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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

SPECIAL FORCES, PROJECT DELTA

As the SF role in Vietnam assumed an increasingly aggressive posture the CIDG Camp Forces were expanded into larger mobile reaction units called 'Mike Forces'. Long range reconnaissance patrolling by combined USSF and LLDB units was undertaken as part of 'Project Delta', and an HQ Detachment, B-52, was established. Project Delta operations would continue throughout the war, and included locating enemy formations and installations, special raids and general intelligence gathering. As well as operating throughout Vietnam, some missions were infiltrated covertly into neighbouring countries. By 1967 Project Delta had expanded to sixteen reconnaissance teams (each composed of two USSF and four indigenous personnel), and eight 'Road-runner' teams. The Recon teams were tasked with intelligence gathering and sabotage; the Road-runner teams operated along known enemy trails while wearing enemy uniforms. Project Delta also established the 5th SFGA's Recondo school at Nha Trang to train their own as well as other US reconnaissance personnel.

The tiger-stripe uniform worn here is an example of the type which some collectors refer to as the 'classic' pattern. Basically it is a Vietnamese tailorshop copy of the ARVN Ranger pattern in typically lightweight fabric, and. is a representative private purchase uniform. Whereas garments manufactured in third countries under an MDAP contract were often of a medium to heavyweight fabric, Vietnamese copies were almost exclusively of a thin, lightweight, almost pajama-like cotton. The thin plastic buttons are also an indication of Vietnamese-made garments. The boonie hat illustrated is of the popular short brim style made from a number of off-cuts of tiger-stripe materials and lined with a black silk-like fabric.

Taped to the left shoulder on the M1956 suspenders is an Aircrew Survival Knife, a popular weapon with US elite unit personnel. The knife had a five-inch saw-edged blade, and its own sharpening stone in a pouch on the sheath. On the other shoulder is an issue snap-link for rappelling or river crossing. Instead of an equipment belt and ammunition pouches many SF personnel acquired old M1937 Browning Automatic Rifle Ammunition Belts. Designed to take two BAR magazines in each of its six pockets, the BAR belt could hold at least twice that number of M16 magazines and grenades. An M1942 Field Dressing Pouch is attached to the belt, as is a plastic anglehead flashlight, with its lense taped over to eliminate reflection.

The Lightweight Rucksack is shown here attached to the upper portion of the frame, a common field modification which transferred the weight to higher on the back. Units operated in enemy-held territory for weeks at a time, and drinking water was of paramount importance: here four plastic one-quart canteens are hung from the rucksack by a length of nylon paracord. Lashed to the rucksack frame and just visible below the bag is a Case, Medical Instrument and Supply Set, commonly known as a 'unit one medic bag'. This would accomodate enough equipment for the team's medic to carry out most emergency field medical procedures up to and including minor surgery.

The issue plastic wristwatch was worn on a green nylon strap, here with an attached wrist compass.

The M16AI is the later version with 'bird-cage' flash suppressor. Green tape is applied to the plastic furniture in an attempt to break up the weapon's visual outline. A sectional cleaning rod is taped to the forearm, and two 20-round magazines are taped end to end for rapid reloading.

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