Upriver to Hue and Dong Ha: The U.S. Navy's War in I Corps, Vietnam 1967-1970



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The United States Navy's involvement in the Vietnam War, especially its role in the region's inland waterways, has long been an overshadowed aspect of the conflict. Most histories ignore or minimize the Navy's contribution, especially its river patrol or 'brown water' role. Through archival and library research as well as interviews with U.S Navy Vietnam War veterans this thesis demonstrates the vital role played by the brown water navy in the northern provinces of South Vietnam. A key but understudied component of this effort was Task Force Clearwater, an improvised brown water fleet that-along with the maritime logistics campaign that it supported-would prove essential for the successful defense of South Vietnam's northernmost provinces and demonstrate the vital importance of inland naval power.

Task Force Clearwater and its supported maritime logistics effort form a little explored component of the U.S. Navy's role in South Vietnam. A brown water task force that proved essential for the successful defense of the northern provinces of I Corps, Clearwater repeatedly demonstrated the vital importance of inland naval power and the critical need for reliable and protected routes of supply. The task force revealed many lessons that had been long understood, forgotten, and then relearned by the U.S. Navy, among them that control of inland waterways was perhaps the most advantageous form of logistical supply in war. Created in part to satisfy the ancient maxim of "keeping the supply lines open", the task force's role broadened with time. In the course of its existence the men and boats of Clearwater would provide not only the tools of war in I Corps but also provide key lessons for the future.