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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

SERGEANT, 9TH INFANTRY DIVISION

The 9th Infantry Division was activated, equipped and trained for operations in the Mekong Delta region of South Vietnam. The Division's 2nd Brigade provided the ground forces for the Mobile Riverine Force whose area of operations was in the swamps and waterways of the delta. The 9th was a solid regular Army formation whose octofoil shoulder insignia represented the heraldic symbol of the ninth son; the new generation of soldiers who wore the patch in Vietnam referred to it as the 'Psychedelic Cookie'. The Mobile Riverine Force (MRF) was a joint services project that brought together the infantry assets of the 9th Division with the various riverine craft of the Navy's Task Force 117. Housed in barracks ships, the troops would be transported up river in armoured troop carrier (ATC) vessels to conduct 'search and destroy' operations in much the same way as their colleagues further north were deployed by helicopter. With the mobility and firepower that the naval back-up provided, the MRF was successful in reducing the infiltration of Communist forces in both the Mekong Delta and the Rung Sat Special Zone to a minimum.

On the left shoulder of the third pattern tropical coat is worn the shoulder sleeve insignia of the 9th Infantry Division. By 1968 US-issued subdued insignia were widely available, though locally manufactured examples were still common. The US-made examples were simplified versions of the full-colour types, using black embroidery on a green twill patch. All shoulder sleeve insignia, rank and qualification badges were subdued in this way. The 9th Division SSI shown here is a US twill example; that of the 196th Infantry Brigade (Light) on the right shoulder indicates a previous combat posting to that unit. Full-size sleeve rank was worn until the introduction of pin-on collar rank in July 1968. Enlisted rank was available in US-made subdued twill though, as with SSIs, better quality locally-made examples were popular. This Sergeant's chevrons are Vietnamese-made black velvet on green twill.

The Body Armour, Small Arms Protective, Ground Troops, Front-Back Plate with Vest was introduced in late 1968. More commonly known as 'Variable Body Armour', the vest was an attempt to provide some degree of protection from small arms fire, something that the M1952 and M69 vests were not capable of offering. It consisted of a flexible shell of ballistic nylon felt, together with pockets on both front and rear which accomodated anatomically curved ceramic composite armour plates. These plates had integral webbing straps allowing them to be worn independently of the vest if desired. Similarly, the vest could be worn without the plates, giving protection against fragments only. Thus the 'variable' nature of the vest offered different levels of protection at weights ranging from 5lbs 4oz to the full 22lbs 3oz. Because of this weight the variable armour was eventually relegated to motorized, boat and stationary units.

To the frame of the lightweight rucksack is attached a Five Quart Flotation Bladder Assembly. Introduced in 1968, this bladder/canteen consisted of a clear, collapsible vinyl bladder carried in a nylon cover. The bladder had a canteen-like cap with a removable filter; the cover featured tie-down cords and had instructional diagrams printed on both sides.

Magazines for the M16 rifle are carried in the seven-pocket cotton bandoliers worn belt-style around the waist.

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