Thursday, November 30, 2017


File:USS Card (CVE-11).jpg


THE USS CARD (AVG-11/ACV-11, ) was a Bouge -class escort ("jeep") aircraft carrier built in WWII.  She started out in construction as a merchant ship a C-3 cargo ship, but was turned over to the Maritime Commission while under construction and converted into a Navy manned Escort carrier. The Card was launched as hull 178 in February 1942 originally designated AVG11 (Aircraft escort vessel No.11) but was reclassified ACV-11 (Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier No.11) in May of 1942 and commissioned on November 8 1942 with Captain J.B.Sikes, USN in command. She served with distinction in WWII and after the war saw several reincarnations in the 1950s including service as a helicopter carrier as the big and eventually nuclear powered carriers began to dominate the air craft carrier scene. 

 In 1958 the USS CARD became the civilian manned (Civil Service Merchant Mariners) USNS CARD operated by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as an aircraft transport. As such she was used to transport helicopters and other aircraft and their crews into South Vietnam for deployment to air fields ashore or to combatant Navy ships with operational combat flight decks. 

 While moored dockside in Saigon on May 2, 1964 North Vietnamese combat swimmers planted an explosive charge sending her to the bottom of the harbor alongside the dock and killing 5 U.S. Civil Service Merchant Mariners ("Civ MARs" in "Nav Speak").  These were probably the first U.S. Merchant Mariners to become casualties of war in the Vietnam conflict. The ship was patched and re-floated within 17 days of the sinking and towed to Subic Bay , Philippines for initial repair and then to Yoksuka for finishing. She actually returned to service on December 11, 1964 and served as a Merchant Marine manned air craft transport until decommissioned in 1970 and sold for scrap. At the time the sinking of the USNS CARD the Gulf of Tonkin incident hadn't happened as yet. The public was only told that the ship was damaged and repaired, the sinking never mentioned in the press of the day. Once again American Merchant Mariners gave their lives for the nation without so much as passing notice. Merchant Mariners historically have not only been casualties of war, but are often among the first. 

 Enough time has passed now that maybe the American people have gotten past the idea that they were lied to by the Federal government in the case of the USNS CARD. Maybe now the event and crew could be memorialized? 



  1. We have received a number of comments concerning the number of casualties on the USNS CARD. One reader sent an article from the NY Times indicating that no crew died in the attack. Above we report 5 died. We have been researching this and it appears that indeed the national media at first reported no casualties based on news releases from the DOD. Later accounts typically carried language to this found in Wikipedia:
    " Viet Cong commandos climbed out of the sewer tunnel near the area where Card was anchored, and they attached two loads of explosives to the ship’s hull. The attack was a success and Card sank 48 feet (15 m), and five civilian crew members were killed by the explosions. The ship was refloated 17 days later, and was towed to the Philippines for repairs.
    We continue to research this difference in the reports.

  2. Continuing our research: The US NAVAL INSTITUTE features a quote from a contemporary source: “The ship began to take on water immediately, forcing several crewman to hurriedly evacuate their quarters. The crew immediately closed off the lower compartments.” 2nd Mate Raymond Arbon was blown off his feet, but was otherwise uninjured. Miraculously, no one was killed. Pieces of the ship’s steel railing and planks from the pier were blown across the wharf. The superstructure was bent in by the blast, and a huge hole had been blown in her side below the waterline, and some of her cargo was destroyed. The 14,760-ton carrier dropped stern-first into the 48-foot harbor bottom."

    Given the description of the damages from the explosion we would have to agree with the assessment that " miraculously, no one was killed". And again we keep picking up story lines in which initial casualty reports were deliberately falsified. What we haven't found yet are any names associated with the "belatedly reported dead".

  3. THIS FROM "CONSIDER THE SOURCE" 2015 account of the event: On May 2, 1964, fifty one years ago today, two Viet Cong commandos sunk the USNS Card in the Port of Saigon. Five American civilian workers died, and an escort carrier that had survived years of combat against German submarines in the North Atlantic lay on the bottom, in fifty feet of murky water. Again, no names of the casualties.

  4. FROM The May 17,2017 issue of "HISTORY AND HEADLINES": "Though the ship had sunk at the at the pier, the ship only settled 48 feet to the bottom with most of her hull above water. Five American sailors were killed in the blast. The Card was pumped dry, patched, refloated (after 17 days) and towed to Subic Bay, then Yokosuka, for repairs and returned to service. The Card was once again decommissioned in 1970, and scrapped in 1971."

    Our research continues to indicate that the news of the day of the sinking of the USNS CARD indicated no casualties. Later news stories and historical articles indicate 5 American merchant mariners died in the incident. We have also found historical "analysis" that postulates an early cover up or misreporting of casualties in the immediate aftermath of the sinking. Fact or conspiracy theory? We continue to try to resolve the issue.