Admirals Agree: Mining Effective

Thursday, May 25, 1972

Admirals Agree: Mining Effective

ABOARD THE OKLAHOMA CITY (UPI) --The commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. William P. Mack, said Tuesday the mining of North Vietnamese harbors and river mouths has halted delivery of all war goods to North Vietnam.

Mack said the American flotilla off North Vietnam had "warned one to five merchant ships of the mines protecting Haiphong Harbor. Some turned back, some turned away," he said.

"It's very effective," the admiral told newsmen aboard his flagship. "No ships are going in or out of Haiphong to our knowledge, and certainly the one claimed by the North Vietnamese to have gone in or out has not."

He referred to the East German freighter Frieden, which North Vietnamese officials claimed had sailed through the minefield into Haiphong last week.

American ships are using international flag hoists, flashing lights, loudspeakers and even foreign language tapes to warn the foreign ships of the minefields.

He denied, however, that U.S. warships were involved in a blockade, since they had no orders to stop vessels or to seize them.

The handsome, relaxed admiral, 56, denied North Vietnamese claims U.S. mines were being swept out of the harbors but admitted the seeding of the explosives was still going on.

"It's not finished," he said, "and it never would by. We would continue as we saw fit to put more mines in depending on the situation." He declined to elaborate.

Sweeping the mines, he said, "would be very difficult. It would take great skill and expertise and proper equipment and I don't think they have it," although he added the Soviet navy does.

The admiral shot down suggestions the mines could or would be disarmed during President Nixon's current visit to Moscow. "No," he said.

ABOARD THE USS OKLAHOMA CITY (UPI) --The commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Bernard A. Clarey, warned Tuesday it would be dangerous for the Communists to try to move supplies on barges through the minefields guarding North Vietnamese harbors.

On a tour of 7th Fleet ships, Clarey said commercial freighters could anchor outside the minefields of Haiphong and unload their cargo into barges or lighters.

"They can try it but I might say this is going to be a dangerous operation," the admiral told a news conference. He said it would be dangerous because of "air actions and mines."

Asked about the mining operations, Clarey said, "I think there is no question but that the mining has been effective. We sat out here in the Tonkin Gulf and saw ships going into Haiphong for all these years and there aren't any going that way now and they aren't coming out.

"The ones that are in there are behind the minefields, the ones that are not there aren't going to get in. So we have shut off the support of third country sources by mines."

The admiral said there were "four to six" Soviet destroyers and cruisers in the South China Sea but he thought any confrontation with 7th Fleet ships was "unlikely."

"I must say, we are not alarmed although we are watchful. They have the right to be anywhere in international waters, the same as we have," the admiral said.

However, Clarey said, "We seldom see them loiter as long as these have and we are watching them very carefully with our aircraft."

Returning to the mining operation, Clarey said he had directed the 7th Fleet commander to make a daily reconnaissance of the North Vietnamese harbors.

The admiral said this has been done and the 7th Fleet reported that it has seen nothing moving in or out through the minefields or any indications of an effort to sweep or disturb the minefield.

"Admirals Agree: Mining Effective", by (UPI), published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes Thursday, May 25, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.