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1959 Tonkin Gulf Recon Patrol


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              Capt. Leif (Swede)Tollefson            

The Writings of Capt. Leif (Swede) Tollefson USS Rock         Re. clandestine patrol in the Tonkin Gulf - 1959

Preliminary to going on our special assignment, and despite having a Top Secret Clearance, it was necessary for me to get some other Clearances. I don't remember what they were, except one told me I was not allowed to talk about this for 25 years, or some such thing. After filling in and submitting the application forms, for them, to the sponsor of the project, COMNAVFORJAPAN, the Commodore COMSUBGRUWESPAC , was told that I wasn't Clearable because neither my Wife nor I was born in this Country. He said "Fine, find yourself another Submarine." A high precedence message was sent to OPNAV, Clearences were authorized in about 3 hours.

We left Yokosuka after New Years in 1958/1959 and worked our way South to Subic via Hong kong. The mission lasted from mid-January until late in Feb.,1959.

On leaveing Subic we changed day to night because we would Snorkel at night and run on the Battery in the daytime.

Our principal task was to carry the Naval Security team.

I believe they were to intercept messages in different languages because some kind of move on the part of the Viet Cong was expected as early as that. I have no idea how successful that part of the mission was. We were also tasked to plot Radar stations around Hainan and see what kind of shipping was going through the strait to or from the Haiphong area in Vietnam. The restrictions placed on us made things a little difficult: remain undetected and stay outside 12 miles of land, opposition may shoot and ask questions later. Since the characteristics of our Radar virtually made us detectable by Hull number, and there were times when it would have been ever so helpful to use it, we were pretty well restricted. The team of Spooks took over the Radio Shack and we had to use what was available in Combat. That wasn't all that bad because that was a good place to work, plot, etc. I thought the material condition of the ship was great. That is not to say we had everything we needed. Our Sonar was pretty primitive, for example.The average age of everyone on board was 22.

On the first approach to Hainan, we went to the East opening of Hainan Strait. Don't remember what we found there, if anything, except a lot of Chinese Junks. What was interesting about that situation was that visibility was not good, we couldn't hear them, and they seemed to move 6 or 8 abreast, something like a Destroyer screen. From there we moved down around the East coast of Hainan and up the West coast to a position near the west opening to the strait, plotting stations on the way. The situation there was complicated by several things other than those of remaining undetected and the 12 mile limit: visibility was extremely poor so we couldn't see land, for example; the water was shallow, 80-100 feet, so we would have trouble getting under a deep draft ship; LORAN coverage in the area was poor because of the location, poor reception in that area, or non-existence of stations, further limiting navigation. After we had been there awhile, we had some kind of a problem, which I believe was that the Spooks needed something, but I don't remember what, but it dictated our getting out of there. About that same time Pete Blair came down with something like Measles and running a temperature up to 106. The concern was not only for him, but also for it spreading throughout the Boat. So we headed back to Subic. After passing the southernmost part of Hainan, someone made contact with us. This must have been early evening in the dark and we were on the surface. Our guess was that it was a couple of  patrol craft. We never did see them but tracked them with our ECM gear, bearings and signal strength, and took evasive action to the Southeast as we saw fit, and were chased across the South China Sea all night. I remember going back to the Engine Rooms because the Enginemen wanted to secure the Engines because the air intake screens were filthy. Clearly, each Engine had to be shut down for a few minutes to clean the screens. As daylight approached, we submerged, as the contacts seemed to be fading. I remember going to Battle Stations without sounding the General Alarm, by word of mouth, to remain silent. During that 24 hour run we qualified for an annual requirement  excersize on the engineering plant: all Engines including the auxiliary, running the stills etc. On reaching Subic, the Spooks had their problem taken care of, and Pete was no longer sick, so we didn't leave him there.

After a few hours re-fueling etc. we returned to the Patrol area. Can't remember for how long.

This all took place over 40 years prior to the date of this letter, written to Wayne (Tex) Weatherford Engineman SS aboard the Rock.


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