US Army in Vietnam - Mortar and Small Arms Ammo Loads


AMMO LOADS; keep in mind 7.62-mm ammo is much heavier round for round than 5.56-mm NATO! A rifleman in the 1st Infantry Division HAD TO CARRY A MINIMUM DOUBLE BASIC LOAD, BUT ALL SMART GIS CARRIED MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

M-14 DOUBLE BASIC LOAD: 10 EA 20 RD MAGAZINES, but usually 30 magazines were carried in claymore bags, ammo pouches, cargo pockets, where ever!!!! This is in addition to the 200-rds of linked 7.62mm LMG ammo, HGs (4 frag & 4 smokes), plus bayonet, water, entrenching tool, two claymore mines, rucksack, etc. GROAN!!!!! ABOUT 70-lbs weight during an air assault. All but ammo, HG, water, weapons, entrenching tool,  steel pot, one C-ration meal, was left at the NDP during ops unless it was a relocation march (GROAN!!!!).

M-14A2 DOUBLE BASIC LOAD: 20 loaded magazines minimum, but see above for real life.

M-79 DOUBLE BASIC LOAD; about 50 rounds!! Or more (usually or more!)

M-60 teams lugged around about 5000 rounds per team in real life, plus all the ammo carried by the rest of the platoon.

The Army eventually got all the M-14s back and we carried the M-16 for most of my 12months (like about 8 or 9 months) and we had trouble constantly, even cleaning the damned things 3 times a day!

In fact, in 1967-68 if you look close at pix, you will see grunts with ASSEMBLED CLEANING RODS being carried by running them through the carrying handle on top of the receiver and the front sight/hand-guard. A special kit was issued that held a bipod for the M-16, disassembled cleaning rod, LSA lube, and a clean cloth , a toothbrush, bore-brushes, etc. Bipod was seldom used except for setting an M-16 up on top of a IFP (Dupuy bunker) and covering it with a poncho at the NDP for guard each night. Also note the field improvisation for carrying an M16 rifle by grunts. A grunt never has enough hands, so we ran the sling (mounted on the underside of the rifle normally) from the butt-stock swivel up and through the front sight/hand-guard. This allowed the weapon to be conveniently carried in one hand by the pistol grip, with the sling over the top of the shoulder for shoot and point ability, while leaving a hand free for other stuff. 30 years later, I see GIs still doing this as the US Army refuses to mount slings on the side of the weapon like the AK does. There was an obvious drawback to this: if you let go of the pistol grip, the M16 would flip upside down! 

Soldiers carried twice the ammo for the same weight (roughly) of M14 ammo, and this was a real plus in the jungle. M16s also could deal devastating wounds to flesh and bone! Three magazines would carve a man-size hole in a cinderblock or light concrete wall 12" thick. Three magazines of 7.62mm just knocked fist-sized hunks out of them (at best ) for each bullet. But a twig or branch might deflect a 5.56mm bullet. 

This is hard to visualize: but during a fire-fight, the tall grass and trees would by scythed down by the bullets flying in both directions, by explosives, etc. There was no reduction in cover however!!!! It is hard to imagine how anyone could live through all the lethal metal flying about, let alone MOVE through it, but we and they did! 

I personally solved the M-16 crisis by demanding a M1917 US Army Trench Gun (12-ga pump shotgun made by Winchester during WWI and WWII) for a weapon. As an MP I knew the Army had shotguns!!! I could hold the trigger back, and work the slide, resulting in six rounds being fired before a 20 magazine was fired and reloaded (or an AK for that matter): each shot meant 9ea .30-cal lead and later steel balls were blasted at the enemy (54 rounds vs 36, or 40 or 60), and I could reload almost as fast as an M-16 or AK (almost!). Alternative ammo was a 12-ga solid lead slug that weighed about 500-grains and was hollow point too. So shotguns were used by 2-4 men in just about every platoon of infantrymen. I also carried a GI .45 that another soldier no longer needed, and the Walther I mentioned before that. 

Also, usually 1 or 2 men in a platoon retained the M-14 for sniper shots with a GI telescopic sight.

Most soldiers, fired full automatic only in emergencies, or while trying to gain fire superiority, and then, short bursts, unless it was panic fire or desperation fire. This was to conserve the ammo carried, as well as an effort to avoid the damned malfunctions that plagued the M-16! The M-14 was set for semi, unless you could convince some officer or lifer to unlock it for selective fire use, or you were carrying an M-14A2 which was the BAR replacement and had a fire selector already on it. 

Ammo lasted as long as it lasted. I know that answer is aggravating but it was dependent on the experience of the soldiers, NCOs and officers, who were supposed to direct and control the platoon's fire. Mostly it was the squad and fire team leaders who really did this, as well as taking up slack while the troopers reloaded, platoon leader and sergeant were usually very busy directing movement and calling in supporting fires. 

Ammo re-supply, if you were close by the NDP (almost never) or actually inside the NDP, was by runner very much as it has been since the last century. My first time under fire was as an ammo re-supply runner from the NDP to the jungle where the battalion Recon Platoon was ambushed. Alpha Company was hastily sent in to re-enforce Recon, and got ambushed and sucked into the fight too. I do not remember now whether it was Bravo or Charlie that went in next, and was soon fighting for survival  JUST A FEW HUNDRED YARDS INSIDE THE JUNGLE FROM THE NDP!!!!! 

AMMO re-supply under fire was also done by chopper crews who hovered overhead and threw ammo, water, morphine, and dressings down to us. 

Normal ammo re-supply was by daily log flights of Chinooks and Hueys. 

Mortar platoon went to the field like everyone else - loaded with their personal gear and weapons plus the mortars and base plates and ammo for same! About 6-12 rounds per groaning mortar man who was not humping the tube or the base plate. Once an NDP was established the mortar platoons of each company (81mm) and the Battalion mortars (4.2") remained in the NDP to provide fire support and perimeter security while the rest of the battalion was out on a sweep (looking for a fight). Man who ever told them mortars were neglected because of artillery superiority, never had their request for artillery or air support denied, and "only" had the mortars for support. Mike, we were glad our mortars were with us in the field. Mortars Claymores and HGs were a grunts main backups and OLD FAITHFULS!!!!!! Artillery and air support were there, but SOMEONE ELSE MIGHT HAVE A HIGHER MISSION PRIORITY THAN ME!!! But I knew the mortars were ours and no one else's - dedicated to us and us alone! Our mortar guys got so good , they could shoot day or night, good weather ,bad weather, support fires, counter battery fires, etc, putting what was wanted where it was wanted within a few minutes of request! 

Delta Mike 2


1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969)

All material presented in the pages of this index is Copyright (1999) of 'Delta Mike 2' and and may not be copied, stored or distributed without the express permission of the author. Please respect the ownership of these memories. Thanks.


Whats New | Site Search | The War | Wargaming | Reviews | Bibliography | Miscellaneous
Delta Mike 2
| Links | News | Glossary | Contents | Email | Rate This Site | Feedback

Retrieved by Memoweb from at 02/12/01