In early 1966, the US Navy discovered the need for boats that could penetrate the water ways of the Mekong Delta. Early in the history of America, the early Navy had a boat called the Monitor. It was steel, with very large cannon on it, and simple steam engine power.
Now forward to 1966, and the nave developed a new breed of boats, from World War 2 troop carriers. Thus the Brown Water Navy was born.
A very famous singer , Jim Reeves sage in 1966 about the distant drums calling him to war, and begged for his sweetheart to marry him before it was too late.
Those distant drums called me in late 1966 to be a part of the new gunboats and the Brown Water Gunboats that would operate in the large and small water ways of the Mekong.
I and my companions, the first ones to pioneer this new technology, arrived in Saigon just after Christmas 1966, and soon traveled down to Vung Tau, to take delivery of the first of the new boats.
The next year was a blur, really, but I will try to tell about many of the places that we operated in, and a very small little about what happened.
Over time, the following is a list of the places that I personally remember having been to: Cam Ranh Bay, Can Tho, Bien Hoa, Baria, My Tho, Long Binh, Nha Trang, Dong Tam, DaNang, Tan An, Saigon, TanSonNhut, NhaBe, Vung Tau, and many others much smaller and may not even exist today, all the way up into Cambodia. We operated in what we called the Rungsat Zone, just south of Saigon, and from Vung Tau and Bein Hoa, all the way into the far reaches of the Delta and the many small canals that made a web across the Mekong.
I remember many routine, things, such as inspecting the sampans of the boat people for proper papers, and trading our food for fresh fruits. We always had a bunch of bananas on our boats!
We transported many Army troops and Special Forces troops into the Delta, for inland operations while we stayed on the boat. I never set foot on land except back at our main base at Dong Tam. We had a very heavy and very slow gun boat, but with very big guns, we could hold our own, sometimes. More than once I was told we had our boat blown out from under us, but this tings I honestly do not remember.
Did I get shot at? Yes, more than I remember. Did I shoot anyone? I am sure I did, but remember very little and choose not to talk about the bad things like that, as most of it has been blocked out of my memory.
But, finally, in late 1967, I somehow survived, having seen many friends not make it back. I and others left Vietnam and traveled back to “civilization”, Travis Air Force base, in California, in the dead of night and having to sneak off the base and very quietly make our way to various airports for going home, or to other duty’s.
The War was never a popular time in the USA, and many protesters camped out at all bases, and we endured many unmentionable difficulties, that went on for over 30 years!!! Yes, I lived a screwed up life for that long, before finally getting some help and diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Injury, and started receiving financial compensation.
It has only been about 10 years that the average American Vietnam Veteran has started to get respect and a very late “welcome home” from the US public. You see, I seen, I did,and I experienced so many terrible things back then, my mind and emotions were forever wounded, injured, and affected.
Now, in the present, I have very personal reasons for wanting to give back to the new generation of Vietnamese youth that I admire and love for wanting to make your life and country a better one.