First Mobile Riverine Force Zippo?
Who’s Correct? This Page Includes Input From Several Former MRF Personnel
Let’s Pin Down the Answer
* After viewing Don Blankenship’s website, Talbot Walker said:
“Don, I really enjoyed looking through your website. It brought back many memories. However there is one thing that affected me personally, that is your description of the integration of the “ZIPPO” into the MRF. You see, I was a graduate of Class 2 of the NIOTC. On arriving in country I was assigned to T-111-7, of which after Dec 7,1967 I was assigned as coxs’n. I remained coxs’n until relieved after my year ended. I did return for a second tour which lasted until Feb 27, 1969. To get back to my point, in Mar. of “68 my boat was chosen to be converted into a flamethrower unit. This was the first “ZIPPO”. Shortly afterwards an ATC from 92 was converted, then later 2 Monitors had 1 unit mounted port and starboard but they only carried about 200 gallons of napalm. We on the other hand carried about 1100 gallons. The very first floating flamethrower was, as you said, and army unit loaded onto an LCM 6. I saw it a few times but believe it was just a test vehicle to see how affective this type of craft would be.”
Talbot (Tab) Walker
* Daniel Robin wrote the following:
“Just for the record the Tango used for the first Zippo was T-112-5, we had to remove the canopy to get the APC into the well deck and after the operation we put it back on backwards so we were easy to spot in photos after that, the APC was too heavy for the boat and we were down in the bow and hard to steer, but in all it was a success other than that and the very limited flame (32 sec.), as a part of MRF history we were also part of the Cua Viet group and when we returned to the delta we worked with the Vietnamese 5th. Marines, and even an operation with the 173rd in the Plain of Reeds I think, your right about what 35 years can do to memories, some good and some bad, but in all I believe worthwhile, especially after spending Easter with a group of Vietnamese Americans that I was able to help back in 75, and seeing what they have achieved since, seeing their children now grown and proud productive Americans, I think we did good. Thank you for all each of you did to make this possible. BMCS Dan Robin USN Ret. T-112-5 67/68, MACV 70/71”
* David Burt then offered these photos of T-112-1 from 1967-68:
* Paul Kasper then added his input and a couple of photos:
“In September-October–this was the Boat Capt. of the ATC that put us on board. The second day the big wigs had us go out and put on a show with the flame thrower while they watched from a smaller craft. That was in 1967 and I was part of the flame unit (Army). Tom Cutler also helped me verify that we were first. There were actually two APC’s used after the initial test out of Dong Tam and another ATC carried the service truck, an M35 that mixed the Napalm for the flame thrower.”
* Later Joe Lacapruccia had this to say:
“The first Monitor converted to a Zippo was M-92-2. I know because I was a crew member and I do remember the tango boat that had a 9TH Division APC in the well deck, but I can say with certainty that in March of 1968 we were fitted with flame throwers on the port and starboard sides. Oh sorry, I forgot to tell you my name. It’s Joe Lacapruccia.”
* Bill Doolittle added this:
“When I get home tonight I’ll look through some old photo albums to check the dates, but as I remember, the boat I was on was the first to carry a flamethrower. It was either December 1967 or January 1968. We had to dismantle the well deck cover, and the boat ran very low in the water. The boat was T-91-8. The crew consisted of Mike Arnold (BC), Pat Artz (Coxwain), Bill Doolittle–me–(radioman), John Caldwell (engine man), Ron Campbell (20mm), Phil Ditmars (50 cal), Bennie Walker (50cal). Right off, I don’t remember the names of the two soldiers who manned the APC with the flamethrower, but I’m sure their names are on some of my pictures.
* Mike Brady wrote:
Don, I’m a little “in my cups” at the moment but I just visited our web site and read about the first “zippo boats” in the Nam. I was a gunner aboard T-111-11, T-11-13 and lastly “Boat Captain of A-111-1. My boat crew and I got sent to Cambodia for my last month in-country. I got extended one more time for Operation “Giant Slingshot”. However, some time before that mess I was a gunner aboard T-111-13 and had a hand in the retrofitting of T-111-7 as a “Zippo”. I had the best tool box in the squadron. Do you remember the skill called “comshaw”? Well, I was good at it. The engineer on my boat knew how good I was at obtaining tools. It was an art form. Anyway, I helped the “EM’s” install the stuff in the well deck for all that flame. I hated getting greasy but I was pretty good at what I did back then. Additionally, most folks don’t know about the tape player that played a little tune called,” I Am The Got Of Hell Fire” and they also gave out business cards that said,” Custom Creamations By Racy Scalps Zippo Seven.” Don, I live in Texas and most people here “Remember the Alamo”, however; I remember “Ben Tre”. Twice! I hurt because of those experiences. I’m 55 years old and I can’t get those pictures out of my mind. I was a 20mm. gunner on the medevac boat on our first visit to Ben Tre and unfortunately I made a second trip down that river. Then I got the opportunity to go to Cambodia. Isn’t that special? Don, I thank God for the MRFA and our Brothers…….May God be with all of us “old farts”. Welcome Home Brother…… Gunner Brady A-111-1
* John L. Smith said:
JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW THAT T-131-1 ALSO CARRIED AN APC WITH FLAME TUBE IN ABOUT APRIL OR MAY OF 68. I WAS COXN THEN AND LATER WAS TRANSFERRED TO T-131-10 AS BC. WILL BRING SOME PICTURES TO REUNION. SEE YA THEN. JOHN L. SMITH, USN RETD.