Riverine Inferno, a film by John Carrico.

Book Review: Riverine Inferno - Flamethrower Boats in Vietnam

20 January 2009

The use of Napalm by US and South Vietnamese forces was one of the most controversial issues of the Vietnam War. Though typically associated with air strikes, the jellied gasoline was also used by the Brown Water Navy to clear Viet Cong bunkers and concealed fighting positions from the riverbanks of the Mekong.

The Zippo boats, as some of these fire spewing Riverine craft became known, were first tested in 1967 with a flame-throwing Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) parked at the front of a basic Navy Armored Troop Carrying (ATC) vessel. However, due to the ramp, the APC was unable to fire directly forward. To solve this problem the Navy altered the Monitor class boats with the addition of the Army’s M10-8 flamethrower.

This standardized version of the Zippo boat had a crew of seven and could reach a top speed of approximately 8 knots. It was capable of carrying 1,350 gallons of compressed Napalm, which could be fired for just over 3 ½ minutes up to a distance of 300 metres, depending on conditions and amount of liquid available.

An experimental flame throwing ATC torches the riverbank near Dong Tam

Photo: U.S. Naval Historical Centre
An experimental flame-throwing Tango Boat spits out its deadly fire on the riverbank near Dong Tam in the Mekong Delta

Riverine Inferno has over 30-minutes of original wartime footage, split into two films.The first 20 minutes contains some truly extraordinary pictures of Zippo boats unleashing their murderous fire on the riverbank. Producer Jack Carrico has chosen an atmospheric soundtrack to accompany the footage, though the lack of narration is a real pity.

The second short film shows one of the boats refilling its Napalm tanks before thoroughly demonstrating the range and ferocity of its weapons. Again there is no narration and the choice of the Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss to accompany the flame throwing sequence is highly unusual.

Despite the lack of descriptive commentary, Riverine Inferno is a worthy addition to Carrico's growing library of Vietnam Naval books and DVDs and can be purchased directly from LuLu.com for $14.95.

Visit Brown Water Enterprises for further information.
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