By Hoa Quách, Patch Staff | May 8, 2013 11:40 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2013 12:24 pm ET
Don Farrell of Encinitas was an officer in charge of a swift boat 43 years ago in Vietnam, and the memories swiftly flooded back when he boarded one of the all-aluminum vessels this week.
For visiting sailiors, it triggered a “complete range of emotions,” Farrell said. “We’re remembering the good times and the bad times we had as a crew. It’s just as nostalgic as it can be.”
For the first time since the Vietnam War, some U.S. veterans are walking onto a swift boat—the shallow-draft vessel used to patrol coastal and inland waterways.
“It’s been emotional,” said Mark Gallant, the museum’s director of operations. “They’re coming to see the swift boat, and it’s the first time they’ve stepped on one since Vietnam. It’s very emotional for them.”Subscribe
Gallant said he took a number of sailors on a ride on the swift boat Thursday morning and as “soon as the engines turned on—it brought back many memories for them.”
The swift boat, donated to the museum by Malta’s minister of defense, has been a work in progress since August 2012.
Gallant said two staff members and a number of volunteers have restored everything from the engines to the electrical wiring.
Final cost of restoration: nearly $200,000.
But the museum is hopeful that visitors will learn a lot from the swift boat, the only working one of its kind in the world.
“It’s a tool we’re going to use to teach the Pacific history,” said Gallant, adding that San Diego used to have about four as training vessels for sailors before they left for Vietnam.
For many sailors, it’s more than just teaching a part of history.
Gallant said because the Vietnam War was so controversial, the sailors weren’t given the homecoming they deserved.
“It’s more than a boat—it’s about sailors who gave their lives to fight this war,” he said. “This will give the veterans a welcome home that is so much overdue.”
The swift boat is expected to be available to the public in about a month. For more information or to keep up-to-date, visit sdmaritime.org/swift-boat.