FRANSEN, ALBERT MARK JR

Name: Albert Mark Fransen, Jr.  
Rank/Branch: Engineman 3rd Class/US Navy
Unit: Coastal Squadron 1 Coastal Division 15 Swift Boat
Qui Nhon, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 09 October 1944
Home of Record: Las Vegas, NV
Date of Loss: 02 July1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 125029N 1092706E (CQ308304)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Boat
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)

REMARKS: 

SYNOPSIS:For close-in work Patrol Craft, coastal (Fast) – PCFs – nicknamed “Swift Boats” or simply known as “Swifts,” with their 5-man crew and shallow draft were ideal for operating in the myriad of Asian waterways. These boats, modified from crew boats used to serve commercial civilian oil rigs, were well armed with a twin machine gun turret atop the cabin and a mortar/machine gun combination aft. The Swifts successfully patrolled various sized rivers and tributaries as well as the coastline throughout South Vietnam, usually in 2 or more boat sections, to interdict Communist lines of communications, open the trans-delta waterways, pacify the areas adjacent to these waterways and to harass enemy personnel while keeping him off balance.

Sometimes these well-armed little boats were pressed into duty as troop carriers while other times they carried special operations teams on classified missions deep in enemy held territory. The gunners frequently wore over-sized helmets containing communication gear that connected them to the bridge via a cord running across the deck allowing the boat commander to direct gunfire.

On the night of 2 July 1969, EN3 (Engineman 3rd class) Albert M. Fransen, Jr., GMG3 (gunner’s mate guns 3rd class) Glen C. Keene and SKSN (stores keeper – seaman) Charles R. Coburn comprised the 3-man mortar crew assigned to Swift Boat PCF-87 conducting a multi-boat Operation Market Time harassment and interdiction fire mission just off shore along the coast of South Vietnam near the mouth of the Song Da Nong River approximately 50 miles south of Qui Nhon, 7 miles southeast of Tuy Hoa, 4 miles southeast of the Phu Hiep Army Airfield and approximately ¼ mile off shore, Khanh Hoa Province, South Vietnam.

At 1959 hours, the crew initiated its harassing fire mission in support of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy Intelligence Liaison Officer against enemy troop locations and staging areas on either side of the Song Da Nong River. Further, a forward observer assigned to the naval gunfire liaison office, Tuy Hoa was spotting for this fire support mission by providing the target coordinates to the gun crews. The 81mm ammunition being used for this operation was high explosive (HE) with bore riding pin XM-716 fuse, lot #KN 6-2.

According to Charles Coburn, a mortar round being seated in the tube exploded prematurely completely blowing the 584-pound 81mm mortar mount off PCF-87 and into the South China Sea. Further, the concussion from the explosion severely wounded GMG3 Keene and SKSN Coburn while throwing EN3 Fransen overboard into the 60-foot deep murky water.

Shortly after the incident, a medevac helicopter, call sign Pedro, picked up and transported Glen Keene and Charles Coburn to the US Air Force hospital at Qui Nhon. SKSN Coburn survived serious wounds to his right arm and large hole in his left thigh; however, GMG3 Keene was pronounced dead at the hospital from a severe wound to his left arm and damage to his right cardiac artery.

The damage to PCF-87 included the 81mm mortar mount being destroyed, the URC-58 radio and the PRC-25 radio inoperable, the DECCA Radar inoperable, superstructure damage of an undetermined amount; but no damage to the hull or the engine.

PCFs 64, 89 and 90 were immediately called in to provide search and rescue assistance for the rescue/recovery operation for Albert Fransen. During the search operation, the crew of another Swift Boat saw and recognized his body floating on the surface in a buoyant flak jacket.

The sailors were able to secure his body with a safety line and removed the flat jacket in preparation to lift him aboard their boat. However, as they did so, his body slipped out of the safety line that had been tied around him and he immediately sank from sight.

The next morning the search continued to the north and south of the accident site using ground personal along the shore as well as helicopters and boats out to sea. During the subsequent searches, no trace of Petty Officer Fransen was found. At the time the search effort was terminated, Albert Fransen was declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

After the conclusion of the search and recovery mission, a salvage operation was undertaken to recover PCF-87’s mortar mount and the damaged 81mm rounds that had been dumped and/or blown overboard the night before.

The preliminary accident investigation report revealed “the possibility the bore riding safety pin was missing from the XM-716 fuse causing a fuse malfunction and not by a double load (one shell on top another )” thereby causing it to explode when seated in the mortar tube. Rapid action was taken by the Navy to remove all rounds from PCFs utilizing a bore riding safety pin and use only M524A5 fuses instead.

While Albert Fransen’s death was caused by a tragic accident and his fate is not in doubt, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all humanly possible. If his body was carried out to sea, there is no chance he can ever be recovered. However, if his body washed ashore, it could have been found and buried by local residents of the area and there is a chance that one day he could be recovered and brought home to the nation for which he gave his life.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different. Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

American servicemen in Vietnam were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances both on and off duty, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.