US Army in Vietnam - the observations of a Grunt in the 1st Infantry Division


Weapons & Penetration


AFTER a visit to the Charlie Company egroups site to eyeball it (nope could not / did not look at it all), what I am writing about is the statements made about the penetrating power of .303, .30-06, and 7.62-mm bullets fired into cement walls, cement filled cinder blocks, and brick walls.

During the time I was an MP and near the end of my extension in the RVN, there was another gook offensive, one that was countrywide, but not as powerful as the TET OFFENSIVE or as bloody.

Anyway, I found myself sucked into a firefight at a walled villa on the outskirts of town with some ARVN soldiers. We were supposed to be liaison and commo for them, so my driver was stuck with the jeep and I was told by WACO to see with my own eyeballs how the fight was going.

Well, it was not. The ARVNs were stuck and unable to move (or unwilling to move). I was one of 2 Americans present (my driver was the other). The ARVNs were mainly armed with M1 rifles and Browning LMG, with a few M-79 grenade launchers for support If the gooks were gonna be removed as a threat, the ARVNs had to get inside, and it was very evident to me they were not going to make any frontal assaults on the place. And the longer my driver and I had to stay here with them there was an increasing chance that we could become casualties through the ARVNs in action.

These knocked chunks of Vietnamese cement out of the villa perimeter wall and the second floor wall of the villa (ground is the first floor in the USA). Chunks about the size of my fist in width, but no where near as deep as my fist. The GL made a bigger hole, with fragmentation effects and scorching (the villa and wall were both white with a red tile roof) The GL made holes in the tile roof but this did not seem to bother the gooks any more than the occasional ARVN round from an M-79 through a window.

I was armed with an M-16, with a forward assist fitted to it (the first I had ever seen), my .45 pistol, 3 magazines and nasty words. I had 1 magazine in my rifle, 5 in punches on my belt, and 24 more in a pair of bandoliers that I had scrounged up during TET that were not on the books of the company, all 20-round type (loaded w/18 rds each).

I got me some ARVNs together, and we looked around for a place to fight that was closer to the villa, on the river side of it. And unseen by the gooks in the villa. This (God how I hated wading in the river; I do not swim, then and now) meant going into the river to find a place to shoot from. YUCK........

Once in position, and still unseen, at about 30 yards, I started to shoot at the damned villa wall (it was too high to climb, and topped with broken glass cemented into it) ground level, really concentrating my fire on more or less the same spot. The ARVN s watched and covered me while I worked, and one of them held my bandoliers of magazines above the waist deep water.

Each 55-gr 5.56mm bullet knocked a nice big chunk out of the wall, wide and deep. The result was that after 3 magazines ( about 60 rounds), I had blasted a HOLE clear through the wall big enough for a GI to climb through. Or an ARVN.

So we moved out to the wall, and I repeated the process , blasting a HOLE through a section of villa wall this time with my M-16, at a range of about 20 yards, with 3 more magazines of ammo. My friends the ARVNs went through this HOLE and assaulted the gooks in the house with rifle fire and Hand Grenades. After all, it was the ARVNs fight!!!!

I went in behind them and then helped them secure the villa. We were buds and drank a couple of beers they got from somewhere (they probably stole them from some poor citizen) till I had to leave and find out what was going on elsewhere.

Now these were normal 5.56-mm rounds, plain 'ole ball ammo. Not armor piercing, tracer, explosive; just ball ammo. Man buster bullets.

Now I do not know if this would work in the States, as building construction codes were/are very different from those of the RVN. I discovered that during TET M-16 bullets did much more damage to buildings than 7.62-mm NATO, .30-cal bullets, 7.62mm AK bullets, or those big 'ole Russian 7.62mm bullets. So, I thought (rightly it turns out!) that the 5.56-mm bullets might cut a hole in the villa and the villa wall at close range. There were no penetrator cores in US 5.56-mm bullets way back then.

I do not know what kind of ammo these guys were shooting out of their .30-06 and .303 cal rifles, but, the issue GI ball ammo for the M-1 .30-06 rifles did not do much damage to the house or the perimeter wall. And those ARVNs were steadily pumping ammo into same.

Well just some thoughts. Have a good weekend.

Delta Mike Two, Out.


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1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969) 

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