in diameter at shoulder level just to the rear of the walk in hatch on the port side. It is possible that I'm mixed up and it was just in front of that hatch. That room was directly over the engine and contain what we referred to as the "day tank". This held the diesel fuel to be used immediately. This room also included the "head". I was in the galley at the time. I was on the other side of the stair well for the crews quarters so I was protected from the shrapnel but I couldn't hear anything the rest of the day. We were all OK. Jesus Castro was on the port side at the time and was hit by shrapnel in the left shoulder but he was OK too. He was a strong young man from Guam ( US Army ). Our tug was dead in the water because the air lines were severed. We had to be towed into the harbor. They fixed us up in Dong Tam so we could operate. Air lines repaired and the reefer was repaired there also ( full of shrapnel ).

We later went to Vung Tau for the rest of the repairs. The South China Sea in that 65 ft. tug was an adventure. We worked barges in Vung Tau for a while.

We took ST2110 to Saigon after that and worked barges there. I left the tug in Saigon in July '69 to go home. After Vietnam I was stationed in Ft. Eustis on LCU 1590. As a Sgt.. E5 I became master of LCU 1590 after our warrant officer ( Mr. Billy Evans ) was stationed elsewhere. Our crew took LCU 1590 to Charleston Naval Base to be overhauled. We navigated the Intercostal Water Way from Ft. Eustis to Charleston and found it to be a fun adventure.