US Infantry in Vietnam - Ammo Loads Continued


AMMO LOADS II


I started off with an M-14, with 5 steel magazines (basic ammo load), then jumped to the minimum required ammo load of 10 magazines(200-rds 7.62mm ball ammo). Then , like every one else that carried an M-14, was soon lugging 30 steel magazines (600-rds 7.62mm ball ammo). We used to fire semi-auto (SL as y'all Brits say), and reserved full auto for emergencies (we got our rifles unlocked, so we could fire semi or auto asap!). The butt-stock of an M-14 had a compartment where oil, patches, and the disassembled cleaning rod were carried. This was a heavy load!

The M-16s that we were forced to take as a replacement for the M-14 came with a basic load of 10 steel, then aluminum, 20 round magazines. These were commonly loaded with only 18-rds of 5.56mm ball in an effort to avoid malfunctions. The required minimum load for an M-16 was 20 loaded magazines, but after the first firefight, most riflemen were soon carrying 30 or 40 loaded 20(18) round magazines in ammo pouches, claymore bags, and cotton bandoliers that originally held cardboard boxes with loose 5.56mm ball rounds. Extra ammo was also carried in the pockets of the jungle fatigue shirt, and the pants cargo pockets. A heavy load but not as heavy as 7.62mm ammo and an M-14 rifle.

Plus a cleaning kit (LSA lube bottle, multi-piece steel rod, tips for the rod, bore brushes, toothbrush, cloth, patches, and a bipod for each M-16 (aluminum, clothespin type). The cleaning kit was soon stripped to the bare necessities with fully assembled rod carried run through the carrying handle and the front sight/handguard. LSA, bore brushes, patches and cloth were soon carried in pockets in a zip locked heavy duty plastic bag (letter writing paper came in these) and the bipod and carrying case lived at the NDP during sweeps.

Now y'all add the issue M-14 or M-16 bayonet 'knife' which weighed about a pound, with its self sharpening plastic scabbard.

Then add four (4) M26 Frag Hand Grenades, and four (4) Smoke Hand Grenades, two canteens of water, one (1) C-ration meal carried in a boot sock tied to the web gear, a first aide pouch with field dressing, a similar pouch with a lensatic compass (NCOs, Officers and Point man only), maps inside a heavy duty plastic zip locked bag made for this purpose. An entrenching tool and carrier. A steel pot sitting on your noggin, and either a towel or a scarf or both, for sweat and bug control (or padding in the case of M-60 gunners who put the towel, folded over their shoulder, to balance the LMG on). Every other man has a 22" long Collins machete with sheath. AND A CLAYMORE AP MINE WITH M57 DEVICE, DET CORD AND BLASTING CAPS IN A CANVAS SHOULDER BAG.

Now we come to personal weapons. A revolver or automatic pistol with holster plus 18rds (revolver) -21 rds (autopistol USG and civilian .45 ACP most common) minimum for same, a knife or hatchet.

One man in each fire team carries a minimum of 2-pounds of C-3 or C-4 plastic explosives with about 50 ft of det cord and blasting caps.

IF THERE IS ANY EXPECTED TROUBLE WITH BUNKERS OR TANKS, ADD 4 EA LAWS TO EACH RIFLE SQUAD, MINIMUM. OR 2 EA 90MM RECOILLESS RIFLES WITH ABOUT 10 ROUNDS PER WEAPON TO THE PLATOON.

If there are any known rivers to be crossed or cliff to be climbed, each squad has a 50ft coil of rope that some poor sod has to carry (this was almost always found to be missing when needed - it was at the NDP!).

NOW add 200-rds of 7.62mm linked ammo per rifleman as extra fodder for the M-60 LMG - worn as a bandolier over the chest. And sometime (if a firefight was expected ) 12 rounds of 40mm M79 ammo as reloads for the grenadier.

During an air assault or a march through the jungle to set up another NDP for operations, each grunt has a rucksack loaded with toiletries, food, more ammo, 20 empty sandbags, assorted D-handle shovels, pick/mattocks, chainsaws, etc to all of the above.

RTOs add a AN/PRC-25 to all of the other crap: it is carried on the rucksack frame during an air assault or a march from one NDP to another. RTOs carried 8 smoke grenades, but no M-60 or M-79 ammo and almost always carried just a double basic load of ammo for their rifles.

Medics carry medic bags in addition to the above load, but no extra ammo for M60s or M79s or HG, and usually just a double basic load for their rifles. Some had pistols, instead of rifles, but soon went to rifles.

Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant are loaded with personal weapons and ammo, but seldom if ever carry extra loads for M-60s, and M-79s. Both also carry extra morphine syrettes in case doc uses all of his up on casualties.

Squad and Fire Team Leaders are loaded just like anyone else.

M-60 Gunners have the LMG and a .45 pistol as personal weapons, with 4 frags and no smoke grenades. They carried at least, at least, 400-rounds of 7.62mm for the M60, junked the 100-rd assault packs and used linked belts dangling from the gun. M-60 on the march or during air assault had a partial belt of 7.62mm loaded into it (25- 50-rds, gunners choice) with one or both bipod legs extended to use as a handle while carrying the gun balanced on their shoulders. Some used the sling that came with the gun, but most dumped this as unnecessary weight.

Assistant Gunners had rifle and carried double basic loads of ammo for same, plus grenades and other gear as a grunt plus the spare barrel and asbestos gloves in a bag. Did not carry any extra ammo for M79s but did carry a minimum of 600-rds of 7.62mm ammo for the M-60.

The Ammo Bearers are loaded as grunts but do not carry M79 extra ammo. There are 2-thru 4 ammo bearers per gun (I think the extra 2 were really the crew of the 90mm RR that lived at the NDP). These poor guys carried a minimum of 600-rds of 7.62mm each. My cowboy math says this load is 3400rds of ammo for each M-60, carried by the gun teams And they did stagger around under more if they had too.

NO ONE MESSED WITH THE PERSONAL 20+POUNDS OF BODY ARMOR (TORSO AND GROIN) ISSUED TO US. TOO HOT, TOO HEAVY, TOO RESTRICTIVE.

STRIPPED DOWN TO THE BARE BONES ON A SWEEP, EACH SOLDIER WAS A WALKING AMMO DUMP AND WATER TANK, WITH ONE C-RATION MEAL, WEAPONS, ENTRENCHING TOOL, MACHETE, KNIFE, BAYONET, HATCHET, CLOTHES, BOOTS, AND STEEL POT. FIRST AIDE, COMPASS MAPS, RADIOS.

MAYBE IT SEEMS EXCESSIVE but when the shit hit the fan and people are wounded and dying and the gooks are trying to kill y'all and your friends, every last damn bullet, grenade, weapon, and cuss word mattered.

I want to lay another myth to rest here along with the myth that each and every grunt was a doper. Bullshit studies to the contrary, Army and civilian (I am sure there are some out there) in a firefight, everybody that could fight pulled a trigger. There were too few of us to allow for the luxury of guys shooting at the clouds to avoid killing a fellow human being, or cowering and not shooting back at the enemy. Once it became known that Joe Blow was too scared to fight back, Joe Blow's time in the field was very limited. The other grunts saw to that. Everyone is scared most of the time or some of the time in a firefight, BUT THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR COWARDS OR SHIRKERS! YOU FOUGHT WITH AND FOR YOUR FRIENDS, OR YOU HAD NO FRIENDS, AND WERE SOON JUST ANOTHER CORPSE.

There was no fighting for Mom, The Flag, or Miss Penny. It was for your buddies and for your self that you fought! Maybe for pride of unit too, but mainly for your buddies and your self.

And to add to the 'it seems excessive', make sure that it is known that nearly everyone had jungle rot, ringworms, walking malaria, intestinal parasites, infected bug bites, infected cuts, heat exhaustion, on the edge of heat stroke, and was in state of almost continual exhaustion from the constant strain, patrolling, APs at night, manning OPs and LPs, snipers, mines, booby-traps, rocket attacks, mortar attacks, friendly fire incidents, and firefights (nowhere near as common in WWI, WWII, or Korea) and knowing that the people at home seemed to hate YOU and not the enemy.

The last statement still gets my hackles up, as you can see.

Delta Mike 2

PS - remember I said that no two GI's RVN would be the same! Similar but not the same.


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1st Infantry Division TAOR (1969)

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