So we’ve come across two boats that are (or rather were) obviously American. The first we found along the Perfume River in Hue…it was certainly not a PBR but, on the other hand, it was decidedly Army-issue. From what we could tell, the darn thing had been raked with machine-gun fire—there were probably 40 or 50 holes in its riveted-aluminum hullsides.
The way the holes had been patched was interesting. Someone had run a bolt through each individual hole from the outside and then fastened a nut inside. Two pieces of rubber, acting as gaskets, one under the head of the bolt and the other under the nut, completed the picture. Low-tech but effective.
I’m sure everyone had his own theory on why all the bullet holes. Mine was that some American solider, back in the day, decided to render the boat useless to the enemy by simply opening fire, perhaps during the time in the early 70s when the United States military was pulling out of the country. Of course, other, grimmer, possibilities exist.
The boat had heavy flanges on the transom, and exterior rails along the gunwales, by the way, most likely so it could be joined to other boats of the same type to create the basis of a bridge, to effect a river crossing. Interconnect a bunch of such boat and then put some kind of decking material over them and you’d have yourself a fairly good approximation of the Brooklyn Bridge, temporarily speaking of course.
The second American boat we just came across yesterday here in Saigon (or rather, Ho Chi Minh City) at the War Remnants Museum, having made the long trip down here on a local airplane. It was the same as the first, but without any bullet holes. An M60 machine gun had been mounted on the bow in a rather haphazard manner and a flimsy rudder added at the transom.
A Vietnamese fellow and I both agreed that the rudder constituted an add-on that had more to do with imagined usage than the real thing. The machine gun I personally think had been added in much the same way. It’s highly unlikely that this particular 20-some-footer had been outfitted with a tripod and machine gun on the bow.
The young lady? A Vietnamese military person who, I’m quite sure, has no recollection of the bad old days when such watercraft were prevalent on the waters of her country.
We are headed down into the so-called delta region today. Several people have told us it’s the most likely area to find a PBR (Patrol Boat River), left over from the bad old days.