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Remembering the Contributions of the Mine Warfare Community

Mine Warfare - USS Scout

A demolition charge detonates 1,500 meters from the mine countermeasures ship USS Scout (MCM 8) in the Straits of Hormuz on Nov. 19, 2010. The charge was built and detonated by sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 1 and Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, attached to Combined Task Group 56.1 during joint mine countermeasures training. US Navy photo 101119-N-QW632-023

Commander David Bruhn, USN (Ret) is one of the leading authorities on the history of U.S. Navy mine warfare. He is perhaps best known as the author of the multi-volume Wooden Ships and Iron Men series. Volume I, The U.S. Navy’s Ocean Minesweepers, 1953–1994, tells the story of the long service lives of the 65 U.S. Navy ocean minesweepers (MSO). In addition to duties sweeping mines, they also searched for lost aircraft, ships, and munitions on the sea floor, showed the flag around the world, and participated in nuclear test programs and the NASA space program. Volume II, The U.S. Navy’s Coastal and Motor Minesweepers, 1941–1953, studies World War II, Korea, and the early Cold War. 561 of these coastal and motor minesweepers earned nearly 700 battle stars, 21 Presidential Unit Citations, and 15 Navy Unit Commendations during World War II. Reduced to only 16 vessels by the time of the Korean War, this class of ships nonetheless bravely earned 124 battle stars, 7 Presidential Unit Citations, and 7 Navy Unit Commendations. Volume III of the set, The U.S. Navy’s Coastal and Inshore Minesweepers, and the Minecraft That Served in Vietnam, 1953–1976, looks at the role these boats played during the Vietnam War, including coastal interdiction patrols and ensuring safe passage on inland waterways. During the war, these boats earned four Presidential Unit Citations, three Meritorious Unit Commendations, and three Navy Unit Commendations. Bruhn’s diligent research brings the story of Navy mine warfare to life in this three volume set.

Bruhn served twenty-two years on active duty and two in the Naval Reserve, as both an enlisted man and as an officer, between 1977 and 2001, including two tours aboard Mine Warfare ships. The idea for the first book in the series came to him when he learned during a tour in the Pentagon that USS Excel (MSO-439), which he had served aboard as a junior officer, had been decommissioned and relegated to the “Ghost Fleet” at Suisun Bay, near San Francisco. Research, however, revealed that there was not enough riveting material about Excel to fill a text – but that collectively MSOs had, during nearly four decades of service, participated in many interesting events. Thus was borne the idea of recording their history before it would all be obscured by the passage of time.  Volume III is the capstone book in the trilogy devoted to minesweepers, the link between the first two volumes, and companion book to Volume I. After having started working on a book about the smaller brethren of ocean minesweepers, the coastal and inshore minesweepers, he began researching their predecessors from the World War II and Korean War eras, and found an extraordinarily rich and largely ignored subject since Arnold Lott’s book Most Dangerous Sea was published in 1959. Someone once wryly noted that if the submarine force is the “silent service,” then mine warfare is the “unknown service” within the Navy, receiving few resources and little publicity.  Bruhn, who commanded two Avenger-class Mine Countermeasures Vessels, hopes the collective contributions of minesweep sailors since World War II, presented in his Wooden Ships and Iron Men trilogy and the Mine Warfare Hall of Valor, will help change this precept.

Bruhn’s work on the history of mine warfare continues in the online arena. He maintains a website which contains an extensive “Mine Warfare Hall of Valor” as well as a “Yard Patrol Vessel Hall of Valor.” These online documents tabulate awards presented to both ships and individuals, as well as the text from individual citations. His goal is to link the citations for medals of valor to create a coherent portrait of the rich history of the U.S. Navy’s Mine Warfare community. He is focusing on Minesweeping helicopter crewmen, Explosive Ordnance Disposal divers, Underwater Demolition Team divers, Minesweep sailors, and Minemen. Bruhn hopes that this online Hall of Valor will help preserve the collective legacy of these past and present members of the Mine Warfare Community, and also provide in a single location useful information for historians and researchers. This online information is a work in progress, and he welcomes corrections and changes where appropriate. Additionally, he is seeking additional information from the Mine Warfare community, including citations that he can provide links to. The ultimate goal is to provide a comprehensive resource for the public to use. Bruhn can be contacted at [email protected].

Mine Warfare - Bruhn

USS Endurance (MSO 435) engages North Vietnamese gunrunner in historic wooden versus steel ship confrontation in November 1970. (painting "Sea Battle off the Cua Co Chien River" by Richard DeRosset.)

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  1. Barb Kantner

    Looking for crew members on USS Advance MSO 510 September 1968-April 1969. Trying to prove ship was in Viet Nam. It’s not listed on VA’s list. Researching for husband John (Mike) Kantner.

    • Stanley Day - VSO

      I have the deck log of Advance (MSO-510) Dated Friday 22 July 1966 that shows the Advance entered and anchored in Da Nang harbor and dispatched several whaleboats while there. You just need to state you went ashore for whatever and the VA will have to recognize this.

      • R. Goodman

        Stan, can you send me a copy of any USS Advance ships logs you may have?? I am especially interested in any around 7-16-66 or latter.. As I recall, we hit DaNang for refueling.
        My reason is I was aboard the USS Advance when she fought it out with 3 Junks during the 16 July 1966 patrol, and was on the bridge at the time. I am trying to get a CAR for that action.

    • R. Goodman

      I know, I was on the Advance at least from 7-18-1966 TO 2-1-1967.
      and having trouble with that period…but for you as noted in Jane’s Book of Fighting ships…
      On 9 September 1968, Advance stood out of Long Beach bound for the western Pacific once more. After the usual stops at Pearl Harbor, Johnston Island, Kwajalein, and Guam, as well as one at Yap Island, she arrived in Subic Bay in late November. On 25 November, she once agate took up duties in Vietnamese waters, this time serving as barrier ship for the familiar “Market Time” patrol. Advance continued to alternate periods on “Market Time” patrol with repair and leave periods in various ports through the first week in March 1969. Later that month, she headed for home.
      ( I would assume the barrier patrol meant Market Time interdiction, which is considered Viet Nam Service)

  2. Daniel Boudreau

    Glad to read that these volumes exist. I’m a former NJROTC Teacher (soon to be again) and have linked the idea of what the mine warfare community does to the entry level, Office of Naval Research sponsored “SeaPerch” ROV program in my NJROTC classroom. It’s great to have these resources to link what experiential learning NJROTC Cadets do in the classroom to the real world. Thank you! Next is comparing the use of rudimentary ROVs in hydrographic surveying to what humans use to do in “hydro’s” can do today. Swim training first!

    Dan Boudreau, GySgt, USMC (Retired)

  3. Larry Miko

    My grandfather served on the USS Endurance MSO 435 in Vietnam. His name Larry Miko. After having a long conversation with my grandpa, learning about his Navy career. I asked him if he still keeps in contact with any guys he served with. If you know my grandpa please contact me.

    • Dennis Rhoades

      My name is Dennis Rhoades and I was on the Endurance from 1966 to 1970. I believe that I know your grandfather. If I remember correctly he was a Yeoman 1st class! I was a Boatswains Mate 2nd class. If you email me I will send you a picture of your grandfather!

  4. Rudolph Goodman

    I still cannot believe that the USS.Advance, MSO 510 is not listed for any awards above.
    The Advance was awarded 5 bronze stars for Viet Nam Service.
    I was aboard the USS Advance when she fought it out with 3 Junks during the 16 July 1966 patrol, and was on the bridge at the time.
    In addition I was aboard a couple of days prior when we were called to assist a rifle squad of US Marines(I Corp, our patrol area) who were under attack by the VC and unable to escape due the fact that their AMTRAC was stuck in the sand.
    We threw them a line and any assistance with small arms.
    I clearly remember the rear guard kneeling and firing at the VC to ensure the escape or for that matter, extraction.
    Commander Burch is no longer with us and deserves some credit for his service during that period.

    In addition we performed mine sweep operations close in while in I Corp, as I understand it not 65 miles from Haiphong.
    We also took prisoners and transferred them to Da Nang.
    The shoot out is listed in Wikipedia and Jane’s Book of US Naval fighting ships.
    Is there somewhere I can get copy of the ship’s log for that WestPac cruise?
    Rudolph Goodman, CIC, RDSN

  5. Cliff Baggett

    . I served aboard the USS GUIDE (MSO-447), MINEDIV 93 from 1966 thru 1968. WESPAC cruise Jan. ’67 thru Nov. ’67. I have a question concerning “The Secretary of the Navy presenting the Navy Unit Commendation to Navy Coastal Surveillance Force (Task Force 115) for exceptionally meritorious service from 1 January 1967 to 21 March 1968 in connection with the interdiction of enemy forces and supplies into the Republic of Vietnam” given by Navy Secretary John F. Chaffee. I have not noticed if any of the “O” boats received this award.
    Second, I read two articles in Commander Bruhn excellent books on Mine Sweepers. The first was an operation off the Channel Islands after we returned from WESTPAC that the Commander writes about. However at the end of the operation there was more to the story. After the rest of the Division returned to port the UDT team came out to help the GUIDE who had pulled the short straw and remained to recover the mines. Among the crew of the YFU-37 with EOD unit were two special “crew members”, two dolphins. I was on the bridge when they had their contest with the two legged divers on who could find and mark mines for recover. The two dolphins won fins down. What was of interest is when we returned to port the crew naturally told their families about the experience as we had no orders not to discuss it. That is until about two or three days later when gentleman from ONI came aboard and told us it was Secret and we were not to discuss it even among ourselves. We, not being as well disciplined as the crews in the regular or real navy, made plenty of whispered jokes among ourselves. We knew the Captain and his officers would invite the gentleman to their ward room, give him a cup of coffee and then explain the use and purpose of barn doors. (Much later I received a news clipping from my family saying one of them had died and the Navy had given the other her discharge papers off Florida.)
    Third there is a story about a Russian spy ship (of which I have seen several over the years) near Bangor, Washington in 1982 and another off the east coast in the 2000’s. Both groups were escorted by the U. S. Navy who could do nothing to stop them from their assignment. This is odd as in 1968 the GUIDE joined the Russian Navy as an AGI. We changed the shape of our ship, flew the Russian flag and name and the crew wore civilian clothes and we brought aboard in addition to gear in CIC and the Radio Room, a black box or cargo container on the fantail for the “spooks”. We then went out and had fun with a carrier force. Nothing they did could stop our spooks from doing their job. They ran a cruiser at us, flew over planes, gave warnings, etc. (We had received warnings from the Red Chinese on the way to Hong Kong and our Captain refused to acknowledge them as did the Captain of the PUBELO and the LIBERTY.)
    But there was a counter measure and the navy used it short of capturing or sinking us. They used a blocker. A fleet tug, that also went and had modifications and their own spooks, with gear that when they placed themselves between us and our target could block us, our radio and electric gear. It worked. But the top brass never used it again so the story of Washington and the East Coast.

    • Jim Brenner

      Hi Cliff,
      I believe we served together at ComMineFlot3. I served on USS Inflict MSO 456, 1970 – 1971.

  6. I did time on the USS Constant MSO 427, in Vietnam 1968-69. Overall 22 month on the ship and It was an interesting adventure.

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