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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

RIFLEMAN, US MARINE CORPS

By the end of 1966 the conflict in Vietnam was no longer a guerrilla war. Though the local VC were still active, the war was now being fought between two main force armies. The US strategy was initially dictated by the need to support and protect the build-up of ground forces; in early 1966, however, the Marine Corps was put on the offensive. Operation 'Hastings' was initiated to counter North Vietnamese formations infiltrating into South Vietnam across the so-called De-Militarized Zone. Scouting by Marine reconnaissance units had pinpointed the presence of an entire North Vietnamese Army division, and six Marine and five ARVN battalions were sent in against it in the largest combined operation of the war thus far.

The Marines were helicoptered into the area around the 700-foot-high feature known as the 'Rockpile'. During the following days the Marines fought hard, repulsing several NVA assaults. On 28 July, as they were leaving the area, the Marines were subjected to a massed human-wave assault by the North Vietnamese. Riflemen fixed bayonets onto their M14s as the fighting became hand-to-hand. After a four-hour battle the Marine rearguard pulled back to the safety of the main body's perimeter and the area was abandoned. 'Hastings' ended in August, though the infiltration routes across the DMZ would remain a major Marine responsibility throughout the war.

This Corporal wears OG107 utilities with his rank affixed to the collar points. White undershirts were still optionally worn under the utility shirt.

Marine Corps web gear is shown here in typical fighting order. Each ammunition pouch holds one 20-round box magazine and features a grommetted flap from which other items could be hung. To one pouch is attached a Three Pocket Grenade Carrier, a World War 2/Korean War item unique to the Marine Corps. Holding a total of six fragmentation grenades - two per pocket - the carrier was generally worn against the thigh, where it could be additionally secured with a leg tie strap. The M8A1 bayonet scabbard is also hung from an ammunition pouch, though like the grenade carrier it could also be attached directly to the equipment belt.

A unique feature of the M1961 rifle belt was the row of studs between the rows of eyelets. This was the female' half of a snap-fastener - the 'male' half of which was located on the rear of the ammunition pouch to prevent the pouch sliding along the belt. The Marine jungle first aid kit worn centred on the rear of the belt was a sectional pouch containing basic first aid equipment. In practice the contents varied but would typically include pressure bandages, adhesive plasters, and sodium chloride/bicarbonate mixture for treating burns. The M1941 belt suspenders were two separate straps which attached to the upper grommets of the belt. It was common practice to join the two together where they crossed in the rear with some type of metal ring, though wire, string or the safety ring from a grenade were all used. Some Marines acquired a set of Pads - Shoulder, Heavy Load which were worn in conjunction with the M1941 suspenders.

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