A Good Guy to Have Along

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Going Back to Vietnam, by Capt. Bill Pike, Photography by Jim Raycroft (continued)

Vietnam

A Good Guy to Have Along

Over the next few days, as our search continued, we used a variety of vessels to negotiate a variety of Vietnam’s inland waterways. We checked out the Han River that flows through Da Nang, a city that is now an industrial powerhouse with immense, cleverly designed high-rise buildings, a stunningly colorful after-dark signature, and some world-class shipyards. We checked out the Perfume River that flows through Hue, a city replete with antiquities and sleek, sumptuous new hotels. And we checked out the more remote Cua Viet, Bo Dieu, and Cam Lo rivers in what was arguably the most violently contested place in all of Vietnam during the war—Quang Tri Province.

But we saw no PBRs, in any shape or form. And although I showed my PBR photo to all sorts of people along the way, nobody seemed to know much about the old boats or care much either. The darkest reaction to the photo came from a squad of soldiers guarding a small fleet of Vietnamese patrol vessels on the Han. Obviously uncomfortable with our informal entry into their compound, the group of five or six studied the photo gravely while passing it around amongst themselves and shaking their heads.

“No,” the non-com in charge said finally, handing it back to me with an air of deep police-state suspicion. “This is from the American war—we do not see this for long time.”

Ever the good guy to have along, Raycroft attempted to smooth things over with a little gallows humor. “Hey guys,” he said with a big grin, “We just thought we’d give it a shot, although that may not be the best word to use at this particular time.”

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