Jungle Ball
VNN Coastal Group 26 Volley Ball Game

Binh Ba Island

Cam Ranh Bay


Music by The Kingston Trio©

One of the few diversions at both Chu Lai and Cam Ranh for crews on their time off from patrol was "jungle ball," which was played using a volley ball net adjacent to the barracks area. A scratch game was an almost daily occurrence each afternoon, after the temperature had subsided and the crews had time to recover from the previous day's 24 hour patrol. The main characteristic of this off duty sport was embodied in the rules.

"The rules of the game are:
There are no rules"

    

Image courtesy of Bob Johnson

"Palming" the ball, hitting or crossing over and under the net to interfere with players on the other side, kicking sand at your opponents, good natured verbal abuse of any player and, of course, arguments concerning the perceived limits of the out-of-bounds lines were all part of this exercise used to relieve some of the stress, frustration, and mental fatigue from the seemingly never ending "port-and-starboard" patrol schedule. Final scoring was never fully understood, but just who exactly won "bragging rights" was an important topic while waiting in the mess line.

At Cam Ranh, during the late fall of 1967, this off duty activity became the genesis for one of the more memorable and welcome breaks from the Market Time grind.

The US Naval advisor to the Vietnamese Navy Coastal Group 26, on the adjacent island of Binh Ba, observed this daily sport, that sort of resembled volley ball, and mentioned it to his VNN counterpart. They had a much more formal team comprised of sailors in their Coastal Group. So the idea was born for a competition aimed at fostering closer relations between the two organizations that were involved in joint operations.

The junior officers of Coastal Division 14 were not sure they could unlearn the finely honed skills practiced in their version of the game in time to make a credible effort. But they were willing to try. Accordingly, schedules were looked at, team members chosen, and thus the "grudge match" was duly arranged at the venue of the Vietnamese naval base.

The US Advisors did the navigating Hope those round eyes don't fall overboard

The trip from the Swift Boat pier over to the Vietnamese Naval Base was made courtesy of the VNN Yabuta craft that were used to patrol the same coastal areas covered by the Americans. The PCF's can be seen docked in the background. The US advisors went along to make sure no one got lost while covering the few miles to Binh Ba Island. A Vietnamese sailor was on lookout just in case one of the strange looking Swiftys tripped and ended up in the drink.

 
Did I say the US Advisors were navigating?
Image courtesy of Dr. Louis Letson
  Fortunately. The long voyage had an uneventful ending
Image courtesy of Herb Blume

The Binh Ba Coastal Group 26 base was located in a beautiful little cove on the lee shore of the island. It was quite familiar to the US sailors in that pick-ups and drop-offs of the VNN liaison petty officers were made at the start and ending of each Swift patrol made from Cam Ranh Bay.

 
Opposition Forces   Let's Play Ball

Upon arrival, the VNN team appeared to be a lot more professional looking and determined than was expected. And the seriousness with which the competition was perceived by their compatriots and families was evidenced by the number and formal attire of the spectators. CosDiv 14 was in for trouble, no doubt about it.

 
Standing by for incoming
Hey Renager! How about a little help here!
  Slam Dunk CosDiv 14 Style
 
Slam Dunk VNN Style   Not This time your won't!

History does not record which side came out on top in this fiercely contested struggle. But in the end it really didn't matter. Coastal Division 14 managed not to disgrace itself. The team politely remained on their side and away from the net. And since the court was hardpacked, kicking sand in reaction to mistakes was not an option. A great time was had by all !

And not all of the action was on the volley ball court.
The American sailors also managed to get in some quality time with their valued allies and new found friends
! BURP ! Xin Loi ! Chao !
 
     
 
Burt Renager retired
from the Navy as a Captain
 

Post Script

As part of President Nixon's " Vietnamization Policy ," all Swift Boats were turned over to the South Vietnam Navy starting in 1969. Many of the VNN sailors stationed at, or assigned temporarily to, Coastal Group 26 at Binh Ba became trainees as part of this transfer of assets.

A later section of this web site, VNN Turnover , describes one such turnover of Swift Boats at Cam Ranh Bay in 1970 which also brought an end to activities by Coastal Division 14 in a ceremony marking its dis-establishment.

 


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