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HMAS Perth hit and suffers casualties in Vietnam

Friday 13 October, 2017

HMAS Perth in Canada, 1965 (Photo courtesy

The Guided Missile Destroyer HMAS Perth (ll) was commissioned at Boston, Massachusetts in 1965.  She spent the first eight months after being commissioned in American waters conducting trials and exercises. On 12 February 1966 she sailed for Australia, arriving in Perth, Western Australia on 4 March where she was granted Freedom of Entry to the city.

Most well-known for her service during the Vietnam War, three deployments between September 1967 and April 1971 saw HMAS Perth (ll) serve as a unit of the US Seventh Fleet operating off the coast of Vietnam, providing naval gunfire support to land forces.

During her service in support of the Demoines-class heavy cruiser USS Newport News, Perth (ll) was to become the first Australian ship to be hit by enemy fire during the Vietnam War and the only one to suffer casualties as a result.  At 0800 hours on 18 October 1967, Perth was 10 miles south of Sam Son, on the northern side of the Cap Chao headland and two miles ahead of Newport News when the ships identified a group of suspected Water Borne Logistics Crafts.  Both ships came under fire from over twelve coastal batteries as they moved to investigate. The ships moved to turn away from the coast while engaging in counter battery fire when, just as the turn was completed, Perth’s aft turret was hit. The shell damaged the gun mount, penetrated the deck and exploded in the confidential books vault. Expert damage control teams, on-board engineers and other crew on board managed to restore Perth’s aft turret to a fully operational state in less than four hours using parts and materials already on the ship.

Once the aft turret was operational again, Perth returned fire with both turrets, silencing enemy fire. Four sailors were wounded by the exploding shell, two were severely wounded and had to be airlifted to the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany and from there to a Naval hospital.

Perth (ll) steamed over 149,000 miles on active service during the Vietnam War, fired approximately 30,711 five-inch rounds and came under fire on five occasions. Over 7,000 officers and sailors served on Perth (ll) during her period of service. The ship was awarded the United States Navy Unit Commendation following her first deployment and the United States Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation after her second deployment. The Secretary of the Navy cited ‘the prowess and teamwork displayed by the personnel of Perth …. uniformly characterised by personal valour, professional acumen and individual initiative. The tenacity, professionalism and dedication demonstrated by the officers and men of Perth reflect great credit upon themselves and the Royal Australian Navy’.



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