TRANSPORTATION RIVER &
CANAL OPERATIONS VIETNAM
River & Canal Transportation:
southern portion of Vietnam is defined by the rivers
and canals that line the countryside. Earlier, the
French dug an intricate canal system in the Mekong
Delta that was better than any road network in the
One of the larger canals on the Cholon
Canal, Vietnam, 1966.
two views of a canal near Cat Lai, used
frequently by the local population as
well as military watercraft.
Dong Ha, the TC “Navy” delivers cargo for the 1st
Logistics Command. This LCU carried supplies and
equipment for units near the DMZ. It is unloaded by
US Marine Corps and Navy personnel on the Cam Lo
Operating LCMs (landing craft, mechanized) and LCUs
(landing craft, utility), these heavy and medium
boat units delivered cargo up and down the Saigon
and Mekong Rivers.
primary destinations were the major terminals of
Newport, Vin Long, Cat Lai, and to ports like Co Ji
Do, Can Tho and the 9th Infantry Division base at
canal near Nha Trang
canal near Cat Lai.
5th Heavy Boat and 544th Medium Boat Companies out
of Vung Tau, and the 1099th Medium Boat Company out
of Cat Lai made these rivers and canals their home.
LCUs assisting in river operations.
LCU in the background with US Navy armed
riverboats, called Monitors.
Transportation Company (Heavy Boat) left Fort Eustis
in late 1965 for Vietnam and was inactived at Fort
Eustis in March 1972 in Vietnam, serving 7 years in
country. It was awarded a Meritorious Unit
Commendation in 1967.
Transportation Company (Heavy Boat)
Above, the 544th LCM at Dong Tam in March
1970. Next to the LCM is a Vietnamese boat which
had priority on repair materials over Army LCMs.
Behind the two boats is an LST (Landing Ship Tank).
gunner on an LCM.
crews of the LCM-8s lived aboard their boats and
only reported to their home bases periodically.
Receiving their taskings from local harbor masters,
the boats would haul barges or cargo up and down the
crews built hooches to live in and
overhead platforms to protect the troops
or cargo they carried.
currents made up-river trips twice as long as
down-river missions. Camping at local bases or
midstream at night and moving during the day, these
line haulers of the river kept the cargo moving in
an area made for their unique capabilities.
debarking at Dong Tam from LCM-8s
LCMs unloading equipment on the beach.
BOAT COMPANY, “RIVER RATS”
1099th Transportation Company was a Medium Boat
Company. It was comprised of 17 LCMs, 1 picket boat
and two 65-foot barges for use as company
LCMs, popularly called "Mike boats," were steel
boats with twin screws powered by two twin marine
diesel engines. The boats were 73 feet long with a
24 foot beam. They could accommodate up to 200
personnel or 60 short tons at a speed of 10 mph.
were outfitted with two .50 caliber machine guns,
two M60 machine guns, an M-79 grenade launcher, and
an endless amount of ammunition.
1099th worked directly with the 199th Light Infantry
Brigade in the Mekong Delta region. After dropping
off the 199th for patrol or assault, the 1099th
remained close to make emergency pickups or to lend
fire support from the decks.
also carried supplies and ammo for the troops,
reducing the loads they carried on their backs. The
waterways provided cover for the troops before
re-boarding the LCMs.
1099th hauled general cargo and ammunition
throughout the Mekong Delta. They could carry
10,000 gallon bladders of aviation fuel for the
164th Combat Aviation Group, and also transported
refugees and their belongings.
the 1099th Transportation Company earned more
decorations than any other boat company in Vietnam.
These included 11 Bronze Stars with Valor, 15 Bronze
Stars, 8 ARCOMS with Valor, and 103 ARCOMS.
* * *
ATTACK ON ARTILLERY
June 1967, the 1097th Medium Boat Company, commanded
by Captain William G. Pagonis, moved from Cam Rahn
Bay to Dong Tam. The unit was assigned to the 9th
Infantry Division, and became the only tactical boat
company in the Transportation Corps.
Medium Boat Company patch
Infantry Division patch, subdued
The 1097th's mission was to tow artillery barges for
the 3rd Battalion, 34th Artillery. It was not
possible to establish fire bases for the artillery
batteries in the Mekong Delta because there were few
landing zones. The problem was solved by mounting
two howitzers on barges and towing the barges with
January 1968, the 1097th was moving the artillery
barges for the 3/34th Artillery down the Rod Ruong
Canal in Dinh Tuong Province.
boats of Captain Pagonis' company were moving
through a hazardous portion of the narrow canal,
enemy forces attacked with intense automatic weapons
fire and high explosive recoilless rifle rounds.
Then Captain Gus Pagonis, who retired as
a Lieutenant General.
Pagonis received word by radio that one of his LCM-8
boats had been hit and was dead in the water. He
turned his command boat around and wove his way
through both friendly and enemy fire to the damaged
issuing instructions to his boat crews while
directing return fire against the enemy, CPT Pagonis
successfully got the column moving. His actions
earned him the Bronze Star Medal.
* * *
Sunrise on the Mekong Delta.