Vietnam Infantry Tactics (osprey Elite 186) by Other

07575ff7409ab67.jpg Author Other
Isbn 9781849085052
File size 3.7 MB
Year 2011
Pages 64
Language English
File format PDF
Category history


Elite • 186 Vietnam Infantry Tactics GORDON L. ROTTMAN ILLUSTRATED BY PETER DENNIS Series editor Martin Windrow © Osprey Publishing • CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 4 The opposing forces TERRAIN AND CLIMATE 8 Varieties of vegetation Roads The impact of the “Rome plow” Maps Temperature and humidity INFANTRY UNIT ORGANIZATION 12 Divisions and regiments/brigades Battalions and companies Rifle platoons: US Army – US Marine Corps – ARVN – Australian Task Force INFANTRY WEAPONS Rifles Light machine guns 19 Grenade-launchers Assessment MOBILITY Airmobility 25 Water transport Mechanized tactics MOVEMENT ON FOOT Movement formations Engagements 28 The “RON” position FIRE SUPPORT Artillery Air support 38 Radio communications SMALL-UNIT TACTICS 42 Linear and non-linear battlefields – Tactical Areas of Responsibility “Triangular” organization Patrols: reconnaissance – security – combat Ambushes: layouts – getting into position – ranges – counterambush tactics – typical errors Area-saturation operations: 2d ARVN Division, 1963 – cordon and search – search and destroy CONCLUSIONS 62 BIBLIOGRAPHY 63 INDEX 64 © Osprey Publishing • VIETNAM INFANTRY TACTICS INTRODUCTION This book is about small-unit infantry tactics in Vietnam. While there were also mechanized infantry, armored reconnaissance, tank, and other mounted units, Vietnam was largely an infantryman’s war. That being said, Free World Forces benefited from the helicopter, and airmobility proved to be essential to their operations.1 Even if a unit was not lifted into combat by helicopters, the choppers delivered supplies, evacuated casualties, provided reconnaissance and fire support, and carried out a host of supporting missions. Even so, once on the ground the infantry faced the age-old contest of soldier against soldier, in small-unit fights in which the most basic tactical and fieldcraft skills were essential. It did not make any difference if a unit were standard “straight-leg” infantry, airborne, airmobile, dismounted mechanized, riverine ashore, Marines, ANZACs, or ARVNs: on the ground, certain basic fundamentals governed tactics – the quintessential need to “move, shoot, and communicate.” There were too many national contingents to detail all their variations on these fundamentals in a book of this size, and our primary focus will be on the tactics employed by the US Army, US Marines, and the Australian and New Zealand soldiers (“ANZACs”) of 1st Australian Task Force. The tactics of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the Asian contingents were similar to those of the Americans; they were trained and advised by the US forces, and provided with US weapons and equipment.2 There were, of course, differences; some stemmed from national preferences and scales of equipment, but they were largely due to terrain, local situations, specific missions, and efforts to find new and effective tactics in a changing battlefield environment. The tactics employed by all the combatants were by no means fixed. They were “evolutionary,” constantly changing, and differing between units – just because one unit performed an action in a particular way, it did not mean that other units did the same. Operational summaries and lessons-learned studies 1 The Free World Military Assistance Forces included South Vietnam’s allies that contributed combat forces – the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines. 2 See Osprey Battle Orders 33: The US Army in the Vietnam War 1965–73; BTO 19: The US Marine Corps in the Vietnam War 1965–75; Elite 103: Vietnam ANZACs 1962–72; and Men-at-Arms 458: Army of the Republic of Vietnam 1955–75. 4 © Osprey Publishing • During movement across country, 10-minute rest breaks were called every hour. The soldier on the left uses his elasticated helmet-camouflage band to hold minute-delay time fuses, M60 fuse igniters, and a “spoon” loading adapter that allowed 10-round stripper clips to be loaded into M16 magazines. The soldier on the right has a Claymore mine bag slung beneath his left arm, holding extra M16 magazines. were available, but for the most part units developed and tailored their own tactics and techniques. This was not a matter of divisional doctrine – in many instances tactics even differed between companies within the same battalion. Units adapted their tactics and techniques to the terrain, weather, changing enemy tactics, their mission, and their cumulative experience. They sought new techniques to deal with changing situations and opposition, and to confuse the enemy. There were no manuals laying down rock-solid “doctrine” – unlike today, that term was seldom heard. Manuals simply Under magnification, seven UH-1 Huey helicopters can be made out here, making an airmobile assault on a valley floor covered with rice paddies and nestled between jungle-covered ridges. Enemy fire might greet the inserted troops from any direction, or several. The platoon being landed will probably pull into the jungle on the far side of the paddies. © Osprey Publishing • 5 In dense tropical vegetation, an assistant machine gunner – identifiable by his ammo belts – makes his way down an overgrown and almost invisible trail. These belts for the M60 are carried with the bullet tips outward, so as not to dig into his neck; his lack of a helmet is unexplained. A provided guidelines, as a basis from which new tactics and techniques evolved. This “non-standardization” has been condemned, but what purpose would a more rigid approach have served? In counterinsurgencies and prolonged low-level conflicts with no definable frontlines, the constant refinement of tactics is absolutely essential. The term “guerrilla war” is often applied to the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong (VC) local-force guerrillas played a key role, but this diminished through the course of the war. By the late 1960s, and especially after the Tet Offensive in early 1968, they were barely a military force. They continued to assist the NVA, however; they helped control rural populations and food resources in many areas, and were a persistent nuisance for Free World Forces. VC Main Force and regular NVA (North Vietnamese Army) units operated out of Laos and Cambodia – privileged sanctuaries – in their efforts to seize key South Vietnamese towns and cities and to secure areas from which to launch future operations. It must be understood that by 1968 most VC Main Force units were in fact manned by the NVA; Free World Forces had inflicted great losses in the VC ranks, while war-weariness and growing opposition to VC terrorism and oppression limited the number of sympathizers and willing recruits. These NVA and VC Main Force units were not guerrillas themselves, but light conventional forces supported by local guerrillas (who served as scouts, guides, and porters, and provided local security, food, and other supplies). The NVA may have employed some guerrilla-like tactics and techniques, but they conducted regimental, divisional, and multi-division operations, directly attacking Free World Forces and seizing population centers. They did so without air support or tanks, employed mortars and rockets instead of tube artillery, used only light antiaircraft weapons, and had an extremely lean SQUAD/SECTION MOVEMENT FORMATIONS Full-strength squads/sections are illustrated here – US Army, ARVN and ANZAC squads, 10 men, and US Marines, 14 men – but actual field strength varied, typically between six and nine men. The standard US Army squad movement formations were the column, line, “V,” wedge (inverted “V”), and echelon. In Vietnam the column (A1) and line (A2) were common, the former being used for movement and the latter when engaged or moving across large open areas. An unofficial formation used by a squad conducting a patrol detached from its platoon was the “T” (A3), providing fire both forward and to the flanks. In this formation the trailing fire team could either move up on line with the lead team, or, if engaged from the flank, the lead team could swing into line with the trailing team. Squad-sized patrols would also use the column and line formations, and if in column the fire-team leader who was designated assistant patrol leader would bring up the rear. The pointman was a designated rifleman; he would often be followed by designated backup men, and a navigator (most likely the squad leader or a team leader). ARVN squads used similar formations, but had only one M79 grenadier. The US Marine squad, with three fire teams, used similar formations but modified for three teams; here we show a dispersed wedge formation (A4), used in open terrain. Personnel key, US: 1 = squad leader, 2 = fire-team leader, 3 = grenadier, 4 = riflemen. The standard ANZAC section formations were termed the single file (A5), extended line (A6), staggered file (A7), and open file (A8). The single file and extended line were employed in much the same way as the US column and line. The staggered and open files were used in more open terrain, depending upon visibility. The section commander usually accompanied the gun group, while the second-in-command (2iC) ran the rifle group. The grenadier might be the 2iC or a rifleman, and could be placed anywhere in the formation; he also retained his rifle. Personnel key, Australian: 1 = section commander, 2 = 2ic, 3 = scout, 4 = machine-gun group, 5 = riflemen. © Osprey Publishing • 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 2 A7 A5 2 © Osprey Publishing • 2 5 4 4 4 4 5 A8 4 1 1 3 4 3 3 3 1 5 1 4 5 5 4 4 3 4 3 3 1 5 4 4 4 4 2 Alpha team A6 4 4 2 Charlie team 2 4 A4 3 3 2 Bravo team 2 4 A1 3 4 3 A2 4 1 2 4 4 4 2 3 1 1 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 3 2 2 2 4 A3 4 3 4 logistics tail. This character was shaped by the nature of the highly mobile enemy that they faced – backed by massive fire support, with superior communications and bottomless logistics, and operating from fixed bases. The country’s road system was minimal, and the Free World Forces mostly controlled it – or at least, sufficiently to supply their bases. The NVA/VC were forced to travel from their sanctuaries and base areas over rough terrain, concealing their movement, and carrying everything on their backs. By contrast, the Free World Forces’ domination of the sky allowed them to deploy rapidly and sustain troops by helicopter. The NVA/VC occupied or controlled to varying degrees large portions of the country, carrying out armed attacks and imposing a reign of terror. The overriding mission of the Free World Forces in South Vietnam was to establish a secure environment free from enemy exploitation, pressure, and violence, within which it was hoped that the people could form a government that was independent, stable, and freely elected – one that would deserve and receive popular support. This was attempted by conducting aggressive combat operations focusing on NVA/VC forces, to destroy them by fire and maneuver and to disrupt their logistics. TERRAIN AND CLIMATE Vegetation The jungle that covered large tracts of Vietnam was little different from temperate-zone forests. A jungle is merely a tropical forest, with the accompanying high humidity. Because of the higher moisture content than temperate forests, there is more diversity in the types of trees and other vegetation. Some areas were described as double- and triple-canopy forest, with layered, superimposed tree canopies at different heights; because less sunlight reached the ground, such forests often had little undergrowth. Military maps identified dense and clear forests by areas of light and paler green, respectively, stating: “Dense forest or jungle indicates that more than 25 percent of ground is concealed by canopy with undergrowth generally impassable on foot. The Central Highlands of South Vietnam was a vast region of gently rolling hills and plateaux covered with high grass and scattered clumps of trees. 8 © Osprey Publishing • Clear forest indicates that more than 25 percent of ground is concealed by canopy with undergrowth generally passable on foot.” The latter would mean double- or triple-canopy. This classification was made by studying aerial photographs, and was not entirely accurate. The Army’s contention was that there is no such thing as actually impassable terrain; infantry could pass through virtually anything, albeit slowly – in densely overgrown terrain, progress might be only 400–500 yards per hour. Land navigation was difficult in dense vegetation, where it was almost impossible for a unit to pinpoint its location to call for fire- and air support; even nearby landmarks could not be seen, to confirm one’s location on the map. In such forests it was impossible for aircraft to detect the enemy, who often did not even halt their movement when aircraft were overhead. The terrain of South Vietnam ranged from the mountainous north, interspersed with winding valleys, down through the rolling hills and plateaux of the Central Highlands, the triple- and double-canopy forests further south, to the sprawling river- and canal-cut marshes of the Mekong Delta. Within all of these regions troops might find themselves among hills, ridges, gullies, ravines, swamps, forests, large areas covered with bamboo thickets, and vast expanses of man-high elephant grass or brush, greatly hampering movement on foot. The bamboo and grass were so tall and dense that navigation was just as difficult as in jungles. A man did not walk through dense elephant grass; he had to walk over it, pushing it down (and leaving a distinct trail). Intermingled brush and snagging “wait-a-minute” vines made this even more difficult. Trackless bamboo thickets, with scattered trees, could cover huge areas; they were extremely difficult to negotiate, sometimes actually forcing troops to crawl. There were also broad areas of cultivated rubber-tree plantations; unless abandoned, these were park-like, devoid of undergrowth and crisscrossed with a road-grid. The trees were planted in straight, uniformly spaced rows, their crowns growing together so densely that aircraft could not see the ground, nor could ground troops see aircraft. In thick vegetation the soldier had to move quietly, and minimize the movement of foliage that would signal his presence. He had to listen for sounds that might warn him of the enemy – striving to distinguish them through the background jungle sounds, the inevitable noise of the unit’s own movement, overhead helicopters, distant artillery, and so on. At other moments the jungle might be eerily quiet, with not a sound to be heard. Visibility was often short-ranged, but in most instances a soldier could see two to four of his comrades when deployed on line, and more of his unit were often visible. Some 20–30 yards of relatively unobstructed visibility was common, and sometimes more, and a man might suddenly come upon areas with little or no underbrush. Regardless of the short visual distances, the enemy were difficult to detect. Vegetation was layered, and one had to learn to look through each layer to detect © Osprey Publishing • A corporal section commander (note the M16 rifle) from 2nd Bn, Royal Australian Regiment photographed in 1967 in the park-like terrain of a rubbertree plantation. With a TAOR measuring 38 × 18 miles, the 1st Australian Task Force in Phuoc Tuy Province eventually comprised two infantry battalions, an artillery regiment, an APC squadron, a tank squadron, a Special Air Service squadron, and service support elements. The Australian and New Zealand infantry pursued a doctrine of nonstop patrolling from their Nui Dat base camp, staying out for long periods and aiming to dominate the countryside. (Photo Australian War Memorial, Canberra) 9 some shape, movement, or color that did not fit the jungle’s texture. Light and shadows crisscrossed and changed. Movement demanded constant vigilance and awareness; letting down one’s guard at the wrong moment could be fatal. More than anything else, it was movement that alerted one to the enemy’s presence, but listening was just as important. Roads It was not only the mighty “Rome plow” that played an important role in supporting infantry operations, by clearing fields of fire and destroying enemy hiding-places. Here a light helicopter-transportable bulldozer is used by an airmobile or airborne unit to make a “tactical cut,” clearing the brush around a firebase. The country’s road system was undeveloped. There were National (Quoc lo – QL) and Interprovincial (Lien tinh lo – LTL) routes, most of which were two-lane asphalt and banked up above ground level to improve drainage. Provincial (Tinh lo – TL), and communal (Huong lo – number only) routes were packed- or loose-surface dirt roads, usually unbanked. Their condition depended on how much Free World Forces relied on them and made efforts to maintain them. In remote and contested areas they deteriorated badly with the seasonal rains. On many roads the VC had long since blown up every bridge and culvert, and they remained unrepaired unless major military operations took place in the area. In many areas the countryside was laced with one-lane dirt roads, cart tracks, and footpaths. Maps might show many of these, but they could not be relied upon; many were overgrown owing to long disuse, and newer trails might have been created. In the Mekong Delta there were even fewer roads, as the main transport routes were the 1,500 miles of rivers and 2,500 miles of man-made canals. A peculiarity of the Vietnam War was the “Rome plow,” and the impact it had on terrain and tactics. So named after the Rome Plow Company of Rome, Georgia, this was a Caterpillar D7E bulldozer fitted with a massive tree-slashing blade. Echeloned lines of dozers would grind through the forests, taking down trees. Rome plows employed three types of “cuts.” “Area cuts” saw the leveling of broad swathes of jungle in areas containing enemy base camps, supply caches, defensive positions, and tunnel complexes. Such activity would flush the enemy out, so required security forces to protect the dozers, and maneuver forces to pursue the fleeing enemy and react to counterattacks. These cleared areas and wide-cut lanes might be sown with remote sensors to detect movement, and ambush patrols and aircraft would keep what was known simply as “a Rome plow” – the cleared swathe – under surveillance. “Road cuts” cleared bands 100–300 yards wide on either side of lines of communications, in order to keep ambushers at a distance and make the laying of command-detonated mine wires difficult. This was undertaken on roads important for convoys supplying bases, as well to safeguard commercial traffic. “Tactical cuts” cleared sites for firebases and landing zones, and leveled fields of fire around bases and villages. Maps The accuracy of available maps varied. Those covering more populated and accessible areas with extensive road systems were usually reliable, but the more remote and inaccessible an area, the less accurate the maps. There were claims that entire hill masses were incorrectly depicted; this was true in remote cases, but more often it was simply due to the inability to correctly determine their 10 © Osprey Publishing • position because of dense vegetation and rough terrain. US-published maps were based on pre-World War II French surveys, and were updated from aerial photographs. If one was near rivers or major streams the maps were more accurate, since the French ran survey lines along streams as their baselines. Updated “pictomaps” were also available for highly contested areas. These were full-color aerial photographs printed as map sheets, and overprinted with topographic map symbols as on standard maps (roads, bridges, built-up areas, etc), as well as terrain contour lines and grid lines. While the areas were photographed on clear days, sometimes cloud patches obscured small areas. Standard tactical maps were 1:50,000 scale with a 1,000-meter military grid coordinate system (2cm grid squares – 0.78 inch), covering a 27 × 27km area (16.77 miles square). Temperature and humidity The climate had just as much effect on small-unit tactics as the terrain. It was hot, humid, and either too dry or too wet. There always seemed to be either insufficient water for drinking, or too much, causing immersion-foot or other problems. This depended on the cycle of the dry or northeast monsoon season, from November to April, and the wet or southwest monsoon from June to October. Soldiers claimed that there were three seasons – wet, dry, and dusty, occurring at hourly intervals. Heat exhaustion was something that could affect even the well-acclimatized, and hospitals complained that most wounded required extensive rehydration. Mosquitoes, jungle and water leeches, ants, swarming bees, scorpions, centipedes, poisonous snakes, and flies were troublesome. Malaria, dengue fever, dysentery, diarrhoea, and “undiagnozed fevers” were common ailments. Stories of snake and tiger attacks were more often than not just that – stories. Daytime temperatures typically varied from the mid-80s°F to the high 90s°F (29°–36°C), with humidity around 80–90 percent. Temperatures might drop into the low 70s°F range (21°–23°C) at night, but the seasonal rains did little to lower © Osprey Publishing • This section of a 1:50,000 scale topographic map – the scale used by units below division level – provides indications of different vegetation. The darker green shade indicates forest with underbrush, while lighter green areas are generally clear of undergrowth or have only light brush. Light green areas with black symbols indicate bamboo. At top and left, the densely green-spotted areas with black “lollipop” symbols are rubber plantations. The small white areas with blue symbols indicate swamps, which might be dry in the dry season. The narrow white streak running south from the village of Srok Sóc Tranh at upper right center is a rice paddy; under magnification, the “rice” symbols differ from “swamp” symbols. The three villages at lower left and center are marked “Destroyed.” 11 temperatures. In the northern mountains the temperatures were cooler at night. Fog was experienced in the mountains, affecting air support, and sometimes occurred in other areas in the morning hours. Monsoon rains also hampered aerial operations, but had one benefit: for weeks at a time the daily rains often occurred at predictable times, allowing units to plan around the expected daily downpour, even though it would begin and end without warning. The brutal climate was aggravated by a diet of C-rations and infrequent B-ration hot meals; by long hours of “busting brush”; by lack of sleep because of 50-percent alert (one man off, one on, at two-hour intervals); by daily stress, and the need for perpetual alertness, even when no contact was made. INFANTRY UNIT ORGANIZATION While this study focuses on small-unit tactics, a basic understanding of unit organization is important. Divisions – US Army and Marine, and ARVN – were basically the same organizationally. They had three infantry regiments (“brigades” in the US Army), each of three battalions; division artillery of three to four battalions; combat support battalions or companies, to include reconnaissance, engineer, and signal; and service support units such as maintenance, supply, and medical. Free World regiments/brigades typically had three maneuver battalions, which could be cross-attached between regiments/brigades, with no or minimal support units. From 1966 most ARVN regiments had four battalions; this was reduced to three in 1971, with the disbanded fourth unit providing a fourth company to each of the other battalions. Any support was usually temporarily attached from division. US separate combined-arms brigades contained an artillery battalion, service support battalion, and reconnaissance and engineer companies; in effect, they possessed the units typically attached to a divisional brigade from its parent division. US divisions with nine to 11 maneuver battalions and significant artillery and combat support units could influence the battle, and could shift forces to support Infantry pass through a Vietnamese village. It was often extremely difficult for troops to determine their location in jungle areas, but streams and villages were accurately located, and even destroyed villages were marked on maps as locating aids. The left man here is armed with a 5.56mm XM177E2 submachine gun, and is probably a platoon leader. 12 © Osprey Publishing • A hasty battalion command post in operation – this is a temporary affair, set up on a firebase under construction. Contact is maintained with its companies in the field, its rear support element, supporting artillery and helicopters, and the brigade headquarters. In the foreground is an AN/VRC-46 radio. engaged units. One would think a separate brigade with three or four maneuver battalions would have one-third the combat power of a division, but it did not; it lacked the assets common to a division with which to reinforce multiple engaged units. The battalion was the predominant fire-and-maneuver unit. It typically had a headquarters company with minimal staff, communications, supply, service, and medical elements. It might also possess combat support platoons with mortars, recoilless rifles, scouts, etc., or these combat support elements might be assigned to a separate company, as in the US and Australian armies. A US combat support company consisted of a reconnaissance (3 × 10-man squads), a mortar (4 × 81mm), and an antitank (4 × 106mm RR) platoon. The Australian support company possessed 32-man assault pioneer (demolitions, mine-clearing), mortar (6 × 81mm), antitank, and signals platoons. From late 1966 the ANZAC antitank platoon was converted to a 31-man reconnaissance platoon, divided into three sections and operating in patrols of four to six men. Three rifle companies were the standard in most armies, although the US Marines and Australians were exceptions, with four companies from the beginning. Some Australian battalions had a fifth New Zealand company attached, mainly for security. The traditional three-company battalion was effective in conventional linear operations, but in Vietnam more flexibility was needed; four rifle companies allowed three to be deployed in the field while the fourth secured the firebase. It was not uncommon for a battalion to be tasked with both securing its base and local villages, © Osprey Publishing • A platoon leader flashes a Mk III signal mirror at a helicopter to mark his location. He is probably talking to the helicopter, and using the clockface system to pass his location in relation to the aircraft’s direction of flight. Mirrors were better than colored smoke grenades, since the latter could reveal the unit’s location to the enemy. 13 A soldier linking 2½lb M5A1 C4 demolition charges with detonating cord. These will be used to blast down trees to clear a helicopter landing zone, either for a routine resupply or to extract the unit. B and maintaining a reaction force for foot or airmobile insertion. This option saw two companies tied up on security or other missions, while still able to put two companies in the field. The fourth company would be rotated to the field just like the others – it was not tasked solely with base security. The scout platoon often operated as a separate entity, but would not often stray too far from a supporting company – a small platoon hit by an enemy company was extremely vulnerable. In late 1967, US Army infantry and airborne battalions received a fourth rifle company plus a combat support company, but mechanized battalions did not. Airmobile and light infantry battalions already had combat support companies, and in 1967 received a fourth company. The new TO&E basically transformed the standard infantry battalion to light infantry, reducing heavy weapons and other equipment to what was necessary in Vietnam. ARVN infantry battalions had fourth rifle companies prior to 1960 (when they were withdrawn to become separate Ranger companies), but in 1971 again received a fourth company. Rifle companies generally had a small headquarters, three rifle platoons, and a weapons platoon. In practice the weapons platoon was usually deleted and its crew-served weapons were shifted to battalion, with some placed in storage. The heavy weapons and ammunition were too heavy, and slowed the unit even if they could be man-packed. There were always exceptions, however; the NVA/VC were forced to man-pack crew-served weapons. PLATOON MOVEMENT FORMATIONS Because of the often close, wooded terrain, platoons typically moved in column formation, and in line for crossing open areas and in the assault. Most platoons had three squads, but might have only two if severely understrength. Ideally, rather than conducting an assault with the whole platoon on line, the separate squads would use fire-and-maneuver, alternating bounds forward with delivering covering fire for one another. The platoon’s two or three machine guns provided covering and suppressive fire, whether as part of the squads or under platoon control. Few Army units had a machine-gun squad, and the M60s were usually assigned or attached to the squads. Marine platoons usually had a two-gun squad attached from the company weapons platoon. Each ANZAC section had an integral M60. Like squads, platoons used the column (B1), line (B2), “V” (B3), wedge (B4), and echelon (B5) formations. The platoon wedge formation was effective in open or sparsely wooded terrain where squads could remain in visual contact. The individual squads within the platoon might be moving in a different formation: for example, the squads within a platoon wedge formation might themselves be in column, line, or wedge. In (B4) the squads of the platoon are in column formation, which was good for countering an ambush; if engaged from the front, either or both of the trailing squads could maneuver to the front or envelop the enemy’s flanks. The lead squad’s point element (1) might be slightly further forward of the rest of the squad. The platoon command group follows the lead squad. It consists of the platoon leader (2); his RTO (3); a mortar/artillery forward observer (4) – who might have his own RTO, or might carry the radio himself; and the medic (5). The platoon sergeant (6) might follow the flanking squad on the most vulnerable flank, or might rove around the formation ensuring that the men kept their positions and that there were no stragglers. This platoon’s two machine guns are attached to the flanking squads (7). Machine guns were never positioned with the point, in case the pointmen became casualties, and the squad had to fall back leaving the MG behind. Flank security is provided here by pairs of men from the flanking squads (8), who remain in visual contact with their squads. Squad leaders (9) typically followed either the pointman or the lead fire team. Regardless of the formation the company moved in, when pausing for a halt each platoon would send out a team-sized patrol to either flank to conduct a “cloverleaf search” (B6). The patrols would loop out for a few hundred yards, paying particular attention to dense vegetation, gullies, streams, and other potential hiding-places. The tail-end platoon would send a cloverleaf patrol to the rear, or establish a stay-behind squad ambush (B7) for the duration of the halt. © Osprey Publishing • © Osprey Publishing • B7 B6 6 8 7 9 5 4 3 7 2 B4 9 B1 B3 B2 8 B4 1 B5 Helicopters were essential to the infantry for support of every kind – including performing the very last service they could. Here the poncho-wrapped body of a US soldier is recovered for evacuation by a UH-1H Huey. Rifle platoons Rifle platoons were led by a lieutenant and a senior NCO in the headquarters, with a radio operator. There were three rifle squads (but in some cases only two, if manpower was low). Squads could range from six to 13 men, and usually numbered somewhere in between. There might be a weapons squad, usually with one or two machine guns; alternatively, these guns might be part of the platoon headquarters, or be integrated into the rifle squads. The three-platoon, three-squad structure was well suited for small-unit operations; the third squad never served as a “reserve,” but was in the line. US Army Regardless of the type of company, rifle platoons were similarly armed and organized, with an official strength of 44 men. The platoon headquarters had the platoon commander, platoon sergeant, and a radio-telephone operator (RTO). The three 10-man rifle squads each consisted of a squad leader and two fire teams (Alpha and Bravo), each with a team leader, an automatic rifleman (M14A1 automatic rifle), and a grenadier, with one team having two riflemen and the other a single rifleman. All rifle squad members were armed with rifles except the grenadiers, who carried an M79 launcher and a pistol. The 11-man weapons squad had a leader, two machine gunners and assistants, two antitank gunners and assistants, and two ammunition bearers. Antitank and machine gunners and assistants carried pistols, while the weapons squad leader and ammunition bearers had rifles. There were two M60 machine guns and two 90mm M67 recoilless rifles, or in some cases 3.5in bazookas. All the foregoing is according to “the book”– the TO&Es – but the reality was much different. When units deployed to Vietnam they were organized and armed according to the TO&E, but with combat losses, illness, personnel detailed to firebase duties and on R&R, and slow replacement flow, platoon strength declined. The employment of weapons changed greatly. The 90mm RRs and bazookas were seldom carried to the field, and were normally placed 16 © Osprey Publishing • in storage, though there were instances when one per platoon might be carried, or even just one in the company. After the issue of the M16A1 rifle there were no longer any squad automatic riflemen. These became riflemen, as did the antitank gunners, their assistants, and both ammunition bearers; assistant machine gunners also generally drew rifles. Actual platoon strength was typically 20 to 30 men organized into two or three squads. The fire team concept was often abandoned, and the weapons squad usually ceased to exist. The two M60s were either assigned directly to rifle squads, sometimes with a third added, or to the platoon headquarters. Rifle squads often had only five to eight men. Other platoons retained four squads – three five- or six-man rifle squads, and a seven-man weapons squad with two M60s. Some platoons fielded just two rifle squads with six to eight men, but a full 11-man weapons squad with two M60s and a few riflemen. It was not uncommon for only two squads to be organized, in order to provide a higher squad strength of nine to 12 men including an organic two-man machine-gun crew. Some squads were organized into a “point team” with a pointman, a grenadier and two riflemen, and a “gun team” with an M60 gunner and assistant, four or five riflemen, plus the squad leader. Two grenadiers were usually retained, but some small squads had only one so as not to reduce rifle strength. Often, when only two squads were employed, and because of the inexperience of some squad leaders, the platoon leader and platoon sergeant would each take charge of a squad when engaged. The medic became a fixture in the platoon headquarters, and there was usually an artillery/mortar forward observer (FO). On paper, the rifle company had a weapons platoon with a mortar section (3 × 81mm) and an antitank section (2 × jeep-mounted 106mm RR). It was typically dissolved, with some of the weapons used for base defense. Occasionally some companies retained a mortar or two, to be used when necessary. Sometimes 81mm mortars, ammunition, and crew were airmobiled into a night location in dangerous situations, and lifted out in the morning when the company moved out. US airmobile and light infantry battalions had only a mortar platoon, lacking the recoilless rifles. US Marine Corps The standard 44-man Marine platoon had a headquarters with a commander, platoon sergeant, and two or three messengers, one of whom was an RTO. A Navy medical corpsman and a mortar FO were attached. The three rifle squads each had 14 men: a squad leader, a grenadier, and three fire teams each with a team leader, an automatic rifleman, and two scout-riflemen. As in the Army, with the advent of the M16 the automatic Only three Army and two Marine tank battalions operated in Vietnam, but they were not the only units to possess tanks – some of the armored cavalry squadrons also had some. Here M48A3 tanks mounting 90mm main guns cover infantry as they cross a broad, open area. © Osprey Publishing • 17 A scout dog-handler breaks from the brush, followed by an M79-armed grenadier. Each infantry brigade had an attached scout dog platoon, and each of the platoon’s 24 dog teams – each of a German Shepherd and its handler – was typically attached to a rifle company. They were not always available, however, owing to team rest cycles; the dogs lacked stamina in the harsh climate. rifleman became a rifleman. Understrength platoons might have two fire teams per squad, or two squads each with two or three fire teams. There was no weapons squad, but the company weapons platoon (which the Marines maintained, unlike the Army) had machine gun (6 × M60), assault (6 × 3.5in bazooka), and mortar (3 × 60mm ) sections. Sometimes the bazookas were placed in storage, but often at least some were retained for bunker-busting, and could be attached to rifle platoons. The M60s were organized into three eight-man squads of two guns each, with two gunners, two assistants, and four ammunition bearers (though usually fewer). The gun squads could be attached to rifle platoons or might operate under central control. Usually fewer mortars, if any, were carried in the field. ARVN The rifle platoon officially had 33 men, but somewhere between 20 and 30 was common. The headquarters had the platoon commander and sergeant plus an RTO. The three typically 10-man rifle squads each included a squad leader, Browning Automatic Rifle man, and two four-man fire teams, though fire teams were seldom actually used. With the issue of M16s from 1968, the BAR-man became an M79 grenadier. The company weapons platoon had two M1919A6 or M60 machine guns, two 60mm M19 mortars, and two 3.5in bazookas, organized into two-squad sections. Australian Task Force The platoon strength was officially 32 men, but 20 to 24 was common in the field. The platoon headquarters consisted of the platoon commander and second-in-command (2iC, platoon sergeant) plus two radio operators/orderlies (“Sigs”). Two radios were carried, one as a backup which stayed with the 2iC, or was carried by a detached section on patrol. The three 10-man sections (equivalent to US squads) each had a section leader and three groups: scout group, of two scouts armed with submachine guns or M16s; gun group, under the section 2iC, with a two-man M60 crew; and rifle group, directly overseen by the section leader, with up to four riflemen with L1A1 FN rifles. Either the section 2iC or a rifleman carried an M79 grenade launcher, but unlike US practice whoever carried this “wombat gun” also retained his rifle. Later, some units received XM148 or XM203 grenade-launchers mounted on M16s. Medics, stretcher bearers, a sapper for demolition work, and mortar or artillery FO parties might be attached as required. There was no company weapons platoon. 18 © Osprey Publishing • INFANTRY WEAPONS It was necessary for infantrymen in Vietnam to carry sufficient rations, water, ammunition, and other gear over rough terrain to maintain them for several days. Free World Forces either carried all the supplies they needed for the duration of an operation – up to six days – or were resupplied by helicopter. Consequently, infantry weapons US Army & Marine infantry battalion weapons and their ammunition needed to be light, easy to operate, and reliable in an environment of dust, mud, rain, and .45cal M1911A1 pistol (Colt) heat, often with inadequate opportunities for cleaning. 7.62mm M14 rifle The soldier’s basic ammunition load was double the 7.62mm M14(M) & M14A1* automatic rifles standard amount or even more, since timely helicopter 7.62mm XM21 sniper rifle* resupply could not always be guaranteed. It was not 7.62mm M40 sniper rifle (Remington)† uncommon for one side in a jungle firefight to break .30cal Model 70 sniper rifle (Winchester)† contact not for tactical reasons, but simply because they 5.56mm M16 & M16A1 rifles were running low on ammunition. 7.62mm M60 machine gun In most areas of Vietnam the long effective range normally desired of weapons was not a factor, since .50cal M2 machine gun (Browning) visibility was extremely limited due to brush, elephant 40mm M79, XM148* & M203* grenade launchers grass, and stands of bamboo. There were some areas, 66mm M72 & M72A1 light antitank weapons (LAW) such as the Central Plateau and the Mekong Delta, 3.5in M20A1B1 rocket launcher (“bazooka”) where longer ranges were useful, but even there 90mm M67 recoilless rifle* short-range engagements were the norm. 106mm M40A1 & M40A2 recoilless rifles Free World infantry were provided generous 60mm M19 mortar† numbers of crew-served weapons, but they and 81mm M29 & M29A1 mortars sufficient quantities of their ammunition were too heavy to man-pack in the field. There was little need for 4.2in M30 mortar antitank weapons, so these were usually placed in Notes: * Not used by the Marine Corps † Used only by the Marine Corps storage or used for firebase defense, though a company might carry one such weapon for attacking bunkers. The ARVN infantry battalion weapons single-shot disposable M72 light antitank weapon .45cal M1911A1 pistol (Colt) (LAW) was light and compact, and these were carried .45cal M1A1 submachine gun (Thompson) for bunker-busting and even for counter-sniper fire. Mortars were very heavy, as was the substantial .30cal M1 & M2 carbines ammunition supply needed if they were to be effective, .30cal M1 rifle (Garand) and in forested areas there were few sites in which to set 5.56mm M16A1 rifle them up. Free World Forces always operated within .30cal M1918A2 automatic rifle (Browning) range of friendly artillery; this was responsive and .30cal M1919A4 & M1919A6 machine guns (Browning) accurate enough to negate the need for mortars, and was 7.62mm M60 machine gun further backed up by attack helicopters and close air .50cal M2 machine gun (Browning) support (CAS). 40mm M79 grenade launcher The most important infantry weapons were the individual rifle, automatic rifle, light machine gun, and 66mm M72 & M72A1 light antitank weapons (LAW) grenade-launcher. These basic arms had a high impact 3.5in M20A1B1 rocket launcher (“bazooka”) on small-unit tactics, techniques, and performance, so 57mm M18A1 recoilless rifle are worth examining in some detail. 75mm M20 recoilless rifle Rifles 90mm M67 recoilless rifle The standard US rifle in 1965 was the 7.62mm M14, a heavy semi-automatic with a 20-round magazine; however, only the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions deployed with them – in late 1965 and early 1966, 106mm M40A1 & M40A2 recoilless rifles 60mm M2 & M19 mortars 81mm M1, M29 & M29A1 mortars © Osprey Publishing • 19 respectively – as did the 1st and 3d Marine Divisions. The first units to arrive in 1965 – 1s Cavalry Division; 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division; and 173d Airborne Brigade – deployed with 5.56mm M16 selective-fire rifles with 20-round magazines, as did all subsequent formations. The M14 was heavy, but achieved good penetration through vegetation – unlike the M16 “black rifle.” The lighter M16 allowed more ammunition to be carried, a valuable feature; on the other hand, it demanded meticulous cleaning, and this and early mechanical flaws caused problems. Its full-automatic capability was not that much of a benefit, often leading to a waste of Infantrymen return fire with 5.56mm M16A1 rifles, using ammunition, but was useful to pointmen and in close-range ambushes. their rucksacks as cover. Note The ARVN used the .30cal M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle. This the bullethole in the rifle’s eight-round rifle was far too heavy and awkward for Vietnamese, and could plastic and aluminum forearm. not stand up to enemy weapons with higher-capacity magazines. Many ARVN were armed with .30cal M2 selective-fire carbines, with 30-round magazines. They were light, compact, and handy in the jungle, but the weak .30 carbine round – much smaller than the .30cal used in other US weapons – performed poorly in dense vegetation, had inadequate knockdown power, and was short-ranged. Beginning in late 1966, selected ARVN units began to receive the M16A1, and this was gradually extended to all combat units into 1968. The ANZACs of the Australian and New Zealand contingents mainly carried the 7.62mm L1A1 self-loading rifle (“SLR” – the Belgian FN-FAL design). This was a long, heavy weapon with similar characteristics to the M14 – semi-automatic, with a 20-round magazine. They began receiving some M16s in 1966, not as replacements for the SLR but rather for their 9mm Australian & New Zealand infantry battalion weapons Owen and F1 submachine guns. These weapons, Canadian 9mm L9A1 pistol (FN-Browning) including the M16s, were carried by officers, support Australian 9mm Mk 2 submachine gun (Owen) troops, and section scouts. The ANZACs were quite Australian 9mm F1 submachine gun pleased with the penetrating capabilities of the SLR, US 5.56mm M16 & M16A1 rifles despite the drawbacks of its weight and length (though British 7.62mm L1A1 rifle (FN-FAL) their SAS sometimes cut them down). British 7.62mm Model 82 sniper rifle (Parker-Hale) The NVA were armed with the 7.62mm AK-47 or AKM, a selective-fire assault rifle excellent for US 7.62mm M60 machine gun jungle warfare, though a bit on the heavy side. It US 40mm M79, XM148 & XM203 grenade launchers achieved very good penetration through foliage, US 66mm M72 & M72A1 light antitank weapons (LAW) and the 30-round magazine increased its firepower. British 81mm L16A1 mortar Prior to 1967 they mainly used the 7.62mm SKS US 90mm M67 recoilless rifle semi-automatic carbine with a 10-round magazine; US 3.5in M20 Mk II (M20A1B1) rocket launcher (“bazooka”) as the AK became available in quantity, the SKS was passed on to the VC. 20 © Osprey Publishing •

Author Other Isbn 9781849085052 File size 3.7 MB Year 2011 Pages 64 Language English File format PDF Category History Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare This book reveals the evolving US, Viet Cong and NVA tactics at battalion level and below throughout the Vietnam War. Beginning with a description of the terrain, climate and the unique nature of operations in this theatre of war, the author, a Vietnam veteran himself, goes on to explain how unit organisation was broken down by combatant forces and the impact this had on the kind of tactics they employed. In particular, the author highlights how units were organised in reality on the battlefield as opposed to their theoretical tables of organisation. US tactics included the standard US tactical doctrine as prescribed by several field manuals and in which leaders and troops were rigourously trained. But it also reveals how many American units developed innovative small unit tactics specifically tailored to the terrain and enemy practices. In contrast, this book also reveals the tactics employed by Viet Cong and NVA units including their own Offensive Operations, Reconnaissance, Movement Formations and Security, and Ambushes.     Download (3.7 MB) The Cambodian Campaign during the Vietnam War Armoured Units Of The Russian Civil War: Red Army (osprey New Vanguard 95) June 17, 1967: Battle of Xom Bo II Civil War America, 1850 to 1875 Fallschirmjager: German Paratrooper 1935-1945 (osprey Warrior 38) Load more posts

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