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Riverine Boat Radar Riverine Navy

Qua Viet, July 1968 ...
by: Bob Denstedt
(VA-94, 1967-1970)
© 1996

 

The Riverine Navy, 1968 - I spent 32 months in Vietnam and off its dark coast. The first tour I was on the U.S.S. Hancock, a carrier, and the second, as an E4, AMH Aviation Structural Hydraulics--an air crewman and a door gunner stationed out of Qua Viet, with the Hueys.
      Riverine Patrol boats Our mission was to give support to the Riverine in Vietnam. We had a boring job, but there were a lot of guys that would have welcomed the boredom. I, on the other hand, had a long voyage to Vietnam on the Hancock and wanted to see some action and earn my fifty-five tax-free combat-pay dollars. I think it was $65.00 flight-pay and $55.00 combat-pay per month ... or the other way around.
      The model of chopper I was in differed from day to day, depending on which pilot I was assigned to for duty--but mostly I flew in Hueys, and I think they were E-1-B's, but I'm not really sure about that now. Like choppers, we might man the port or starboard gun, depending on which gun we fired, it really didn't matter much.
      Riverine Monitor I'll never forget that morning in July of 1968 when our Huey lifted off of the pad to follow a boat along a river. A close friend was on board, and I watched him on deck leaning into the wind as the boat raced forward.
      Things were moving along, boring, the boat cruising along the murky river as we orbited overhead. WHAM. . . all of a sudden there was a blast and water geysered everywhere--they had taken a direct hit! The Huey over river boat was gone and water and debris rained down as waves slammed against the shoreline. As I regained my senses, I looked for my friend--he wasn't in the water-- where the hell was he?--where were the crew? I let the 20 come alive and strafed the grass looking for something to move. Nothing.
      And then suddenly there he was in the now calm river water, surrounded by debris, waving to us. We let a line down and picked him up--he was the only one to make it and I gave him a bear hug, thanking God He didn't let him die. Huey Takes Aim
      I let the 20 blast again, and saw movement in the grass. I pointed and saw a small child running and watching me with terror in his eyes--could he have been the one to set the mine? Or just a kid running scared? I don't know--men were dead--but without knowing for sure about the kid, I thought what a waste it would be to shoot a kid, so I lowered the gun and told my pilot it had jammed. We turned and returned to base. South Vietnam Coast
      That night, over a couple of Og Gobel beers (yuck), my friend asked me if the weapon had really jammed. I smiled and told him I really didn't know, except I could not have ever forgiven myself if I had shot that gun. He knodded an understanding smile, and that was the last time we ever talked about that day.


Photos Courtesy of: The Riverine Navy in Vietnam, homepage. Photos are the Copyright property of Raymond Bruder, and may not be used without written permission.
 

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