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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

RECON MARINE, 1ST RECONNAISSANCE BATTALION

The Marine divisional reconnaissance battalions differed from Force Recon units in that they were tasked with missions in direct support of their particular parent division. Like Force Recon the battalions operated much the same as Army LRRP units, with intelligence gathering as their primary function. Marine recons were extensively trained in all aspects of special operations such as helicopter, small boat and scuba insertions. During the early part of the war the typical recon unit consisted of between twelve and twenty Marines, but by 1969/70 the Army-style LRRP team of four to six men was found to be more efficient. Though classed as 'deep reconnaissance' troops the divisional recon battalion typically operated closer to their assigned unit than did their Force Recon or Army LRP counterparts. The 1st Reconnaissance Battalion left Vietnam in March 1971 along with the 1st Marine Division. Some Marine recon personnel who were attached to the 'Maritime Studies Group' of MACV/SOG (Studies and Observation Group) may well have remained in-country for another year or longer.

Recon Marines were not required to wear the steel helmet and, as in other non-conventional units, a wide range of headgear proliferated. Locally-produced boonie hats, utility covers and even black berets were all sported, though by 1970 the most commonly seen headgear was the ERDL camouflage boonie.

Likewise Recon Marines were allowed a degree of personal choice in their field uniforms though, again, by 1970 the ERDL tropical combat uniform predominated. This uniform proved so popular that by 1969/70 it had almost entirely replaced the various indigenous patterns that had been a trademark of special units.

By 1969/70 most Marines, especially those in Recon units, were equipped with M1956 LCE. M26 fragmentation grenades are carried externally on the universal pouches; an M18 coloured smoke grenade and a snap-link for rappelling are attached to the suspenders. The only item of equipment that marks him as a Marine is the K-Bar knife taped upside-down to the harness.

The ARVN rucksack was used alongside other available US Army types. The two-quart canteens attached to the sides of the rucksack are the collapsible plastic type introduced in late 1968. The canteen itself was manufactured from olive coloured ethylene-vinyl acetate and featured a cap identical to that of the one-quart plastic canteen. The cover was a water-repellent nylon duck which featured a plastic snap-closure and a small Velcro-closed pocket for water purification tablets. The canteen could be slung from its own shoulder strap or attached by slide-keepers on the rear of the cover.

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