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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

GRENADIER, 23RD INFANTRY DIVISION (AMERICAL)

The Americal Division was re-activated in September 1967 as the Army's only named division, comprising the 11th, 196th and 198th Light Infantry Brigades. Soldiers of the Americal wore the Southern Cross shoulder patch of the 23rd Infantry Division. The hurried amalgamation of these units led to initially disappointing combat performances; and the widely publicized massacre at My Lai cast a shadow - unjustly - over the whole division. The Americal operated in an area where the population actively resisted their presence and where 'search and destroy' translated into a frustrating round of encounters with snipers, ambushes and old women who planted booby traps.

The headgear that became synonymous with the US Army in Vietnam was the Hat Jungle w/Insect Net, known to the troops who wore it as the 'boonie hat'. The boonie hat was enormously popular as its low crown and semi-rigid brim could be shaped to individual taste, resulting in a variety of styles. The hat also featured an adjustable chin strap, foliage loops and ventilation eyelets. Boonie hats were initially manufactured in cotton-poplin until the introduction of rip-stop fabric; a separate insect net was issued with the hat but seldom worn.

On the collar points of the third pattern tropical coat are locally-manufactured pin-on Specialist's rank insignia; on the left shoulder is the SSI of the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal).

The M203 rifle/grenade launcher combination was designed to replace the M79 grenade launcher, though the latter would continue to be used until the end of the war. The M203 combined an MI6 rifle with a 40mm pump-action launcher tube. The advantage of this system was that even when all the grenade rounds were expended the firer could still participate in afire-fight as a rifleman. The Grenade Carrier Vest was introduced in 1966, based on the makeshift design of a SF Sergeant. By 1968 the vest had been upgraded to its final version illustrated here. The greater portion of the vest was manufactured from nylon netting which helped to eliminate heat retention. The front closed with Velcro strips and a row of press-studs; the rear of the vest could be adjusted by means of a buckled strap. The capacity of the vest was 24 rounds carried in the three rows of pockets on each side of the front; the lower two rows carried high explosive and multiple projectile rounds while the upper row took the longer parachute signal rounds. Similar vests for carrying M16 and M60 ammunition were developed, but never issued to the same extent as the M79/203 grenadier's vest.

SERGEANT, COMPANY D, 75TH (RANGER) INFANTRY

On 1 February 1969 all existing Army LRP units were redesignated 'Ranger' and were assigned to the 75th Infantry. Retaining their original LRP mission, these various units became Companies of the 75th while usually but not always remaining subordinate to their parent organizations. For instance, Company F, 51st Infantry (LRP) of 199th Infantry Brigade (Light) was redesignated as Company D, 75th (Ranger) Infantry - but now attached to II Field Force. The 75th Infantry carried the lineage of Merrill's Marauders of World War 2 fame, Special Forces having taken on the lineages of World War 2 Ranger battalions.

Few Ranger Company members were actually graduates of the US Ranger course; the majority were volunteers from their unit's parent formation and were trained at in-country LRRP schools - most attended the 5th SFGA's Recondo school at Nha Trang. This three-week course taught Vietnam-orientated LRRP techniques including silent patrolling, field medicine and survival, navigation, communications and helicopter insertion/extraction. As well as continuing reconnaissance operations Rangers also served as the reaction force for their parent formation, and often supplied personnel for special missions.

Some LRP units took to wearing black berets kJ on a limited and strictly unofficial basis, depending on the tolerance of their unit headquarters. When the 75th Infantry Ranger Companies were formalized the black beret became accepted as standard Ranger headgear (though it would not be made official until 1978). There were no regulations for the wearing of insignia on the beret, and many variations existed. Some units wore locally embroidered 'flashes' based on the Merrill's Marauders patch, others a combination of 75th Infantry enamelled crests, jump wings and Company scrolls. Ranger-qualified personnel often wore their tab over either a crest, jump wings or, in the case of officers, rank pin-ons.

The ERDL camouflage tropical combat uniform is shown here in its short-lived cotton-poplin version. During the course of its issue the ERDL camouflage pattern was manufactured in several distinct colour variations. The shade of the base colour differed considerably from batch to batch, from a dull ochre to a quite vivid pea green. Also, depending on manufacturer, the pattern could either appear very distinct, or 'watery', with the individual colours appearing to merge at the edges.

This fully 'badged' coat bears the following insignia. US Army and name tapes are worn parallel to the top of the slanted pockets in accordance with a September 1969 directive. Above the US Army tape are locally-made jump wings and Combat Infantryman's Badge. On both collar points are pinned metal Sergeant's rank chevrons. On the left chest pocket is a Vietnamese-made pocket patch denoting that the wearer is a graduate of the MACV Recondo school. Above the SSI of II Field Force is a full-colour Ranger Company scroll; subdued examples were also common. These scrolls were officially unauthorized though their use was widespread and generally tolerated.

HELICOPTER PILOT, US MARINES

Marine helicopter crews were among the first Americans to arrive in Vietnam when Marine Helicopter Squadron HMM-362 was deployed to Soc Trang in 1962. This initial Marine aviation element was known as Operation 'Shufly', and for the next two years would fly in support of ARVN and VNMC units. Following the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade's landings in 1965 there followed a steady build-up of Marine helicopter assets. During the subsequent years Marine helicopter squadrons would operate every type of aircraft in service, from the venerable piston-engined UH-34s of the 'Shufly' era to AH-1G Cobra gunships in 1969. In the early morning of 30 April 1975 several Marine CH-46s landed on the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon to evacuate the Ambassador, his staff and Marine guards. The previous day a CH-46 of HMM-365 crashed into the sea while flying refugees onto the USS Hancock; two crew members were saved but both the pilot and co-pilot were lost - the last official casualties of the Vietnam War.

Marine aviation personnel were largely equipped from US Navy supply sources.

During the 'Shufly' period helicopter pilots wore Navy tan flying coveralls and a jet pilots' flight helmet adapted for use with the helicopter's internal communications. In 1967 the Corps introduced the CS-FRP-1 Coveralls, Flying, Summer, Fire-Resistant, Poly amide especially for helicopter aircrews. The fabric used was Nomex, a new polyamide fibre which was permanently fire-resistant (the old cotton coveralls had to be re-treated after several washes). Sleeves were intended to be worn down, thus maximizing fire protection, though this was often ignored as the new fabric was felt by some to be hot and uncomfortable. The coveralls featured a neck-to-crotch zip fastener, and could be adjusted around the waist by two Velcro tightening tabs. A series of pockets on chest and thighs closed with concealed zip fasteners. As was common to most flightsuits, a pocket sewn to the inside left thigh contained a tightly folded emergency air marker panel of high visibility orange silk. A leather patch is attached to a Velcro strip on the left chest, bearing the individual's name and rank and the wings of a Navy/Marine aviator.

On the Marine Corps utility cap is affixed Captain's rank insignia. Unlike the US Army, all Marine Corps pilots were commissioned officers. The M1956 belt has been modified with additional cartridge loops holding rounds for the .45 cal. auto pistol carried for personal protection. A K-Bar knife is also worn on the belt as a survival aid.

The lace-in zip closures of the tropical combat boots were a typical affectation of aircrews.

DOOR GUNNER, 101ST AVIATION BATTALION

In 1968 the 101st Airborne Division was converted to Airmobile status and was redesignated the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). By 1969 the various helicopter units were organized in four basic ways. The first was the Airmobile Division - the 1st Cavalry and the 101st Airborne - fully equipped with their own helicopter assets under the direct control of the divisional HQ. Second was the organic aviation unit attached to a non-airmobile Infantry Division; similarly under the control of the parent Division, these units were usually of Battalion strength, comprising two Companies with an Air Cavalry Troop. Additionally there were two types of non-divisional helicopter units. These were the non-divisional Helicopter Companies under the direct control of MACV; and those attached to specific units such as signal, support and engineer groups. Often a particular Helicopter Company became linked to a specific Division or Brigade because it always flew in support of that formation, though it would remain under the operational control of MACV.

The SSI of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) to which the 101st Aviation Battalion were subordinate is worn in full colour on the left sleeve of the tropical coat. On the right sleeve is the SSI of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, indicating a previous combat posting to that unit. On both sleeves are worn locally embroidered Specialist 5th Class rank insignia.

Headgear is the army's AFH-1 Crash Ballistic Protective Flying Helmet introduced in October 1965. This improved helmet was similar to the APH-5 but was manufactured from ballistic resistant nylon laminated with phenolic resin. This increased the helmet's ballistic protection but also slightly increased the weight. Like the APH-5, the AFH-1 featured internal communications with boom-type microphone. An expanded plastic liner held the shell snugly against the head, and by pulling on the external strings the earphones could be retracted for donning or removing the helmet. Many helicopter aircrew wore sunglasses as an alternative to the helmet's anti-glare visor.

The Flyer's Gloves, Nylon, Fire Retardant were introduced especially for aviation personnel in mid-1968. The gloves were manufactured in high temperature resistant Simplex jersey or Nomex, which offered a high degree of flame protection. The palm and inside fingers were faced with thin leather designed to aid sweat resistance and manual dexterity.

In 1966, after much experimentation, standard body armour specifically designed for helicopter crews was introduced. The final version shown here - Body Armor, Fragmentation, Small Arms Protective, Aircrewman - was issued from mid-1968 onwards and was popularly known as 'Chicken-Plate'. The aircrew body armour was a two-part cloth carrier with large external pockets containing rigid ceramic plates. Two versions existed, with either a single frontal plate for pilots and co-pilots, or with both front and back plates for door gunners and crew chiefs, who exposed their backs as they moved around inside the aircraft. From 1968 onwards the ceramic plates were additionally covered with ballistic nylon and their carrying pockets on the vest were lined with nylon felt. These two modifications greatly reduced the risk from bullet fragments ricochetting off the armour plates. The type illustrated featured quick-release snap-fasteners on both shoulders, wrap-around Velcro waist flaps, and a nylon chest pocket for maps etc. Because aircrews spent the majority of their flying time seated these aircrew vests were noticeably shorter than those for ground troops. In addition to the torso armour the Army also experimented with protective leg armour for aircrew; various types were tested, but their use was never widespread.

MEDICAL CORPSMAN, US NAVY

The Navy furnished the Marine Corps with medical corpsmen who were assigned to Marine line companies throughout Vietnam. These sailors were dressed and equipped in exactly the same manner as the Marines they accompanied, and shared all the burdens and dangers of the combat Marine's lifestyle. The corpsman was expected to deal with the day-today medical care of his Marines as well as the life-saving procedures for those wounded by enemy action. The mundane tasks would include the distribution of anti-malaria pills and the treatment of cuts, bruises and blisters as well as an assortment of complaints associated with living in an inhospitable environment. Another aspect of the Navy Corpsman's job was the 'Medcap' programme, an integral part of the 'hearts and minds' concept. The medcap team - a corpsman, with a number of riflemen as security - would set up in a Vietnamese 'ville' or hamlet and dispense medical care to the inhabitants. Ailments ranging from infections to dental decay requiring surgery were all treated by the corpsman, using the contents of his medical aid bag.

The Navy Corpsman regarded his own particular squad or platoon as his private practice, and in return was highly regarded by the Marines who relied on his knowledge as well as his courage. In common with Army medics,

Navy Corpsmen were universally referred to as 'Doc'.

The rubber retaining band on the helmet holds two medium size field dressings or pressure bandages in their waterproof plastic covers. A combination of ERDL pattern tropical trousers and an olive drab T-shirt under the M1955 body armour was typical Marine field dress in the summer months of 1969.

On the pistol belt are worn a Marine jungle first aid kit, a number of canteens, and a .45 auto pistol in its holster for personal protection. The bandolier is that issued for the 40mm M79 grenade launcher rounds, and is here being used to carry additional field dressings.

The pack worn here is the nylon version of the M1941 haversack. The canvas portion of the pack was replaced by an olive drab nylon duck fabric, though the various webbing straps are as per the original. These nylon haversacks saw limited issue from 1969 onwards. Attached to the pack are a folding E-tool in its M1943 carrier and a folded rubberized rain poncho.

The corpsman's primary tool was his medical instrument and supply set or 'unit one' medic bag. The example shown here is a late 1950s contract bag in heavy canvas; after 1968 the material was changed to a rubberized cotton cloth. The contents of the bag would vary according to mission necessity. Typical contents would include different sizes of dressings and bandages, a basic instrument set, blood volume expanders, aspirin and anti-malaria tablets, bacitracin and tetracaine ointments.

SP4 11TH'ARMORED CAVALRY REGIMENT

Initially US planners were leary about the use of armoured vehicles in Vietnam. Detractors argued that the country's terrain of jungle, hills and rice paddies made it unsuitable for armour. Fears that such units would be roadbound - as had happened to most French armour in the 1950s - were soon shown to be unfounded with the introduction of vehicles such as the Ml 13 armoured personnel carrier. Originally intended as little more than a battlefield taxi, the Ml 13 was first issued to ARVN units in 1963. Altered to a number of armed variants, the Ml 13 was, at ten and a half tons, a lightweight fighting platform equally suited to a number of tasks.

Nicknamed the 'Black Horse Regiment', the 11th Armored Cavalry came to Vietnam in September 1966 and was to become one of the Army's finest formations. The regiment's vehicles and their crews were often loaned out in squadron-sized elements to add their armoured firepower to other commands. The aggressive posture of the flak-vested cavalrymen ensured the 11 th ACR a combat reputation disproportionate to their size.

During 1968 the Army developed a flame resistant uniform for both aircrews and armoured vehicle crewmen. The latter were under constant risk from the effects of mines and rocket propelled grenades upon their vehicles. These Nomex uniforms were eventually accepted for use by aviation personnel but rejected by the Armor branch, who considered the garments too hot to be worn inside a vehicle. Standard tropical combat dress was worn by armoured crewmen throughout the course of the war. On the left sleeve of the tropical coat is the rearing stallion SSI of the 11th ACR - here a locally-made subdued example. The US-made twill rank insignia of a Specialist 4th Class are worn on both arms.

Because of the heat most crewmen chose to ride with their torsos out of the vehicle's hatches. Thus exposed to enemy fire the wearing of body armour became a necessity - either the M1952 or, as here, the M69. Personal protection in the form of a .45 auto pistol is carried in a black shoulder holster.

The Combat Vehicle Crewman Helmet was worn by those crew members who needed access to the vehicle's internal communications system. The example shown here is a later version with improved electronics and larger boom-type microphone. Constructed of laminated ballistic nylon, the CVC afforded protection to the head when riding inside a moving vehicle as well as a limited protection from fragments. An adjustable headband altered the size to fit and a series of foam pads were built in to absorb impact.

MACHINE GUNNER, US MARINES

In January 1969 the 9th Marines deployed on Operation 'Dewey Canyon - 1' against a major North Vietnamese supply route through the A Shau Valley. By concentrating their helicopter assets the Marines were able to mount an Army-style airmobile operation. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 9th Marines were air-assaulted into the valley, where they hacked firebases out of the triple canopy jungle. During the next two months the Marines patrolled through the primeval rain forests, encountering extensive enemy bunker complexes close to the Laotian border. Marine pilots flew in appalling conditions, keeping the operation moving despite thunderstorms and dense cloud cover. When the operation ended in early March the Marines were rewarded with some of the largest caches captured during the entire war: over 500 tons of weapons and supplies were uncovered, including a dozen 122mm heavy guns.

The ERDL camouflage version of the boonie hat was available from early 1969. The Marine Corps authorized its wear for all its personnel in-country, and the camouflage hat remained in service until the war's end. The rarely used insect net issued with the olive drab versions of the hat was discontinued with the introduction of the ERDL type.

Body armour was occasionally discarded in extremely oppressive conditions, and the olive undershirt and minimal equipment depicted were the norm for short range operations.

The 7.62mm M60 General Purpose Machine Gun was the main squad or platoon automatic weapon for the entire war. The firepower that the 'Sixty' could deliver often gave infantry units the edge in close-quarter firefights. Weighing 23.75 lbs and with a fierce kick, the M60 was commonly known as the 'Pig'. Ammunition for the gun was distributed among the members of the squad, usually worn bandolier fashion in linked belts. The M60 was typically fitted with a standard web rifle sling, though some gunners improvized more comfortable versions: in this case, an M1961 rifle belt is heavily padded with an issue olive green towel.

NURSE, 44TH MEDICAL BRIGADE

Almost 10,000 women served in Vietnam, the majority of them in the medical services. Most of these women worked in the various surgical and evacuation hospitals that were established throughout the country. These establishments were often little more than a collection of prefab 'Quonset' huts and wooden buildings housing the wards, operating rooms, X-ray and pharmacy facilities.

In 1966 the 44th Medical Brigade was activated to control all such medical assets in Vietnam, and was under the operational control of the 1st Logistical Command. In 1967 the 44th was made an independent unit under USARV. The 91st Evacuation Hospital arrived in Vietnam in December 1966 and was fully operational by March 1967. The 91st Evac. was a semi-mobile unit which prepared all classes of casualty for evacuation to either Japan or the USA. In 1969 the 91st Evac. was part of the 67th Medical Group at Chu Lai, operating a 325-bed facility. The hospital team at the 91st Evac. were a link in the chain of medical care that started with the medic in the field and then on via the 'Dust-Off pilot to the field hospital and eventually to the USA via Japan. The speed and quality of this medical attention was such that the percentage of deaths among wounded admitted to in-country hospital facilities was only 2.6 in Vietnam, compared to 4.5 in World War 2.

In 1969 the Hot Weather Field Uniform was introduced as the main female duty uniform in Vietnam. The cotton-poplin shirt and slacks were comparable to the men's tropical combat uniform. The hot weather field shirt featured shoulder straps, a sleeve pocket and breast pockets with slits for pens, medical instruments, etc. The shirt could be worn loose outside the slacks or tucked in as here. The slacks were of a side-closure style with three buttons on either hip. Two large bellows-type pockets were placed on the upper thighs.

Insignia worn on the shirt include rank (Second Lieutenant) and branch (Medical) on the right and left collar points. The subdued SSI on the left shoulder is that of the 44th Medical Brigade. The pocket patch is that of the 91st Evacuation Hospital, an example of locally-made unofficial insignia. Most of these pocket patches were based to some degree on the design of the unit's official insignia, usually with an appropriate legend - here, 'Aid to the Wounded'. The colours of this example reflect those of the 44th Brigade's SSL

The headgear officially worn with this uniform was the utility cap, though most female personnel opted for the boonie hat, as here. (Some senior MACV officers who took a violent dislike to the boonie hat's 'unmilitary' appearance actually encouraged its wear by females in the vain hope that this might diminish its acceptability among male soldiers.)

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