Wooden Ships and Iron Men by David D. Bruhn

Retired Navy Commander David D. Bruhn provides everything you ever wanted to know about U.S. minesweeping operations in the Vietnam War in Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The U.S. Navy’s Coastal and Inshore Minesweepers, and the Minecraft that Served in Vietnam, 1953–1976 (Heritage Books, 343 pp., $34, paper).

This is Volume III in Bruhn’s “Wooden Ships and Iron Men” series of books on Navy coastal minesweeping operations beginning in 1941. The two previous volumes focused on World War II and the Korean War. In this volume Bruhn, who served in the Navy from 1977-2001, looks at the work done by two dozen Navy coastal minesweepers from 1953-76. In addition to ferreting out mines and performing other operations in Vietnam, the ships’ crews also searched for downed aircraft, sunken ships, and lost munitions off the U.S. coasts, in the Caribbean, and throughout Asia.

Most of the book deals with U.S. minesweeping and other sea operations in Vietnam. The latter included patrolling the coast to prevent war supplies from being smuggled in by sea to the enemy. Most of the work in Vietnam, however, consisted of often-dangerous minesweeping ops along the 1,200-mile coast of South Vietnam and on the vast network of waterways in the Mekong Delta and other rivers, including the Long Tau, the Perfume, and the Cua Viet.

“Despite a concerted, multi-year Viet Cong effort to kill American mine warriors, sink their [ships], and prevent merchant ships from delivering their precious military cargos to the capital, the enemy never succeeded,” Vietnam War naval historian Edward J. Marolda says in the book’s Foreword.

The book, Marolda notes, “will stand for years as a standard reference on the wartime and peacetime contributions of the U.S. Navy’s mine warriors and their sturdy ships.”

The author’s website is www.davidbruhn.com/

—Marc Leepson