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First APB

Afloat Bases (APBs) MRF in Vietnam

Altogether, eight World War 2 barracks ships (all ex-LST type ships), were de-mothballed, but only the Benewah (APB-35), Colleton (APB-36), Mercer (APB-39), and Nueces (APB-40), went into active service in the Vietnam War----the other APBs, the Echols, Dorchester, Kingman, and Vandenburg were held in reserve in the USA.  The Benewah and Colleton were officially recommissioned on 28 January 1967 for service in Vietnam.  The Mercer and Nueces were recommissioned in 1968.  However the Colleton was decommissioned in 1969 as were the Mercer and Nueces as the strength of Task Force 117 was reduced in line with the commencement of the wind-down of US forces in Vietnam after the TET Offensive. In view of the U.S. and South Vietnam Air Forces' control of the skies over South Vietnam, and the coastal naval zones, the mother ships were virtually immune from air attack, as was the case with other allied naval vessels operating in the Mekong Delta, or in the South China Sea. The APBs were, however, attacked (unsuccessfully) on several occasions by enemy naval frogmen, (or sapper swimmers). 

The APBs displayed an armament of two 3-inch guns, eight 40mm guns (two quad mounts), ten .30 and eight .50 caliber machine guns with an assortment of small arms onboard.  The complement of each barracks ship was twelve officers and 186 enlisted men and the billeting capacity for 900 men, which represented the 2nd Brigade battalion on active rotation and the navy crews who handled the riverine assault boats TF-117 (MRF).   For the troops and boat crews the barracks ships represented the 'Hiltons' of base facilities in an operational war zone. The living and most working places were air-conditioned. Messing facilities were sumptuous, particularly when compared with those in the field. Welfare facilities included rest rooms, a cinema, chapel, laundry, library, tailor shop and ship's store.
Evaporators produced up to 40,000 gallons of fresh water per day.  A sixteen- bed hospital with X-ray room, a dental room and pharmacy were installed. In addition, there was a bacteriological laboratory for analytical research.

Displacement: 2.189 (light) tons, 4.080 full load.
Length: 328 ft (99.7m)
Beam: 50 ft (15.2m)
Draft: 11 ft (3.3m)
Main: engines: diesels (General Motors) 1,600 to 1,800 bhp, two shafts
Speed: 10 knots


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