Vietnam Airboats by John M. Carrico.

Book Review: Vietnam Airboats

13 October 2008

For many people the Vietnam War will forever be associated with American soldiers leaping from helicopters and heading into the jungle. However, in late 1964, another form of transportation made its debut in the Mekong Delta, the Hurricane Aircat.

The Aircat (with some modifications) was chosen for service in South Vietnam after testing proved it to be more suitable than the Susquehanna Skimmer airboat. Capable of operating in just four inches of water, it was powered by a rear mounted airplane propeller and could reach almost 35mph.

This speed made the craft perfect for flank security of Riverine assault boats or for fast reconnaissance. Special Forces, CIDG and Mike Force units also used them in the rainy season to pursue and intercept the Viet Cong throughout the flooded areas of the Mekong Delta. The Aircat was armed with a Browning 30cal. machine gun mounted on the bow and could carry a maximum of 6 soldiers.

Vietnam Airboats is a 20-minute DVD compiled from two sets of digitally re-mastered 16-mm Cine film.  The colour footage was shot from both the bow of the swiftly moving craft and from a helicopter flying above the monsoon swollen Delta.

Both films show the Airboats whipping and weaving their way across the huge inundated areas alongside the Mekong. The viewer gets a fantastic glimpse of the boats in action and one can only imagine how terrifying it must have been to be shot at whilst on board the thin fibreglass craft with no protection against Viet Cong bullets and rockets.

Although it’s a shame there isn’t any actual combat footage, we should consider ourselves lucky that this rare footage has been made so accessible. As with his previous DVD, Green Boats and Grunts, producer Jack Carrico has added a suitable soundtrack to the originally soundless films.

Vietnam Airboats can be purchased from along with other Riverine specific works and is priced at $12.95.

Remember to keep an eye out circa June 2009 for Carrico’s new book, Waterborne Warriors, U.S. Army Watercraft in Vietnam 1964 – 1972. The book will recount stories from veterans who served with the Brown Water Navy in the Mekong Delta. Visit Brown Water Enterprises for further information.
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