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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

RADIO TELEPHONE OPERATOR, US MARINES

During the five months after the Marines landed at Danang the Viet Cong avoided a confrontation. However, in August the Marines carried out their first major operation of the war - Operation 'Starlight'. Fortuitous intelligence had located the position of the 1st Viet Cong Regiment on the Van Tuong Peninsula fifteen miles from Chu Lai. A pincer attack was quickly conceived to cut off and destroy this enemy formation; in true Marine Corps tradition the operation involved a sea-borne assault. On the morning of 16 August, Marine A4 Skyhawks strafed landing beaches as forty-ton 'Amtrack' landing vehicles disgorged men of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines. On the landward side the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines were set down by helicopter to act as the hammer to 3/3's anvil. 'Starlight' was a resounding success for the Marines; over one thousand VC were killed and, more importantly, it was seen that the elusive enemy could be matched and beaten in a head-on fight.

This Marine RTO wears the third pattern 0GW7 utility uniform. Recognition features of this final pattern are the shirt's V-cut pocket flaps and buttoned sleeves. Marine Corps enlisted personnel optionally displayed their rank in the form of blackened metal pin-on insignia on both collar points.

Headgear is the Ml steel helmet with reversible camouflage cover. The field expedient helmet band cut from a car or truck inner tube was a Marine Corps peculiarity throughout the war.

Personal equipment is the M1961 Rifle Belt and M1941 Belt Suspenders, here an older khaki set of World War 2 vintage. A .45 cal. auto pistol is worn in its M1916 leather holster.

The AN/PRC-10 FM Radio was common to both the Marine Corps and the Army at this time, though it would shortly be replaced in Vietnam by the PRC-25. The unreliable PRC-10 typically remained in service longer with the Marines,' in keeping with the Corps' tendency to fall behind in the issue of new equipment. The radio and its attached battery box was issued with its own web carrying harness, though in Marine use it was commonly secured to a plywood packboard, as here - the advantage being that additional items of personal gear could also be carried on the packboard. Here a Marine M1941 haversack is attached below the battery box, together with a rolled rain poncho and two M1910 canteens. The M18 Colored Smoke Grenades were used to help helicopter pilots gauge wind direction as well as identifying enemy/friendly positions. The M18s were available in yellow, green, red and violet. The M14 Incendiary Grenade was Thermite-filled, and was used to destroy caches of enemy food and equipment.

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