Working on the River
Home ] Up ]


The pictures on this page are Thumbnails.  To see a larger version, click on the picture.

Our unit had several roles to perform.  We provided demolition support when infantry units went on patrol.  When you watch war movies and see guys running from one bunker to another throwing in satchel charges, you're watching combat engineers at work.  We provided mine sweeping, bridge building, and rafting.  Ever see "A Bridge Too Far" and the assault across the river?  You were watching combat engineers at work.  We provided rafts that carried ten men for across river assaults, light tactical aluminum rafts for running a tank onto a shore, and heavier rafts for floating 2-3 Armored personnel carriers down a river.

On one occasion, we were about to hit the bank when an explosion on land turned over an APC carrying a squad of infantry.  Nine were pinned under the APC.  I had a sister platoon building a bridge further south of us.  Flying over was a Chinook carrying a sling load of material to the platoon.  I called the pilot who dropped his load, flew over to us, dropped his hook and sling. We connected the hook to the APC and the helicopter lifted just enough to get the men out from under the carrier.  Three died, six were injured.  The helicopter landed and we loaded the wounded and dead onto it and it flew to a hospital.

On the way back up river with the damaged carrier and two others, water almost swamped the raft.  We came under attack by machine-gun fire and rifle grenades. I called in some gunships that were trailing us.  They lit up the riverbank like the Fourth of July.  What a site!  All the pictures are "thumbnails".  To see a larger version, double click the small picture.

raft docking.jpg (30451 bytes)

viet on raft.jpg (26939 bytes)


This is the raft I was referring to, but this was a different mission.  We assemble these things.  The pontoons the structure floats on are chambered and can can take a number of hits before completely deflating.  I'll put it this way, on the incident I explained above, water was making it over the tops of the pontoon...we were nearly sucking air.  The raft is pushed by one or two push boats that had a lot of horsepower.  We had machine guns on them in the event we had to untie one in order to attack an emplacement on a bank.  We did that more than once.    This is what we called an M4T6 raft.

We pretty much protected ourselves on the river. 

pulling apc across river.jpg (20990 bytes)

viet apc river.jpg (22571 bytes)

viet raft at market.jpg (30747 bytes)


The picture is a bit blurry, but compared to the above raft this one is lighter and the pontoons are aluminum and can be lifted by 4-6 men.   They are pushed by boats, also. But, in this case, we get everyone off the APCs and have them pull the raft across the river.  In this case we inserted APCs onto an inland island surrounded by three rivers or parts of rivers.  The island was about 10,000 acres and the home of a VC regiment.  On another page you will see a bridge we built to gain access the the area.

In the middle picture you get an idea of where we loaded the APCs and to the right is the remnants of a bridge the Viet Minh destroyed

The lower picture is where we docked the raft.  Wherever we went, villagers would gather.  That was a good sign.  If they were there, we were relatively safe.   If not, we took it as a sure sign the VC were around. 

viet raft with village along river.jpg (14369 bytes)


Here's a look at one of the many villages along the river.
viet river assault 2.jpg (15843 bytes)

preparing river assault.jpg (26415 bytes)

Here are three of our assault rafts returning from the opposite shore.  If we were doing a river assault, we had three of my engineers in the raft who were experienced and then a squad (10) of infantry.  Everyone  Assaulting was usually not a problem.  Coming back was because only three men paddled back against the river current.  This meant you stayed along unfriendly shores and went up stream a ways, and then vectored across and down the river using the current to hit the home shore.

The lower picture is us preparing the rafts for the assault.  In the background center, left is a Vietnamese craft.  The craft was blown up by VC sappers a few days before this picture was taken.


vietnam river bank.jpg (20623 bytes)

vietnam mekong river.jpg (14181 bytes)


Traveling the river was hazardous.  VC hid is shacks, in the elephant leaves, anywhere.  Most times we had helicopters trailing us, other times I just took one of the push boats and let it run up and down the river trying to draw fire.  If we were moving two APC's, we would have some 25-30 men on the raft and the equipment.  That was a good, somewhat defenseless target of opportunity.
viet fishing boat.jpg (25617 bytes) Here's a Vietnamese fishing boat.  The river we were on was a tidal river and had some good currents.  The boat was powered by a small outboard, or a person in the rear paddling.  Fish and shrimp were either scooped into the net, or actually moved into it with the current.  I have seen similar boats on the Gulf Coast operated by Vietnamese.