CHULA VISTA, Calif. - For months, volunteers – many of them swift boat veterans who served in Vietnam – have labored relentlessly to return a 1968 swift boat to its former glory. On Tuesday, all reached a major milestone in that effort.
"This boat wasn't capable of doing anything five months ago," said volunteer Gary Liedorff, who replaced every wire in the vessel.
After months of scraping paint off the aluminum hull by hand, on Tuesday, the 50-foot boat had been repainted, rewired and new engines put aboard.
"We're all sentimentally attached to this because it preserves the history of what we did," Liedorff said.
The boat was donated by Malta, which for decades had used it as a patrol boat. Prior to that, it was used in Coronado as a training vessel for swift boat sailors headed to war.
"When this boat is up and running at the Maritime Museum, it will probably be the only operational swift boat in the United States and probably the world," said Mark Gallant, the project manager.
At the Marine Group boat yard in Chula Vista, the vessel was lifted off the stands, put into the water and the engines tested for the first time.
It was a big step, but there is more to do before more than 400 swift boat veterans come to San Diego for a reunion next month.