Tag Archives: Brown Water Navy

Fairly Well Preserved Ammo for 50 Years in the Drink

Vietnamese media recently reported on a pile of vintage small arms ammo that was recovered from the mud of the Tiền River that looks like it just came from the factory. 

Local media showed members of the Vietnamese Army inspecting the ammo, reportedly illegally salvaged from the river near Thuong Phuoc on the Cambodian border and confiscated by Border Guards. It has been underwater for decades, purportedly in a deep-sixed PCF, perhaps one that was put there in 1975 by its ARVN crew during the final days of the regime. 

The fact that it was in fresh water and likely covered by a layer of mud surely helped but either way, you have to hand it to the quality of those green ammo cans, much of which likely dated to WWII anyway. 

Goodbye RIVRONs, hello MESF

The Navy announced recently they have “officially changed the name and mission of the Coastal Riverine squadrons to reflect their role amid a new era of great power competition; they are now known as the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force.”

The prerequisite moto video, tying the new units to the old Brown Water PBR gang of Southeast Asia (although the SWCC guys of SBT22 will most likely dispute ownership of this lineage, as they carried the dim candle of the small boat shop at Rodman for decades):

“As we maintain a connection to our legacy we must honor those warriors that come before us and learn from their heroism,” said RADM Joseph DiGuardo, commander NECC, “we must continuously evolve to meet the needs of the Navy and the Nation for Great Power Competition, crisis, and conflict. The change to Maritime Expeditionary Security Force clearly articulates the mission of our sailors to reinforce lethality in the blue water and dominate in the littorals.”

The MESF now consists of two groups; one in San Diego and one in Virginia Beach. The force includes two expeditionary security detachments in Guam and Bahrain, seven Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadrons, and 31 Maritime Expeditionary Security Companies.

The original three Coastal Riverine squadrons of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (RIVRON 1, 2, and 3) were all formed in 2006-07, modeled after the Marines Small Craft Company (SCCO) of 2D MAR Div– then the only specialized small boat company in the Marines– which had been disbanded the year prior although that forgotten unit of Devil Dogs in tiny boats had been bloodied and proved their mandate in the marshes and reservoirs around Haditha, fighting the kind of war that was familiar to Vietnam. Their Riverine Assault Craft, zodiacs, and Raider boats were handed over to the Navy, although Big Blue soon bought lots of new go-fasts.

Marines from Small Craft Company tether their Riverine Assult Crafts together during a break in training. Marines from Small Craft Company, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, demonstrated their capabilities to Paraguayan Marines in the Joint Training Exercise Unitas. The exercise was conducted in Asuncion, Paraguay. USMC Photo by LCPL Tyler J. Mielke. 29/09/1999

“People think it’s money or manpower problems, but no one knows for sure why they’re getting rid of us,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Vinciguerra, who had spent 14 years with the SCCO, on the occasion of the unit’s disbandment in Feb. 2005. “The capabilities we provided to the Marine Corps, Special Forces, and Navy SEALS in Iraq are too big to be gone for long. We’re leaving an avenue of approach open for the enemy now,” he said. “I think Small Craft Company will be back in a few years when people realize what we brought to the fight.”

Now, after a similar 14-year run, the Navy’s trio of RIVRONs have a name change, and, notably, are moving to more 80+ foot platforms such as the MKVI. Not a lot of “river” about that.

Oh well, at least SBT22 and NAVSCIATTS are still around, keeping that lamp tended for the next time.

Sometimes you can hear a photo, aka Charlie Don’t Surf

November 1967: A Navy Seawolf (armed Huey) gunship of HAL-3 coming in at tree-top level to deliver a 2.75-inch rocket attack on a spotted Viet Cong position along the bank of the Ham Luong River in Vietnam in response to the Brown Water Navy PBR burning on the right.

USN Photo XFV-2053-B-11-67

All you are missing is Ride of the Valkyries or perhaps Fortunate One. 

Tommy guns and Junks

Via U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War: In a scene that looks more like Burma in 1945 than Indochina in 1965, EN1 Carl L. Scott, an advisor to the Vietnamese Coastal Junk Force, stands in front of members of his team in this photo.

Photo from Naval History & Heritage Command Archives

Note that EN1 Scott is wearing the authorized Junk Force beret and insignia along with common black “pajamas” worn by many of the Vietnamese, and carries a late WWII-era M1A1 Thompson submachine gun. Also, note the South Vietnamese with an M1 Garand and 10-pouch belt.

While the U.S. Army and Marines rarely used the Chicago Typewriter in Southeast Asia, typically only scoring occasional examples while working with ARVN units who had received them along with M1 Carbines and Garands as military aid, the Navy and Coast Guard utilized Tommy guns extensively in their brown water war, especially in the 1960s.

Gun locker in the cramped galley of the 82-foot Coast Guard Cutter Point White (WPB-82308) in Vietnam. A lot of tasty vittles there!

Tommy guns, aviators and khakis! Ensign Caldwell of Houlton, Maine, stands guard in a motor whaleboat with a .45 caliber submachine gun M1A1 off the coast of South Vietnam. The Vietnamese men wait as their junk is searched by USS FORSTER (DER-334) crewmembers, 15 April 1966. Catalog #: K-31208. Copyright Owner: National Archives Original Creator: Photographer, Chief Journalist Robert D. Moeser

Vietnamese Junk Force Crewmen searching a Viet Cong fishing boat in search of contraband and arms, May 1962. Note his Tommy gun USN 1105078

From NHHC on the Junk force:

Recognizing that the sea was a likely avenue of approach for Communists infiltrating from North Vietnam or moving along the South Vietnamese littoral, in April 1960 the navy established the paramilitary Coastal Force. In line with its emphasis on counterinsurgency warfare, the Kennedy administration wholeheartedly endorsed the development of this junk fleet, providing the force with American naval advisors, boat design and construction funds, and stocks of small arms. By the end of 1964, the 3,800-man, 600-junk force patrolled the offshore waters from 28 bases along the coast. To coordinate the operations of these 28 separate divisions, U.S. advisors helped set up coastal surveillance centers in Danang, Cam Ranh, Vung Tau, and An Thoi, the respective headquarters of the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th Coastal Districts.

….

Personnel problems proved equally vexing. Although authorized almost 4,000 men, the Coastal Force often fell short by 700 to 800 men. Lacking the prestige of the other combat branches and with its men underpaid and isolated in austere bases, the junk force had great difficulty recruiting personnel, especially those with technical knowledge. Further, only a few of the coastal group bases created formal training programs to increase the skills of those men enlisted. Encouraged by U.S. naval advisors, the Vietnamese Navy took limited steps in late 1967 and 1968 to improve the training effort and to better the living conditions of the junkmen, but much remained to be done.

Street Gang, 53 years on

A throwback to 13 April 1966: An early MkI type U.S. Navy Patrol Boat, River (PBR) near Cat Lo, Vietnam.

(K31134, CU).

First fielded in 1966 (the above craft was brand new) some 250 PBRs served in Operation Market Time (TF 116) and with the RVN in  Vietnam during the conflict. In all, 718 were completed in two types (the MkIs were 31 feet while the MkII’s were 32) and they continued to serve in Reserve SBUs as late as the 1990s.

Take a break to celebrate the Brown Water Navy today

Nothing says “get some” like a twin M2

Remember, today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day:

 

 

With that being said, dig this far out training film covering the “Small Boat Navy” as it was called in the 1960s, which consisted that wide range of Vietnam-era shallow watercraft such as the PBR, RPC, PGM, PTF, et. al

 

For your reference: (Drawn from Boats of the United States Navy, NAVSHIPS 250-452, 1967)