April 19, 1972 – This Day During The Vietnam War – Battle of Đồng Hới

April 19, 1972 – The Battle of Đồng Hới was a clash between United States Navy warships and Vietnam People’s Air Force (VPAF) MiG-17F fighter bombers, several torpedo boats and shore batteries on April 19, 1972 during the Vietnam War. This was the first time U.S. warships faced an air raid since the end of World War II.
The Battle for Đồng Hới Gulf involved fierce firefights when Navy ships attempted to stop North Vietnamese troops and supplies transiting the coast highway in North Vietnam from reaching the battle front in Quảng Trị Province. The air raid described here marked the end of daylight raids by the Navy. Within a few weeks, however, all North Vietnamese resistance at Đồng Hới was suppressed.
The U.S. warships involved were the 7th Fleet flagship, guided missile cruiser USS Oklahoma City, the guided missile cruiser USS Sterett, and destroyers USS Lloyd Thomas and USS Higbee.
The American warships operating in the Gulf of Tonkin were shelling North Vietnamese coastal targets around Đồng Hới, Quảng Bình Province, North Central Coast region near the DMZ along the 17th parallel, the provisional borderline between South Vietnam and North Vietnam when they were attacked by VPAF MiGs in the first air attack on U.S. naval forces in the Vietnam War.
At approximately 17:00, USS Sterett detected three hostile aircraft approaching the navy ships. One of the MiG-17Fs scored a direct hit on USS Higbee with a BETAB-250 (250 kg, 550 lb) bomb, after failing to hit its target twice on two previous attack runs. The explosion destroyed the aft 5-inch (127 mm) gun mount which was empty, as the 12-man crew having been evacuated following a “hang fire” (a round stuck in one of the barrels). Another MiG-17 simultaneously aimed its bombs at USS Oklahoma City but missed the target. According to U.S. claims, one of the MiGs was shot down by a Terrier surface-to-air missile from USS Sterett. One more MiG disappeared from Sterett’s radar along with a Terrier missile fired at it from the frigate, indicating a probable kill. A North Vietnamese Styx anti-ship missile was alleged to have been fired and intercepted, but this was not confirmed by official documentation.
At approximately 18:00 as the US ships withdrew to the northeast, USS Sterett detected two surface targets shadowing the US ships, after 30 minutes, Sterett opened fire on the targets with its 5-inch guns destroying the two suspected North Vietnamese P 6-class torpedo boats.
The North Vietnamese claimed the sortie involved two MiG-17s piloted by Lê Xuân Dị and Nguyễn Văn Bảy “B”, of which all returned safely to their base, and that the North Vietnamese navy had not participated in any engagement until August 27. The attack crippled Higbee’s 5-inch gun turret, impaired its steering and propulsion, and wounded 4 sailors on deck. Oklahoma City only sustained minor damage on its stern. The U.S. later responded by bombardment against Vinh and Đồng Hới on April 19 and 20, and an air strike by 33 aircraft on April 22 at the Gát airfield, from which the attacking MiG-17s had taken off, destroying one MiG and damaging another on the ground.
Although the losses inflicted were superficial, the North Vietnamese attack had forced the Americans to employ more of their strength to prevent future incidents against the background of downscaling U.S. military activities in the area.

USS Higbee showing the aft 5″/38 gun mount bombed during the battle of Đồng Hớ

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