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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

SERGEANT, COMPANY D, 75TH (RANGER) INFANTRY

On 1 February 1969 all existing Army LRP units were redesignated 'Ranger' and were assigned to the 75th Infantry. Retaining their original LRP mission, these various units became Companies of the 75th while usually but not always remaining subordinate to their parent organizations. For instance, Company F, 51st Infantry (LRP) of 199th Infantry Brigade (Light) was redesignated as Company D, 75th (Ranger) Infantry - but now attached to II Field Force. The 75th Infantry carried the lineage of Merrill's Marauders of World War 2 fame, Special Forces having taken on the lineages of World War 2 Ranger battalions.

Few Ranger Company members were actually graduates of the US Ranger course; the majority were volunteers from their unit's parent formation and were trained at in-country LRRP schools - most attended the 5th SFGA's Recondo school at Nha Trang. This three-week course taught Vietnam-orientated LRRP techniques including silent patrolling, field medicine and survival, navigation, communications and helicopter insertion/extraction. As well as continuing reconnaissance operations Rangers also served as the reaction force for their parent formation, and often supplied personnel for special missions.

Some LRP units took to wearing black berets kJ on a limited and strictly unofficial basis, depending on the tolerance of their unit headquarters. When the 75th Infantry Ranger Companies were formalized the black beret became accepted as standard Ranger headgear (though it would not be made official until 1978). There were no regulations for the wearing of insignia on the beret, and many variations existed. Some units wore locally embroidered 'flashes' based on the Merrill's Marauders patch, others a combination of 75th Infantry enamelled crests, jump wings and Company scrolls. Ranger-qualified personnel often wore their tab over either a crest, jump wings or, in the case of officers, rank pin-ons.

The ERDL camouflage tropical combat uniform is shown here in its short-lived cotton-poplin version. During the course of its issue the ERDL camouflage pattern was manufactured in several distinct colour variations. The shade of the base colour differed considerably from batch to batch, from a dull ochre to a quite vivid pea green. Also, depending on manufacturer, the pattern could either appear very distinct, or 'watery', with the individual colours appearing to merge at the edges.

This fully 'badged' coat bears the following insignia. US Army and name tapes are worn parallel to the top of the slanted pockets in accordance with a September 1969 directive. Above the US Army tape are locally-made jump wings and Combat Infantryman's Badge. On both collar points are pinned metal Sergeant's rank chevrons. On the left chest pocket is a Vietnamese-made pocket patch denoting that the wearer is a graduate of the MACV Recondo school. Above the SSI of II Field Force is a full-colour Ranger Company scroll; subdued examples were also common. These scrolls were officially unauthorized though their use was widespread and generally tolerated.

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