Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Letter from Joe Conolly to Tung Trinh

It's been a while since we post news about Bolinao 52. It didn't mean that there wasn't anything happening. Actually, many good things happened. Tung Trinh connected with several USS Dubuque former sailors through social media. And the bond becomes stronger. Here is one letter.

I am pleased to hear from you. I was on the USS Dubuque LPD-8 when we encountered the vessel you were on. I was the Chief Engineer at the time and it was I that was supposed to have gone to your vessel to inspect it to see if it was sea worthy or not. I had gone to the bridge and asked the Captain why he was sending the XO instead of myself as our ships doctrine called for. I was ordered off the bridge after I continued to question his decision. I also suggested that he order the other Military Sealift Command Ship that was with us. Which was scheduled to leave our company the following day and return to Subic Bay. He really got upset about that and started yelling at me to get off the bridge and that he was sending the XO and that was that. I truly believe that I was one of the few ships Officers that would go up against the Captain over things that he did that was not right. He wanted the XO to go as the XO would do what the Captain wanted him to do. I would have boarded the vessel and inspected it to determine if it had an engine, fuel, was the engine operating, was there sufficient fuel, water and provisions to make land fall. This was not done and it was required to be done. I have taken part in several rescues of Vietnamese boat people. In every case we boarded the vessel and inspected the craft to determine if it was seaworthy or not. In one case I hung from a ladder from the side of the ship with one hand and lifted 79 people from a boat to the hands of the personnel on our Navy ship. I received a commendation for that. I then boarded the sampan and rigged it with explosives to prevent it from becoming a hazard for other vessels. I took off the sampans steering wheel and later on engraved the names of all 79 people onto brass plates and mounted it on the wheel. It is one of my most prized possessions. Knowing that I help save those people from a potentially fatal voyage. There were a couple of other times when the ship I was on rescued Vietnamese refugees. This is not to convince you that I am a good person. It is to tell you that there are a lot of very good people serving in the US Navy that did not understand, nor appreciate the way that our Captain acted that day. He had made up his mind that he was not going to pick you up and absolutely prevented it from happening over the objections of many of us stationed aboard the Dubuque. During his Court Martial I was not called upon to testify as I was considered a hostile witness against him. Chief Cloonan was another that was really upset about what happened, Americo was still another and there were many others equally upset. I did 4 tours of duty in country Viet Nam during the war there and I did my duty, and was effective at it. That was war, and whether it was a just war or not I will not argue. But it was war. This was peacetime and there is no excuse for what happened that day. I have very fond memories of the people that I came in contact with in Viet Nam, except for those shooting at me. I am truly sorry that you had to undergo such a horrendous experience for absolutely no sensible reason. I wish you well

Joseph Conolly LCDR USN CWO/LDO..

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