USS Skagit Family Gram
1967 WestPac Cruise
A Trip Up the River
It seems as though we had just fallen off to sleep, but here it is already reveille: time to get up. It would be great to lie still for just a few seconds longer, but if we don't get up when reveille sounds there is always a chance that we'll miss chow. It's always a last minute rush to get the boats away. Just time to gulp a few mouths-full of food, gather the things we need for the trip, and scramble down the Jacobs ladder into the boats. As soon as we can we cast off all lines and the engines churn the green sea water into a white froth behind us. We move away from the side of the ship our cargos of cement, lumber. and steel matting making our boats deep in the water.
On this day the sea is calmer, and it isn't raining--yet. Like a family of ducklings accompanying their mother, the boats form a column and follow the boat officer's boat to the surf zone where the breakers start rolling towards the beach. The river mouth is angled against the edge of the land rather than perpendicular to it, so dangerous sand bars lay on either side of the channel. To get stranded here would mean possible loss of the boat and cargo. It's a real task maneuvering through this spot.
Once through the surf in the calmer waters of the river boat crews load and ready the two .50 caliber machine guns on each boat. As a precautionary measure, we also don flak jackets and steel helmets because of snipers that might lurk along the river banks. All this preparation each time we go up river is worth the effort, because we never know Just what might happen.
As we put the river mouth behind us we can see the farmers and fisherman hard at work along the bank. Girls from 4 to 40 wave a friendly greeting to us from the banks of the river and beckon us to come ashore and trade our "C" rations for some of their local products. We aren't allowed to go ashore, and none of us do.
One and one half hours later the supply "ramp" at Hue comes into view. It certainly is a welcome sight. It's here that a small group of men manage to keep the flow of supplies constantly moving inland. "The "Ramp" is a muddy field at the edge of the river, near the center of town. Two small wooden buildings, a latrine, and four sand-bag bunkers make up this "Naval Supply Facility, Hue", as the men here proudly call it. The area is ringed with curls of concertina barred wire, and the guards at the gate are armed with M-16's. Somehow the war and the enemy seem more real now.
Our boats coast to the river's edge and touch ground. The ramps drop and the fork lifts drive aboard to hoist the palletized cargo and stack it near the edge of the fence. We help as much as we can, for there is little time to be spared. We all know that as soon as we finish another trip and another load will be awaiting us back at the SKAGIT.
Hard work, yes, but we realize our work here is important to the fighting man further inland. We're making it easier for him to make it harder for "Charlie". It's part of being a crew-member of USS SKAGIT, an attack cargo Ship of the mighty Amphibious Fleet of the United States that can be called upon to do any task just about anywhere.
W. A. Mackey
Captain U. S. Navy