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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

RECON TEAM MEMBER, MACV/SOG

The most unconventional and clandestine operations performed by SF personnel in Vietnam were undertaken by members of MACV Studies and Observation Group - a purposely misleading title which gave little indication of the unit's real function. MACV/SOG was in fact a joint services unit in which Navy SEALs, Marine Recons and Air Force Special Operations pilots all served, though the majority of members were SF personnel. SOG's various tasks included prisoner of war intelligence and rescue, cross-border operations into North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and rescuing downed aircrews. Other missions of a highly sensitive nature included the placing and training of agents in North Vietnam, and the kidnapping or assassination of key enemy figures. In 1967 three main Command and Control units were formed to oversee SOG operations - Command and Control North, Central and South (CCN, CCC, and CCS). The main operational elements of these commands were the reconnaissance teams (RTs), typically comprizing three US and nine indigenous troops.

MACV/SOG personnel were allowed an unparalleled freedom of choice in personal uniforms, equipment and weapons depending on mission requirements. This RT member's appearance is a typical, if conservative, composite.

Tiger-stripe pattern uniforms were worn alongside a variety of other types depending on operational restrictions. Black indigenous or dyed US fatigues were sometimes worn so as to give the impression of enemy uniforms from a distance. Headgear was similarly varied and included issue and locally-made boonie hats, captured enemy headgear, and headbands made from triangular bandages, as here. Tropical combat boots were worn, sometimes with the tread ground off to leave 'sterile' footprints. Enemy footwear was also worn to this end, and a limited test issue was made of a boot featuring a 'bare-foot' moulded sole.

LCE varied according to need but was typically made up of M1956 and M1967 components with additional specially procured items. The 'Stabo' Extraction Harness shown here was often worn as the basis of the LCE. The harness was developed by instructors at the SF Recondo School in 1968, and was designed to extract up to four men at a time in areas where a helicopter was unable to land. Ropes from the helicopter were attached to the D-rings on the harness; the aircraft then lifted the men out thus suspended to a safe landing site.

The 'Stabo' harness is worn here in conjunction with a quick-release belt upon which are fixed M1956 universal pouches and canteens. The large web bag on the right hip is a World War 2 era M3A1 'grease-gun' magazine pouch used to hold the long magazines of the 'Swedish K' submachine gun. The canteen at the right rear of the belt is a modified one-quart plastic with filter attachment issued to SF and LRRP units. The leg straps of the harness are shown secured for extraction; at all other times these straps would be tied up free of the legs. A lensatic compass is taped to the right shoulder of the harness; to the left is taped the popular aircrew survival knife.

The tropical rucksack, shed for the extraction, has an emergency air marker panel folded under the packstraps; this will be used to indicate the team's position. Communications with the extraction aircraft are via the AN/URC-64 Emergency Radio shown here. The URC-64 was a tri-modal four channel hand-held receiver/transmitter typically issued to reconnaissance-type troops. The URC-64 was an upgraded development of the URC-10, which had featured a separate battery unit. The weapon is the 9mm 'Swedish K' (Kulsprutpistole M45 Carl Gustav) introduced into Vietnam by the CIA, and typical of the exotic equipment available to SOG personnel.

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