ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
David Wallace's Vietnam War Photos
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Lieutenant, Navy Coastal Division One
David Wallace always knew he would join the service.
There have been people on both sides of my family fighting for this country since it started. It just wasn’t an option for me not to do this. I didn’t want to be in the army – that had no allure. I didn’t want to be out slogging around through the rice fields or getting dirty or wearing those green outfits.
He joined the Navy as a Lieutenant First Grade and went to Vietnam with the U.S. Navy Coastal Division as a Swift Boat Commander.
The original mission of CTF 115 was to shut down any kind of deliveries from the North to the coastline of Vietnam. The PBR’s (Patrol Boat River – a smaller fiberglass riverboat) moved up the rivers and canals and we ended up taking over some of the larger rivers and canals so we became a true brown water Navy.
The swift boat was originally built for civilian use, such as oilrig work, but was quickly customized for fighting in Vietnam.
The swift boat was a 50 foot long, 3/8’s aluminum boat. That’s all. 3/8 inch aluminum reacts very strangely to bullets. It doesn’t slow them down hardly, so if you took a hit from anything above a .22 long rifle it would go in one side and come out the other.
Despite this, the boat was very well armed.
On the bow you typically had an M60 machine gun. Slightly back from that, you had a twin 50 caliber machine gun mount. Moving backwards you had one or two more M60 machine guns and an 81mm mortar that was designed to be fired in a level position as well as the traditional drop mortar. You would have M-16’s maybe another machine gun or two, 40 to 50 pounds of C4 explosive, and various concussion grenades, frag grenades and white phosphorus grenades. We were very heavily armed, but we had no armor. We couldn’t stand there and slug it out with people but we could get a little further away and shoot mortars at them, and that could wreck their whole day.
Despite the constant danger, there was still time for some fun.
One of the favorite myths you hear is that everyone who was on a swift boat was out there waterskiing all day. Well we happened to have a pair of water skis and we carried them hooked up to the top of the main cabin on the boat. We weren’t waterskiing every day, but it was fun to do occasionally. One day a fairly large round went right through the boat and both skis. So when I wrote up my report I included the damage to the skis and I got a call from a Navy Captain and got yelled at. But it was still worth it.
Hear Wallace talk about Agent Orange and swift boats: