The Boats of the 720th ~ 1967 to 1970
~~~~~ 720th Military Police Battalion Reunion Association History Project ~~~~~
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This Page Last Updated ~ 18 October 2005
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Pontoon/Cargo Boat There were two types of small boats used by the 720th for River Patrol duties and, one large style, the PBR. The first river patrol boats used by the 720th River Patrol Unit in September 1967 wouldn't fit the sleek image one might imagine of a boat skimming across the water.

They were heavy, cumbersome and originally made for light cargo transport and also used as pontoons for floating bridges.

Being powered by twin 25hp outboards gave them some speed but they pushed a lot of water and when loaded down with a squad of men did anything but skim the water. When involved in prolonged running on the river the engine covers would have to be removed to prevent overheating. Their manufacturer is unknown.

Later the twin 25 hp outboards were replaced by 85hp Johnson's which greatly improved their maneuverability and speed.

Boston Whaler Skimmer By late 1967 or early 1968 The Boston Whaler "Skimmers" came into use. I have not been able to find any specifics on their construction yet so what I describe here is based on a collective recollection of my own and the men that served on the boats.

In my research I discovered that the name "Skimmer" was attached to many different boats in Vietnam. Their sizes ranged from 14 foot to over 30 foot and their uses were as varied as their size. They were used in harbor master, transport, patrol, oil spill recovery operations. They however did have one thing in common, a modified V bottom of some sort.

Photo G0019 Unidentified members of a 720th MP Battalion, B Company River Patrol unit in their Boston Whaler Skimmer on the Dong Nai River in late 1968 or early 1969. If you can identify any of these men please notify the Project Manager. Email Link Courtesy of SP/4 Mel R. Steinhauer, Jr. 212th MP Company, Scout Dog Unit, 720th MP Battalion, July 1968 to June 1969.

The new boats were 17 to 18 foot in length, had a modified V bow, console steering in some but not all, and were powered by 85 hp Johnson outboards.

The new Boston Whaler Skimmers were used primarily for patrol purposes and several of the older boats were kept as transports. The transports were several feet longer, a little wider in the beam and had an additional bench seat, and no console steering.

The standard crew was comprised of two or three men, depending on availability. One gunner and one driver who wore the radio headset.

The crew was kept at a minimum when transporting Ambush Teams. An additional man or two would be added for specific missions involving the stopping and searching sampan traffic on the river.

Patrol Boat Riverine (PBR) The Battalion never had it's "own" PBR's. In September 1967 and early 1968 before the PBR's of the 18th MP Brigade's, 458th US Army Transportation Company were assigned duties on the Dong Nai River along the 720th Tactical Area of Responsibility.

At first 2 MP's from B Company served on each of the boats as gunners. A standard crew consisted of four men. The boat Captain, a senior NCO, Engineer a junior NCO, and two crewmen (gunners) who were MP's from the 720th. In later years ater members of 485th were billeted at B Company and the boats were staffed by the 458th NCO's and 3 MP's one being an NCO, and two gunners.

Photo G0249 PBR's from the 458th US Army Transportation Company and Boston Whaler Skimmers tied up alongside The 'Houseboat' anchored on the Dong Nai River, southeast of the bridge, 1969. B Company, 720th MP Battalion crewmen worked on the PBR's and used the docks to berth their "Skimmers." Courtesy of SGT Darwin R. Wall, B Company, 720th MP Battalion, & 458th PBR, August 1968 - November 1969.

The men of the 720th MP Battalion served on the PBR's of both the Navy and Army from the inception of Operation STABILIZE in 1967 through its closure in July 1970.

Their information, stories, and photographs can be found in the River Patrol Unit pages in the TAOR section of this website.

The Vietnam Project adheres to a strict rule of avoiding duplication and encroachment of established veterans websites. In furtherance of that rule, below are listed several recommended websites relating to the PBR's and their mission in Vietnam.

To learn more about the PBR's once you finish your tour of this Website with the 720th MP Battalion, go to our Links Page and visit,

PBR Forces Veterans Association Website

Lee Helle's 458th US Army Transportation Company Website


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