San Diego Maritime Museum Welcomes Vietnam War Swift Boat
The Maritime Museum of San Diego welcomed Swift Boat P24 to be restored and operated as a new addition to its collection of historic naval vessels, Sept. 18.
The craft's addition will serve as a tribute to the sacrifices of service members who fought in the Vietnam War and other campaigns, as well as a tool to educate visitors with an interest in the U.S. Navy's vast heritage.
Ray Ashley, CEO of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, noted his vision is to memorialize and educate visitors on the history it represents, and provide the kind of experience no static display could.
"Acquiring this boat allowed us to add another piece of history to the museum's collection," Ashley said.
The swift boat will be used to give passengers tours of the Maritime Museum facilities, narrated by museum staff as well as former swift boat Sailors or small combatant vessel captains holding U.S. Coast Guard licenses.
"There were around 133 swift boats, and there are virtually none left anywhere in the world that are operational," said Virgil Irwin, trustee of the Maritime Museum of San Diego and member of the Swift Boat Sailors Association. "This boat is being brought here to be refurbished and made available to the museum to educate the public on what it was like to be a swift boat Sailor during Vietnam."
Originally designated Patrol Craft (Fast) 196, P24 served as a training vessel for swift boat Sailors in Coronado, Calif. after its use in combat.
In 1971, it was one of the two swift boats donated to the Republic of Malta's Maritime Squadron. Throughout its decades of service, it became an important memory to many Sailors who worked on it.
"It brought a tear to my eye because I was looking at my comrades that I served with in Vietnam and thinking of the men we lost," said Irwin, who served on swift boats during 1968 and 1969. "This boat is here to represent them and honor their service."
Throughout its lifetime, P24 had approximately 3,500 total crew and support personnel from 1965 to 1973. 350 Sailors were wounded and 50 were killed during its eight years of service.
"Even when you're old, it's nice to be recognized," said retired Chief Warrant Officer Joe Lavoie. "It's also nice to see the young people carrying on the tradition of my Navy."