The other day at a funeral luncheon I met a representative from the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). He was also a Vietnam War veteran so naturally I took the opportunity to do a brief interview and he was more than willing to oblige me.
As it turns out he was part of the Brown Water Navy, sailors that served mostly in the Mekong Delta region on various river type crafts. Some people are familiar with the Brown River Navy via the Swift Boat controversy that erupted during the 2004 presidential election. Then Senator John Kerry was running for President against George Bush (43) and had made much of his Swift Boat record in Vietnam. Veteran’s groups, including Swift Boat veterans challenged Kerry’s record.
Whatever the truth is regarding Kerry the Swift Boat is probably the most recognizable craft of the Brown Water Navy in Vietnam but it was not the only craft used by the US Navy.
The veteran at the luncheon served on a Monitor.
This took me by surprise especially as he explained the American Civil War connotation to the term Monitor!
According to the veteran who had pictures to prove it a Vietnam Era Monitor was a converted LCM.
LCM stands for Landing Craft Mechanized and as such was used in WW2 to transport vehicles and tanks to the beach. During the Vietnam War the Navy modified numerous LCM-8s to fulfill various other roles.
The veteran told me that his unit supported the Ninth Infantry Division in their river operations. He said their primary duty was to cover river landings by the Ninth ID who landed via ATCs (Armored Troop Carriers-a small boat that could carry a full platoon of infantry). Their particular LCM, now named a Monitor, featured a 105mm howitzer mounted on a deck that had been put over the former cargo area. The howitzer was in a turret which is why the LCM became a craft like the Civil War Monitor. Secondary armament included 20mm cannon. The 105mm howitzer was the heaviest weapon mounted on a craft in the Brown Water Navy although some LCMs mounted flamethrowers.
The veteran went on to describe how Medivac helicopters had a hard time landing in the Mekong Delta because of the rice paddies and generally swampy conditions. The Navy then further modified other LCMs by installing flight decks for helicopters so that wounded soldiers could be ferried to MASH units. Converted LSMs were therefore responsible for saving the lives of many soldiers who needed treatment as quickly as possible.
Throughout modern military history troops have adapted old equipment to meet current needs and changing conditions. Converted LCMs and the sailors that served on them did valuable service in the Brown Water Navy.