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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

MACHINE GUNNER, US MARINES

In January 1969 the 9th Marines deployed on Operation 'Dewey Canyon - 1' against a major North Vietnamese supply route through the A Shau Valley. By concentrating their helicopter assets the Marines were able to mount an Army-style airmobile operation. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 9th Marines were air-assaulted into the valley, where they hacked firebases out of the triple canopy jungle. During the next two months the Marines patrolled through the primeval rain forests, encountering extensive enemy bunker complexes close to the Laotian border. Marine pilots flew in appalling conditions, keeping the operation moving despite thunderstorms and dense cloud cover. When the operation ended in early March the Marines were rewarded with some of the largest caches captured during the entire war: over 500 tons of weapons and supplies were uncovered, including a dozen 122mm heavy guns.

The ERDL camouflage version of the boonie hat was available from early 1969. The Marine Corps authorized its wear for all its personnel in-country, and the camouflage hat remained in service until the war's end. The rarely used insect net issued with the olive drab versions of the hat was discontinued with the introduction of the ERDL type.

Body armour was occasionally discarded in extremely oppressive conditions, and the olive undershirt and minimal equipment depicted were the norm for short range operations.

The 7.62mm M60 General Purpose Machine Gun was the main squad or platoon automatic weapon for the entire war. The firepower that the 'Sixty' could deliver often gave infantry units the edge in close-quarter firefights. Weighing 23.75 lbs and with a fierce kick, the M60 was commonly known as the 'Pig'. Ammunition for the gun was distributed among the members of the squad, usually worn bandolier fashion in linked belts. The M60 was typically fitted with a standard web rifle sling, though some gunners improvized more comfortable versions: in this case, an M1961 rifle belt is heavily padded with an issue olive green towel.

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