Colin F. Jones
THE CONFLICT IN VIETNAM: Part 5
In 1962 fulfilling the obligations under SEATO the RAAF provided a squadron of Sabre fighters for air defence in Thailand. Two years later the RAAF took an active part in operations in Vietnam.
The first Australian soldiers were sent to South Vietnam as a training team. An infantry Battalion was deployed in 1965, being built up by 1966 to an independent Task Force and logistic support group. In 1967 a third Battalion and Armoured Squadron were added to the task force.
In 1967, Prime Minister Harold Holt introduced a selective conscription system. Many Australians were sent to gaol for refusing to join the Army, other’s fled and hid away. Large demonstrations took place in the city streets of Australia protesting conscription and the war.
It is often thought by civilians that soldiers are somewhat akin to prisoners in that they are treated harshly, that they have no minds of their own but are subject always to orders and strict discipline. To a degree this might be correct in some circumstances, but it is not at all true in reality in most circumstances.
Obviously soldiers must be obedient, but such obedience should not and is not expected to be due to the fear of punishment although punishment is certainly a deterrent for those who oppose orders.
A high standard of discipline is the basis of efficiency and leadership. This means that there exists a mutual respect between those in charge and the men they lead.
Normally the soldier due to his training develops self-control, a pride in his work and faith in his leader; in that he will obey willingly any order he might receive. To a great extent this helps with his morale, for the basis of morale is confidence. It is really about how he feels within himself. How he feels about his leaders and those he works with. He is part of a team and needs to identify himself as an accepted member of such a team. He needs to know his job thoroughly, yet recognise his own weakness and strengths. If he acquires rank he needs to know himself, know his men, and always put their interests first. He must keep his men informed and develop the all-important team spirit. He must develop an orderly mind and accept the responsibilities of his position. When dealing with men he requires sound judgement, firmness and knowledge of human nature. He is never a robot, and is never denied opinion, be it given under the right circumstances. This is the ideal as is promoted in Army doctrine.
A CONCEPT OF A SOLDIER
If one wishes to form ones own shape from a piece of plasticine, then first one normally rolls it into a ball or flattens it out. One has to begin from an origin that can be formed into the desired image, without the complication of attempting to altar a previous shape.
To become a soldier, it appears that ones ‘identity’, needs to be at least ‘temporarily’ discarded along with any personal ideas one might have about anything. The ideal soldier is perhaps one, like an ideal policeman, who lives, breathes and carries out the policies or duties of his profession to the letter. This of cause can lead to robotic assembly that dehumanises the individual.
At the sub-unit level soldiers are a group of individuals with individual characters, toeing the line they are duty bound to toe. At the command level, ordinary soldiers become numbers, a force that operates as a single or united machine that can be moved in any direction simulating remote control. Such a group is little different from a tank, which is an armed vehicle that can be manoeuvred by a controller in any direction.
Soldiers in the field take all the risks and do all the dangerous work, similar to workers employed in industry. Those of high rank who control them receive all the credit for how they function, even though it is the individual skills of the soldiers, which are ultimately relied upon to carry out successful battles.
The forming of unit tradition is done so at the expense of those soldiers who have served in particular units. A battalion, for example, that succeeds in battle might have its efforts recognised by some political acknowledgement or military honour. The soldiers who served in the particular battalion, one might suggest, ‘are the battalion’. Yet long after those soldiers have left the battalion, the new men who replace them are also ‘the battalion.
The battalion remains the battalion, regardless of content.
For example I served in Malaysia with A Fld Battery RAA, in support of 4 RAR, and in Vietnam with 104 Fld Battery in support of 4RAR. Yet on both occasions, 4RAR had different soldiers serving in it. Despite this 4RAR, is always 4RAR; the recognition of achievements is never really attributed to the soldiers, but to the Battalion name as part of military tradition.
A soldier for the term of his duty is mostly cut off from the normal social life enjoyed by most people. The Army represents a world unto itself where soldiers live a military life. Most soldiers are young thus seek youthful activities.
Because an Army barracks occupies a certain area most social activity is confined to the local environment, which means that there are a lot of young people living in an area that cannot really meet the social demand. In particular there is a dismal lack of the opposite sex and few reputable places of entertainment.
It is inevitable that young soldiers will end up occupying the bars in the local hotels and consuming various amounts of alcohol. Women of rather devious repute are attracted to such environments in that standards of some soldiers diminish and fall, by the wayside.
The local, nice girls tend to avoid soldiers, for his reputation is not one of particularly good standing, though this is sadly an inaccurate assessment. It is difficult also, for those soldiers who are married for they are often required to live away from home over extended periods, while on exercise, or serving over seas, etc.
As do most young people soldiers seek entertainment, but usually find it in bar rooms where the mix of alcohol and disreputable lasses go hand in hand. The effects such a life style can have, particularly on a conscripted soldier may be most detrimental, particularly when he finally returns to the world from which he came.
WAR, RELIGION and POLITICS
By the very nature of life, War it seems is an important ingredient. Moses and the Israelites referred to the Lord as a ‘Warrior’ and of cause the Christian religion came in to being from the ‘Ashes of War’. Had there been no War, ones mind is left to boggle in determining what the world population would be today.
In Psalm 46 of the Holy Bible, reference is again given to war. “Come and see what the Lord has done The devastation he has brought upon the earth From end to end of the Earth he stamps out War He breaks the bow, he snaps the spear and burns the shield in the fire…” indicating perhaps that the Lord made War, in effect, to end War.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote; (Isaiah: 2-4). “They shall beat their swords into mattocks and their spears into pruning knives; nation shall not lift sword against nation nor ever again be trained for War.”
Revelations 12:7 reads, “Then War broke out in Heaven; Michael and his Angels waged War upon the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought but had not the strength to win, and no foothold was left for them in heaven so the great Dragon was thrown down, the Serpent of old, that led the whole World astray, whose name is Satan or the Devil, thrown down to the earth and his Angels with him…” and continues “… But woe to you, Earth and Sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, knowing that his time is short! When the Dragon found that he had been thrown down to Earth, he went in pursuit of the woman who had given birth to the male child, but the woman was given the ability to fly into the wilds where for three and a half years she was sustained out of reach of the Serpent. In anger and frustration the Dragon went off to wage War on her offspring, on those who keep Gods commands and maintain their testimony to Jesus.”
War then is significant at the beginning of known time and has been waged throughout time. Although only men and ants wage war, all living animals depend on the deaths of others to sustain life. Death is essential to maintain life. Not only the old die but also the young – to famine, disease and war – thus the human population is ‘culled’.
In areas where wars do not rage, progress and greed, provide the means of reducing the numbers of populations. As the old live longer new diseases kill the young, road deaths, murders, suicides, all contributing to the reduction of numbers. When nations are come over-populated food becomes scarce, disease rampant. War provides a way of dying, not always with dignity, but an alternative to inactive desperation and death without honour.
The insurgency of the Dragon into the political systems encouraged unrest, dissatisfaction and nonconformity, urging active opposition that became violent as political systems weakened on unsteady foundations. Politicians possessed by the Dragon sought personal power and attained it by influencing the people to believe in their policies, which promised equilibrium for all, while cleverly camouflaging their real intent of public control and self appointed power.
Such political systems gradually deprive the public of freedoms and rights with cleverly worded policies that offer the opposite in reality. By the laws of nature, nations rise and fall as people veer from Christian ethics, principles and moral values in to the waiting arms of the Dragon.
So it is, that so long as two people disagree due to personal motive not based on the rules of nature and Christian principle, then arguments will develop into conflict and death will result, culling the populations. From the ashes, moral values arise again, the Dragon spawned until, again, personal endeavour makes blind the eye and the Dragon once again rears his ugly head.
Not until ordinary people realise that they are the real power, not until they join together in common bondage, observing the basic truths and moralistic principles common to all people made religions, will peace be a reality on this earth: until then we weep for our loved ones, and pray that God will come again soon, to take away the pain.
This was an era of Socialism. Socialist governments are brought to power by unsatisfied communities who want more than they need. It is an era that produces corruption, disrespect and the lowering of morality, a time of religious wane and deteriorating Christian values, of financial and economic controls, acceptance of pornography, homosexuality and vulgarity of speech. Self-acclaimed non-Christian prime ministers reside in leadership of Christian nations, and when they are in opposition they incite riots and street marches to undermine the system and influence ordinary unsuspecting people.
The War in Vietnam is a prime weapon in the hands of the socialist, who play on the dismay, sadness and fear in the hearts of families who see their sons conscripted for war.
They gained power and brought those sons home, disbanding them without ceremony, winning the hearts and minds of the parents and relations, who failed to recognise the shame and distress inflicted upon those same sons who had risked and lost their lives in battle… in war against the Dragon.
In comprehending the defects of the human being, perhaps it is the destiny of the human race to suffer, that it will only be when God returns to the earth, that peace will be a word discarded, as having no opposite.
‘ALLELUIA’! Victory and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgements! He has condemned the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fortification, and has avenged upon her the blood of his servants.
In Vietnam, as in so many other countries throughout time, that part of the Christian religion, Roman Catholicism, had been established, and had set itself up as superior to local belief. This in fact was perhaps one of the major underlying factors influencing the turmoil in Vietnam.
PREPARATIONS OF 104 FIELD BATTERY RAA
The gun Battery had trained for most of the year to mould it into an efficient team. The conscripted soldiers who were accepted for service in South Vietnam blended in well with their professional counterparts.
Despite the growing outcries, by ‘save our sons’ groups and other elements involved in public disruption, there was neither disharmony nor indicated desire to refrain from overseas service by the conscripted gunners. In fact there were only three soldiers known to me in 104 Field Battery who were reported AWOL.
The reason was apparently because they thought that they had not been selected to go to Vietnam with the rest, thus felt the training was all for nothing.
There was a lot of ‘furfies’ (rumours) being spread around and for a period of time when the Battery was being ‘sorted out’ much confusion existed among both conscripted and professional soldiers. Eventually it was revealed that the Battery would be made up of 50 per cent regular and 50 per cent conscripted soldiers.
Most regular soldiers believed this was to justify ‘conscription’ rather than a real need for them to serve in the Battery overseas. Many felt that their promotion opportunities had been drastically decreased by the input of the conscripts who were given rank in many cases over the more eligible regular soldier.
This in fact was true, and though many conscripted ‘promoted’ soldiers were very capable, they had acquired rank in less than a year, where the regular soldier was obliged to serve at least eighteen months before becoming eligible to even consider promotion causes.
Generally the conscripted soldiers were more educated than the regular soldier therefore understood and learnt the technical requirements more easily and more quickly, but what most did not have was experience.
The Battery however had very experienced Sergeants and officers, with the exception of those who were in fact conscripted officers.
The Battery commander himself lacked ‘field’ experience, but was technically highly trained. He (in my opinion) was not very efficient in his knowledge of men and his view of a gun Battery was one moulded from his technical contributions at the school of Artillery.
Just prior to leave, before the battery was to leave for Vietnam he subjected all the NCOs to a ‘written’ test on gunnery. Much of the test was confusingly written and applied in the main to ‘practical’ application. Many NCOs, including me, saw this as an insult and a demonstration of his lack of confidence either in himself or in his gun battery.
A test of efficiency of this kind a few weeks before departing for Vietnam to my mind was not worth co-operative response, that I and others failed to provide the required results, making him very angry with declarations that the test would be done again.
Final preparatory schedules occupied the months leading up to the Batteries departure. Battle PT was conducted every day consisting of two-mile runs every morning and rapid five-mile force-marches. Full battle order was worn on these occasions. Firing all weapons was conducted at the rifle range and the gun battery carried out a ‘live fire’ operation over a period of ten days. Also a Co-op exercise with the school of Artillery was carried out and a night occupation ‘illumination shoot’.
Three weeks were spent in the jungle-training centre at Canungra, Qld, then following a stand down period exercise ‘Grass Parrot’ was conducted. This exercise took place at Shoal Water Bay and was a counter insurgency exercise involving almost 2000 regular soldiers and elements of the RAAF.
1ST Battalion and 12 Field Regiment with associating support units taking part in counter-insurgent type operations at unit and sub-unit level. The context was that of limited warfare in a simulated South-east Asian setting with main aspects of training aimed at cordon and search, search and destroys, ambush and counter ambush and attacks upon fortified camps and villages.
With these aspects emphasis was given to air surveillance and mobile convert regrouping, supply, deployment by air, insertions of cordons by stealth, clearance of mines and booby traps, location and search of tunnels, hides and caches.
6 Battalion with intimate knowledge gained in action in South Vietnam acted as the enemy.
The disposal and storage of privately owned vehicles prior to departure to South Vietnam was the responsibility of each individual.
Written instructions were issued to all members detailing methods by which their families could obtain military assistance during their absence.
Each man was issued with an information booklet regarding South Vietnam prior to departure. Baggage was limited not to exceed 96 pounds per man. All cabin trunks would be moved by ship thus would not arrive in Vietnam until after the batteries arrival. The polyester uniform was to be worn during the flight, but the shirt was to be changed to a civilian shirt, while in Singapore en-route to Vietnam. Personal issue weapons were to be packed in SAA boxes and not to exceed a weight of 90LBs.
The advance party were to depart on 30th April 1968, and 30th May, followed by the main body on 7th, 21st and 24th of May: the 24th being my 28th birthday.
A seven-day pre-embarkation leave was given to all ranks.
Before emplaning, we were issued with a one-man combat ration and an emergency ration. We were also provided with a 3oz bottle of insect repellent and a 3oz mite/tick repellent, in addition to a water sterilisation outfit, a 2oz tin of foot powder and 28 days supply of Paludrine, worked out precisely at two tablets per day. The Paludrine tablets were to minimise the effects of Malaria.
Some sports equipment and equipment to be used to decorate the Battery club was taken. Medical and dental appointments were finalised; this being necessity prior to February 19th, and we were all blood grouped and immunised against Typhoid /paratyphoid, tetanus, smallpox, cholera and plague. International health certificates were issued, as were identity discs (worn around the neck), identity cards (AAF A129), Passports and visas.
All pay adjustments were attended to and up to the legal limit in Australian money (A$100) was allowed to be withdrawn from ones pay book. Australian monetary notes not exceeding $50 would be able to be exchanged for MPC (US Military payment certificates). Travellers’ cheques, bank drafts and telegraphic transfers would not be accepted for cashing by cash officers, as there would be no facilities for private cheque accounts.
It was to be considered unlawful for any currency, other than MPC and Vietnamese Piasters to be held or used in Vietnam. A soldiers allowance would be A$1.55 per day. In addition to repatriation benefits soldiers allotted for special duty in Vietnam could also be eligible for, war service home loans, social services act, broadcasting and Television act, estate duty assessment act, and income tax and social services contribution act.
NUI DAT – 1st AUSTRALIAN TASK FORCE BASE
The 1st Australian Task force occupied a hill called Nui Dat North east of the city of Vung Tau, which occupied a peninsula on the South Coast of South Vietnam in the South China Sea. The base lay just east of route 2 which ran north/south through the centre of the province of Phuoc Tuy.
Nearby, a little to the south was the town of Hoa Long which occupied a spot at the intersection of Route 2, 15 and 23. Along Route 23 to the east was Dat Do and through Baria along Route 15, which swung west into Bien Hoa Province, the giant American storage base of Long Binh was located. Route two continued south to Vung Tau.
A little to the north of Dat Do on Route 23 was the other permanently established base, the Horseshoe, where elements of the Australian infantry were deployed. The enemy were mainly in the areas west of route 2 and Nui Dat and it was in this area that most operations were carried out.
Nui Dat was a hill surrounded by plains, and the gun battery occupied the front perimeter, looking west towards the Nui Dinhs, which were a cluster of rugged ranges where the first operation was to be carried out.
The base was surrounded by all manner of barbed wire and mine fields, and cleared almost of all tree growth. To the left flank of the Battery was the mobile US Battery B, with their 175mm guns. Between the two units were the toilets, which was a long shed where one could select any one of the regimentally lined up toilet boxes, to carry out natures requirements.
Depending on ones point of view, the toilets offered more than just the normal relief, for when was seated comfortably, and the guns of B Battery began firing, the pressure caused by the blasts, would send a rush of wind, through the large pit which was the ‘catchment’ area, resulting in one being forced upwards from ones seat. It was rather comical watching the looks on the faces of others who were experiencing it for the first time as they bounced up and down, like targets in a sideshow.
On the right flank also separated from our lines by barbed wire was A Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps.
The entire base was surrounded by rows of concertina barbed wire and low entanglement, pepper potted with land mines, claymore mines and trip flares.
The guns are deployed in horseshoe shaped sandbagged bays all facing out over the plains. My particular gun was Alpha, which occupied the right rear flank of the battery position above and behind the strongpoint. To the right was the ammunition dump.
The strong point was a bunker that is occupied at all times by sentries. It contained two rooms, one being the observation area, the other a sleep out. It was built below the level of the ground and covered with earth and many layers of sandbags for protection. The observation room was narrow and provided with a slit across the front through which the entire area can be observed.
Guard, or sentry duty, was shared among the men of the battery, two men being in occupation day and night. The main weapon in the strong point was a GPMG M60 (general purpose machine gun) it is belt fed and has devastating firepower. There was also an M16 Armourlite .223 Automatic rifle several cases of M26 hand grenades and an M79 Grenade launcher. In addition there were six hand held flares, a pair of binoculars, a starlite scope for night observation and an inbuilt compass. Each man in occupation, of course, carried his own personal 7.62 SLR (self loading rifle). There were also trigger mechanisms to detonate the claymore mines.
Our living quarters were large canvas tents with sandbagged walls built around them. Each housed a gun crew (7 men) less the Sergeant who lives in an area occupied only by officers and senior NCOs (non commissioned officers). An intercom system, called a tannoy, linked each tent to one another and to the centrally located command post that was built under-ground similarly to the strong point.
The guns were deployed in staggered fashion in front of the command post, each gun position being referred to as a gun platform. Behind the command post a little to the right was the gunners club, a small wooden building hidden in a clump of small trees.
The club contained a bar and a storeroom and there was an area outside where chairs and tables had been set up among the trees. Between the gunners club and the CP (command post) was a recreation hut and to the right of that, the orderly room and Q store. The officers/sergeants mess is behind the Q store the gunners’ mess being a little further west.
Scattered throughout the position were weapon pits, sometimes called fighting pits. These were in planned staggered locations and used for protection against rocket and or mortar attack. It was wise to learn quickly where they were all located, if only to avoid falling into them at night.
A second strong point occupied the left flank where it had been sighted to establish crossfire with the right flank strong point. Number 2 strongpoint is shared in occupation also and manned round the clock.
NATURE OF CONFLICT
Unlike most other wars, the environment in South Vietnam represented a unique system of elements that were particularly difficult to come to terms with. There were no set battle lines. Indeed Australian troops occupied a country already occupied by the enemy. If you can imagine walking down a dark street at night, knowing that at least people who would seek to kill you occupied 50 per cent of the houses down either side, you would, I suspect, be rather afraid and a little uptight.
Every person you passed or met on the street would be a target of suspicion and distrust. Every building you passed would be eyed with intense nervousness, expectant of an attack upon you that might threaten your life. Can you imagine how you would feel, particularly if you had to walk down the street every day for a year. The chances are that you might become one of two things… a dead body lying in the street, or a highly-strung intense animal ready to react and dispose of any hint of suspicious activity. You would be racked with constant fear and nervousness.
You would live in dread, having to force yourself to leave the confines of your home. Your nights would be sleep less, your mind plagued with the possibility of an attack while you were asleep. If for a whole year you were subjected to such conditions, then suddenly moved to an area where such conditions did not exist, then you would probably, to some extent comprehend the emotional anxieties of a soldier who served in South Vietnam under combat conditions and then returned home to try to take his place in society.
This was an unpopular war, as all wars should be, but in a way that is unique in Australian history. Soldiers were committed to the South Vietnamese war zone by politicians; the media made a meal of it; students found a valve to release their pent up complexities of confused knowledge; ordinary, law abiding citizens watched selected sequences of the war on television; and the people of a nation turned against its defence forces.
Communist factions and other toxic minority groups leapt onto the band wagon and while Australian soldiers were dying and living in fear and shocking conditions, longing for the day when it would all be over, that they could return home, they were being condemned as killers of women and children. As a serving soldier, I saw no evidence to support such atrocious accusations and in most areas of operations local populations moved out, those who didn’t were usually collaborators.
Many North Vietnamese soldiers were very young; some we captured were less than 16 years old. This indicated that their ranks had been severely depleted for it was unlikely that such young recruits would have been used so far to the south if older soldiers had been available.
Many young women fought as part of the Viet Cong Guerrilla forces. They were well trained and carried Russian AK 47 Automatic weapons. Many of them carried local ID cards pinned to their clothing during the daylight hours, but at night resorted to VC activities.
Such revelations do not excuse the decimation of civilian populations by military units. There will always be angry reprisals, in any war, by some men who have witnessed their mate’s heads being blown off, being butchered and dismembered. But such incidents I believe are few and, during our tour of South Vietnam, I neither saw nor heard of such incidents occurring.
These were ordinary peaceful Australians from a peaceful society who were duty bound to serve in battle. They returned to a different kind of hostility that isolated them in their own country depriving them of dignity. They never asked to be seen as heroes, only to be accepted as Australians.
Today they who returned survive… some of them. They have at last been welcomed home by a society that has overcome the emotions and influences of a dark page in our history. The mothers, fathers, girl friends, sons and daughters of those who died, can now perhaps see a glimmer of light, that their loved ones died with dignity carrying out the duties demanded of them by the Australian Nation as a whole.
Never again, no matter what might be the occurrence, should the Australian nation condemn those who are committed to the battle ground simply due to the fact that by current law it is their duty; their duty to die… with dignity.
Every soldier prior to embarking for South Vietnam filled out his last Will and Testament.
The military aim of the Australian Task force was based on the circumstances of the environment created by Communist insurgency, which demanded counter insurgent operations to defeat him. This meant being part of a much larger force operating under the plan of a higher command.
Revolutionary warfare is a process used by the communist forces, incorporating local support and infiltrated insurgents to destroy the framework of an existing society, culminating in the overthrow of the established social order and constitutional government.
To achieve this the communists resort to propaganda, murder, extortion, blackmail, terrorism and armed attack aimed at progressively committing the local forces to defensive tasks thereby rendering them ineffective, and dismantling local authorities.
They inspire strikes, looting and arson, designed to encourage racial and religious unrest and antigovernment feelings. They murder unarmed civilians, mostly in isolated areas, VIPs and servicemen who feel safe in relatively secure areas. Killer groups are established to murder government officials, headmen of villages, agents and informers who collaborate with our forces. Attacks against military and storage installations are instigated, public buildings and essential services, also.
Anti personnel mines are used most effectively, such as pressure mines buried under roadways, in culverts and walls as well as electrically discharged mines and a variety of lethal booby traps. Arms are hidden in villages, inside walls, drains, under fireplaces and ventilators. The enemy walks about as part of the local population during the day, but at night he becomes an active soldier ready to act at short notice.
Most of these incidents don’t come into the jurisdiction of Australian soldiers, who did not carry out a role as policemen, but in supporting local police much intelligence was forthcoming and some inroads were made in gaining some confidence from the local peasants.
The task of the Australian soldier was to keep the enemy constantly on the move, disrupting his organisation, cutting off his supplies, threatening his security, in an effort to weaken him enough to cause him to adopt a defensive role.
Consideration for the local people was always a priority and strict practices were enforced in this regard. Interference with local women was discouraged: taking fruit, vegetables or any food without payment was an unacceptable practice.
We were discouraged from giving an impression of superiority, omitting loud laughter, or to be seen completely naked.
Other acts considered intolerable by the Vietnamese were, to us, acceptable and inconspicuous; such things as patting a child on the head, carrying a child on one’s shoulders or touching a person with one’s feet. When sitting in a group it was expected that one sat with feet pointing away from the other people.
Of course there were ignorant breeches as would be expected but in the main courtesy and understanding was practised as far as possible.
The armed forces, like armed forces everywhere when occupying base camps, were subject to countless lists of routine orders. Those serving in Nui Dat were no different and were literally deluged with them. Routine orders referred to the day-to-day discipline according to the conditions of the environment in which the soldiers were serving.
In South Vietnam the climate was tropical, thus hot, wet and subject to a host of diseases and decease carrying insects. Hats were to be worn at all times, Jungle green shirts, when worn had to be tucked into Jungle green trousers or jungle green shorts, whichever was being worn, never was one allowed to ware a combat shirt with jungle green trousers, or visa versa. General-purpose boots had to worn at all times.
The beer ration, when in camp, consisted of two ‘unopened’ cans and was not to be consumed if rostered for duty that day. No alcohol was to be consumed in the gunners’ lines and alcohol received in parcels from Australia was to be stored in the Q store to be consumed according to orders pertaining to such consumption.
Weapons were to be carried at all times, displacement or loss being considered a serious offence. Compliments, in the form of a salute, were to be paid all officers in the Task Force area and to senior officers when they were travelling in vehicles.
It was pointed out that some American soldiers were sending letters home with little maps sketched on the envelopes showing diagrams of recent activities, we were instructed against following this practice. Civilians in fact were writing to American soldiers requesting such information.
Members of the task force had been taking photos around the base and consequently having them developed in the local processing shops of the nearby village of Baria.
This practice of course was ordered to cease, as it was an obvious source of information that the enemy could tap. All ranks had to ensure that pockets of clothing sent out of the base to a laundry were empty as this was another source of information to the enemy. Letters to the press containing military information was also forbidden.
Deafness as a result of gunfire had been a serious problem of the past and we were issued with earmuffs and ordered to wear them. While serving in Malaysia, ear muffs were not worn nor at any time prior to this occasion. This had always been a problem because a gun firing before one was able to ‘stick fingers in ones ears caused great piercing pain and many burst eardrums. Some however were foolish enough, on occasions, to ignore this safeguard and go without them.
Between 1830hrs and 0630hrs at night, shirts with sleeves rolled down had to worn by all officers and soldiers as precaution against Malaria infected mossies.
Trailing edges of “mossie” nets were to be tucked in under mattresses and repellent had to be applied to the skin. Paludrine, the anti-malarial drug, had to be taken twice every day. If Malaria was contracted as a result of not complying with this order the man was considered to have committed an offence under army act 18 (3). This particular routine order was to be read to all ranks once per week. In addition, the American anti Malaria pill, DAPZONE, was to be taken daily, under the same regulations.
Concerning ear infections, soldiers were to ensure that they kept their ears dry as much as possible and were to refrain, (where ears require cleaning) from using soap and water, nor was it acceptable to use a probe of any sort to clean their ears. Soldiers who required their ears to be cleaned (with the exception of external ear cleaning which could be done with a clean dry cloth) were required to report to the regimental aid post.
Personnel proceeding on R & R (Rest and recreation) leave were to report to the regimental aid post in person to receive instruction on the prevention of venereal disease.
All parcels sent to Australia were to be inspected by an Officer prior to signing a declaration form and the parcel being sealed. The parcel was marked:
“THIS PARCEL DOES NOT CONTAIN PROHIBITED MATTER”
Disciplinary action would be taken against any man failing to wear his identification tags.
All vehicles moving outside of the task force base were to remove all canopies and doors. The reason for this was to allow any occupants to alight in a hurry if the situation required.
The establishment known as ‘Kangaroo Corner’ on Route 2 at the northern end of Hoa Long was to be out of bounds at all times to all ranks. The Regimental orderly room was also out of bounds to all ranks, other than RHQ staff, though I suspect for different reasons than ‘Kangaroo Corner’. Representatives of the press had apparently been arriving at the base by “Hitch hiking” on vehicles from Vung Tau. Many of them were people who were not accredited press representatives thus their presence often caused embarrassment and unnecessary inconvenience.
Drivers were instructed not to ‘pick up’ people who were not in possession of proof that they were indeed accredited press people. The two identity cards required as proof were a Vietnamese identity card and a press Identity card issued by MACV, headed as follows:
“United States Military Assistance Commander Vietnam Information Officer”.
It was an offence to wear any type of ring including a wedding ring. The reason for this was bourn out when my no2 gun layer was caught up on a bolt head when leaping from the rear of a vehicle. He almost lost his finger as a result.
There were many more routine orders, concerning hygiene, general cleanliness and treatment of clothing with DBP to prevent scrub typhus. Some of the routine orders seemed irrelevant and indeed some were and mostly ignored. But most were for important reasons no matter how trivial they appeared to be. When one considers that some American soldiers had actually posted home live ammunition, including hand grenades then one did not take routine orders lightly.
One American soldier attempted to swap a Thompson machine gun for my issue 7.62 SLR. Apparently, in the American Army it mattered little what type of weapon you handed in on termination of the tour, or so he told me. He was quite put out when I told him that we had to return the same weapon we had been issued with therefore I could not make such an exchange, despite the US$200 he offered me to go with it.
Acquisition of United States dollars was forbidden except at Australian Task force Vietnam cash officers and they would want to know the reason and where the money came from. We were paid in MPC (military payment documents), which resembled any other paper currency. We were not allowed to convert MPC nor American dollars into Vietnamese currency.
Money was not really needed, well not in any large quantities, so most left their money in their pay books to accumulate, though many drew most of it out on R & R and spent the lot as a result.
Many bars and other facilities around Vung Tau and Baria hoarded the valuable American money, but one day, the money was changed, very secretly, to a different military currency, rendering all money previously issued as redundant and thus worthless. This had a devastating effect on the Vietnamese who had hoarded the now useless currency, and I recall at least one individual committing suicide as a result.
My pay was about A$107.70 per fortnight.
FIRE SUPPORT PATROL BASE (FSPB) THORTON (Operation Kosciusko)
Preparation for the first operation got under way. There was a great deal to do packing stores, ammunition and other equipment ready for the Chinook helicopters to pick up. Many letters were written home and there existed an air of uncertainty. Each man tested his personal weapon, firing a magazine full of ammunition into a pit to ensure that it operated correctly and reliably.
The Batteries first Operation in support of 4RAR/NZ ANZAC BATTALION took place west of the Australian Task Force base, Nui Dat. It was the final acclimatisation Operation for the Battalion before taking part in Task Force Operations.
We, as gunners, were eager to participate though perhaps understandably a little nervous. The battery had prepared well for this Operation but would have teething problems and the establishment of the first FSPB (Fire support patrol base) would not go as smoothly as it was planned.
The operation was called Operation Kosciusko; the Fire Support Patrol base was called “Thorton”. Important lessons would be learned.
The operation went into effect on June 15th, requiring the Battalion to conduct a reconnaissance in force to locate and destroy enemy assets and Viet Cong in the area between the rugged Nui Dinhs and Nui Thai Vais mountain ranges.
It was considered to be a staging and retaining ground for the Viet Cong troops. The terrain was particularly rugged and monsoonal rain and mud hampered deployment.
The batteries task was to set up and occupy FSPB Thorton which would be first secured by B Coy 4RAR who were to deploy in armoured personnel carriers (APC). The aim of the base was to establish the battery in a supporting role for the infantry patrols.
The battery would deploy by Chinook CH-47 Helicopter, which was manufactured by the Vertol Division of the Boeing Company in the USA. It was a twin turbo engine, tandem rotor aircraft designed for the transportation of troops, cargo and weapons during the day and night using visual and instrumentation. The Chinook was powered by either one or two Lycoming T55-L-5 or T55-L-7 shaft driven turbo engines mounted on the aft fuselage. Simultaneously, the engines drove two tandem three-blade rotors through a combining transmission, drive shafting, and reduction transmissions.
A gas turbine auxiliary power unit mounted in the aft pylon section generated hydraulic pressure used to start the engines. A pod carried on either side of the fuselage carried the fuel tank. It was equipped with four non-retractable landing gears.
At the rear of the cabin fuselage was the hydraulically powered loading ramp. The maximum all up weight of the aircraft was 33,000 Lbs. Underneath the cargo hook was capable of carrying underslung loads to a maximum of 16,000 Lbs., and it was from the hook that the guns and stores were normally transported to the deployment sights.
The speed of the aircraft was about 80 Knots, which was achieved by the quite large rotors that were 709ins wide. It could carry a total of 630 gallons of AVTUR fuel and was crewed by a pilot, co-pilot, two gunners manning right and left hand GPMG M60 (General purpose machine guns, 7.62mm). These weapons were manually fired from mounts and free pointing.
As examples of its versatility, it was capable of carrying two 105 Howitzers complete with stores, or two 1/4 ton land rovers, or perhaps three pallets of 105mm ammunition. Unfortunately the APC’s carrying B Coy experienced mechanical problems among other things, and was delayed; the battery guns arrived at FSPB Thorton before the recce party.
The forward observer (an artillery officer), with the company that had cleared the area in readiness for the batteries arrival, had to personally put the guns into preparatory action as a result. Forward observers are the link between the infantry patrols and the gun battery, travelling with the patrols with radio sets.
Battalion Companies Charlie, Delta and Whiskey were supposed to be flown in by Iroquois Helicopter to FSPB Thorton and from were to move out on foot to their respective AOs (Area of operations).
The Army and the RAAF extensively used the Iroquois UH-1B Helicopter. The Squadron (RAAF) based at Vung Tau, as support Squadron for the Task force, operated both the 1B and 1D Model, but was later refitted with the 1H Model.
The aircraft was developed by the Bell Corporation at Fort Worth, Texas, as a utility chopper to bridge the gap between the light observation helicopter (Sioux), and the Chinook CH-47 and Sikorski CH-53A ‘heavy’ Helicopters.
The basic role of the Iroquois was to convey small numbers of troops rapidly to their deployment areas. It was also used to re – supply, evacuate casualties (dust offs) and supply close fire support.
It is an easy aircraft to maintain and can be dismantled for transport by medium aircraft such as the Hercules C130A/E. It had a single 1100 horsepower Lycombe engine giving it a maximum air speed of 120 knots. It normally cruised at 85 to 95 knots. It carried two pilots and two door gunners operating 7.62 GPMG M60’s.
In the role of Gunship, the Iroquois could be configured into many combinations of armament. M-6 Systems had four M60 Machine Guns which were flexible co-pilot fired (6,700 rounds of 7.62mm tracer).
The M-16 kit consisted of the M-6 System plus two 7 turbo 2.75” rocket pods fired by the pilot.
The XM-3 System had two 24 turbo 2.75” rocket pods, which were fired also by the pilot.
The M-5 System, 40mm grenade launcher (150 rounds, 40mm High explosive grenade) fired by the co-pilot.
The M-3/M System had 12 or 18 rocket tubes on each side of the aircraft plus the M-5 System.
In the role of a light fire team there were two gunships fitted with the M-16 Kit and were used mostly to cover convoy movement.
A heavy fire team consisted of two gunships plus another fitted with the M-3M System. This gunship was used where there was intense enemy activity.
Another role of this versatile chopper was as a Command and Control helicopter which carried two ARC-44 radios with console controls allowing the controller to talk to the helicopter command net and to ground stations at the same time.
Battalion (HQ) occupied the summit of Nui Nighe. The trouble B Coy experienced, not only with the APC mechanical problems but with the difficult terrain particularly in such wet conditions, altered these arrangements in that C Coy was air assaulted into the area to secure the ground for the battery to occupy, with D and W Companies.
THE SCIENCE OF THE MOTION OF PROJECTILES
The science of the motion of projectiles is called Ballistics and, to a degree, all field soldiers need to have some understanding of it. To Artillery Gunners in particular, ballistics provides a deeper knowledge of gunnery. With reference to field guns, there are three basic ballistics: Internal, External and Intermediate.
Gunnery is the practical application of ballistics and internal ballistics is to do with what occurs inside the barrel of a gun. External ballistics refers to what occurs outside of the barrel and Intermediate ballistics refers to what happens between; the gap left by the recoil between the round leaving the barrel and the axis of the bore.
The range a round travels is called the horizontal distance and the path described by the centre of gravity by the projectile is called the trajectory.
Time of flight is the time a projectile takes to depart the gun and reach the target (the ballistic point of graze). Drift is the line taken by the projectile due to centrifugal force that causes it to veer to the right through the air.
It drifts to the right rather than the left because of the barrel lans which cause it to spin anti-clockwise.
Effects on the projectile include gravity, weight and shape, muzzle velocity, spin stabiliser, air resistance and the rotation of the earth.
The line of departure is formed by the path the projectile actually takes; The axis of the bore is an invisible line through the centre of the barrel or bore; The line of sight is the line from the sight to the target; the sight not being initially aligned with the barrel as it is mounted to one side and above it and has not been adjusted to compensate for the angles just mentioned, and Jump is the angle between the line of departure and the axis of the bore.
Quadrant elevation is the angle between the axis of the bore and the horizontal plain, (the ground) and the tangent elevation is the angle between the axis of the bore and the line of sight.
Between the line of departure and the line of sight is the angle of projection and the angle of departure is between the line of departure and horizontal plain.
Finally the angle of sight is the angle formed between the line of sight and horizontal plain.
All of these ballistic fundamentals must be calculated to ensure that a gun fires accurately. In addition rounds are fired on one of seven different charges that affect the distance the round will travel to its target.
An instrument called a director is used for setting up a battery of guns to ensure that despite their relative geographical positions, they are all adjusted onto the same target.
The director is used by following a set sequence. First the vernier scale is set to zero and the instrument that resides on a tripod is levelled. With the lower dials the instrument is laid to grid north and using the upper dial, it is laid on two reference points called ROs. The bearings are recorded and RO1 is checked for accuracy with a compass. The centre of ark is then subtracted from the bearings, or where this cannot be done 6400 mils is added.
The angle is set to RO1 on the upper scale and the lower gear is then used to lay-on RO1. As a check using the upper gear RO2 is laid on. The scale is then set to zero with the upper gear and checked with a compass.
The director is then looked through selecting an object to sight on; the bearing centre of ark should then be within 20mils of the reading. The director is now set to read angles to the guns.
A field gun (M2A2) has to be set up over a sight marker and a surveyor using the instrument called a director in co-operation with the number three gunner (gun layer), establishes a centre of arc relative to North.
A field gun is normally required to produce indirect fire, (fire upon an unseen target.) though it can engage a direct target such as an enemy tank. The director measures angles to the dial sight and the surveyor indicates these angles to the gun layer who applies them to the angle scale of the guns dial sight.
All six guns of the battery are set in the same centre of arc that regardless of the geographical position all guns have been recorded along the same line thus are set in parallel to the one point of aim.
Because the guns cannot see the target forward observers (FO’s) are required who can see the target to send back information by radio giving bearings that can be applied to the guns.
The FO indicates the target relative to his own position and the battery position. This information is processed by the GPO (gun position officer) using a plotter maps and other equipment in the command post and relates the information through a tannoy system in the form of commands to the guns. The information is sent from the FO as a back bearing which is converted in the command post, sent to the guns as a bearing where the no 1 (Sgt, gun commander) orders his no 3 (gun layer) to apply the bearing to the dial site bearing scale which is measured in mils.
A GUN BATTERY
The Battery commander (Major) is seldom seen on the gun position. He is responsible for Tactical planning, administration and technical applications. He is the adviser to the Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer and provides artillery liaison, arranging for battery fire to be produced where and when required. He is responsible for the detailed preparation and implementation of fire planning. (Tactical plans).
The FDC (fire direction centre) is organised by the Battery Commander (BC). The FDC consists of the BC, Mortar platoon Commander, RAAC LOC, and Air Supply. The BC will provide artillery communications and if required observation and fire control.
The forward observer (FO) provides artillery advice and liaison to the infantry Company commander. He provides artillery communications passes on tactical information and is responsible for provisions and observation of fire control over his area of responsibility. He produces quick fire plans and assists with fire planning originated by the BC. The FO commander is normally a Captain.
The BK, (battery captain) is responsible for the defence of the gun position. He would also command the battery against any ground attack. He ensures the maintenance and servicing records of the guns. He is responsible for all supply and motor transport matters. He may select the gun position to be used himself and he organises air movement.
The GPO (gun position officer), normally a 1st Lieutenant, has the technical command of the gun area and gives technical advice to the BC. He is responsible for the deployment of the guns and arranges for fire to be produced when required.
The Section Commander (2nd lieutenant) acts as a battery leader during motor transport road moves; he also has technical duties on the gun line. He commands a sector of the battery in the event of a ground attack. He also carries out the task of duty officer in the command post.
The BSM (battery sergeant major) commands the wagon lines and assists the BK with administration. He is responsible for the supply of ammo. He is also used as the duty officer and is responsible for general discipline.
The BG (Battery Guide), who is also a Warrant Officer, acts as another section commander and duty officer. He ensures that vehicles are dispersed in the wagon lines and keeps them clear of the guns.
A gun detachment, sometimes referred to as a gun crew, consists of seven men called gun numbers.
The No1 is the gun commander, Sergeant. The No. 2, being a gunner who occupies a position on the right hand side of a gun, adjusts for range, opens and closes the breach and fires the gun by pulling a lanyard attached to the firing mechanism.
The No3 is the gun ‘layer’. He operates the gun dial sight, applies bearings and lays the gun by traversing and levelling bubbles to the target bearing.
Gun numbers 4, 5 and 6 load the gun and the No7 is the gun Bombardier (2ic) who is responsible for the preparation and maintenance of ammunition. He sets the fuses on the rounds and determines which ammunition will be used. He shares the command of the gun alternatively with the gun Sergeant in combat conditions.
The gun, (the colours) is an M2A2 105mm Howitzer that fires a 33Ib round over a distance of over seven miles.
Rounds are fitted with various fuses that are screwed into the point of the round that contains high explosive (HE). The M51 fuse is used with the standard HE round and can be set to a delay of.05.
The HEM51 is a point detonating round, which means that it will explode on point impact with the target. Some fuses can be fitted that set a time for detonation to take place, such as the time and super quick fuses (MTSQ) M520, M500.
Some rounds are base detonating, such as Illumination 314 which blows out canisters from the base that contain flares which light the sky hanging from small parachutes.
Other rounds and fuses are WP M60 (white phosphorous), SMK M84 (Smoke, base ejection), HEAT M67 and HESH (HEP M5327 high explosive plastic).
The inner core explosive is TNT, which is triggered by a disruptive initiator in the nose of the fuse interacting with an intermediary booster to ignite the bursting charge (TNT).
The round is ‘semi fixed’ consisting of two parts: shell (burst and carrier) and cartridge (case M14, steel 5.4Ib, propellant, cap and primer.) The round is supersonic in shape: Charge bag propellant is FNH dual grain.
The round used for local defence is called splintex XM565, which contains 8,000 steel ‘flechettes’.
Each cartridge case contains 7 bags of cordite numbered 1 to 7 and adjoined together by a single length of cord. The bags are referred to as charge bags.
If the order to the guns given is “charge 7” then all seven bags remain in the cartridge giving maximum explosive power.
Depending on the range to the target (elevation of the gun) a particular charge is ordered. Charge 4 would mean that bags 5, 6 and 7 would be removed from the cartridge before it is ‘married’ to the shell and loaded into the breach of the gun. The cartridge is centre detonated by a .22 detonator set in the base.
A FIELD REGIMENT
A field regiment is controlled by regimental head quarters, (RHQ), which normally contains five officers, ten ordinary ranks and a four-wheel drive 3/4 ton vehicle. There are four batteries, three being gun batteries. The other is Head Quarter battery, which has five officers and seventy-six ordinary ranks (ORs). A gun battery has six field guns (L5 or M2A2) twelve ¾ ton vehicles and one hundred and nine ORs. Batteries may be divided into sections of three guns and three 3/4-ton vehicles.
A service section, a signal troop and an administration troop as well as having an observation section, services the regiment.
In all there are thirty-four officers, four hundred and thirteen ORs, eighteen 105 mm guns, forty ¾ ton vehicles and thirty-six GPMG M60s. These figures, of course, are not stable and units serving overseas may have very different configurations.
Whiskey Coy moved to the base of the Nui Dinhs, and D Coy moved into a valley between the Nui Dinhs and the Nui Thai Vais. Finally B Coy managed to reach Thorton to allow C Coy to deploy to the northeast of the Nui Vais.
Charlie Coy made the first enemy contact, resulting in two VC being killed. VC caretaker groups put up stiff opposition against Whiskey Coy, but the company managed to reach the installations being defended. Charlie Coy located a battalion-sized camp and the Assault pioneers were called up to destroy the bunkers. Many other bunkers and camps were located and destroyed in like manner.
Although Delta Coy covered a great deal of ground they failed to contact any enemy.
Whiskey and Delta Coys moved to an area on route 15 to be transported back to Nui Dat by road, while Bravo Coy and the gun battery were extracted by air.
The gun battery had experienced the difficulties associated with the wet weather, as indeed had the battalion, but the base had been established without a lot of drama.
Night probes on the base perimeter contributed to a nervous night for the gunners and the battalion patrols had tasted the fervour of the enemy.
The discomfort of sleeping in dugouts in the wet was something they had to get used to. The extent and complexity of the VC camps was viewed with amazement, the intricate establishment of bunkers and pathways worthy of admiration.
The battalion had killed two enemy soldiers on this, their first operation and wounded another: they had lost one man wounded themselves (indeed this was a war of the body count). The operation ended on June 20th and the Battalion was now considered ready to conduct Task Force Operations.
The defensive strategy of a gun battery is similar to that of an infantry unit. At first light, or immediately before, all troops stand to while clearing patrols are sent out to circle the perimeter of the position.
Stand down is not given until the patrols return and daylight has appeared. After stand down gun maintenance is conducted, the strong points checked and manned and ammunition and personal weapons are cleaned and checked. Section commanders then conduct an inspection of all weapons and take notes on any requirements in the gun positions.
Washing, shaving and other domestic requirements are carried out and the medic or section commander checks feet for rashes and attends to any other medical requirement. Water bottles and supplies are replenished and sterilised. Breakfast is cooked and eaten and the anti malaria pills, Paludrine and Dapzone are supervisory distributed.
The position is made clean and all weapons, ammunition and other equipment are placed where it is ready available for instant use. Personal clothing and equipment is checked and new issues given out.
The gun commanders and gun position and section officers attend the mornings orders group and the soldiers continue filling sandbags and strengthening the position. Wire parties go out to continue erecting the perimeter wire, and the ammunition group deliver ammunition to the guns.
After lunch the work continues, and the command post checks its radio sets, batteries and other equipment for serviceability.
As night approaches sleeves are rolled down “mossie” repellent is applied and bedding, is placed in the sleeping pits. Hoochies, which are taken down in the morning, are erected after stand down at night. Before evening stand to, a meal is eaten and equipment and weapons are checked and placed where they dugouts not impede movement but remain obtainable.
The night roster for the sentries for the strong points (which are never unmanned) is drawn up; sentries are never relieved simultaneously The day ends with stand to, patrols out, patrols in, and then stand down. It is normally then that the enemy begin to move and the batteries guns begin to fire missions throughout the night.
The Infantry battalion is a rather complex but self-sufficient unit, controlled by Battalion Headquarters (BHQ). BHQ consists normally of the Commanding officer and his staff, Intelligence and Regimental Police.
The Battalion generally consists of four rifle companies, an administration company and a Support company. Administration Company consists of a Coy HQ, a Medical Platoon and Quartermaster platoon.
The Regimental Medical Officer, who is a doctor (RMO), commanded the Medical Platoon. It contains medical staff such as stretcher-bearers, medical assistants, hygiene duty men and ambulances for the evacuation of casualties. The platoon sets up and operates the regimental aid post (RAP) and company aid posts (CAPs).
The Quartermaster (QM) commands the Quartermaster platoon. The platoon consists of storemen, mechanics, small arms fitters, caterer, postal orderly and mess stewards. It is responsible for the issue of clothing, weapons, radio sets, stores, petroleum, etc., and carries out minor repairs to vehicles, equipment and weapons.
The support company consists of HQ, the mortar platoon, anti – tank/tracker platoon, signal platoon and Assault pioneer platoon.
The mortar platoon is like a mini gun battery, except that it is divided into three sections, each equipped with 81mm mortars. The bombs weigh 10Lbs each and are normally High Explosive (HE) or Smoke. The 81mm mortar can drop a bomb as close as 150 metres and has a maximum range of about 4,000 metres.
The signal platoon operates the radio sets on the command net and provides spare sets for the battalion. They also provide lines of communication between BHQ and the companies.
The anti tank/tracker platoon has four detachments and a HQ and are equipped with 106mm recoilless rifles (RCL). These weapons can immobilise any known tank over a range of 1, 200 metres. Anti tank grenades and 3.5 inch rocket launchers are also part of the weaponry of the Antitank/tracker Platoon.
The Assault pioneer platoon is equipped with a variety of hand tools, explosives, power drills, saws, shovels and reconnaissance boats. They also have the capability of disarming land mines and marking mine fields. In a sense they are a small engineer unit capable of many different functions.
The four rifle companies each consist of about 200 soldiers who make up the four rifle platoons, four assault platoons and HQ.
Soldiers of the rifle companies and all units in general are equipped with the 7.62 SLR (self loading rifle) which weighs 10 pounds, has a battle range of 300 metres and a magazine that holds 20 rounds. A proficient soldier can fire up to 40 well-aimed shots per minute.
Officers and NCOs were issued with the M16 Armourlite, as were forward scouts and radio operators. Officers also carried a 9mm Browning Automatic pistol.
The 9mm F1 Carbine, which replaced the old Owen gun (OMC), was issued to some of the gun battery NCOs, but was generally rejected by most being underpowered and often quite useless.
The standard hand Grenade is the M26 Fragmentation grenade for all field soldiers. The M26 grenade is a high explosive anti – personal grenade with an effective casualty radius of 15 metres. Some fragments might be thrown a distance of 180 metres from the point of burst. The grenade is used mostly for clearing dugouts, buildings and slit trenches, but it can be used in all types of close quarter conflict, such as street fighting, night fighting and ambushes. When the grenade is thrown the soldier must shout ‘GRENADE’, to warn his comrades that it has been thrown.
The M26 grenade is a metal container with a seam around the middle and is shaped like a lemon. The outer case is lined with a coil of serrated wire and filled with five and a half ounces of high explosive. The inner case seals the HE and provides the opening in to which the fuse assembly is screwed.
The fuse assembly is a mechanical and chemical device that has the effect of causing the HE to detonate. During operation the fuse is silent, sparkless and smokeless. The safety lever is held in position outside the grenade body by a safety pin. The grenade weighs one pound.
This grenade can also be launched from rifles using the grenade projection adapter M1A2 and L1A2 resulting in an effective range of 160 metres. Another common grenade is the M34 WP SMOKE Grenade (white phosphorous). It is used in the same way as the M26. Other grenades cause coloured smoke.
Booby traps are not only used by the enemy: far from it.
Normally such a trap takes the form of the baited trap, the snare, and the double bluff and indeed can be a combination of all three.
In setting booby traps certain principals are observed. Obviously, a trap needed to be concealed, particularly the mechanisms and charges; the idea being to make them resemble some harmless object.
It was important not to disturb the surrounding area, and all traces of disturbance had to be hidden or concealed. The more constricted the site, the more there is a chance of it being sprung and the greater the difficulty in detection and clearance.
Any form of defile is therefore a suitable site to set a booby trap. Dummies are used frequently to throw the enemy off the scent, with more than one live one being set up.
One method is the use of the double bluff, where one trap is made obvious to detract from the well concealed one nearby.
Traps are often set up in obstacles that, when moved, effect activation. Souvenirs, food, pictures, musical instruments, drink containers and weapons are some of the items used to operate a trap. The opening of a door, window, gate, or closing such items might trigger a trap, the telephone, light switches and oven doors.
Some traps have delay action charges, others are instantaneous. Some are triggered by the pull of a wire others by loosening.
Modern technology provides scope for many ingenious devises. A loose floorboard provides a method to trigger a pressure switch activated by a person stepping on it.
The same idea can be used below a railway track to destroy a train passing over it the downward pressure activating the mechanism.
Pull switches work with trip wires and release switches, for example a chair is left in a place where when moved releases a switch under one of its legs, thus activated.
Release switches are used effectively in draws of cupboards extraction of the draw releasing the trigger mechanism held in place behind it.
Simple techniques can be adapted with the use of electric contact traps. A doorknob when turned can cause an explosion with the use of a metal container strapped to the knob containing a ball bearing, which rolls onto the contacts when the door is opened by turning the knob.
Many simple electric devices are “pull and release” traps. An electric light torch filled with ball bearings and explosive can be set to explode when switched on; a water melon containing explosive and wired in such a way that when a knife passes through it completes the circuit thus causing it to explode.
©Copyright 2004 by Colin F. Jones