Vietnam War veterans reunite to ride again in US Navy riverboat

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Vietnam War veterans have experienced the Mekong Delta Riverwhere they fought almost 50 years ago.

Bill Ferguson was one of those veterans who took a riverboat up the Pasquotank River as they remembered their comrades and friends they fought with the devastating war.

Bill captained the boat and said that the area looked exactly the same as when he was sailing along there looking out for the enemy during the war.

Today Bill could leisurely experience the river setting, but when he had sailed the same route during the war he had been dodging bullets and being worried about what was round the next bend in the river.

The ex-military riverboat was fixed with twin machine guns on the bow and was propeller driven, powered by diesel engines. Bill said it was just like he was back on patrol and was returning to base.

The River Patrol Force was established 50 years ago and was part of a mission called Operation Game Warden.

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The patrols would monitor hundreds of miles of Vietnam’s brown-watered waterways. All of the riverboats were fixed with the two machine guns on the bow, as well as one on the stern, a grenade launcher and a central machine gun.

One patrol would last around 14 hours and took place 24 hours a day, with a rota of patrols on day and night duty. It was a stressful job since the troops never knew when they might be attacked or ambushed by the Viet Cong, the reports.

Bill says the constant worry of wondering where and when the next ambush would bewas called the ‘pucker’ factor. The river was surrounded by jungle right up to its banks and so the patrols couldn’t see an incoming attack. Bill says that they never knew if there were 10 enemy troops or a thousand lurking behind the dense foliage surrounding them.

Bill took the trip with other Vietnam War veterans as part of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Gamewardens Association. The 32foot long riverboat they sailed in belonged to the US Navy and was commissioned in 1970. A war enthusiast now owns the riverboat and has restored it to its original condition.In order to pay for its upkeep the owner takes veterans on rides and displays the boat at boat shows and reunions.

It is thought that almost 300 troops lost their lives whilst on riverboat patrols during the Vietnam War.

See more about this amazing boat on

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE