New Jersey's big guns pound Red targets at DMZ
3-1/2 Minutes Equal 60 Bombers
NEW JERSEY (UPI) - The battleship USS New Jersey joined the war
against North Vietnam today and sent salvo after salvo from her
16-inch guns crashing into Communist shore targets with thunderous
explosions of orange flame and smoke.
The great battleship, which had lain in mothballs
since the Korean War, fired 2,700-pound projectiles into Communist
artillery sites, bunkers and antiaircraft batteries a mile above
the Demilitarized Zone.
In 3-1/2 minutes the New Jersey can equal
the destruction of 60 bombing planes.
Fifteen years and 66 days after she fired
her last shots of the Korean War, the New Jersey steamed slowly
within range of North Vietnamese batteries a mile above the DMZ.
At 7:30 a.m., the starboard rifle on the No. 2 turret fired the
Within 90 minutes the New Jersey battered
two Communist artillery sites and a third complex of defense
positions nine miles inland and seven miles northwest of the
U.S. Marine outpost at Con Thien.
The Navy said the battleship, only one on
active service in the world, would use her maximum range of 23
miles later in the day to hit targets farther inland.
The initial target was a North Vietnamese
After the first shot, the battleship's commanding
officer, Capt. J. Edward Snyder of Fairfax, Va., waited anxiously
by his radio in the fire control shack for a report from a Marine
pilot flying above the target.
The first projectile was 300 yards off center,
came the report. Three more times the New Jersey fired and the
Marine pilot radioed back the supply area was destroyed.
He directed the fire against an antiaircraft
base which had fired on his plane and within minutes this base
was destroyed. Four antiaircraft weapons were blown skyhigh and
a string of bunkers was destroyed.
In jubilation the spotter plane streaked within
100 yards of the New Jersey's starboard bow and radioed: "Welcome
to the war."
The plane then dipped its wings in salute.
When Jets Grounded
Until now the U.S. Navy has been using the
8-inch guns of its cruisers for offshore attacks. Inland targets,
including the antiaircraft and radar bases which have downed
900 allied planes over North Vietnam, are now in range of the
This was one reason former Defense Secretary
Robert S. McNamara recalled the 56,000-ton battlewagon from the
mothball fleet. Another is that the New Jersey can inflict havoc
on coastal positions when monsoon rains have grounded American
The Marine Corps Skyhawk jet which spotted
the first blasts from the New Jersey was piloted by Maj. John
Lewis Clark, Jr., 31, of Glendale, Calif. His spotter was Marine
Tt. Patrick J. Morocco, 33, of Youngstown, Pa.
The two fliers were brought out by helicopter
to the New Jersey shortly after the first mission was completed.
Later in the day, when returning to home base
from the battleship, their helicopter was hit by gunfire near
Da Nang, but there were no injuries.
Morocco said the first strike by the New Jersey
"came in real tight."
And when the battleship fired on the antiaircraft
sites "the rounds impacted and we just didn't get any more
Clark said after the New Jersey's first two
rounds bracketed the storage complex the third "came in
right on the money," destroying an area 100 yards square.
"I told the controller to scratch it
off the target list," he said. "It is not there any
Rear Adm. Sam H. Moore, commander of the offshore
bombardment task group, said the New Jersey's presence in Vietnam
will help save the lives of pilots bombing the North.
"We can hit these targets without the
vulnerability of sending in aircraft under unfavorable conditions,"
The New Jersey received a report she was being
tracked by Communist radar, but there was no fire from batteries
on the North Vietnamese coast.
A few miles north the U.S. guided missile
destroyer Waddell fired two rounds on artillery positions on
Tiger Island. Snyder said the escort ship was "laying down
suppressive cover - it keeps them too occupied to give us any
To Go North
Snyder said no special precautions had been
taken to protect the New Jersey from Communist attack.
Moore said although the battleship's first
strikes were concentrated in above the DMZ the operating area
would extend to the 19th parallel - the current limit of U.S.
The big shells fell along the northern edge
of the six-mile-wide DMZ. The DMZ is a major staging area for
Communist forces infiltrating into South Vietnam.
Allied observers aid the DMZ probably will
be a main target for the New Jersey, a ship seeing its third
The only active battleship in the world cut
into the South China Sea with a crew of 1,636 and a fighting
heritage of 13 battle stars.
Equal 60 Planes
Refitted at a cost of $21.5 million for her
third war, the New Jersey has nine 16-inch guns each capable
of hurling a 2,700 pound shell 23 miles. Each shell can pierce
30 feet of reinforced concrete.
Military spokesman said the projectiles are
so powerful and so precise that even swarms of B52 Stratofortresses
- America's major warplane of the war - cannot match the New
Jersey's doomsday guns.
"In 3 1-2 minutes we can fire seven broadsides
from our 16-inch guns, equalling the bomb load of approximately
60 planes," said the New Jersey skipper, Capt. J. Edward
Snyder Jr., 43, of Fairfax, Va.
Runs 34 MPH
She's a big lady. The New Jersey weighs 56,000
tons. She is 887 feet long. She runs up to 34 miles an hour.
And she puts more punch into the sometimes forgotten fact that
U.S. forces shell the North Vietnam southern panhandle as well
as bomb it.
Her job will be plying the Vietnam coast,
providing support fire for Allied ground troops and tormenting
Communist coastal gun positions and camps.
History is a crewmember. The New Jersey was
the last battleship to fire her guns in combat, on July 26, 1953,
a day before the Korean War armistice was signed. She has older
The long low sleek ship walloped World War
II Japanese forces in such places as the waters off New Guinea,
the Marshall Islands and the China coast.
She was launched Dec. 7, 1942. The wife of
former New Jersey Governor and Navy Secretary Charles Edison
slammed home the champagne bottle. The New Jersey was put to
sleep in mothballs more than a decade ago, and many predicted
the 50 year age of the battleship was over. But in August, 1967,
Washington order her back to action, to join the 7th Fleet.
There are Communist targets far enough inland
that no other Navy guns could hit, that no planes could pound
Military officials, for security reasons,
announced no possible specific targets.
But, at the time of her recommissioning, the
New Jersey was said possibly to be used against major targets
as the great Thanh Hoa Bridge, a key link in the Communist rail
and road line down the North Vietnam panhandle. Planes have failed
to smash the bridge.
Recommissioning came in April. The New Jersey
left Philadelphia in May, 2,000 workmen working 10 months on
the overhaul. She passed gently through the Panama Canal and
began a six-week refresher training period in California waters
in early June. Then the lady came back to the far Pacific.