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The 4th Infantry Division arrived in Vietnam by Brigades during 1966 and were assigned the security of the Central Highlands. This jungle wilderness around Pleiku had been the responsibility of a single Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division until it was realized that the presence of a full Division was needed to subdue this, one of the most inhospitable of Vietnam's regions. From the Division's original base camp at Dragon Mountain, the 4th Infantry Division would remain in the Highlands for the rest of the war.
The young soldiers of the 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division were representative of the front line units at the cutting edge of the American military effort in Vietnam. Of the many hundreds of thousands of troops 'in country' by 1968 only relatively few were actually assigned to line units such as the 12th Infantry. These 'grunts' or 'boonie-rats' (as they called themselves), black, white and Hispanic, were fully aware of their exclusive status, and were openly scornful of anyone who did not share the hardship, fear and misery of their day-to-day existence.
On the third pattern tropical combat coat is worn a subdued twill SSI of the 4th Infantry Division; the patch was of World War I design and featured four ivy leaves.
Because the frame of the lightweight rucksack prevented items being worn on the pistol belt some individuals dispensed with web gear entirely. Ammunition was carried instead in cotton bandoliers draped over the shoulders and around the waist. By 1968 these bandoliers had become the most common way of carrying rifle ammunition, holding seven of the 20-round M16 magazines apiece; in the four bandoliers worn here a total of 28 magazines (560 rounds) could thus be carried in relative comfort.
The other items that would normally be worn on the web gear could be attached to either the bag or the frame of the rucksack. Here an M18 Claymore mine in its bag (I) is strapped to the frame. A second pattern Two Quart Collapsible Canteen (2) is attached by a snap-link, minus its nylon carrier. The M1956 carrier for the entrenching tool (3) is fixed upside-down to an attachment tab on the rucksack; the handle of the 'E-tool' itself is tied by paracord to the frame. An M1942 Machete (4) is carried in its flexible plastic sheath tucked between the bag and an external pocket. The camouflage poncho liner (5) is loosely rolled and secured under the pack flap. A common way of carrying individual C-ration cans was to load them into boot socks (6), which could then be tied onto the rucksack as here.
The 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry was one of the first units to be issued with the AN/PRR-9 Helmet Mounted Radio Receiver and its AN/PRT-4 Hand Held Transmitter. This system, used for providing short range communications between squad and platoon leaders, was available in Vietnam by late 1968. The receiver clipped to the helmet and was secured by a lanyard, its wire antenna often bent into the helmet band to prevent it catching on foliage. The transmitter could be attached to the harness of the web gear or carried in an ammunition pouch or coat pocket. The operational range of the set fell below acceptable levels in most terrain. The system was also found to be inoperable due to helmets (and therefore the receiver element) being lost during firefights. Within a few months of its introduction the radio's shortcomings led to its being relegated to static defensive positions.