For the Americans it was the day after Valentine’s Day, 1967; for the Vietnamese it was the end of the Lunar New Year holiday known as Tet, in the Year of the Goat.
The minesweeping boat MSB-51 backed away from her nest at Nha Be, her diesel-driven twin screws churning up a chocolate foam in the muddy Long Tau River, then turned and headed out for another patrol. Commanded by a first-class petty officer, she was all of 57 feet long and drew four feet. She was a warship nonetheless, with two .30-caliber machine guns on her forecastle and a .50-caliber machine gun in an elevated tub aft. But her “main battery” was an array of chains and angled blades that could be deployed to sweep mines from the vital waterway leading from the open sea to the capital city of Saigon.