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    Vietnam War Era Sampan among large artifacts showcased at new exhibit

    Vietnam War Era Sampan

    Photo By Max Lonzanida | A Vietnamese sampan, captured in 1968 by US Navy Riverine Forces, along with a diorama...... read more read more



    Story by Max Lonzanida  

    Hampton Roads Naval Museum

    The shallow estuaries along with other tributaries feeding into the Mekong River delta are steeped with activity. Visitors to the area can see families residing on and along the calm murky waters. Annual migrations of trey riel or money fish bring in a slivery shimmering bounty for locals. Additionally, adventuresome anglers flock to the region from near and far for a chance at reeling in a bottom feeding Mekong giant catfish, among other exotic species.

    While a variety of aquatic life both large and small ply the shallow murky waters below the surface; on the surface the traditional sampan reigns as the preferred method for getting around. These shallow draft boats range in size from open hulled variants that can move 2-3 people propelled by oars, to larger variants with canopies that serve as water taxies and powered by long shaft outboard motors.

    Historically, sampans have plied the surface transporting people and goods; but during the Vietnam War, they filled the gap with transporting both weapons, combatants and materials that were used to wage war against American forces operating on the waters, in the air and on land.

    Sampans propelled by oars and outboard motors were the subject of searches by U.S. Navy and U.S. Army riverine forces conducting operations to restrict the flow of combatants and material. In 1968, Riverine Forces captured a 25-foot long sampan during Operation FLANKSPEED as it transported weapons, among other contraband, that was used to wage war. The open hulled sampan, propelled by oars, made its way back to the U.S., and was kept in storage away from the public’s view until now.

    On October 9, 2019, the gallery of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum will re-open after over 4,700 square feet of their exhibit space is transformed into a new immersive exhibit, “The Ten Thousand Day War at Sea: the US Navy in Vietnam, 1950-1975”. One of the large artifacts that will be on display is the 25-foot long sampan captured in 1968; and once the exhibit opens, visitors will have the opportunity to see an artifact that witnessed the war.

    Before arriving at the museum, the sampan was cleaned and stabilized at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Collections Management Facility in Richmond, Virginia. There, conservators cleaned the hull, vacuumed its crevices, and prepared it for transport. Its arrival via a covered panel truck was an all staff evolution at the museum. Staff members carefully pushed it onto a flatbed truck; and it was carefully craned to a bridge next to the museum. Thereafter, it was pushed in and maneuvered in the new gallery spaces in an evolution that was carefully overseen by conservators and the museum’s exhibits specialist. Staff members used straps to carefully lift and adjust it on a raised platform, and finally set it down on a set of mounts on a raised platform for its debut to the public when the exhibit opens.

    Before its public debut, Conservators Karl Knauer and Abbey Preston, with the Naval History and Heritage Command’s Conservation Branch carefully cleaned the sampan again. Both donned white lab coats, sterile gloves and shoe covers as they carefully vacuumed out the sampan’s crevices. Knauer explained that dust containing fibers from visitors clothing and even skin flakes from a closer look at the sampan can easily build up crevices of the sampan. Knauer also noted that periodic cleaning would help preserve the artifact.

    Among other artifacts conservators prepared was a name board from the USS Newport News (CA-148) and the USS Montrose (APA-212), the ribbon board from the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), along with a host of others both large and small that will be on display for the public when the new exhibit opens on October 9, 2019.



    Date Taken: 09.25.2019
    Date Posted: 09.26.2019 13:35
    Story ID: 343875
    Location: NORFOLK , VA, US 

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