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Going Back to Vietnam

Photography by Jim Raycroft

Capt. Bill Pike in Vietnam

Going Back

By hard-travelin’ a variety of rivers in Vietnam, in search of an old American patrol boat left over from the war, two Vietnam vets encounter a totally unexpected truth.

PBR (Patrol Boat, River, in military parlance) of the type featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

“See, what we do, Jim,” I explained, as we ambled the docks during the 2013 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, “is we track down one of these babies—I mean it may be a ferry boat now, or a fishing boat, or shoot, even the roof of somebody’s house. But anyway, we find the darn thing and then we interview the folks who own it, and the folks who owned it before them, and use the whole process to find out what’s happened to Vietnam and the Vietnamese people during the years since the war.”

“Hmmm,” replied Raycroft, obviously curious. “But why the PBR thing? I mean, why are you so interested in some old patrol boat, if in fact there is one hiding over there?”

“We’re talking about a quest, Jim, an adventure,” I replied. “Besides, I spent a little time on PBRs. On the Cua Viet River. And the Cam Lo. Up north. Quang Tri Province. And hey, both of us are journalists after all ... of the boaty kind.”

“Well hey then,” said Raycroft, who’d spent some time in Quang Tri himself, manning a Forward Control Post in 1970 for the U.S. Air Force’s 620th Tactical Control Squadron (Detachment 3), “you can count me in, Bill.”

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This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.