458th Transportation Company
(Vietnam Area 1966-1971)
(still out standing questions are in bold green text if you can help email me) This history was taken from the Fort Eustis history web page however many small details were left out or not correct in the 1st place, hence I am spending a few hours to set the record straight. (wrong info is highlited in red)
The company was transferred to Camp Leroy Johnson, New Orleans, Louisiana, on 15 June 1956 where it was attached to the 394th Transportation Battalion. During the flooding of Hurricane Flossie, it evacuated approximately 1,550 civilians and towed from or helped 160 vehicles in danger. On 5 November 1956, the company participated in Operation Atlas held at Theodore, Alabama. From September through November 1958, the company participated in Operation Rocky Shoals at San Simion, California. Again the company went to the assistance of the civilian population of Kenner suburb of New Orleans by evacuating over a thousand civilians during the floods in the latter part of May 1959.
On 15 October 1959, the company participated in a logistics-over-the-shore (LOTS) exercise at Gulf Beach, Florida and another at Port Arkansas, Texas, on 5 April 1960. During the summers of 1961 to 1963, the company provided support to the Reserve Annual Active Duty Training (ANACDUTRA). During the same years, members of the company also participated in LOTS exercises in Florida and Swift Strike II with the US Marines in the Carolinas.
On 24 June 1963, the unit designation was changed to the 458th Transportation Company (Light Amphibian). It was reorganized as a Lighter, Amphibious company and traded its DUKWs in for the new Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo (LARC) 5-ton which began to arrive in July. They were not assigned until the unit completed its summer training. The 458th completed its turn-in and reissue by September. It also received the 254th Detachment with the mission of providing third echelon maintenance. In December the company also received its new M-14 rifles. The company tested its LARCs in a 394th LOTS training exercise at Port St Joe, Florida, in November. They had only minor problems with starters and magnetic clutches.
After the inactivation of Camp Leroy Johnson, the company returned to Fort Story on 15 June 1964 and became a part of the 10th Battalion, 4th Transportation Command. In preparation for deployment overseas to Vietnam, the unit received an influx of helicopter trainees who were converted to seamen. In September 1966 the company under the command of First Lieutenant Walter D. Gruff
see Note #2 shipped out for Vietnam aboard the USNS Maurice Rose by way of the Panama Canal and Long Beach, California. The company’s operations-base destination was Vung Tau but enroute the destination was changed to Cam Ranh Bay.
The 458th arrived at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, on 13 October 1966; at that time it was the only logistical, amphibious unit in the Operating Theater. See Note # 1 below
The LARC Vs and other company equipment arrived at Vung Tau on another vessel. By the time the 458th members were united with their equipment, another LARC unit had arrived at Vung Tau. See Note 1a below
The 458th had the mission to transport men and equipment from ship to shore where ever needed. Besides the LST beach at Cam Ranh Bay, they operated at Nha Trang, Phan Rang, Phan Thiet, and Vung Ro Bay. At Phan Thiet, 5 LARCs supported the 2nd Battalion 7th Cavalry during Operation Byrd. The newsletter Cavalier, April 15, 1967 makes mention of this operation
(There is a 458th record that mentions one combat operation transporting the 101st Airborne, operation Byrd?)
The company adopted the nickname, the “Sea Tigers.” First Sergeant Flynn asked John Hoeker to draw a Sea Tiger. The only picture of a tiger that John could find was the Esso Tiger in a magazine ad so he used that as inspiration.
The company, while under the command of First Lieutenant R. A. “Pete” Sellers, received six Boston Whalers to conduct harbor patrols in August 1967.
The company’s mission was transitioning from logistical and ship-to-shore operations to inland-water security and port security tasks. As the 458th was a unit transitioning from one major mission to another, 1LT Sellers attended strategy sessions with the 18th Military Police Brigade Commander and headquarters staff to create a plan to employ and support both the Boston Whalers and the inbound Patrol Boats Riverine (PBRs).
The 458th built their own flotation pier for the boats on South Beach of Cam Ranh Bay so they could remain in and near company operations area rather than use the LST beach landing site. The Boston Whalers were assigned for use until the company received its Patrol Boat, River (PBR) MK IIs in early 1968.
The 458th became the only PBR company in the US Army.
Newly recruited PBR crews volunteers were sent thru the U. S. Naval facility at Vallejo, California, for training.
The Navy training injected into these crews the understanding and best practices learned by the Navy in dealing with water borne threats. replacement crews coming from the United States would go through the four week coarse, “River Patrol Craft” at the Naval Inshore Operations Training Center at Mare Island, California.
The unit designation was changed to the 458th Transportation Company (PBR) under the command of Captain Edward F. Ginsburg.
The company headquarters moved to Vung Tau where it came under the control of the 92nd Military Police (MP) Battalion of the 18th Military Police (MP) Brigade. (Cpt Amick took command October 1968)
Captain Robert L. Amick Jr., Lt Larry Bryan, Lt Larry Gruber, and CWO Scribner were selected for the unit by HQDA. They attended the Naval Inshore Operations Training Center PBR Course (Mare Island) prior to arrival in RVN (October 1968). Larry Gruber was injured at Mare Island and did not go on to RVN.
Due to the simple fact that no Army company sized unit had ever so much equipment and such a large area of responsibility the TO&E for the commanding officer was changed from a Captain to Major. Captain Amick became Major Amick in 1969
458 PBR crews provided Direct Combat Support to MP units at ports, harbors, and during conduct of waterborne operations
See Note # 4
The company Hqs was moved from Vung Tau to a Military Police compound at Ton Son Nhut Air Base in the Saigon area in March 1968, See Note# 5
The company had detachments of four PBRs, each, to ports at Qui Nhon, Vung Ro Bay, Vung Tau, Newport, Cat Lai and Cat Lo.
Each PBR detachment worked with a different MP company. The detachment at Cat Lo / Vung Tau were attached to the 720th MP Company at Long Bien.
The detachment at Qui Nhon came under the control of the 127th MP Company, 93rd MP Battalion. “Ever Vigilant”, they searched sampans, and set up night ambushes to disrupt enemy supply lines. See Note # 4
They conducted harbor and river patrols and ammunition ship security throughout their assigned areas of operations. The 458th is credited with removing mines from US Naval and civilian contracted ships, often capturing or killing the enemy sappers. Normal patrols were 12 hours long with rotations from day to night using 18 hour patrol limits. Besides using PBR’s for enemy interdiction, 16 ft Boston Whalers were also used with a two man crew. Some? of the Whalers were fitted with a M60 machine gun mount on the bow. In total the 458th patrolled 500 miles of inland waterway and canals. The 458th was authorized eighteen (18) Boston Whalers, what is not known if the unit was authorized the extra men to operate the whalers. If not this would go a long way towards explaining why so many 458th members remember only two men per PBR
May/June 1970 the company Hqs moved to Di An. more information on this move is needed
The 458th was reactivated at Fort Story as part of the 79th Transportation Battalion on 21 May 1972. It again received LARC Vs. In spite of significant shortages of MOS qualified personnel - due to its recent activation - it participated in a Joint-Services test and evaluation of Offshore Discharge of Container Ship II (OSDOC II) in October 1972. This was one of very few LOTS operations conducted after the experiences in Vietnam. These were hard years for the company. The company finally reached operational readiness rating of 96% and passed its Annual General Inspection in August 1975.
When the 305th and 461st Transportation Companies inactivated, the 458th was the only active LARC V company in the US Army. The 458th Transportation Company became the first Transportation Corps line company to have a female commanding officer, Captain Elizabeth F. Otis, 1976-1977. From 1975 through 1976, the 458th conducted a number of amphibious exercises. LOTS training at Fort Story became routine over those years. The 458th Transportation Company conducted its last water exercise, “Surf and Sand Drive” on Red Beach, Fort Story, on 19 November 1976. It was inactivated on 19 March 1977. See Note # 7
A film has been found in the national archives
(ARC Identifier: 29936 Title: ARRIVAL OF THE FIRST LARCS, 06/05/1965 35 mm, Film: PPSK, 612 feet )
information with the film reads
Summary: LS, LARC-5 rolls off the USNS Comet into Quinhon Bay. LARC-5s under way. LS, LARC-5 is lowered over side of ship to water. VS, LARC-5s come off the Comet and circle around the ship. Crane lowers boxes into LARC-5 at side of ship. CONEX containers are lifted out of hold of ship and placed on deck. Tires are lifted out of hold and loaded into LARC. AVs, UNSN Comet offshore; LARCs circle nearby
Research is being done to try and determine what military unit this was( The mystery unit was the 344th LARC )
soon after the 458th arrived the 344th was disbanded, many of the unit LARCs with drivers were transferred to the 458th. The 344th besides unloading supplies from the beach did get in involved with insertion and extraction of combat patrols, we have one photo of a 344th LARC with a pedestal mounted M60, more information is needed on the 344th and the 1st months the 458th was in-country
NOTE # 1a
Information from Pete Sellers who was Commanding officer July or August 67 to May 68
None of the unit equipment went to Vung Tau. Everything was diverted to Cam Ranh Bay
"At the time of the unit's arrival in Cam Ranh Bay, cargo discharge & loading facilities were severely strained. The piers were being used at maximum capacity. Barge & lighterage alternative capacities were limited by the space to off-load to a pier location. Vessels were present, at anchorage for lengthy periods. The same vessels contained cargo of highly-demanded supplies and stockage. There was an immediate need to start off-loading vessels in the Cam Ranh bay to provide logistical support for the air base [major air wings, plus a major hospital], tactical operations [there were two divisions immediately West of Cam Ranh on the offensive], supply/depot build-up, and a replacement/troop depot. As the 458th arrived in Cam Ranh, the LARC-Vs were placed in the water, fueled and loaded with cargo. The unit had moved TONS of cargo before they had even "hit the beach" to report for duty!
Note # 2
May 1967 1LT Gruff prepared to rotate back to the USA and had departed the unit. Approximately August 1Lt. Sellers assumed command. An unknown officer was in command during the period between Lt Gruff's departure and ILT Sellers' Command.
Note # 3
The PBR crew consisted of two 458 PBR crewmen and two MP's. Occasionally, an RVN policeman would accompany the patrol. (information from former CO) It appears that there was a chronic shortage of 458th personnel and the actual
makeup of the crew was very flexible. there is at least one known occasion when the crew was all MPs
1968-1969 much work was done trying to write a workable TO&E for a PBR Company A modified TO&E was adopted in early 1969. When the MPs took command of the 458th in 1970 I suspect that the TO&E was again modified,as a 1971 report found by Bill Northrop referred to the 458th as the MILITARY POLICE RIVER/HARBOR SECURITY COMPANY. and that the TOE was inadequate
Note # 4
Operational control over all 458th men and equipment was maintained by the 458th Hqs. Until late 1969, at which time a MP officer took command of the 458th. Operations at all the outports consisted of searching Vietnamese boats, night ambushes plus any other required mission. The 1st true CO of the 458th as a PBR company was a Capt Amick. This officer had both command and combat experience. After he left it appears that the CO's were appointed on the basis of young officers needing command experience not on their ability to command anything.
Note # 5
Company Hqs moved to Pershing Field near Ton Son Nhut Air Base in the Saigon area January/February 1969
Note # 5A
It would have been in this time frame that the TO&E (table of organization and equipment) of the 458th would have been changed from a LARC unit to River Patrol Boat unit. The TO&E for each PBR was three crewmen. At least one change was made to the TO&E. In early 1969 the rank of the commanding officer was changed to Major.
Information reflection that the authorized manpower in 1970 was 165, see report
The authorized strength of the unit when it went to Vietnam is still unknown
How many Boston Whalers were authorized? This question was answered 23 Feb 2007 the number was 18 see report
Note # 6
Dept of the Army General Orders # 46 dated 23 July 1969 awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for the period of 28 March 1968 to 31 October 1968 to the 458th Transportation Company. This was awarded to the unit while it was in Vietnam, not after it was inactivated
Note # 7
The below link "A recent Internet find"sheds much light on notes 3, 4, and 5a