RiverVet - Don Blankenship's site about River Boats in Vietnam Photos
The Vietnam war impacted a generation. These are the stories and pictures of one sailor's experiences in that war. Hopefully, along the way I'll provide you information on the little known, yet valuable contributions to the war effort by "The Brown Water Navy."
South Vietnam, especially the southern 1/3 of the country, is covered with waterways, both natural and man-made. This created a logistical nightmare for the ground forces. The Navy responded to this problem by the creation of the Mobile Riverine Force, consisting of Armored Troop Carriers, Monitors (similar to the Civil War variety), Command and Communication Boats, Assault Support Patrol Boats, Flamethrower-equipped boats, and Refueling boats, all of which were served and supported by a fleet of Troop Ships, LST's, Repair Ships, Barracks barges, and other supporting vessels. The Mobile Riverine Force became the partnership between the Army and Navy in fighting the war in the rice paddies, canals and treacherous waterways of the south. While they were principally congregated in the IV Corps area, they were also called into service in the rivers of I Corps, the area nearest the DMZ, and at some times in the III corps area.
The Navy also had PCF's (Patrol Craft, Fast, also known as Swift Boats) which principally patrolled the coastal waters from Vietnam's border with Cambodia in the South China sea all the way up South Vietnam's eastern coast to the Demilitarized Zone which separated the North and South. In addition to patrolling the coastal waters, these boats made periodic raids into the inland waterways. However, the patrolling and interdiction efforts of the inland waterways was the primary responsibility of Task Force 116, made up of PBR's (Patrol Boat, River). The PBR sailors, the Swifties, and the MRF's navy crews were collectively known as the "Black Berets," although many of us opted for the camouflage beret as well. You can learn more about PBR's and Swifts by going to the links page. You'll also find links to other Army and Navy elements.
Of course, the Navy's fleet off shore, the Navy pilots, the Helicopter crews, the SEAL's, the Seabees, the "Gator" Navy that supplied us, the LCM's that hauled ammo and supplies, the harbor protection boats, the divers, etc., all provided an extremely valuable contribution to the war effort. While it was definitely a team effort, this site will concentrate on the Mobile Riverine Force, especially the Navy's part of those joint Army/Navy operations. For pictures of the different boat types, see the Boats page on the menu above.
I hope you enjoy the pictures and recollections. There are lots of pictures (see the RivRon11, RivRon15, and Dong Tam menu tabs and others above). Some pages may load slowly. Please be patient. I think you'll find it worth the waiting time. About the picture quality... definitely amateurish. I bought a 35 mm camera in a pawn shop and didn't have a light meter until I was in Vietnam for about a month or more. Even then it was a guessing game for me. I sure wish I had an auto-focus, auto everything camera back then, or at least a better understanding of camera basics.
If you have any comments please feel free to send me an email. I can't guarantee I'll always be able to respond, but it's nice to have the feedback, especially if you can correct information, or you recognize yourself in a photo, or you can identify the location in any of the photos. Thanks for stopping by. If you were not a part of the Vietnam War or even if you were, you may have been exposed to numerous myths about it. Some of these myths which continue to be perpetuated have caused untold damage to Vietnam veterans who really deserve to be genuinely proud of their participation in an unpopular war. These myths are exposed at the following site. (Don't forget to hit your browser's back button after you review the facts and statistics). You can also see whether it was a worthwhile cause by reading this Vietnamese boy's thank you. The politicians sold the Vietnamese down the river in the 1970's. The American Military did not lose this war.
You may leave Vietnam, but Vietnam will never leave you. Welcome home to all those who were fortunate enough to return.
This Page Last updated 12/31/13
Of Particular Interest!!
1. Here is my graduating class picture at the Naval Inshore Operational Training Center. Please help me identify my class mates. The picture may load slowly so please be patient.
2. Read this Thank You from someone truly affected by the efforts of Vietnam Veterans. And read this poignant story of a refugee following the fall of Saigon in April, 1975.
3. The story of Medical Evacuation in the River Delta, thanks to Albert Moore, President of the Mobile Riverine Force Association.
4. Historical Reports such as Operations Reports, Histories and Summaries can be a great source of information about the MRF.
5. Visit Albert Moore's USS Benewah site to see the "Navy in Vietnam" book. Drop back here after you've read it.
6. See this Navy publication on Operation GIANT SLINGSHOT, one the most influential interdiction efforts of the war.
7. Have you got your MRF Poster? Check them out on this page.
8. See this modern day British army beach landing. It's a comical look at a situation not too uncommon for some the the 9th infantry we dropped off on muddy river banks.
9. The sinking of the Whitfield County LST-1169 for a reef.
10. See this tribute to the men and women of today's military.
11. See this tribute to veterans.
12. Keeping it all in perspective. See this .pdf file if you'd like to better understand the warriors who made and now keep this country free.
13. See these Warrior Quotes. It's a 5 meg pdf file so be patient while it downloads to your computer. It's worth it!!
Check out the New Riverine Navy information here. Use your browser back button to return to this site.
See one of the greatest collections of Mobile Riverine Force photos by Larry Irwin, an officer in Vietnam in the early part of the war
John Wayne Who??