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.