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POSTED ON 11.1.2018
POSTED BY: Janice Current

An American Hero

Thank you for stepping up and answering your country's call. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. Rest easy knowing you will never be forgotten.
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POSTED ON 7.22.2018

Mining of the USS Westchester County (LST-1167)

The USS Westchester County (LST-1167) was a Terrebonne Parish-class tank landing ship built for the United States Navy at the tail end of the Korean War. Named for Westchester County, New York, she was the only U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name. During the Vietnam War, the ship provided service as a Mobile Riverine support ship. In late 1968, the Westchester County was serving as a temporary home and base to 175 soldiers of the 9th Infantry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 34th Artillery, and to the crews of Navy River Assault Division 111. Assigned as support ship for Mobile Riverine Group Alpha, ‘Wesco,’ as she was known throughout the fleet, was anchored midstream on the muddy My Tho River, 40 miles upstream from the coastal seaport of Vung Tau. Clustered in a rough semicircle around the LST were the Brown Water Navy command ship USS Benewah, the repair vessel USS Askari, two large barracks barges, a small salvage vessel and scores of squat, green armored assault craft. All were fully loaded with fuel and ammunition. Tied to Wesco‘s starboard side and cushioned from the ship’s hull by a 50-foot-long teakwood log called a ‘camel’ were three ‘ammis,’ huge aluminum pontoon barges linked together that served as combination pier, loading dock and ammunition and gasoline storage depot. The 25 monitors, assault support patrol boats and armored transports of River Assault Division 111 were moored to the ammis. On the ship’s main deck were five fully fueled Army helicopters; below, on the tank deck, more than 350 tons of high explosives and ammunition were stored. November 1, 1968, was a typical night on the river. The ship was darkened, with only navigation lights showing. Forward and aft, 3-inch rapid-fire guns were loaded and ready, manned by reduced crews. Armed lookouts were posted on deck. A roving petty officer made sure that gun crews and sentries remained alert. A full watch was in place on the bridge, and in the engineering spaces the ‘snipes,’ as engine-room personnel were known, stood ready to answer all bells. In the distance, muffled thumps could be heard as picket boats made their rounds, dropping concussion grenades to ward off enemy frogmen. Below decks, in the crowded berthing compartments, the silence was disturbed only by the whir of air-conditioning fans and the murmurs of sleeping men. But as the crew slept, a team of VC frogmen evaded the picket boats and silently approached the ship. The messenger of the watch had just gone below to wake the oncoming duty section when two enormous explosions ripped into Wesco‘s starboard side. A pair of swimmer-delivered mines, each estimated to contain between 150 and 500 pounds of explosives, had been simultaneously detonated directly beneath the camel. Compressed between the pontoons and the LST’s hull, the force of the explosions was driven upward, shredding steel plating, rupturing fuel tanks and blasting into the berthing compartments. One of the ammis seemed to leap out of the water as a huge spray of oil, water and hardwood splinters was thrown into the air. In an instant, visibility within the ship was reduced to zero as lighting was knocked out and the air filled with clouds of choking steam and vaporized diesel fuel. In the crowded sleeping areas, the blasts rolled an entire deck upward and back, like the tongue of a shoe, leaving only a cramped crawl space jammed with twisted metal and mangled bodies between the deck and bulkhead. Below, in the Army berthing spaces, men, bedding, weapons, ammunition and personal gear were hurled across the compartment as two gaping holes opened the interior of the ship to the muddy waters of the My Tho. Shock waves reverberated across the water, and Wesco began listing to starboard. General Quarters was sounded throughout the ship as men groped in the tangled darkness to reach battle stations or aid wounded shipmates. Just beneath the main deck a volcano waited to erupt. Two-thirds of the tank deck, running nearly the entire length of the ship, was being used for ammunition storage. More than 10,000 rounds of Army 105mm and 155mm high-explosive ammunition were stored there, closely stacked alongside pallets of 20mm ammunition, boxes of C-4 plastic explosive, Claymore mines, white phosphorous ammunition and cases of flares and pyro-technics. In the wake of the explosions, loose and damaged ammunition lay scattered about the deck. Clouds of highly flammable vaporized fuel hung in the air. With just one spark, the entire contents of Westchester County could easily go ‘high order.’ When the sun came up the next morning, boats still shuttling rescue equipment and wounded men to and from the scene, the scope of the VC attack and the damage resulting from it became obvious. Wesco’s hull was scarred by a pair of gaping, 10-foot holes, and the ship still listed 11 degrees to starboard. On the oil-soaked main deck, two of the Army choppers were wrecked beyond repair. The inboard ammi, miraculously still afloat, was grotesquely crumpled, its forward third punched inward by the force of the blasts. Dozens of damaged light anti-tank rockets, Claymore mines, blocks of C-4 plastic explosive, flares, grenades and other loose ordnance lay strewn across the ammi’s twisted deck. Being unable to successfully assess the full damage to his ship where she lay, commander LTC Branin reluctantly gave orders to beach Wesco, and the LST was gently run aground on the bank of the My Tho near Dong Tam. At low tide, enough of the hull was exposed to enable the captain to plan temporary repairs. When the final casualty figures were tallied, they showed that 17 crew members of Westchester County had been killed in the explosions. The lost crew members included SA Jackie C. Carter, SK1 Richard C. Cartwright, QM2 Chester D. Dale, RD3 Keith W. Duffy, SMSN Timothy C. Dunning, PN1 David G. Fell, ETN2 Thomas G. Funke, RM3 Gerald E. Hamm, QMSN Floyd W. Houghtaling III, SK1 Aristoteles D. Ibanez, YN1 Jerry S. Leonard, RM3 Joseph A. Miller Jr., RM1 Rodney W. Peters, YN3 Cary F. Rundle, RM3 Reinhard J. Schnurrer, QM2 Thomas H. Smith, and CS1 Anthony R. Torcivia. Five 9th Infantry Division soldiers died in the wreckage of the troop compartment. They included SP4 Leslie V. Bowman, SP4 Wilfredo Cintron-Mendez, PFC Ernest F. Cooke Jr., SP4 Paull D. Jose, and SGT Dennis K. O’Connor. Also killed in the attack were one sailor from River Assault Division 111, EN3 Harry J. Kenney, one South Vietnamese Navy sailor and one South Vietnamese ‘Tiger Scout’ interpreter. Twenty-two crewmen had been wounded. The 25 KIAs lost in the mining of Westchester County represent the U.S. Navy’s greatest single-incident combat loss of life during the entire Vietnam War. [Taken from coffeltdatabase.org, historynet.com, and wikipedia.org]
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POSTED ON 11.26.2017
POSTED BY: Lucy Conte Micik


Dear Sp4 Wilfredo Cintron-Mendez,
I hope your photo is put here because this wall of faces is missing yours. Thank you for your service as an Infantryman. You passed on All Saints' Day, they welcomed you. This is the month that we remember all those who have passed-on. We remember you. It is so important for us all to acknowledge the sacrifices of those like you who answered our nation's call. Please watch over America, it stills needs your strength, courage and faithfulness. Rest in peace with the angels.
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POSTED ON 10.14.2013
POSTED BY: Curt Carter

Remembering An American Hero

Dear SP4 Wilfredo Cintron-Mendez, sir

As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.

May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.

With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir

Curt Carter
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POSTED ON 11.28.2010
POSTED BY: Robert Sage

We Remember

Wilfredo is buried at Barrio Angeles Cemetery,Utuado,PR. BSM ARCOM PH-OLC
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