Capturing Skunk Alpha
A Barrio Sailor's Journey in Vietnam
Published by: Texas Tech University Press
Imprint: Texas Tech University Press
Sales Date: June 2023
312 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: June 2023
- Published: June 2023
On the evening of July 11, 1967, a Navy surveillance aircraft spotted a suspicious trawler in international waters heading toward the Quang Ngai coast of South Vietnam. While the ship tried to appear innocuous on its deck, Saigon quickly identified it as an enemy gunrunner, codenamed Skunk Alpha.
A four-seaborne intercept task force was established and formed a barrier inside South Vietnam’s twelve-mile territorial boundary. As the enemy ship ignored all orders to surrender and neared the Sa Ky River at the tip of the Batangan Peninsula, Swift Boat PCF-79 was ordered to take the trawler under fire. What followed was ship-to-ship combat action not seen since World War II. Capturing Skunk Alpha relates that breathtaking military encounter to readers for the first time.
But Capturing Skunk Alpha is also the tale of one sailor’s journey to the deck of PCF-79. Two years earlier, Raúl Herrera was growing up on the west side of San Antonio, Texas, when he answered the call to duty and joined the US Navy. Raúl was assigned to PCF Crew Training and joined a ragtag six-man Swift Boat crew with a mission to prevent the infiltration of resupply ships from North Vietnam.The brave sailors who steered into harm’s way in war-torn Vietnam would keep more than ninety tons of ammunition and supplies from the Viet Cong and NVA forces. The Viet Cong would post a bounty on PCF-79; Premier Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and Chief of State Nguyễn Văn Thiệu would congratulate and decorate them for their heroism. Capturing Skunk Alpha provides an eyewitness account of a pivotal moment in Navy operations while also chronicling one sailor’s unlikely journey from barrio adolescence to perilous combat action on the high seas.
"This is a true story of what Swift Boats and their gallant crews accomplished during that underappreciated war in South Vietnam. Capturing Skunk Alpha will secure our honorable place in US military history."
—Captain Edward J. Bergin (USNR, Ret.)
"Capturing Skunk Alpha is quite significant in that it tells of the courage, enthusiasm, and professionalism of those fortunate enough to be known as SWIFT Boat sailors, and the very important role they played in successful operations by the Navy’s Brown Water forces during the Vietnam War."
—William L. Schachte Jr. (Rear Admiral, JAGC, USN Ret.)