RIVERINE PATROL BOATS AND SWIFT BOATS IN VIETNAM!
Peter T. Yeschenko
For a lot of Sailors serving in the Vietnam War, especially those on aircraft carriers, the war effort was a matter of routine. For many, that daily routine didn’t involve much combat.
But for the Navy’s river force, among a few other units, it was a different story.
The pilots who flew from carriers or land bases, the SEALs and members of the Underwater Demolition Teams, and Navy corpsmen all saw plenty of action, among others.
One other group of Sailors who often saw combat was the Navy’s riverine force.
This force, known as the “Brown Water Navy,” took on the Viet Cong and later, the North Vietnamese Army in the Mekong Delta. These days, there are much newer, riverine combat boats in service, and “brown water” Sailors have seen action during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In Vietnam, two classes of vessel primarily carried out operations.
The first were PBRs aka Patrol Boat Riverine. The Navy bought 32 of these 32-foot long boats, each of which displaced seven tons. For small ships, they packed a huge punch; three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher came standard.
These small boats could be loaded up extras, including 7.62mm machine guns, 60mm mortars, and even flamethrowers!
Whatever configuration, these river force boats brought a lot of firepower for a crew of four to unleash on the enemy.
The other boat was the Patrol Craft Fast, known as the PCF or “Swift Boat.”
This boat, packed three M2 .50-caliber machine guns and had a crew of six. 193 were built, and while they’re most famous for their service in Vietnam.