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Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC)

U.S. Navy Riverine Vietnam Veteran Posthumously Awarded Bronze Star with Valor

by Ensign Samantha M. Prewitt
18 August 2023 Virginia Beach, Va. The Navy posthumously recognized Lt. j.g. William Collins, a Vietnam War veteran and former officer-in-charge of a swift boat, during a ceremony today onboard Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. Collins’ wife Estella and his family accepted the award on his behalf from Rear. Adm. Brad Andros, commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro recently upgraded the award to a Bronze Star, recognizing Collins’ meritorious service in connection with combat operations from November 1967 through July 1968, while serving as the office-in-charge of a patrol craft fast, Coastal Division 11, in the Republic of Vietnam. Collins conduct 120 combat patrols in shallow, hazardous waters and directed the boarding and searching of hundreds of junks and sampans, which contributed immeasurable to the efforts to half communist infiltration of South Vietnam. On many occasions he participated in naval gunfire support in conjunction with land combat operations.

During a May 2023 ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, Del Toro said, “It is not only appropriate, but absolutely essential that we, as a nation, take time to focus on this period in our country’s history, and especially, to thank these most deserving of our citizens, our Vietnam veterans.”

Collin’s daughter Jacqueline Collins Kilduff said her father loved his time in the Navy and would be incredibly proud to receive the Bronze Star award if he was with them today.

“The Navy provided him with the best years of his life,” said Kilduff, “His role as a swift boat captain was a defining life experience that shaped dad’s future career choices, community engagement, and parenting skills.”

The Navy authorized the use of swift boats, more formally known as patrol craft, fast (PCF) boats, in Vietnam in April 1966. By November of the same year, 84 PCFs were on task for Operation Market Time, and charged with the interdiction of Vietcong supplies along the 1,500 miles of rivers and canals. They also searched vessels and other craft for weapons and were used for the insertion and extraction of U.S. Navy SEALs.

The swift boat community evolved into today’s Maritime Expeditionary Security Force, who deploy globally throughout the sea-to-shore and inland operating environment protecting maritime infrastructure, providing insertions and extraction capabilities, and supporting Fleet assets in support of maritime operations.

Servicemembers from Maritime Expeditionary Security Group Two (MESG-2) and subordinate units attended the ceremony, paying homage to a forefather who set the standard for the community they serve within today.

Capt. Christopher Wells, commodore of MESG-2, said “In today’s era of strategic power competition where peer adversaries are rapidly modernizing their militaries to challenge the international order, yesterday’s Riverines and swift boat veterans serve as an example of strength and resilience for today’s Sailors. Leaders like Lt. j.g. Collins stood the watch and not it is this current generation’s opportunity to serve with the same honor, courage and commitment to preserve our freedom of the seas and to defend our Constitution.”

The ceremony also included the presentation of leadership awards, including ceremonial black berets, from the Gamewardens Association to active duty Sailors serving within the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force. The Gamewardens are a Vietnam veteran organization formed to honor the legacy of the patrol boat veterans who served in the community in Vietnam and through to today.