What did Vietnam Soldiers carry?

US Infantrymen (grunts) carried either a rifle (M-16), or a machine gun (M-60, belt fed), or an M-79 grenade launcher. If the grunt was a radio operator (RTO-Radio Telephone Operator) he also carried a radio ON HIS BACK.

Medics, (whom may or may not have been authorized to carry arms, usually carried an M-16 or a .45 pistol).

Straight leg infantry (grunts) were issued back packs (RUCK sacks) with round edged aluminum frames. Airmobile and Airborne grunts could be issued those packs too. Mechanized Infantrymen were not issued RUCK sacks or bayonets, if they were; they were turned in later in the war.

All straight leg grunts carried an average of about 6 (1 qt) green plastic canteens attached to their rucks and at least 1 metal canteen cup which was used for either heating food or water. Straight leggers also carried 3 to 6 or more hand grenades and a maybe a bayonet. Plus 100 or 200 rounds of machinegun ammo, and two to four bandoliers of M-16 ammo (seven M-16 magazine pockets to the bandolier, each magazine normally loaded with only 18 rounds of 5.56mm; capacity was 20 rounds, but to preserve the magazine’s spring it was compressed with only18 rounds). All of these items were carried in the extreme humidity, thru knee deep mud, and up jungle strewn hill tops.

Straight leg (called light infantry today) infantry carried everything they owned in their rucksacks.

Most straight leg grunts carried maybe 5 to 10 canteens of water (1 qt bottles), 3 to 5 frags (hand grenades), 1 or more smoke grenades, a bandolier of M60 ammo for the machine gunner, 3 or more M16 bandoliers (7 magazine pouches per bandolier-20 round magazines), 2 or 3 C-Ration meals, possibly a claymore mine with its clacker and wire (50 footer), possibly some trip flares for NDPs (night defensive positions), a poncho, a poncho liner, an air mattress, 10-20 empty sandbags…his steel pot (M1 helmet) and an extra pair of socks or two didn’t weigh nothing…cigarettes were in his pockets and helmet band, as was his lighter or matches…of all of that material…it was the water that weighed the most.

In the above described case; the poor M-60 machine gunners and the RTOs had extra weight to carry (Machine gun and Radio).

Average weight carried by infantrymen in Vietnam was (+-) 85 pounds. Numbers below.

2 Frag grenades – 2 lb.,
2 Smoke grenades – 3 lb.,
1 claymore mine – 3.5 lb.,
Helmet – 5 lb.,
Boots – 2 lb.,
Poncho and liner 3 lb.,
Entrenching tool (shovel) – 5 lb.,
M-16 ammo – 14 lb.,
200 hundred M60 ammo in can – 13 lb.,
Rifle – 7.5 lb.,
Machete – 3lb,.
Sandbags (empty) – 4 lb.,
3-4 days C-rations 6 lb.,
1 1/2 gal. Water – 12 lbs.

Adds up to 79 + pounds.

Additionally a fire team shared equipment to include a full sized shovel, a full sized pick (maybe), starlight scope, LAW and radio batteries, for about another 7 lb.

Charlie Company humped that load 7 days a week on a yearlong back packing trip in very rugged country. We did not wear flak jackets because of the heat and heavy load. I believe most if not all Army light infantry units carried the same load in the same conditions of high heat and humidity.

I was there.

There was no average number; you carried everything you could carry. 15 loaded mags were standard. If we were shaky we carried two bandoliers. That was besides the 6 mags in pouches. If you had to make a choice between food and ammo you took ammo. The machine gunner carried two or three belts and everyone else in the squad carried an extra belt. There was a reason they called us “Grunts”.

SOURCE: wiki.answers.com

30 thoughts on “What did Vietnam Soldiers carry?

  1. Some C-rations were immediately dumped. Scrambled eggs (I guess this where Dr. Seuss got the idea for Green Eggs and Ham) and ham and lima beans in particular never were carried. Also, the poncho was rolled around a mortar or artillery round cannister (a plastic tube with a screw on top) which served as a water tight container for things that needed to be kept dry.


  2. Dear Baldy – when we dumped the C-Rats we didn’t like we would either puncture or open the can and then bury it so the NVA or VC would think twice before eating all that great chow. Many times we would put them in the bottom of the bunker before we moved out and then empty the sandbags on the opened cans. I had completely forgotten about the scrambled eggs, to me they were the worst, even more than ham and lima beans.


    • I did read somewhere that GIs of Hispanic backgrounds liked the ham and lima beans,is this true.Back at base what would be an average GIs favourite meal?


      • Back at base the favorite was anything hot since in the field we ate C-Rations. Some called it hot food since we would make a stove out of an empty can, put in a heating tablet and heat the C-Rations, but it wasn’t the same. At base it was great to have milk and ice cream. I personally dreamed of having McDonald’s french fries when I returned to the world.


  3. Look up “Ed Nored” for a full idea. Had no idea the grunts carried full size shovels in the boonies. Then things must’ve got in the way more than anything else.


    • They were short shafted with rounded handle. We didn’t call them a shovel, we called it a “D-handle”. There was one for each fire team, two to a squad. The dug in every night, and e-tool would not have handled the work. We passed it around taking turns carrying it.

      A Co., 2nd Bat., 5th Cav, 1st Cav Division


  4. I always liked the beans and meatballs and the pound cake.
    Don’t forget that the medic always carried an M3, and sometimes an M5 bag for of medical gear.


  5. How many grunts in all our wars have ran out of ammo? There’s only so much weight a man can carry, troops went from 7.62 rounds (27 per pound) to todays 5.56 (37 per pound). Many of those bullets weren’t aimed but used as supression, i submit that half (or more) men carry 3 pound ruger 10/22 rifles (136 rounds per pound), toss in a 1 pound .22 target pistol. “They” said the m16 was too small for war. A scoped 10/22 can hit a thumbtack at 200 yards and have 132 bullets left in that pound. A bullet hole is going to knock out an enemy, no matter what size it is. Just throwing it out there for thoughts.


    • The .22LR cartridge hilariously beyond too anemic for use as a cartridge in maneuver warfare.

      Without addressing the issues of the inherent unreliability of rimfire ignition of the propellant as opposed to centerfire primers, its almost total inability to defeat barrier materials, its uselessness against any sort of personal armor whatsoever, and with the most effective sort of .22LR ammunition banned by the Hague Convention for doctrinal usage in armed conflict…

      Let’s look at the ballistics. At 100 yards, you’re looking at over a foot of drop. At 200, you’re looking at holding up nearly five feet. At this point it’s traveling at less than 1000 feet per second, At 100 yards, you’re down to less than 75 foot-pounds of energy. You have a BZO of about 50 meters.

      Past 100 yards, to have even a hope of striking your target, you need to know fairly precisely what your range is. If you’re off by even 25 yards at a distance of 200? Your bullet’s off point of aim by at least a foot from bullet drop alone.

      At this range, you’re looking at less than four inches of deviation from a 5.56x45mm cartridge, and it’s traveling a whole hell of a lot faster when it gets there, hitting a hell of a lot armor (and punching through armor), and doing horrible damage to soft tissue on impact.

      With the 10/22, at that distance, if you hit something, you’re lodging a small round at low velocity into tissue and creating what is essentially a minor puncture wound in something as large as a human being.

      All told, you’re looking at something that is – at best – a 75-yard rifle. A scope might take it out to 125 yards or so if you’ve got your range estimation down solid, or if you didn’t go for a traditional BZO, though at that point anything forward or behind is going to be eating shit for elevation and drop.

      Tacks at 200 yards my ass. Maybe if you’re sitting at a KD range and have absolutely nothing else happening, plinking at a static target.

      There’s also that if you use anything besides the little 10-round rotary magazines the rifle’s designed for, they have a tendency to bind up and shit themselves, on top of being hideously unreliable. That anything offered here would be something besides a step down in capability and survivability of small unit infantry is utterly laughable.

      Besides, suppression’s only effective if your rounds are going on target. Stop hitting, and the enemy very quickly loses any and all reason to duck. Even when laying down suppressing fire, it is not the noise of your burst, or the smoke you make. It is the hits that count.


  6. The PRC-25 radio with carrying rack, battery, and antenna weighed about 30 lbs. When the PRC 25 was connected to a KY 38 or 57 companion speech encryption device with X-mode connecting cable (then called a PRC 77) it weighed an additional 25lbs. Sometimes both were carried by the RTO, other times two soldiers each carried one part of the set connected by its 4 foot cable. (Never allow the NESTOR or later VINSON encryption device to be lost to the enemy.) Not all straight legs had the AN/PRC 77.


  7. I ever had heartburn till I ate Army rations. I liked em but I swear the c.i.a. Or somebody up there was putting something in my food. To this day my stomach is a mess but I’ll eat those canned rations even now. My grad kids are fussy and toss food simply because they dont like it. I musta even a dog in a past life.


  8. Iam dam proud of all you men and women who was there in vietnam iam sorry for the way you was treaded when you came home
    If i was around i would of made you glad to be home what ever you had to do to survive to come home well iam glad your home
    I served in the marines 1div 3batt 11th marines indio battery 198 howitzer never went no wear but iam proud of all service men and women you served
    Semper fi


  9. Very interesting article, thank you! I actually searched what men carried in Vietnam, so I guess the article and all of your comments answered my question. I have such curiousity because I was born in the early 80’s, my grandfather served in WWII and my dad just missed Vietnam by the time he was old enough to enlist. I used to LOVE hearing my grandfather’s stories before he passed but now I want to know about this war. I have some uncles who were there, they all got medals and stuff and were wounded etc.. but it was only recently where I realized just how much they went through. Thank you all for serving, there are no words for the amount of respect I have for each of you.


  10. For me, Light weapons infantry, 11B, pants in socks for leaches etc. Elephant grass like razor blades, even though it was hot we were ordered to keep our uniform shirts. Unless you were on point weapons were on safe, thumb on safety and finger on trigger. we carried 2 magazine loaded bandoliers and 2 bandoliers of reloads. Our company had a foot locker with loaded mags that were flown in a few times during a fire fight. ! claymore mine with wires and fire piece. 100 belt of rounds for the M60. A few trip flares and sticks for nighttime positions. Grenades from 2 to 6 depending, smoke grenades to guide in choppers or gun ships. We carried c rations -usually resupplied every day but not always. Only 1 canteen of water. you never slept the whole night depending on your position and how many were with you, you woke for guard duty. sometimes only once but sometimes every other hour.


  11. You forgot 60 mm mortars. We humped with the grunts. We never had point or tail end chaley. We took 3rd plt position. We carried the gun (tube), bipod, and ammo. Humpers carried 3 or 4 rounds and sometime grunts would carry some. I always considered us grunts. We manned holes in the perimeter at night. Humped alongside everyone else and lobbed mortars if the riflemen needed support. I’d guess the weight to be between 75 to 100 lbs. Semper Fi. Fox 2/7 2nd battalion 7th Marines 1st MarDiv.


  12. Yes I was a 11B lucky enough to get assigned to a PRick 25 the day 9 of us were dropped on the top of hill a temporary LZ or Logger site. I figured about 85 lbs. with the extra battery. Does anyone remember being issued as part of a very small aid kit, a capsule of morphine with specific instructions it was only to be used in the event of a severe wound to temper excruciating pain?? I cannot seem to find anyone of my fellow BBBravo brothers 50 years later that remember ever seeing this pill?? Everyone does remember the big Horse Pill we were suppose to take every day to prevent malaria ??


  13. The large orange malaria pill was taken weekly and the small white ones were taken daily . Battalion SOP was you didn’t leave the field until your temperature hit 104 degrees. Once you reached this half dead point it was on to the field hospital for a rubber cot and ice cubes. Then you got a refrigerated bed for 3-5 days and wished the whole time that you had died instead.
    My unit carried machetes, shovels, pick axes, axes and 15 sand bags per man. We dug in every night with overhead required on bunkers. Fill in the holes every morning and move out. We moved everyday except during monsoon rains and the closest we got to a break was “palace guard” at a firebase. I spent 11 months and 15 days in the boonies and saw base camp in Pleiku (Camp Enari) three times in a year. Those times were going to my unit from Cam Ranh Bay, R & R and going home.
    I often laugh to myself when vets from other units complain that they had to run 3-7 day missions before
    getting back to base camp for barracks, showers and hot chow
    Maddog 3/3 C Co. 1/12th 4th Infantry “Red Warriors”


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