USS WIDGEON (MSC-208) Bluebird class coastal minesweeper in service 1955 to 1969, homeport Sasebo, Japan for 13 years. Market Time minesweeper in Vietnam with six campaign stars.
From the mid-1960s, the ship commenced a regular schedule of deployments on "Operation Market Time" patrol stations in the coastal waters off South Vietnam, on patrol and interdiction to cut off the seaborne flow of supplies to the communist Viet Cong forces inside South Vietnam. During one such cruise in January 1967, while being diverted from an "Operation Market Time" patrol to conduct classified operations in the Gulf of Tonkin, the ship made the national news when she was rammed by a swordfish. Later during that same cruise, while the ship was crossing the South China Sea, she sighted a McDonnell F4-C Phantom crash into the sea. Widgeon altered course in time to rescue one man of the two-man crew. The other flier, the pilot, died in the crash. Commander, Naval Forces, Philippines, later cited Widgeon for her outstanding performance of duty during the rescue.
Widgeon returned to Sasebo on 17 February 1967, worn and beaten from heavy seas, and was under repairs during March and April. On 1 May, a Navy P-3 Orion patrol plane, with a crew of 12 men on board, crashed in the Tsushima Strait off the southern coast of Korea. Widgeon headed for the scene of the crash, transiting the hazardous Hirado Strait for search and rescue (SAR) operations. She searched for two days and recovered numerous bits of debris but was unable to locate any survivors or the fuselage of the plane. The minesweeper ultimately returned to Sasebo on 5 May, to commence refresher training.
Widgeon spent the months of July through September, on her sixth "Market Time" patrol and a cruise in the South China Sea. Departing Sasebo on 3 July, the minesweeper arrived at Bangkok, Thailand, on 15 July. She later operated with mine countermeasures units of the Royal Thai Navy in the Gulf of Thailand in a SEATO exercise, "Sea Dog," before she operated on "Operation Market Time" stations from 27 July to 12 September. When she arrived at Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on 16 September, the ship's crew had not touched land in 60 days. Widgeon subsequently spent the rest of the year engaged in local operations out of Sasebo and Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and made a visit to Hong Kong for rest and recreation.
Over the next two years, Widgeon continued her operations in the Far East and Southeast Asian waters. During that time, she conducted two "Operation Market Time" patrols for which she later received the Meritorious Unit Commendation. The award, given the ship on 16 August 1970, was for the period from 1 June 1968 to 13 September 1969. During that time, Widgeon served with the Mine Countermeasures Ready Group and Coastal Surveillance Forces in combat operations off the coast of South Vietnam. She maintained a consistently high standard of readiness that enabled her to assume assigned duties early or on very short notice, and she completed three stints on "Operation Market Time" patrol stations. She not only inspected or boarded over 1,100 vessels but, on occasion, returned "hostile" fire from shore and conducted underwater searches. Throughout the repeated patrol extensions, "the continually outstanding performance, high state of morale, preparedness, and ingenuity of the officers and men of USS Widgeon attested to their exceptional team spirit and professionalism. By their exemplary courage and dedication, they contributed significantly to the success of anti-infiltration efforts in the Republic of Vietnam and enhanced the reputation of the Mine Countermeasures Ready Group, thereby reflecting credit upon themselves and the United States Naval Service."
Ultimately, after 13 years of continuous service in WestPac operating areas, Widgeon sailed for the United States on 17 August 1969, in company with Catskill, Vireo, and Warbler. Proceeding via Pearl Harbor, she arrived at Long Beach exactly one month later.