In South Vietnam, the Americans have invented a new way to change the Vietcong from the swamps and he paddy fields - the airboat.
In South Vietnam, the Americans have invented a new way to change the Vietcong from the swamps and he paddy fields - the airboat. David Willey reports.
Willey (overlay all): Security round here is so bad the airboat have to be kept on dry land and taken on trailers to the waters edge. But first, a patrol checks for booby traps, and rakes the area with a few rounds of automatic fire just to make sure we are not being overlooked. The airboat has been developed from a craft used in the everglades in Florida. Its made of fibreglass, is practically unsinkable, and can float in only two inches of water. The power comes from a conventional airplane engine mounted aft. There's no rudder - you control the direction with air flaps. The crew is mixed American and Thai - members of the 2,000 man Thai regiment now serving in Vietnam.
The mission - to search the thousands of creeks in the tidal swamp-land between Saigon and the South China Sea for the Vietcong - who lie hidden by day, and raid nearby villages for food at night.
Hidden in the undergrowth, the communist soldiers have floating sleeping platforms, which rise and fall with the 13 foot tide. It's natural camouflage - theyre very difficult to detect either from the air or water level.
Sometimes however the Communists are surprised by the airboats, which make so much noise, it's difficult to pinpoint where they are coming from.
The airboats, are highly manoeuvrable - roots and branches can't get tangled in the propeller which bites into the air - not the water. On One patrol last month the airboat patrol came upon a sampan carrying the local communist commander. They killed him and fifteen companions.
Running ashore in easy - at high tide. No one can accuse the Americans of not trying in their attempts to track down the Vietcong. But sometimes native guile outwits foreign ingenuity. This control had to report as so often in Vietnam to contact today.