The Bucklew Report, as it became known, put into words what many American advisors, commanders, and officials believed was happening in South Vietnam during the pre-1965 American military advisory years of the Vietnam conflict. Communist North Vietnam was violating the Geneva Accords, which had established an independent North and South Vietnam. It was sending into South Vietnam a steady stream of men, materiel, and supplies to the Communist Viet Cong guerillas in order to overthrow the democratic government there. The Bucklew Report defined the problem and made a number of suggestions to solve it. But evidence was needed to officially allow direct American military action. Approximately a year later, in March 1965, it was literally uncovered in the Vung Ro Incident.
Named after the many marketing vessels that were targeted for searching, Market Time was created on March 11, 1965, as a combined U.S. Navy and Coast Guard effort.
Vung Ro is a small bay located near the city of Qui Nhon, near the central coast of South Vietnam. Army Lt. James S. Bowers was on patrol in his Huey that day covering an area that took him over the South China Sea in the Second Coastal Zone. As he banked over Vung Ro, he sensed something wrong with a tree-covered island below. When he flew closer he discovered that the “island” was in fact a small ship cleverly camouflaged with potted plants on its deck and superstructure. Bowers immediately radioed in his discovery to Second Coastal Zone senior advisor Lt. Harvey P. Rodgers, USN. Air strikes and beach assaults were promptly launched. The result was a captured North Vietnamese supply ship and a spectacular find of cached supplies, explosives, weapons, and ammunition originating from a number of Communist countries and designated for use by the Viet Cong. In addition, troops discovered numerous North Vietnamese charts and assorted military papers. Among them were documents revealing that members of the North Vietnamese Army’s (NVA’s) 338th Division were stationed in the region and that the trawler had been constructed in Communist China and was unit K.35 of the North Vietnamese Naval Transportation Group 125. This incident, and other events, helped transform the largely advisory American presence of Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Vietnam (MAAG-V) to the active American combat force effort, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV).
Administratively, three task forces were created to interdict Communist water-borne traffic: Task Force 71, Task Force 116, and Task Force 117. Task Forces 116 and 117 operated on the inland waterways as the River Patrol Force and the Mobile Riverine Force, respectively. Task Force 71 was commanded by the U.S. Seventh Fleet and designated the Vietnam Patrol Force. Then, on July 31, 1965, operational command was transferred to the Naval Advisory Group (NAG), and its name was changed to the Coastal Surveillance Force, or Task Force 115. Ultimately, Naval Forces Vietnam (NAVFORV), activated on April 1, 1966, assumed command of Task Force 115 and became responsible for it for the rest of the war. Task Force 115 was the Coastal Surveillance Force and conducted its missions under the code name Market Time.
Named after the many marketing vessels that were targeted for searching, Market Time was created on March 11, 1965, as a combined U.S. Navy and Coast Guard effort. Though its primary task was to interdict the flow of Communist supplies, Market Time ships performed other missions as well. These included naval gunfire support for troops engaged on or near beaches, as blocking forces in encirclement operations near the coast and on large rivers, in transporting troops and evacuating civilians, participating in medcaps (Medical Civil Action Program), and, as most of the waterways were uncharted, aids to navigation and other tasks.
Market Time consisted of three squadrons, two Navy and one Coast Guard. Navy Boat Squadron 1, operating along the coast, was composed of five divisions. Coastal Squadron 1, operating at sea, contained six divisions. Coast Guard Squadron 1 contained three divisions. Bases were located at eight sites ranging from Da Nang in the north to An Thoi on the southern tip of Phu Quoc Island off the Cambodian border.
Market Time operated a three-ringed patrol system that employed both surface vessels and aircraft. Shallow draft vessels, principally PCFs (Patrol Craft, Fast) and Coast Guard cutters, known as WPBs, as well as some gunboats and, for a brief period, Patrol Air Cushion Vehicles (PACVs), sometimes working with the South Vietnamese Navy (VNN) and other times independently, operated the innermost ring along the coast and in river mouths. Deeper draft ships, such as coastal mine sweepers and high endurance cutters (WHECs), operated in deeper water within 40 miles of the South Vietnamese coast. A combination of ships, including WHECs, radar-equipped destroyer escorts (DERs), and minesweepers, and observation aircraft, initially A-1 Skyraiders and later P-3 Orions, conducted surveillance in the outermost ring in international waters.