as his friends and family always called him
...was credited with many instances in which heroic action on his part lead to extraordinary results. As related by shipmates after his death by telephone to our family the following were the events that lead to his death...
In the early days of the Vietnam Conflict, arms and ammunition passed from China to the north into North Vietnam. U. S. Forces were successful in cutting off that flow which lead to another source for these items. This new source was Cambodia. Since we had no stated conflict with that country, missions to Cambodia were not supposed to take place. The flow of arms, ammunition, and troops continued. Admiral Zumwalt and others immediately saw the need for the "Brown Water Navy".
Since PBR and Navy "Swift Boats" could transverse the rivers and streams into the Cambodia territory, they posed the best possible force to interdict the enemy. Jack's command was of ComRivRon 57. Major missions included "Giant Slingshot" and "Parrots Beak".
One such mission saw Jack and approximately twenty of his boats going up the streams to interdict the arms flow from Cambodia. As can be imagined, jungle growth made the passage difficult. Occasionally these streams emptied into small lakes. The Viet Cong became aware that Jack's squadron had passed on a mission "up stream" and positioned themselves for ambush on their return.
On this return, Jack and his men entered into one of the small lake areas and fell immediately under automatic weapons fire and rocket attack. In that battle, our men were sitting ducks and because of the jungle growth they couldn't see any exit to get away. Jack apparently realized this and sought to find a way out. In order to do this he had to get out from behind the protective armor and take his boat around the perimeter of the small lake. Once he found the exit area, Jack stationed his boat there and directed each of his fellow shipmates from the area. Jack's boat was the last to cut a circle and head out but a B-40 rocket made a direct hit, killing him instantly. Fortunately, his crew and all the other boats made it back to their base safely.
The jungle growth that allowed such an ambush to take place and made these missions so difficult was addressed by Admiral Zumwalt in his decision to use Agent Orange. Admiral Zumwalt was extremely upset with the loss of his young officers and men in these type conflicts and our family felt that the naming of the ship ELLIOT was a tribute to their courage.
Jack's tour of duty in Vietnam had been officially over but he had agreed to an extension. His relief, Lt. Peterson requested a delay in his assumption of command. Jack's tragedy was compounded by the fact that Peterson too was killed in action, i.e. USS PETERSON (DD-969).
USS ELLIOT is the second U.S. warship to bear the name ELLIOT and the first to be named in honor of Lt. Cmdr. Arthur J. Elliot, II, USN, who gave his life while serving as Commander, River Squadron FIFTY-SEVEN in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam in 1968.
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