SEA TIGERS OF VUNG RO BAY
US Army 458th Transportation Co.
US Army 18th Military Police Brigade
During the Vietnam War the United States Military employed heavily-armed high-speed gunboats to intercept and disrupt enemy travel on the rivers and bays of South Vietnam. While the US Navy operated over 250 of these specialized watercraft, the US Army had less than 40.
Vung Ro Bay was one of nine outposts of the US Army 458th Transportation Company (PBR)
RIVER PATROL BOATS (PBR's)
The 32' Mark II River Patrol Boat was a high-speed craft manned by a four-person crew and carried sufficient armament to perform all normal activities expected of the craft. Built by United Boat Builders of Bellinham, Washington, the PBR weighted only 16,400 pounds fully loaded.
The hull was constructed of fiberglass with the topsides being balsa wood and Polyurethane core to attain a low weight, enabling the boat to obtain speeds in excess of 24 knots fully loaded.
A shallow draft of only 2 feet permitted operations in the shallow waters often encountered in the patrol areas of South Vietnam. At high speeds the boat usually had a draft of 8" to 9".
Propulsion was provided by a pair of Detroit Diesel 6V-53 marine engines developing 440 horsepower, driving twin Jacuzzi 14YJ waterjet pumps.
Armament consisted of a forward gun tub equipped with twin M2 50-caliber machine guns, and after mount with a single 50-caliber machine gun, and a 40-mm grenade launcher. Additional weapons included M-16's, 12-gauge shotgun, and .45-caliber pistols.
River Patrol Boat underway
The PBR unit at Vung Ro Bay also had a Boston Whaler for use in accessing shallow areas or for an additional patrol vessel. We took great pride in knowing that we had, quite possibly, the finest looking Boston Whaler in all of Vietnam!
Jimmy Lee and Mike Hebert painted it a two-tone OD Green with a red stripe around the waterline and around the outboard engine. One time when one of the "brass" came up from Saigon to inspect the outpost, we had to send the Whaler "out on patrol" to avoid detection since the red stripe was probably against Army regulations!
Armament on the Whaler consisted of a single M-60 machine gun mounted on the bow, and two M-16's, a 40-mm grenade launcher, occassional 12-gauge shotgun, and 45-caliber pistols.
The Whaler was operated by a crew of two, one coxswain and one MP. Propulsion was provided a single Johnson 40 HP outboard motor.
In 1968 I was with the 201st Aviation Co. in Qui Nhon. My assignment was as the pilot of the Huey dedicated to support the Commanding General. I used to fly into Vung Ro Bay every month or so. The General would be gone for several hours, so we would have nothing else to do but hang around and wait. On one of our visits, one of the guys came up to me and asked "what would it take to go for a ride in the helicopter?" I replied with "what would it take to get a water ski tow behind your Boston Whaler? he came back with "a ride in the helicopter!" - and a deal was struck. It was a beautiful place and I remember it well.
Rollo DeVore (201st Aviation Co.)