One of these little plastic patrol boats going up and down the river
the rung sat special zone....oh, you mean that's Iraq?
Shadow of Vietnam Falls Over Iraq River Raids
By JOHN F. BURNS
Published: November 29, 2004
CHARD DUWAISH, Iraq, Nov. 28 - As marines aboard fast patrol boats roared up the Euphrates on a dawn raid on Sunday, images pressed in of another American war where troops moved up wide rivers on camouflaged boats, with machine-gunners nervously scanning riverbanks for the hidden enemy.
That war is rarely mentioned among the American troops in Iraq, many of whom were not yet born when the last American combat units withdrew from Vietnam more than 30 years ago. A war that America did not win is considered a bad talisman among those men and women, who privately admit to fears that this war could be lost.
But as an orange moon sank below the bulrushes on Sunday morning, thoughts of Vietnam were hard to avoid.
Marines waded ashore through soft silted mud that caused some to sink to their waists, M-16 rifles held skyward as others on solid land held out their rifle barrels as lifelines.
Ashore, sodden and with boots squelching mud, the troops began a five-hour tramp through dense palm groves and across paddies crisscrossed by deep irrigation canals.
There were snatches of dialogue from "Apocalypse Now," and a black joke from one marine about the landscape resembling "a Vietnam theme park."
But behind the joshing lay something more serious: the sense expressed by many of the Americans as they scoured the area that in this war, too, the insurgents might have advantages that could make them a match for highly trained troops, technological gadgetry and multibillion-dollar war budgets.
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted the river raid as part of a weeklong offensive billed as a sequel to the battle for Falluja, less than 20 miles upriver from the village where the marines landed Sunday.
The 40-foot river craft they used are called Surcs, for Small Unit Riverine Craft, a high-tech update on the Swift boats used in Vietnam. The craft were flown into Iraq aboard giant C-5 transport aircraft and were first deployed with five-man crews during the battle for Falluja this month, patrolling the stretch of the Euphrates that runs along the city's western edge to prevent attempts by insurgents to escape that way after American troops had thrown a cordon around the city.
As in so much else about the American venture in Iraq, cultural differences played their part. At one point, Lieutenant Duarte bridled when some of the Iraqis resisted his repeated urging that they spread out along the line, preferring to cluster together, ineffectively, at one end. A Marine sergeant told him that the Iraqis were officers and did not feel that they should be asked to work side by side with common soldiers.
One of the Iraqi officers, asked if he spoke English, replied snappily, "English no good. Arabic good. Iraq good." The message seemed clear.
Actually, they're updated versions of the PBR's used in Vietnam, not Swift Boats, which were ocean going craft.
Patrol Boat River (PBR)
It just seems like Vietnam, with the patrol boats and sullen allies and all. There isn't anything like the close air support the Black Ponies (VAL-4) and Seawolves(HAL-3) provided
OV-10 Bronco flown by light attack squadron (VAL-4) Black Ponies
UH-1 Huey flown by (HAL-3) Seawolves
Nope, all those low and slow aircraft would be blown from the sky today. So the Marines have to have to rely on artillery and high flying gunships. Which takes away an advantage that the US had in Vietnam, near instantaneous air support from a variety of platforms. And of course, there are no dedicated riverine forces to deal with the river. Only a few boats and some suillen Iraqis who are as likely as not to lead them into an ambush.
What people who support the war don't get is how much worse this than Vietnam. NO reliable allies, an allied military shot through with enemy agents, no support from the locals, no intelligence, and a lack of manuever battalions. In that way, Iraq is nothing like Vietnam.
posted by Steve @ 10:22:00 AM