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Gas cylinders are hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer during refeuling operations. The tanker USS Tappahannock can be seen in the background.

Gas cylinders are hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer during refeuling operations. The tanker USS Tappahannock can be seen in the background. (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

This article first appeared in the Vietnam edition of Pacific Stars and Stripes, Nov. 10, 1968. It is republished unedited in its original form. The images were all taken by Stars and Stripes photographer Kim Ki Sam July 15, 1968, but did not accompany the article when it was originally published. Operation Sea Dragon ran from Oct. 25, 1966, to Oct. 31, 1968.

SAIGON — The Navy’s “Sea Dragon” breathed a fiery farewell to the North Vietnamese coast last week.

Sea Dragon is the nickname given to the navy’s operation aimed at cutting off enemy supply traffic in the Gulf of Tonkin. It ended last Friday night when the U.S. halted bombardment of North Vietnam.

Destroyers and cruisers of the 7th Fleet had patrolled waters off the North Vietnamese coast continuously since Oct. 1966, in search of boats, barges and sampans moving south. In Feb. 1967, the ships began firing on inland targets, including storage areas, base camps and traffic routes.

The destroyers Mansfield and Hanson — the first ships ordered to Sea Dragon duty — were fired on twice by enemy shore batteries during the first day of the operation. They returned the fire — gun sites were their only targets in North Vietnam at the time — to begin a two-year duel with enemy shore gunners.

Transfer of personnel by high-lines onto the USS Buchanan from the tanker USS Tappahannock. The U.S naval ships were taking part in Operation Sea Dragon, conducting naval bombardments at targets north of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam.

Transfer of personnel by high-lines onto the USS Buchanan from the tanker USS Tappahannock. The U.S naval ships were taking part in Operation Sea Dragon, conducting naval bombardments at targets north of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

Ammunition is hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer during rearming operations. The tanker USS Tappahannock can be seen in the background.

Ammunition is hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer during rearming operations. The tanker USS Tappahannock can be seen in the background. (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

Sailors pull rope during the refueling and rearming operation on board the USS Buchanan destroyer by the tanker USS Tappahannock (not visible).

Sailors pull rope during the refueling and rearming operation on board the USS Buchanan destroyer by the tanker USS Tappahannock (not visible). (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

Sailors pull rope during the refueling and rearming operation on board the USS Buchanan destroyer by the tanker USS Tappahannock (not visible).

Sailors pull rope during the refueling and rearming operation on board the USS Buchanan destroyer by the tanker USS Tappahannock (not visible). (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

One U.S. destroyer was reported hit in her forward gun mount by enemy shells in March, 1967. Six sailors were injured, and the mount knocked out of use.

Sea Dragon ships hit at least 90 gun sites in the north this year. Hundreds of other targets — bridges, trucks, ferries, piers, roads, wharves, military structures and troop concentration among them — were blasted by the force’s five, six and eight-inch shells.

Navy spokesmen point to the first three months of Sea Dragon to indicate the operation’s effectiveness. In that period, 1,378 supply craft were sighted and 664 were reported hit. During the Christmas 1966 standdown, spokesmen said more than 500 enemy supply boats were spotted moving along the coast.

There has been no official indication as to whether the Reds have again stepped up traffic now that the destroyers, cruisers and the battleship New Jersey have moved south along with the aircraft carriers.

Last Friday — the final day for Sea Dragon — the destroyers Purvis and Isbell came under enemy fire, but were not hit. The ships pumped shells back at the gun sites and called in jet strikes. One site was reportedly destroyed.

The Sea Dragon had won the last duel.

The USS America during Operation Sea Dragon seen from the air, July 15, 1968. The aircraft carrier was conducting naval bombardments at targets north of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam.

The USS America during Operation Sea Dragon seen from the air, July 15, 1968. The aircraft carrier was conducting naval bombardments at targets north of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

500-pound bombs are loaded onto a A-6A Intruder by the flight-deck crew of the USS America, north of Dong Hoi, Gulf of Tonkin, July 15, 1968.

500-pound bombs are loaded onto a A-6A Intruder by the flight-deck crew of the USS America, north of Dong Hoi, Gulf of Tonkin, July 15, 1968. (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

Equipment is hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer from the USS Haleakala (AE-25) during resupply operations, July 15, 1968.

Equipment is hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer from the USS Haleakala (AE-25) during resupply operations, July 15, 1968. (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

Equipment and ammunition are hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer from the USS Haleakala (AE-25) during resupply operations on July 15, 1968.

Equipment and ammunition are hoisted aboard the USS Buchanan destroyer from the USS Haleakala (AE-25) during resupply operations on July 15, 1968. (Kim Ki Sam/Stars and Stripes)

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