Friday, October 15, 2004

What commanding a Swift boat was like
I have been on a Swift Boat, though not as a member of the crew. These boats were originally packet boats that delivered mail and supplies to off-shore oil rigs. The Navy "adopted" their design with only minor military/naval modifications for their Patrol Craft (fast) program. They were principally used to patrol off-coast of Vietnam as part of the campaign, Operation Market Time, to intercept coastal junk taffic carrying contraband. Only toward the end of the active U.S. navy involvement in the coastal and riverine warfare in Vietnam (1969-1970) were Swift boats used in the rivers and outlets of rivers In South Vietnam. The navy principally used PBRs (Patrol Boat, Riverine)--a sort of armed (fiberglass) speed boat--for riverine operations. Interestingly, the U.S. army had a larger riverine navy in Vietnam than the navy did!

Aluminum burns really well, given the right accelerant (e.g., an explosive grenade with phosphorous) and it doesn't stop bullets very well! Also a Swift Boat draws 3 to 4 feet of water. You do not want to beach it on a muddy bank if at all possible else you could get sucked in by the ooze, especially if you hit the beach hard enough at considerable speed. So you can imagine how vulnerable the crews were in an ambush not of their own making!

Something to think about. Just a thought.
- Jim Coffey, retired US Navy officer and Vietnam veteran (though not a Swiftie)

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