BROWN WATER, BLACK BERETS: Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam by Thomas J. Cutler

BROWN WATER, BLACK BERETS: Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam

Email this review


Among the unsung heroes of America's involvement in Vietnam were the sailors and coast-guardsmen who manned the small craft that fought (or stood watch) in that country's coastal and inland waterways. Lt. Cdr. Cutler, a combat veteran who now teaches at Annapolis. here rescues these mariners from obscurity with a concise history that effectively combines vivid tributes to their valor with more formal briefings on how the military developed operational doctrine and vessels suitable for its unconventional flotillas. There's a somber unity to Cutler's narrative in that the first Navy men assigned to Vietnam in 1964 served in an advisory capacity. By mid-1969, Vietnamization had begun (at the behest of the politically astute Adm. Elmo Zumwalt), and the last US naval bases were turned over to local forces in April of 1972. Between times, black-bereted naval personnel played an active role in the war, patrolling rivers and offshore waters to destroy (or confiscate) supplies bound for the Vietcong, braking infiltration from the North, sweeping mines, and participating in bloody assaults on guerrilla strongholds. Using converted pleasure boats, aging LSTs, air-cushion vehicles, swift little cutters, and a variety of other shallow-draft craft, the brown-water sailors compiled a distinguished record. They also won a raft of well-deserved decorations, including a Congressional Medal of Honor, at no small cost in casualties while serving under frequently hellish conditions in tropical theaters. A narrowly focused but praiseworthy addition to the growing log on America's Vietnam experience.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1988
Publisher: Naval Institute Press