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KEVIN LYLES
VIETNAM: US UNIFORMS IN COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS

1972

USMC ADVISOR TO VIETNAMESE MARINE CORPS

The Vietnamese Marine Corps was created by President Diem in 1954, and throughout the war the US Marine Corps supplied officers and NCOs in an advisory role. The VNMC was one of the first Vietnamese organizations committed to the fight against the Viet Cong, and by 1960 US Marine advisors were accompanying VNMC units into action. Like their Army counterparts, the Marine advisors' task was to instil aggressiveness and esprit de corps into the fledgling VNMC as well as providing professional expertise. During 1962 USMC personnel took an active part in every operation that the VNMC undertook, as well as establishing the VNMC training depot at Thu Due. By 1964 the VNMC was brought up to Brigade strength and fielded over 6,000 men, though the number of USMC advisors never topped two dozen officers and NCOs. In 1969 the VNMC were raised to Divisional status with a strength of over 10,000. During the 1972 Communist 'Easter Offensive' the Marine Division played an important role in retaking lost ground. Helping to halt the enemy advance in the Dong Ha area and in the defence of Hue, the Division fought well, living up to its elite status among South Vietnamese units.

Like many US advisors this USMC Captain has outfitted himself in the uniform of his host unit, with only a few concessions to his parent organization.

It is a common misconception that the US Army introduced the 'tiger-stripe' camouflage clothing into Vietnam; in fact the VNMC developed and adopted the pattern in I960. It was descended from the French 'lizard' pattern which was worn by French and colonial airborne troops during their involvement in the early 1950s. Eventually anyone with a claim to an 'elite' status was able to procure locally-manufactured tiger-stripe uniforms in a bewildering range of style, pattern and fabrics. The original from which all derived was this VNMC uniform.

This VNMC pattern uniform has several identification points. The major recognition feature of the shirt is the reinforcement at the shoulder, rarely found on any other uniforms of this type. Shoulder straps were common, as were pen-pockets on one or both upper sleeves. The colour of VNMC tiger-stripes has an overall 'blue' tone and the fabric used is always a lightweight cotton.

The uniform illustrated is one which belonged to a US Marine advisor and is a typically mismatched set of VNMC tiger-stripes in two slightly differing schemes. The subdued US Marines and colour name tapes were unique to the USMC advisory group. The colour insignia are that of the VNMC on the left shoulder and the post-1969 Marine Division on the right pocket. US Marine Corps officers wore rank insignia on both collar points as, unlike their Army counterparts, they have no 'branch'. The black web belt worn with a USMC open face brass buckle was also exclusive to VNMC advisory duty.

Headgear is, unusually, the dark green beret of the VNMC worn Vietnamese (French) fashion, pulled down to the left with the badge above the right eye. A more common form of headgear among USMC advisors was a Marine utility cap made up from the same tiger-stripe fabric as the uniform.

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