Jack Spratt in Vietnam, 1970
A Photo Journal
I was in Vietnam during most of 1970, arriving in-country in December 1969 and leaving one year later. I rode PCF's, more commonly known as Swiftboats, patrolling the rivers in and around the Mekong Delta area. I have put a bunch of pictures that were in my scrapbook on this page for your enjoyment. This picture was taken by an amateur photographer who was temporarily assigned to our boat.
Click HERE to go back to the stories.
A Swiftboat is an aluminum coastal patrol gunboat, 50 feet long and 13 feet wide. However, due to the shallow draft, it was more suited to the rivers than the ocean. My last 11 months in country were in the rivers of the Mekong Delta. The boat carries a crew of 6, five enlisted men and one officer (LTjg). This is a picture of myself and Mike Peters, the Officer in Charge of PCF 74 and later, PCF 48.
Here is a shot of my boat, PCF 74 underway on the Bassac River.
Here is some more boat shots, mostly taken near the mouth of the Mekong.
We dressed a bit casual on the boat - here is a picture of me and my friend Jim, dressed in our best uniforms.
Life on board was pretty sparse, but we did have some creature comforts. We had a reasonably comfortable bed, a stove, refrigerator/freezer and of course the outdoor 'facilities'. The following pictures will give you a small look at life onboard a Swiftboat.
Our "shower" was a garden hose lashed to a broom handle, which was hooked up to the bilge pump. This allowed us to take a "river water shower", which was only a little better than no shower at all.
Okay, okay, enough of that for now. As I said, life wasn't too bad on the boats. Here are some pictures of the boat and it's armament.
Here are a few pix of life on and around the boat.
Here is some pictures of the people we encountered while doing board and search or just transiting up and down the rivers.
Of course, it wasn't all work and no play. We did our share of playing. Since there was no alcohol allowed on board Naval Vessels (Swiftboats excepted), the YRBM (our support ship) had a barge tied alongside with a club on it. Beer was cold and cheap, and kept our thirst quenched. I spent my 21st birthday in Nam, sitting in the middle of the river on a Waterborne Guard Post. (You can read about it in the story section) A day later, I had my party in the YRBM beer barge.
On occasion, we would go ashore and purchase a few 'cold ones' for the road, especially if we had a fairly long transit back after patrol. We would flag down a sampan, and one of us would go ashore with our Vietnamese crewman to stock up. Here is a picture of when it was my turn.
For a while, we were 'homeported' out of a village called SaDec. Life in SaDec was not too bad, as a matter of fact, it was pretty damn good. There were one or two pretty good "ba mui ba" stands (one of which stands out in my mind as one of my favorite places of all time, but that's about a hundred other stories). But for you Swifties who might have been stationed there, here is a couple of pics that might jar your memory banks.
A quick story about SaDec. Occasionally a sapper would float an explosive down the river in an effort to damage a boat. When one was spotted, they used to close the base down, and no one was allowed to go on liberty. So every now and then, one of the Swiftboat sailors would wrap a concussion grenade in toilet paper, pull the pin and toss it in the water beneath the tower.
We would then quickly depart on liberty. We had learned that about 20 wraps takes about ten minutes before the water erodes the paper and the grenade goes off. Then, they would lock the gates, usually until the next day, and we few
Swiftboat Sailors would have the town to ourselves. We did this a number of times, and no one ever caught on.
If you have taken this tour this far, I will leave you with one of the stranger pictures from Vietnam. This was taken onboard PCF48. She caused more than one double-take when we would go alongside another boat, or even better, cruising past a shore base. Unfortunately she wore out her welcome, and we had to let her go, but she was sure fun while she lasted.
If you haven't figured it out, she was a cardboard cut-out that someone 'borrowed' from the club in Vung Tau. Thanks for looking at my pictures. I hope you enjoyed them. Feel free to drop me a line if you care to. Jack Spratt