Roger Branfill-Cook, Riverine Craft of the Vietnam Wars (Seaforth, 2020)
Another in Seaforth Publishing’s useful and interesting Ship Craft series, Riverine Craft of the Vietnam Wars takes us to that unfortunate country, which was the scene of so much fighting around its vital network of rivers for much of the Twentieth Century. The theme that runs through the book is conversion; that of the foreign and ARVN armies trying to establish control, and for modelers building replica riverine craft.
Roger Branfill-Cook introduces his readers to the plethora of converted shallow-draft boats, landing craft, barges, amphibious armoured vehicles, and specifically designed boats that the French, Americans, and South Vietnamese deployed along the Vietnamese rivers, along with their technical specifications. They tested an abundance of weapons that they hoped would work against their nationalist and communist enemies, including all calibres of machine-guns, mortars and other light artillery pieces, flamethrowers, and even water cannons. Of course, the enemy returned fire, so armour was added in various forms to protect the vessels and their crews. But that affected the boats’ weight, therefore their draught and speed, rendering some of them unfit for purpose. Specialist troops, such as SEALS, needed specialist craft, and Branfill-Cook covers those too. The centrepiece of the book is the section on available models and displaying exemplary builds and dioramas, the Jack Carrico dioramas are particularly good.
Modelers will find Riverine Craft of the Vietnam Wars an invaluable and attractive source of information. The reference page also makes this book a useful jumping off point for further exploration into books, websites, and model manufacturers. However, as someone studying America’s Vietnam War, I found this survey interesting and informative too, and Roger Branfill-Cook answered in passing many of the questions I had about this peculiar form of warfare.