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Small Boat Navy

March 23, 2019 – The Small Boat Navy (Navy film MN-10387) is a short 1968 film from the U.S. Navy that offers viewers a look at how the U.S. Navy uses small boats to create trade and travel stability in Vietnam.

The film looks at three of the Navy’s operations in Southeast Asia to show how this is done: Operation Market Time (coastal patrol), Operation Stable Door (forming a protective screen around merchant ships), and Operation Game Warden (patrol and security on Vietnam’s rivers).

The film opens with a shot of a Navy carrier at sea, and of a fighter jet taking off from the deck of the ship. Raymond Burr stands on a dock and speaks to the camera as he reports on the Navy’s shallow-water fleet that is specifically designed for river warfare.

Footage shows the coastline of South Vietnam and aerial views of the Mekong River. Vietnamese boats—junk boats—move along the river’s waterways.

The film shows a few ships, including the LCPL (03:47), the WPB Coast Guard Cutter, the testing of an Air Cushioned Vehicle in swampy terrain (04:16), and the U.S. Navy’s Patrol Craft Fast, or the Swift Boat (04:47). The film reviews the armaments aboard the Swift Boat.

Footage shows traditional Vietnamese junk boats on the sea and on rivers along with the smaller boats of the U.S. Navy. A Swift Boat patrols Vietnamese waters (06:26) and receives orders from the command center; Navy men board a small Vietnamese boat to look for contraband.

Men fire an 81mm mortar an M2 Browning .50 cal machine gun from the Swift Boat. An aerial view shows viewers the merchant ships waiting in the harbor near the mouth of the Vung Tau River (08:18).

A man captains a U.S. Navy gunboat in the harbor (08:57); the gunboat stops a Vietnamese junk boat and the Americans examine the small boat’s cargo.

Navy divers go underwater to see if explosives have been placed on the hulls of merchant ships (10:10).

Men of the U.S. Navy help bring supplies to a small village. There is an aerial shot of the remote jungle of the Vung Tau (11:35), which Burr refers to as the “evil place.”

Navy MSBs (mine sweeping boats) cast off from the docks to go sweep for mines up a river (12:50).

To build goodwill, an American soldier prepares a bag of soap, cigarettes, and some food and tosses it to children at a small settlement on the banks of the river (13:08).

River Patrol Boats (PBRs) wait on the shore of Nha Be; soldiers prepare the ships for a night patrol (15:30).

In Rung Sat—a large area of the Sac Forest, also known as the Forest of Assassins—Navy crews move out as part of Operation Game Warden to keep commercial movement safe and moving along the river.

A PBR crew checks the documents of women taking goods to market in a small canoe (17:58).

A PBR boat fires warning shots at a suspicious canoe; the men on the canoe jump out of the boat and the PBR gunner fires his heavy machine gun (20:00).

The film shows river patrol headquarters, where men relay a request for air support. Seawolf helicopters prepare to assist the PBRs (21:10); footage shows a Seawolf firing at targets along the river bank.

Another PBR patrol goes out at night (22:20).

At the dock at Ben Thuy, men prepare to move downriver; a Navy Seal team sets out for a night mission. The “Small Boat Navy” brings supplies to a rural community (23:23), including cement and steel rods for construction of a bridge.

U.S. military doctors provide medical attention to Vietnamese civilians (24:00).

American troops board River Flotilla One (24:28), which consists of an ATC (army troop carrier), a CCB (Command Communications Boat), and an LCM Monitor for firepower.

The force moves into a small river channel, and footage shows the ships firing at shore. The ATC lands on the bank (26:30) and its troops climb out and disappear into the jungle as part of the mission.

The film closes with shots of men of the U.S. Navy on the various ships of the “Small Boat Navy” patrolling Vietnam’s waters and helping noncombatants.