Hearts and Minds
Fishing Village North of Nha Trang

The approach to Dam Mon Fishing Village

Music by Anthony Ventura� A really tear wrenching
Hearts & Minds incident

One of the "catch phrases" promulgated by our leaders in Saigon was the following statement:

"We are here to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese People"

This was quickly shortened to the derisive term "Hearts and Minds." This expression, along with the phrases "Xin Freaking Loi" - "Sorry about that" - "Only xxx days and a wake up" and "Numbah Ten", was used quite frequently by almost all US military personnel in country whenever the circumstances of their daily life produced frustrating or unpleasant experiences.

Despite the less than enthusiastic reception of this concept by the troops, specific operations called MEDCAP's (Medical Civil Action Programs) were carried out that pro-actively pursued the policy expressed in the above leadership mission statement.

An example of a typical MEDCAP is the one conducted by PCF-45 in late 1967. A crew of doctors, other medical personnel, and badly needed supplies were transported to a small fishing village for a good will visit. This turned out to be both a welcome break from the routine and stress of normal patrols, but also a pleasant and rewarding experience that would become a highlight of the Swift Boat crew's tour.

The village was situated above Nha Trang, inside the protected cove of Cua Van at the northern end of Loch Cua Be. This picturesque location provided ample protection from the monsoon winds and seas, yet was readily accessible to the fruitful fishing grounds of the Bay of Ben Goi and the adjacent coastal waters. It was also sandwiched in between Vung Ro Bay and Hon Heo Peninsula - areas where major North Vietnamese infiltrations from the sea were attempted during March 1965 and again in February 1968 .... not long after this good will visit took place.


As the boat arrived at the village, advantage was taken of the sharp drop-off in the white sandy beaches, characteristic of that part of the coast, to solidly ground the bow of the boat, while the fantail and screws remained in several feet of water. Medical personnel and the supplies for the villagers were then offloaded by the crew.

The medical personnel immediately set up shop at a table on the porch of one of the buildings in the village, and began a brisk business tending to the medical needs of any and all villagers that desired their services. This work soon drew the intense attention and interest of not only the villagers, but also of some of the Swift Boat crew.

At the same time, the crew of PCF 45 began the enjoyable task of dispensing the supplies while interacting with the children and "winning the hearts and minds" of the villagers.


Once the supplies had all been distributed, and before the last patient had received treatment from the doctors, the rest of the party had the opportunity to stroll through the village and take in the "ambiance" of the rural and peaceful setting of the tropical South China Sea beach front. This short relaxed period of time offered an opportunity to play tourist and take lots of pictures. The resulting images are the subject of the second part of this section, Hearts and Minds II . It presents a view of this country not often seen at the time: ... even in close proximity to the conflict surrounding them, people managed to continue with their daily lives and activities in attractive surroundings and in relative tranquility. A fact apparently not considered pertinent to either side in the conflict.

As of the year 2003, Dam Mon village has been put on the list of places suggested for tourists to visit by the Ho Chi Minh City based Vietravel.
See their tour description at
Dam Mon - A virgin land on the central coast

Post Script

Not all MEDCAPs turned out as well as the one conducted in Dam Mon. The following pictures and excerpts are from "The Owasco Chronicles" by Dave Moyer. The Owasco was a medium size US Coast Guard Cutter that was protecting PCF's 70 and 75 as they performed the the same kind of mission as shown above, but in a village that was just north of Mui Batangan {see the last four sections of this web site}. The reaction of the local North Vietnamese soldiers to this act of kindness was very different from the reception that PCF 45 received from Dam Mon.

Photographs courtesy of  U.S. Coast Guard in Vietnam


It was 6 November 1968 and the Owasco was assigned to Market Time Area Two. This morning we embarked our ship's Doctor, LCDR Spott USPHS, and SN Maison, Corpsman Striker, along with one or two other crewmembers on PCF 75 to conduct a MEDCAP mission at Phuoc Thuan. This was a coastal refugee village located on the north side of the Mui Batangan about 17 miles northeast of Quang Ngai City. The 75 got underway shortly after 0830 and was accompanied by PCF 70.

We were a bit less than two hours into the 1200-1600 watch when PCF 75 radioed that she and PCF 70 were underway to rendezvous back with the Owasco to disembark our crew members and take on fuel. Since we were now a bit north and about six miles off of Mui Batangan, the Conning Officer ordered a slow 180 degree turn to the west to bring us slightly closer to shore and establish a southerly course to put us about five miles directly off Phouc Than. We were just completing our turn and the order was being given to the helmsman to steady up on our downward leg when the radio cracked. "FLASH FLASH FLASH.....THE 70 IS HIT....I SAY AGAIN.....THE 70 IS HIT.....FLASH FLASH FLASH. ENFIELD COBRA ZULU (the Owasco's call sign) DO YOU COPY? THE 70 IS HIT AND TAKING FIRE!" Throughout this transmission you could hear the rapid stuttering sound of the twin 50's located in the tub just above the wheelhouse of the Swift.

Not only were American sailors on those Swifts, but so were a few of our own crew members. The bridge watch immediately put out an announcement over the ship's PA system: "Now Captain to the bridge." As the Captain charged through the bridge door, he demanded "What's happening, Mr. Baur?" Just as Mr. Baur opened his mouth to speak another radio message started: "FLASH FLASH FLASH.....WE HAVE DEAD AND WOUNDED....ENFIELD COBRA ZULU......DO YOU COPY? THIS IS ENFIELD COBRA VICTOR TWO (PCF 75's call sign.) VICTOR ONE HAS TAKEN CASUALTIES." Mr. Baur never said a word. That plain language message was all the Skipper needed.

The Captain very calmly, yet with his usual authority, immediately took over the situation. Communication was established with the Swifts. The 70 was dead in the water and sinking by the stern. The 75 boat was providing cover fire. A third Swift close by charged in and within 20 minutes brought the wounded back to the Owasco along with the Doctor. The situation became clear. The enemy was waiting to ambush the Swifts. They chose the 70 and hit her three times with recoilless rounds. The first two passed through the aluminum hull. The third hit the engine and exploded, killing two and wounding 4, one of which later died on the Owasco. Pumps and damage control personnel were needed to keep the 70 from sinking.

The Captain decided that our 5-inch would be used to lay down a barrage along the beach. Two problems existed. The Captain needed to know the location of the enemy ambush. Second, since this was not a free fire zone, permission was needed to fire. The proper request along with a situation report was sent to DaNang. The first problem was solved by an unknown wounded enlisted crewmember from PCF 70. Bleeding, and with his right arm in a sling, he stood on the port bridge wing next to Captain Fearn with a pair of binoculars literally counting treetops. The position of the recoilless fire was pinpointed and bearings taken. We had the exact spot in our sights and were ready to fire. Unfortunately the return message from DaNang stated that ..."Army intelligence has no enemy activity in that sector of the Batangan. Permission to fire denied." ... The Captain was livid. A rescue Swift was on the way and would arrive in minutes, possibly sailing into another ambush. The Captain lit up another Pall Mall and just stared towards the beach. A minute went by...then two. He took one long drag and turned to his phone talker. COMMENCE FIRING

Our damage control party got to and kept PCF 70 afloat. She was eventually repaired and returned to fight on.

The ship's log did not reflect that the Owasco fired prior to receiving permission.


Swift Boats were not the only ones that stretched the Rules of Engagement.

And not all acts of bravery are rewarded with medals.

"Doctor" Spott and Seaman Maison received Navy Commendation Medals and Owasco crewmembers Ltjg Mack, DC3 Bane, EM3 Switlik and BM2 Scheyer were cited in letters of commendation.

On 19 June 1969, Ltjg Warren Hudson USN, the skipper of PCF-70 who was wounded in the above action, visited the Owasco in New London to express his gratitude to our Skipper, Commander Fearn. All the other Swift Boat Sailors would like to do like wise:

Thanks Captain Fearn. Thanks Coasties. We Swiftys appreciate your actions.

Photographs courtesy of Jim Steffes and Charles Rose

Handouts at the memorial service on November 9, 1968 for David Merrill. KIA on PCF-70
Images courtesy of close friend and shipmate Frank Dufner


This web site is Copyright � 2002 by Robert B. Shirley.
All rights reserved.

Click on image to return to the homepage