June 19, 2017

Australia's only on Ship Battle Deaths of Vietnam War - US Aircraft Missiles

Australia's official Navy website writes (scroll 2/7s way down here ) in remembrance of a usually forgotten "friendly" fire tragedy just over 49 years ago:

"On 17 June 1968, [HMAS] Hobart was in the vicinity of Tiger Island [map below] when she detected an aircraft approaching her from the vicinity of Cap Lay. Although the aircraft was evaluated as friendly it continued to close and fired a missile that struck Hobart amidships on her starboard side. The warhead passed through the main deck, seriously damaging several compartments, while the body of the missile passed through the outer skin of the after funnel before ending up in the forward funnel. In its passage the missile killed Ordinary Seaman R.J. Butterworth [1] [only one year in the navy] and wounded Able Seaman J.R. Parker and Ordinary Seaman R.F. Davidson.

As Hobart's crew raced to action stations a second and third missile hit the ship. The second missile entered the transom without detonating, destroying the gunner's store before breaking up in the engineer's workshop and penetrating the after seaman's mess. 

The third missile hit the ship in the same area as the first, passing through one of the ship's fan spaces, the missile director equipment room and Tartar checkout room. Chief Electrician R.H. Hunt [2] was killed in this attack and several sailors injured. 

...En route [Hobart's crew] begain clearing away debris, finding and collecting pieces of the missiles which were later identified as being of US origin. It transpired that Hobart was one of several ships mistakenly attacked by US 7th Air Force jets on the nights of 16-17 June..." 



Ordinary Seaman Ray Butterworth. First to die from an American missile. (Photo courtesy Royal Australian Navy archives)

(Photo on left) holes in HMAS Hobart caused by US aircraft missile splinter damage.
 (Map on left) Tiger Island. The vicinity in which Australia sailors on HMAS Hobart were killed by friendly American missiles (Photo and Map courtesy Royal Australian Navy archives)



Ztev Konrad said...

It seems that some small US patrol craft were also attacked around that time and one was sunk ( PCF-19 a Swift boat type)
While it seems the official version was friendly fire, there is conjecture that North Vietnamese helicopters were involved.

This book written by someone there at the time and available on Amazon includes comments from someone connected to the Swift boat base

Anonymous said...

I seriously doubt any North Vietnamese copters were involved since they had zero attack copters then.
The blue on blue incident on a Swift is to some extent understandable since North Vietnamese do have a number of patrol boats and fast attack craft. But the attack on HMAS Hobart is not since the NVN do not have any vessel that size and tonnage in their Navy at the time.

Peter Coates said...


I think you're right. Also parts of the easily identifiable US missiles were found on HMAS Hobart.

Other sources have advised that the highly experienced aircraft recognisers on Hobart positively identified the missile firing aircraft as American. Hobart's aerial radar signatures confirmed this.

Also, in confidence, the Americans admitted this blue on blue error.