US Infantry in Vietnam; Air Assaults Part One. The recollections of a Veteran of the 1st Infantry Division, RVN.

Air Assaults Part 1

AIR ASSAULTS! Well I made a few dozen of these while I was in country.

The day starts real early for the grunts and everyone else involved! Breakfast is steak and eggs to order from the company mess halls (a traditional US military pre-battle meal). Last minute briefing for Officers and Noncoms; platoon leaders in turn deliver last minute briefing as to target LZ details, the direction the platoon will move after it unloads from the slicks (transport choppers), expected enemy forces, radio call signs, artillery fires and air support on call, etc.

NCOs perform a check of their men, making sure that everyone has his approximate 70-pound assault load: 2 canteens of water, first aide pouch and jungle survival kit , 50 sandbags (empty), 3 C-ration canned meals (carried in boot socks tied to the rucksack frame), bottle of MacIhinney's Tobasco Sauce, 3 Claymore mines w/M57 firing devices (1 per mine), det cord and blasting caps (in claymore bags - 2 on the soldier, 3rd in the rucksack), toilet articles (soap, razor, toothbrush, tooth - paste/powder, steel mirror, wash clothe and towel), extra socks, entrenching tool, 4 smoke grenades (w/ cotter pins carefully splayed ), 100 rounds of extra ammo carried in the rucksack, 1 D-handle shovel, 1 axe, 1 pick/mattock for each squad, every other man with a 22" long Collins machete (shades of the Banana Wars!), individual weapon with double, triple or quadruple ammo basic load (about 600 rds of 5.56 mm NATO or 100 -150 rds of 40 mm ammo for the M 79), 200 rounds of linked 7.62mm NATO for the M-60s, 4 M26 frag grenades carried in an extra canteen carrier (w/the cotter pins very carefully splayed on these), pistol or revolver (for those lucky enough to have them) w/ammo, knife, hatchet, cleaning kits, bipods, spare barrels for the M60s, bayonet/knife (issue), compasses and maps (officers and noncoms only), extra compass (designated point man), extra radio batteries, AN/PRC-25 radios w/jungle antenna (short), starlight scopes, trip flare (4 per grunt), 4lbs of C4 explosives with detonators and blasting caps per squad, 50 ft rope coil per platoon, and maybe 1 chainsaw for each platoon.

Each M60 team carried all their personal gear and weapons plus the guns and 3000 rounds of ammo for them. Doc was loaded down too and the RTOs could hardly move. Weapons platoon soldiers had it worse - mortars, base plates, ammo, PRC-25s, and all of the above personal weapons and gear.

70+pounds of stuff! You will note - no extra clothes or boots or body armor. Too heavy. Body armor was 25-lbs of torso and groin armor that was stifling hot (man, I do understand SHAKESPEARE's statement about 'armor that scalds with its protection') and it was not bullet proof, so we did not mess with it when I was a grunt - it was optional. Heavy thick ballistic nylon, not the light rattling clinking plastic/metal plates of the USMC armor. Steel pots and helmet liners were not optional- with a sweat rag tied around the head under same. I almost forgot the shelter half/poncho (raincape I believe y'all call it), the poncho liner (jungle blanket), and an inflatable air mattress and another towel carried by the troops as padding under web gear straps. We wore our ****** scarves too - let the gooks know who we were when we showed up, like the Iron Brigade's black hats and checked shirts.

Finally, it is time to go. Deuce and a Halves show up in the company area and we load up- climbing into the truck bed (about 5 ft off the ground) w/loud groans and grunts. Off to the airstrip at base camp, then off the trucks . Line up on the red dirt, drop in place by squad, platoon, company, and battalion. Smoke 'em if ya got 'em! Sleep (never get enough sleep as a grunt) or monitor the radios, and wait for the slicks to arrive. Hurry up and wait. Very quiet as a general rule, with a few raucous bursts of grim GI humor at the expense of some poor guy who was scared more than the rest and looked it. Some guys are studies in nonchalance (some real, some for public consumption) - others with a barely controlled violence straining to be let loose. The killers, born or made, who like the slaughter and excitement of a battle. You are lucky if you have them in your unit. They are worth their weight in gold when the shit hits the fan, and a pain in the butt (some of them anyway) when in the base camp.

This is where I must stop for now. More later.



1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969)

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