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Mission 24 - Forces
John Kerry's Silver Star

Established July 9, 1918, the award was originally called the “Citation Star.” It was converted to the Silver Star in 1932 and awarded retroactively to troops going back to the Spanish-American War for gallant actions in combat. In 1969, when Kerry received his Silver Star, it was the 4th highest honor the Navy had to award. Today it is the 5th, moved down one notch after the Defense Distinguished Service Medal was created in 1970.
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Planned by the commander of US Naval forces in Vietnam, Vice Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, Jr., this was a joint operation between U.S. and South Vietnamese forces to disrupt North Vietnamese supply lines throughout the muddy, treacherous Mekong Delta. Its codename, Sealords, stood for Southeast Asia Lake, Ocean, River, and Delta Strategy, and it involved the more than 100 ships of the USN Coastal Surveillance Force, patrol and minesweeping boats from the River Patrol Force, the 3,700-man Riverine Assault Force, and five SEAL platoons. The Vietnamese Navy supplied more than 600 ships, and air support came from the OV-10 Bronco aircraft of the "Black Ponies.” They patrolled waterways near the Cambodian border, cut infiltration routes looking for the ships used by the North Vietnamese to supply the Vietcong, and raided their bases in the area.
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Outfitted with 81 Swift boats, 24 Coast Guard cutters, and 39 other ships, this force aimed to prevent the North from resupplying the Vietcong with a fleet of trawlers, junks, and smaller craft. The Force divided the 1,200-mile coastline into 9 sectors from the 17th parallel to the Cambodian border and 40 miles out to sea. The ships and aircraft were based all over the region, including Thailand and the Philippines. And to help sweep the area, the Navy placed radar stations on Son and Obi islands, south of the Mekong Delta, and on Re island east of Chu Lai.
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Flying Rockwell OV-10A Bronco airplanes borrowed from the Marines, the Black Ponies of Light Attack Squadron Four (VAL-4) ran combat operations out of Binh Thuy and Vung Tau, supporting the brown water forces of Sealords throughout the Delta. They were faster and had greater airlift capacity than the Huey, with the ability to resupply troops and hit ground and water targets. By the end of the operation, the Ponies had more than 1,000 confirmed kills and destroyed more than 300 ships and 1,200 enemy bunkers. The squadron was deactivated April 10, 1972 after flying more than 21,000 combat sorties – setting the Navy’s record for fixed wing aircraft.
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A joint Army-Navy outfit, the Riverine Assault Force used more than 3,000 men with support ships to patrol the Mekong Delta and disrupt enemy movements in a mission called Game Warden. Each 400-man squad had five “monitors,” armored watercraft equipped with 50-caliber, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter gun mounts, two 40-millimeter grenade launchers, and an 81-millimeter mortar. They also mounted flame throwers or water cannons on their vessels to destroy enemy bunkers and brought assault support patrol boats (ASPBs) with them for minesweeping and extra firepower.
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Called MACV (pronounced Mac-Vee), this was the United States central command during the Vietnam War from 1962 until the end. It was nicknamed “Pentagon East” and based in a small office in downtown Saigon. Its predecessor was the Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) developed in 1950 to help the French, and then the South Vietnamese government, fight the communist forces. Its most famous commander was General William C. Westmoreland who served from 1964 to 1968. For some of the most hazardous operations of the war, MACV ran a small force called the “Studies and Observation Group” or MACV-SOG. These troops were Green Berets, Combat Controllers, and SEALs who were tasked with dangerous missions in enemy-controlled territory, and the outfit was classified throughout the war and many years afterward.
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The regular army of the government of North Vietnam that took power after the defeat of the French at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. The NVA attempted to take over the south by sending the Vietcong supplies and also by training some Vietcong forces before sending them south. These specially prepared Vietcong were nicknamed “hardcore VC” by US forces.
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The radio call sign of this force, “Victor Charlie,” gave the Vietcong their famous nickname, but it stood for Viet-nam Cong-san, which means “Vietnamese Communists.” Originally the name referred to Communist troops left over in hideouts throughout the south after the French Indochina War, but the North Vietnamese government used these forces first to attempt a coup, and later, to aid the NVA with subversive tactics in the south. Officially, they were called the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam or NLF. The NLF took power briefly after Saigon fell in 1975, but the North “reunified” the country the following year.
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Screenshots

John Kerry's Silver Star
 


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