1968 VIETNAM SERVICE PIN.
PICTURES & INFORMATION, COURTESY MIKE WILSON.
MORE PICTURES & PBR PATCHES ADDED ON JUNE 11, 2005.
Mike served aboard the Tortuga from 1964 to 1968 as a MM/2. He was assigned to the starboard pump room. If you would like to contact Mike, his e-mail address is
E-MAIL MIKE WILSON.
He also has a posting on the Tortuga Bulletin Board.
TT BULLETIN BOARD A big thank you to Mike for sharing his Vietnam experiences with us.
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PBR
PBR Information researched and compiled by…
The kind of warfare that was waged in the inland waters of South Vietnam was last practiced by the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. As a result much of the tactics were developed by trial and error. Sailors learned their lessons well and became a formidable fighting force that wrested control of the water ways from the Viet Cong (VC) and the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). No boat came to symbolize the Brown Water Navy like the small fragile River Patrol Boats (PBR) of Task Force 116 (T.F. 116), Code named Game Warden. The sailors who manned the PBRs often fought pitched battles with the VC and NVA at ranges of mere feet.
When the Navy decided to commit river patrol forces to the inland waters of Vietnam, it found itself in need of a small fast patrol craft. The result was the PBR MK I. The boat was 31 ft long and capable of speeds approaching 25 knots. It was powered by two GM 220 Horsepower diesel engines connected by direct drive to a pair of Jacuzzi water jet propulsion pumps. the boat's armament consisted of a twin 50 Caliber machine gun mount in the forward gun tub, a single 50 Caliber machine gun on a stern mount, an M60 machine gun and a Honeywell MK 18 40mm grenade launcher mounted amid ship. In addition each boat was equipped with various small arms; M-79 grenade launcher, Shotgun, mortar, grenades and side arms. The PBR was outfitted with a Raytheon 1900 radar unit and two AN/VRC 46 radios. The PBR drew only two feet of water while at rest and about nine inches of water at full speed. After the initial run of MK I PBRs, the MK II was introduced. Slightly larger and faster and with a lower profile, the only significant difference was the beefed up aluminum gunwales to aid in protecting the boat from being damaged when coming alongside sampans and junks. Eventually there would be 250 PBRs in Vietnam
. The PBR was manned by a four man crew - normally a first class petty officer as boat captain, a gunner's mate, an engineman and a seaman. Each crewman was cross trained in each other's job encase one became unable to carry out his duties. Generally PBRs operated in two boat patrols under the command of a patrol officer who rode one of the boats in addition to the normal crew.
The sailors who took on the VC in his own territory and on his short range terms, and beat him, became a force without precedence in the history of the U. S. Navy. Enormous responsibility and demands were placed on the PBR sailors, especially the Boat Captain. PBRs logged up to 70,000 patrol hours in an average month with the PBRs being in approximately 80 firefights per month. At one time the causality rate ran at about 6% per month. At that rate and over a years tour, nearly three out of four PBR sailors could be expected to be killed or wounded. Individual River Divisions sustained casuality rates far higher for short periods of time. As an example, River Division 531 suffered B-40 Rocket hits to 7 of the 10 assigned boats in a period of only 40 days. During the overall period of the PBR in Vietnam, 1 out of 3 PBR sailors were killed or wounded. The PBR Sailors became the most highly decorated naval command of the war with two recipients of the Medal of Honor, fourteen recipients of the Navy Cross and recipients of untold numbers of Silver Stars, Bronze stars and Purple Hearts. Today, many old sailors wear the Vietnam service medal. Of these, only a small portion served in the River Patrol Force. And in a sense these men are a group unto themselves. Their uniforms were not white nor even blue denim, but jungle fatigues. And rather than the traditional White hat, they wore the distinctive head gear that only those who served with the River Patrol Force were permitted to wear. These sailors proudly wore the Black Beret.
This handsome Lad is Mike Wilson
(Cropped from original picture)
Same picture but reduced in size.
(Hong Kong, 1968)
"You look cold Mike"
CDR Wolf Heinberg.
(Playing ball in well deck)
COMMANDER WOLF HEINBERG
SWIFT BOAT CREW.
"They went thatway"
ENGINEER GETTING SOME FRESH AIR.
MACHINIST MATE STUDYING.
"MORE MIKE WILSON PICTURES")