Vietnamese media recently reported on a pile of vintage .50 caliber BMG ammo that was recovered from the mud of the Tiền River that looks like it just came from the factory. 

Local media showed members of the Vietnamese Army inspecting the ammo, reportedly illegally salvaged from the river near Thuong Phuoc and confiscated by Border Guards. It has been underwater for decades.

Sealed in OD green ammo cans, much of the belted .50 cal rounds look like they could still be used. (Photo: Video Screenshot)
The boxes included piles of both .50 cal and small arms ammo, such as 7.62 and 5.56 NATO. (Photo: Video Screenshot)
Some seemed to fare better than others, likely due to the integrity of the box and its rubber lid seals. (Photo: Video Screenshot)
The salvage operation was reportedly paying locals 200,000 VND ($8 US) per day to disassemble the ammo down to its components to sell for scrap. (Photo: Video Screenshot)





Some reports mention the ammo, of which over 37,500 rounds were recovered, may have come from a lost PCF boat.

The PCF, or Patrol Craft, Fast, were a class of 50-foot all-aluminum boats used by the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.

Built to a modified oil field supply boat design, they were intended to police the coast of South Vietnam on the lookout for maritime smugglers running guns and munitions to the Viet Cong from North Vietnam. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Capable of making over 25 knots and floating in just five feet of brackish water, the PCFs earned the name "Swift Boats" in use. 

Official caption: Republic of Vietnam, a 50-foot US Navy Fast Coastal Patrol Boat (PCF-94) cuts through the water of the Gulf of Thailand on a patrol along the coast to prevent the infiltration of Viet Cong and their supplies by sea, March 1968. (Photo: U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command)

Swift boats were also used extensively to shuttle troops, SEALs, and reconnaissance units around South Vietnam's myriad of river systems as part of the so-called "Brown Water Navy," best remembered today by PBR Streetgang in the film "Apocalypse Now." 

Armed with a twin .50 cal mount forward and a piggyback 81mm mortar/M2 heavy machine gun mount over the stern, these 50-foot boats packed a punch. 

Official caption: Swift Boat PCF-3 gunner fires twin .50 caliber machine guns into a Vietcong position near An Thoi, South Vietnam, 17 July 1967. Note the gunner's tattoo. (Photo: National Archives Catalog)
Jan 1969: Swift boat passing near Ca Mau, South Vietnam. Note the 81mm mortar piggybacked to an M2 .50 cal with an M3A1 Grease Gun hanging from its rear by a sling. The tiger-striped sailor closest to the foreground has an M79 40mm "bloop gun" and there are links and spent brass scattered around on deck. (Photo: U.S. Naval History & Heritage Command)

Over 190 Swift boats of all types were ordered by the Navy for use in Southeast Asia between 1965 and 1972, with most later transferred to the military of South Vietnam. According to the Swift Boat Sailors Memorial, 11 were lost, four in combat and seven to rough weather, although it is not sure which craft may have recently been illegally salvaged or if the vessel was in Vietnamese or U.S. service when lost. Notably, the ammo recovery was near the Vietnam/Cambodia border. 

For more on the "Brown Water" Sailors, check out Combat at Close Quarters: An Illustrated History of the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, an excellent 91-page essay published by the Navy Historical Command that is available for free download. Further, please take time to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to remember the more than American 58,000 men and women who gave their lives or remain missing from that war.

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