Reviewed by Mr. Tom Phillips, USN (Ret.)
This 8.5×11.5-inch booklet of 64 pages is #26 of 30 in a series by Ship Craft. As such, it is less likely to appeal to historians than advanced scale modelers with a bent for customizing standard scale models into works of fascinating art. The author, Roger Branfill-Cook, has previously written several books on naval vessels and armaments, including Torpedo: The Complete History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Naval Weapon, X.1 The Royal Navy’s Mystery Submarine, and River Gunboats: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Other entries in the Ship Craft series focus mostly on single ship classes—e.g., Kongo Class, Yorktown Class, Bismarck Class, Fletcher Class, Grand Fleet Battlecruisers—or even individual ships—e.g., Titanic, Olympic, Britannic—with a particular emphasis on World War I and World War II vessels plus some classic liners.
Riverine Craft of the Vietnam Wars is the exception, providing an overview of 28 different models of widely varying riverine craft ranging from those of 1940’s French Indochina to those of the South Vietnamese and the US Navy in the 1970’s. Restricted to the same 64-page format as other entries in the Ship Craft series, this volume is only able to provide a black and white line schematic pair—side view and planform—and a single photo or two for most of the craft mentioned.
There is also an eleven-page Model Products section consisting of 37 existing models in scales 1:150, 1:76, 1:72, 1:56, 1:48, 1:35. Each model shows the box-top and provides a paragraph description with what is typically a single sentence recommendation for customization: perhaps the best hidden gem for the advanced modeler seeking advice.
The beauty of this Ship Craft offering is the Modeler’s Showcase, a section dedicated to precise color photography depicting sixteen fine representative and inspirational dioramas, most by the author, Roger Branfill-Cook, plus several excellent products by Jack Carrico, and three other individual artists offering one diorama each.
For the historian interested in the riverine craft of the Vietnam war, this book provides little. For the experienced modeler, the main value will be in identifying model kits which may be of interest. Novices to the world of customizing scale models are unlikely to find the detail they need, so it would be advisable for them select from any of the more focused Ship Craft series for a better initiation.
Tom Phillips graduated from the US Naval Academy with the Class of 1969 and served with the Seawolves in the Vietnam War. He co-authored Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue with fellow U.S. Navy helicopter pilot George Galdorisi. At the Violent Skies symposium in 2015, he gave two presentations, the first pertaining to the Seawolves and riverine warfare, and the second pertaining to aircrew combat rescue.
Ship Craft #26: Riverine Craft of the Vietnam Wars (Roger Branfill-Cook, Seaforth Publishing, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, Great Britain, 2020).