John Ismay
A Memorial For My Father’s Third War.

This morning, my day job took me to Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, CA to visit my client over at COMEODGRU-1. After I’d finished my business and started driving out of the parking lot, I noticed a familiar grey nose through the trees. It was the bow of a SWIFT Boat, a type of gunboat that my father, CAPT Art Ismay, USN (Ret.) introduced to the Republic of South Vietnam in March 1965.

Since I’m getting on a plane tomorrow to visit a memorial built for my old community, and those killed in my war, it felt right to visit a different wall today — one built for my dad’s community, and his war in Vietnam.

As a young Commander, he established Boat Squadron ONE, later recommissioned as Coastal Squadron ONE at Cam Rahn Bay, where he served from March 1965 to November 1966. He married my mom just months before in November 1964 at the Presidio. 

At the time of their wedding, dependents were allowed in Vietnam, and Commander Ismay’s new bride was excited for the move to Saigon.  But President Johnson changed her plans when he officially transitioned our role in Vietnam from advisory to combatant.

So, the new Mrs. Ismay (an Army brat herself) went to stay with her parents at Ft. Ord while her husband went off to invent a new form of “brown water” combat with an untested type of weapon.

Eventually, he received the U.S. Navy’s first two PAC-V combat hovercraft, but the workhorses of his squadron were one hundred PCF (Patrol Craft, Fast) SWIFTs. One of them made it’s way back to Coronado years ago, received an overhaul, and was put on display at the amphib base.

Flanked by a PBR and a Monitor, PCF-104 looks good. So does my dad, who was born May 2nd 1927.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Here’s the birthday boy last year as we celebrated together in Nags Head, NC.

Postscript: in the title of this post, I mention that Vietnam was my dad’s third war. That wasn’t a typo. I hope to visit the first two in this blog one day. Stay tuned.

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