SKUNK ALPHA is a first-person narrative nonfiction work that spins a unique yarn of an impressionable twenty-year-old Mexican-American sailor from San Antonio, Texas. The story chronicles this young man’s journey that takes him from the safety of high school life and young love to perilous combat action on the high seas, at the height of the Vietnam War.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Herrera shares a glimpse of barrio life in the mid-1960s. He escapes from a dysfunctional home life, volunteering to a four-year hitch in the U.S. Navy. Thirteen months into a two-year shore duty assignment in San Diego, a Navy recruiter’s promise of a drafting career turns into a questionable future when he receives orders to PCF Crew Training at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, California—he’s Vietnam War bound.
Operation Market Time strikes a devastating blow on North Vietnam’s seaborne resupply mission. A quarter past midnight on July 15, 1967, the six-man crew of Swift Boat PCF-79 led a vicious attack on a 120-foot ammo-laden trawler as it approached the Sa Ky river mouth on the Batangan Peninsula in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. The Viet Cong were deprived of more than 90 tons of ammunition and supplies. For their gallant action against a Communist infiltrator, the crew was personally congratulated and decorated by Premier Nguyễn Cao Kỳ and Chief of State Nguyễn Văn Thiệu.
Herrera’s prose highlights the essence of small boat combatants at the height of the Vietnam War. He masterfully invokes creative license, giving voice to the characters as he traces the real Swift Boat story in this historic military memoir.
Years of research identifies the Vung Ro Incident as the catalyst that gave birth to this tiny 50-foot man o’war. It was the discovery and capture of an enemy resupply trawler at Vung Ro Bay that fast-tracked construction of 104 Mark I Swift Boats by Sewart Seacraft of Berwick, Louisiana. Until then, North Vietnam’s secret Group 759 carried out approximately 122 successful resupply missions into South Vietnam between October 1962 and October 1965. The brave Task Force 115 Swift Boat sailor picket line of defense all along the 1200-mile long coastline stopped the infiltration of arms and supplies from North Vietnam, forcing Hanoi to redirect their efforts on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
SKUNK ALPHA is a deck-level eyewitness account of brave sailors who answered the call to duty, sailed into harm’s way while gallantly carrying out Swift Boat division mottos of Numbah One Watchdog; For Freedom We Fight; Vigilance, Any Time Any Place; We Can Hack It; and No Quarter.
The book is dedicated to the memory of BM1 Bobby Don Carver, lead petty officer of PCF-79, and to the fifty Swift Boat sailors who bravely gave their all during the war.