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Swift Boats

Swift Boats. The U.S. Navy swift boat, or patrol craft, fast (PCF), was used extensively during the Vietnam War to inhibit the movement of enemy troops and supplies in the coastal waters and rivers of South Vietnam. Adapted from a civilian crew boat used to transport workers to and from offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, this twin‐screwed, aluminum‐hulled vessel had an overall length of 50 feet, a beam of 13.5 feet, and at full load a draft of 4 feet 10 inches. It displaced 22.5 tons. Two 475‐horsepower diesel engines gave it a maximum speed of 28 knots. Armament consisted of twin .50‐caliber machine guns mounted over the pilot house forward, and a single .50‐caliber machine gun “piggy‐backed” over an 81‐mm mortar aft. It carried a crew of one officer‐in‐charge (ordinarily a lieutenant, junior grade) and five enlisted men. Despite the rigorous and often dangerous duty these men performed, swift boat sailors in Vietnam displayed unusually high morale and esprit de corps.

Principal swift boat bases in Vietnam were located at Da Nang, Chu Lai, Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nhon, Cat Lo, and An Thoi. Originally employed almost exclusively in offshore waters, the SEALORDS strategy of Vice Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., sent them increasingly into the rivers and canals of South Vietnam in the 1968–70 period on barrier patrols designed to interdict enemy supplies crossing from Cambodia.

During the course of the war, some 125 swift boats were built. Of these, 104 were transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy as U.S. Navy combat operations in the war were phased out.
[See also Navy, U.S.: Since 1946; Vietnam War, U.S. Naval Operations in the.]

Bibliography

Thomas J. Cutler , Brown Water, Black Berets, 1980.
R. L. Schreadley , From the Rivers to the Sea, 1992.

R. L. Schreadley

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