Augmenting the vital role now being played by U.S. aircraft carriers, whose planes participated in many of the raids over South and North Vietnam, U.S. warships from the 7th Fleet begin to fire on Viet Cong targets in the central area of South Vietnam. At first, this gunfire was limited to 5-inch-gun destroyers, but other ships would eventually be used in the mission.
Organized into Task Group 70.8, the ships were assigned from the fleet’s cruiser-destroyer command, from the carrier escort units and amphibious units, from the Navy-Coast Guard Coastal Surveillance Force, and from the Royal Australian Navy. Ships and weapons included the battleship New Jersey, with 16-inch guns; cruisers with 8-inch and 5-inch guns; destroyers with 5-inch guns, and inshore fire support ships and landing ships.
Naval gunfire support and shore bombardment ranged the entire coast of Vietnam, but most of the operations took place off the coast of the northernmost region of South Vietnam, just south of the Demilitarized Zone. During the 1968 Tet Offensive, Task Group 70.8 had as many as 22 ships at a time on the gun line, offering invaluable naval gunfire support to ground forces.
In May 1972, as part of Operation Linebacker I, a 7th Fleet cruiser-destroyer group bombarded targets near Haiphong and along the North Vietnam coast, firing over 111,000 rounds at the enemy. One destroyer was hit by a MiG bombing attack and 16 ships were hit by communist shore batteries, but none were sunk.