Swift Boats, Brave Sailors and the Last Patrol
VHS videocassette produced by Gene W. Frederickson, Brown Water Productions, Moreno Valley, Calif., $24.95 plus $4.00 shipping and handling.
Swift boat sailors, attention! Here’s a keeper! Gene Frederickson, who wrote, directed and produced the video histories River Patrol: The Gamewardens of Vietnam and PBR! Into Action With the Mark II River Patrol Boat, has come up with yet another “must have” for every Swift boat sailor, Brown Water sailor, naval history raconteur and armchair admiral.
This 45-minute color and black-and-white VHS video examines the PCF (patrol craft, fast), or Swift boat, and its combat operations in Vietnam. Frederickson has reviewed all of the major operations in which the Swift boat was involved: Operation Market Time (Task Force 115), Operation Game Warden (Task Force 116) and the Mobile Riverine Force (Task Force117). And he reviews the various watercraft utilized in these operations, such as the PBR (patrol boat, river), river assault craft, and even the 70-knot PACV (patrol air-cushioned vehicle). As General William Westmoreland points out in the videotape, more than 70 percent of the enemy’s wartime cargo entered South Vietnam via sea routes, but that amount was reduced to a mere trickle by the coastal surveillance force of OperationMarket Time. In April 1965, this operation employed U.S. Navy ships, South Vietnamese junk force units, and U.S. Coast Guard cutters, but it was evident that another type of shallow-draft boat was needed for coastal surveillance. The Swift boat filled that role.
The combined operations of Task Forces 115, 116 and 117 stopped Viet Cong (VC) infiltration of South Vietnam by sea and inland waterways. As was true for all of these important undertakings, it was the brave sailors who made it all happen.
Swift Boats, Brave Sailors begins with the intriguing story of a Lieutenant Bernique, who took his Swift boat into an unauthorized waterway, the Vinh Te Canal, adjacent to the Cambodian border in a surprise attack against VC tax collectors. Bernique was ordered to naval headquarters in Saigon to explain his actions as a prelude to a possible general court-martial.Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam, reviewed the findings and awarded the young lieutenant a Silver Star. The Vihn Te Canal was dubbed “Bernique’s Creek” for the brave sailor who had driven the VC off the waterway.
Rear Admiral Jim Taylor, an ex?Swift boat skipper, and former crewman James Thomas comment on the riverine and canal operations in the Mekong Delta.
Another action-packed segment of the videotape recalls how PCF-79, on June 12, 1967, stopped an enemy trawler loaded with ammunition and weapons with a well-placed mortar round, bringing the gun-runner to bay. Twelve tons of ammunition and 3,000 Communist weapons never made it into VC hands as a result of this action.
In the final segment of the videotape, titled “The Last Patrol,” Frederickson shows how Wade Sanders, deputy secretary of the Navy, found the first two PCFs ever built, PCF-1 and PCF-2, in 1994 in the Panama Canal Zone, where they were assigned to a training unit. Sanders, an ex?Swift boat skipper himself, arranged for the two Swifts to be rehabilitated, and on June12-13, 1995, the two old boats made their last patrol from Little Creek, Va., to the Navy Museum in Washington, D.C.
As a final tribute to the Swift boat sailors killed in action, there is a deeply moving visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.
Commander Kirk Ferguson,
U.S. Navy (ret.)