This guy is an ex-VC and was our "Chu Hoi" scout. What I got from talking to him is he didn't even know what communism was.
After calling all the GIs in Vietnam stupid for being there, who is the next target they go after? Ronald Reagan of course! That's what commies do and the people that organized Woodstock were commies.
Believe or not, this program actually worked at least once that I know of. We had one "Kit Carson scout" (the guy in the above photo). At other times it was mostly a pipe dream by some higher ups.
There was one instance when we were operating in platoon size (about 24 guys) and there was a chopper flying back and forth directly over our position with a loudspeaker blasting away something in Vietnamese.
The LT called in to find out what the deal was and after about ten minutes they called back and told us the message was, "There is an American unit directly below us if you want to surrender."
This is the only time I can remember running with a full pack and all of our gear for at least a kilometer.
The “Chu Hoi” program is just one example of a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington DC doing the planning for combat operations in Vietnam. The “higher ups” made a multitude of mistakes and I’m here to explain them to you.
The vast majority of civilians walking the earth today have no idea of the differences between light infantry and the other types such as mechanized infantry. Light Infantry is what all infantry used to be throughout the history of the world until recently. Then sometime around the First World War, infantry started riding in and on tanks and trucks to get around on the battlefield. A true light infantry unit has no tanks, no armored personnel carriers and no heavy weapons with the exception of one platoon in an entire battalion had what we called four deuce mortars. Those were 4.2 inch diameter mortar shells that had the same power as a 105 millimeter howitzer shell.
In Vietnam we were routinely taken down Highway One in a two and a half ton truck and dropped off for the mission we were assigned. We would walk inland to start the mission. That was the extent of transport on the ground. We also got transported by chopper to the start location of our mission and sometimes we would go in as a big unit in what was referred to as a “combat assault”. Once the coppers dropped us off, we were on foot all the way.
The 4.2 inch mortar was the only heavy weapon at our disposal that we couldn’t carry. The US Army being as anal retentive as it could possibly be, took the small 60 millimeter mortars away from the light infantry units and gave them 81 millimeter mortars to carry instead. This was a monumental bonehead move.
Every company had a weapons platoon which usually was part of the headquarters platoon where the company commanding officer would be with, usually a captain. So if we were operating in company size, everyone carried at least one 81 millimeter mortar round.
Of course, if we were operating in platoon size, we had no mortar type weapon to protect us at all. The M-79 Grenade launcher was supposed to fill in for that role but that was a puny 40 millimeters in diameter compared with the bigger 60 mortar round. There is just no comparison at all; the M-79 had a limited range and punch.
There are usually 4 platoons in addition to the headquarters platoon in a company and they were all without the protection of the “lobbing” type of weapon such as a mortar when not together. This is just one example of equipment inadequacy of the Vietnam War.
If you look at the weight involved with each type, you can see the 60 millimeter shell was about one third of the weight of the 81. Sure the 81 had more punch and more range but a light infantry unit didn’t need much range and I personally would rather have 3 less powerful shells rather than one big one.
The one simple thing the big brass didn’t seem to understand about light infantry units was: We had to carry everything we needed!! They seemed like they had no idea what the most important occupation in the Army was like nor did they care!
I say light infantry is the most important because they are what the entire rest of the Army supports and it is the light infantry that ultimately has to go in and get personal with the enemy. It was like that in ancient Rome and it still is today.
Light infantry should have the latest, most up to date equipment available but sadly this is not the case, even in today’s modern military.
I provide all the technical reasons why the main battle rifle of the U.S. Military is really not up to snuff for doing battle in today’s world in my upcoming book, “The Combat Rifle”. The M-16 A1 was the best light infantry rifle ever devised but unfortunately it morphed into another piece of crap because of the politicians meddling again. I explain what happened to the M-16 A2, A3 and A4 in the combat rifle book.
Everyone is familiar about the stories of jamming M-16 rifles when the weapon was first introduced for combat use. By the time I got to Vietnam, the M-16 was the finest light infantry rifle ever devised by any country.
It is important to note that light infantry has much different requirements for a rifle than do other units. It has to be light, easy to point at a target, and super accurate for use in “offhand shooting” which is shooting that one does ad hoc and at the spur of the moment. The enemy can appear at any time, at any distance and at any angle, including uphill and downhill, The M-16 A1 could handle these things and more.
All the bugs had been worked out and they were reliable, accurate as hell and most important; deadly as hell. The enemy didn’t call the M-16 “Black Death” for no reason. The wounds this weapon inflicted on the enemy were in some cases, horrific.
On the other hand there were problems with ancillary equipment like magazine pouches we were never given. The higher ups never developed or manufactured magazine pouches for Vietnam. We used the cloth pouches the ammunition came in and re-purposed them by stuffing our 20 round magazines in each section, 7 magazines per “bandoleer”. Since the “bandoleers” were intended to carry ammunition in “stripper clips” they were not well suited for the heavier full 20 round magazines we stuffed into them. The thin straps dug into the neck and shoulders, just adding to our misery.
It is quite miserable being a light infantryman at times. You are expected to carry an unholy amount of weight and do it in some of the most inhospitable conditions in the world.
This is a typical combat load: An aluminum frame ruck sack (similar to civilian backpacking equipment), one case of C rations, 7 quarts of water, 2 pop-up flares, 2 fragmentation grenades, 4 smoke grenades, 2 Claymore mines, 2 detonators, 2 pounds of C4 explosive, 2 PRC 25 radio batteries, 200 rounds of M 60 machine gun ammo, (25) 20 round M 16 magazines, (7) 20 round stripper clips of M 16 ammo, an M 16 A1 rifle and cleaning kit, a steel pot helmet, poncho, poncho liner, personal items, a starlight night vision scope and if we were operating in company size, a 12.5 pound 81 millimeter mortar round (sometimes two).
I was watching a documentary on the Marines in Afghanistan and one of the grunts commented that he knew what he was doing to his body just might have a lifelong consequences, because of the pure physical stress involved. My thought was: “I hear you brother”. I knew exactly what he was talking about.
That’s the way it is in light infantry. We do it because we love our country, and we want to follow in the footsteps of the many soldiers and Marines who did it before us. There is a lot of pride and honor driving these guys and they don’t get the recognition they deserve. Hollywood has done a crappy job of telling the truth about the way it really is.
One big observation I personally made about the Vietnam War was the way we were fighting. It didn’t appear like we were fighting to win. We didn’t and couldn’t go and destroy the supply lines in Cambodia and Laos. We had fire bases set up in to support the infantry who in turn, protected the fire bases. It was sort of an occupation instead of an offensive action to take out the enemy. It is now my opinion that the entire war was fought politically with direction directly from the White House with only superficial guidance from the military. No one can win a war fighting that way.
Continue reading below.
Me acting like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The world is 10,000 miles that way.
My rest room is everywhere.
The next two are from an island off the coast we swam out to by "borrowing" some "tea cup" fishing boats from the locals. Luckily there was no body there. Here I am with the ever present smokes.
There was a TV commercial back then that said, "I'd walk a mile for a camel cigarette!" This is my rendition only I added "but this is ridiculous" and sent it to my mom.
I look like Timothy Leary with an assault rifle.
Machine gun tracers started lots of fires in the dry season.
My love of firearms shows. A 20 round magazine (18 rounds for safety).
We constantly ran into CS gas that was dropped in 55 gallon drums.
Short range patrol out of our night position.
First drink of water in three days. We were at an observation post and didn't want to give our position away by a resupply chopper.
Taking a break with a cigarette, a common practice.
Hans and Franz - we want to pump you up!!
The ruck sack was good for a break rest (with a smoke of course).
GI helmet art.
Patrol in rainy season. I was soaked here.
Me with the M-60 Machine Gun. I'm missing two quart canteens here because I had a soft sided one that leaked from a thorn and discarded.
I was on my way to R&R and I came back to the rear and thought I could drink a few beers that night. They said, "You don't think you will sit on your ass do you?" This was the bunker line's rifle. M-16 A1 with suppressor, 1st generation night vision starlight scope zeroed at 200 meters. I spent the night in a perimeter bunker.
The following are all of the Tra Bong river bridge next to the village of An Ton. The enemy liked to blow this up on a regular basis.
Here I am screwing off with a bayonet fixed. The only time I ever fixed a bayonet.
Tra Bong river with old rail bridge that ran along highway one along the coast. The Shell Oil truck and Jeep and civilians are going to the pontoon bridge the engineers put up after the main bridge was blown up.
Marine engineers repair the south end of the bridge
This is a sandbag bunker that when it stopped raining outside, would continue raining inside. Then the engineers covered it with corrugated sheet.
Tra Bong river and village of An Ton, before the bridge was damaged. Good view of old rail bridge and damage to it.
Traffic moving from north on highway one to pontoon bridge.
Tra Bong river with the guard tower to watch for sappers. This is looking east to South China Sea. Bicyclist is going South on HW 1.
The guys I was with were very regular looking people.
Except for this klutz
The following photos are of Tina the service dog. We all liked having her around as you can see.
This is My Le the coke girl. No, not cocaine. Coca Cola. Her and some other kids would bring out cold sodas and we would pay them in MPC (military payment certificates). They treated us like we were heroes and we appreciated that greatly.
The following photos are at LZ bayonet, the base-camp and headquarters for the 198th Light Infantry brigade, the 1st battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment (referred to as "the first of the sixth"). In Vietnam the Army used units named after some famous units in other wars like World War two. The Americal Division was one. My Battalion (1/6) was at Anzio beach in Italy in WW2 when the entire regiment was together. Individual battalions from formerly bigger regiments were named in Vietnam, I'm not entirely sure why.
The two "hooches" here are Headquarters for the 1/6 INF Company E (Recon and heavy weapons (4.2 inch mortars))
1/6 INF mess hall. The cooks even made us hot meals and sent them out on chopper, occationally
If you were fortunate enough to be in the rear and they didn't put you on bunker guard duty you could drink a beer in the "EM" club.
The following are of a Korean band that performed for us while we were on stand down (a 2 or 3 day break from the field)
I don't know who this guy is but it's funny the way he's craning his neck!
Recon platoon on stand down. That's our top cooking for us.
Me in the middle of half of the recon platoon on stand down
A few other guys of the recon platoon
This what the terrain looked like west of Chu Lai. It was hilly and even some small size mountains. The hill we climbed a few times was 707 meters and one time a hill that was 1362 meters.
This is what the terrain looked like just west of Chu Lai between the coast and the mountains. Mostly smaller hills and rice paddies.
Fort Polk, Louisiana Basic training and Infantry School (Tigerland)
Basic training company commander wanting to gain some gung ho attitudes gave us these t shirts to wear. It didn't have much of an affect.
Here I am back from the rifle range with a full auto M-14. M-16s were not issued until AIT.
This is what the barracks looked like. They were all built in World War Two but maintained very well. Girlie photos were not issued!
This was the next stop after basic. Advanced Individual Training. (Infantry School)
Last week of training in infantry school. Just came back from a week living outside and building defensive bunkers, forced marches, running with gear and shooting M-60 machine gun. This is me with my face covered with soot from a cook stove courtesy of one of the DS's.
In dress khakis for graduation ceremony. All done with Fort Polk!
7 months later on my way to R&R.
Light Infantry (cont.)
In addition to the tactics of not being serious to win and inadequate equipment issues, The Army also gave us some equipment they told us was adequate but in reality was useless. One such piece of equipment was called the “LAW” which is an acronym for “Light Anti-tank Weapon”. It is a disposable fiberglass tube which has end-caps to keep it waterproof. When needed the end-caps are removed, the tube gets extended by pulling the ends apart, the sight pops up and there is a safety pin that has to be removed before aiming and squeezing down on a plunger type trigger. It is basically a rocket and we always had to be careful about the back blast. We were told the back blast could remove a head but that could have been to impress upon us the seriousness of the risk. They would have served us better by not giving them to us in the first place.
This story of the LAW is one big lie the Army told its soldiers and I always wondered why. We were told that this was a weapon that could actually take out a tank and it could punch its way through (if memory serves me) 6 inches of “homogeneous steel” (armor steel). Unfortunately, the actual historical records of the LAW being used on real soviet tanks in Vietnam proved they were useless and just bounced off with no damage of any kind being inflicted. This would be a very big psychological letdown if you were being attacked by a tank, you believed you possessed a weapon that you could defend yourself with against said tank and then you found everything you were told was a big fat lie. The LAW just bounced off and the tank just kept coming. That could be a very traumatic experience for the soldier.
We were issued the LAW and we found it was just more weight to add to our total load and furthermore, it was useless. We didn’t have the threat of tanks where I was, because air power would have knocked them out as soon as they ventured out. I suppose we could have used them on bunkers but they were not really well suited for that either since any bunkers we would need to take out were very small and pretty difficult to hit with a pure ballistic weapon like the LAW. The accuracy of a rocket like the LAW was entirely dependent on the elevation and bearing of the fiberglass tube at the exact moment of ignition. It was not a pinpoint weapon. If it was used on a tank, the soldier shooting this would be lucky to score a hit anywhere on a vehicle like a tank. If the rocket hit the armor steel at a perfect perpendicular angle; maybe, just maybe it would punch its way through. However the odds of that happening are very low. We would carry the LAW for a few months and then we would be ordered to dispose of them by firing at anything in the field because they told us the rocket would get unstable. So it was added weight to hump with absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever.
There were other equipment problems in Vietnam. There were fragmentation grenades that had an instant fuse. This means that when the pin is pulled and the handle flies off instead of the fuse igniting the explosive charge 6 seconds later, it happened instantly. They didn’t tell us how many died before someone realized what was happening but I suspect quite a few. We had serial numbers of the cases of fragmentation grenades to check before clipping them on us for use later. The M-60 machine gun was good if you had one at a defensive position in the rear and you didn’t have to carry it. It was clumsy to carry and a little difficult to keep feeding if the assistant gunner was not helping click the links together so the gunner could keep shooting. If the gun ran out of links, it was a bit unwieldy to place the new links in a groove and pull down and lock the upper cover in place. This was especially important in a firefight when nerves tend to make us forget our training. I personally witnessed many helicopter door gunners use C ration cans as makeshift ammo feeding enhancement devices. The equipment could have been a lot better and I assume there are issues similar to what we experienced today. We should have learned from our mistakes but apparently not.
Although there were many things that could have made life easier, safer and more mission friendly for us, the big issue about why we failed to secure the Republic of Vietnam was the political pressure applied by American communists right here. There was a constant and relentless campaign to degrade, belittle, disparage and impugn the American light infantryman. Incidents like the My Lai killings of men, women and children by a light infantry unit in 1968 didn’t help the public perception which was we were all a bunch of hardened killers, baby killers at that. I don’t know exactly what or why that happened but what I have been able to determine was the Army was attempting to ascertain whether or not soldiers would obey an order to kill everyone in a village. Apparently, some of the soldiers did obey that order, and the order came from the top, there is no doubt in my mind. This is just another stupid mistake the military made during the war. As I say in my book, “Human Stupidity, The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence” anyone can be stupid, even West Point graduates.
One would think that since we were fighting a war that was losing public support on a grand scale, the higher ups could have thought twice about ordering an infantry unit to commit mass murder. What did they think this would do for the entire war effort? These are the types of people I talk about in my book and it proves one does not need to be smart to be a high ranking Army officer. What they did was create a situation that made the American infantryman look even worse than he did previously. This undoubtedly contributed to the pull out in 1975 and the subsequent lack of resupply of weapons and ammo for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. There was an American Army officer commanding the entire South Vietnamese Army and he did a respectable job of leading. The problem was the south was running out of things in the weapons and ammo category. We just abandoned the South and left them to be overrun by the North. The loss of lives on both sides was basically for nothing, similar to the pullout of all of our troops from Iraq recently. The lives lost taking Iraq as well as the lives lost winning Vietnam (we were winning) were wasted as a result of politicians running what should have been strictly military decisions but not by the same military people who ordered My Lai. They should have stood up to a courts martial but instead it was covered up and forgotten.
This is one half of the recon platoon at one time. I'm the guy second from left standing.
This is my buddy Tim reading some mail from home.
Moving through tall grass. The terrain varied greatly throughout our area of operation
This is Sergeant Smith. One of the really good people I met there. If you notice our rifles had no slings. This is how a true light infantry unit should operate. No sling means fast target acquisition time.
A common mode of transport in that part of the world then.
This is the recon platoon moving into our night position