The Rules of War

I found the following story on the Internet.  After reading it I wanted to share it with you since it is a great description of what faced the infantry soldier in Vietnam.

The Rules of War

By David Billingslee

After the battle, first, you wiped away the mud and the blood, took out your dead and wounded. Then the emotions came out and you began to think about the next time. Combat is the dark and brutal heart of war, where soldiers meet face to face on killing grounds. It is the maker of heroes and cowards and all colors of characters in between. It has been called man’s ultimate experience. It certainly was an experience I will never forget.

Combat is noisy, confusing, and very scary. If a man says that he’s not scared in a combat situation, he’s either a fool or a liar. Combat in Vietnam seems to hold an extra measure of fear and confusion because it was so often fought at close quarters in dense vegetation with a frequently invisible enemy. Much has been written about the big battles of the Vietnam War, like the battles of Saigon and Hue in 1968 and the Siege of Khe Sahn and the fight for Hamburger Hill, but those were exceptional in Vietnam.

Day to day war was fought by small groups of soldiers in small places, nameless battlegrounds where the fight was very close, intense and deadly. In the military there is a rule to live by especially in a war zone: Never stand when you can sit. Never sit when you can lie down. Never stay awake if you can sleep because you never know when your next chance will come. And the first rule of combat is KEEP YOUR ASS DOWN! Stay low and get whatever you can between yourself and the guys who are shooting at you.

When the enemy rounds are coming in, there’s no such thing as too much cover. I recall when we came under small arms fire, the lieutenant and I took cover behind some wooden crates, Lieutenant muttered to me, “You realize of course, that if these crates were filled with corn flakes we would be in a world of trouble.” I replied “At least they’re not filled with live explosives!” Lieutenant said, “You do have a good point there.”

Going out into the field in Vietnam could mean a number of things, none of them easy or pleasant. The field was where the war was, where Charlie was, and we, the soldiers of the Red Devil Brigade, went out to find him and fight him. Depending on what kind of outfit you were in, the way to go into the field might be by air, on a boat, in wheeled or tracked vehicles. We were mechanized infantry, sometimes we rode on top of the APC (armored personnel carriers), but that was a little dangerous, so we used our own two feet to get the job done. Making our way through the jungle, hauling a heavy combat load through rice fields, across rivers, up steep hills and mountains, through jungles and elephant grass, in mud, sand, or dust, under a cruel sun or in a monsoon rain is what we called “humping the boonies.” Sometimes it was a walk in the sun, a Sunday drive, but no one called it that until the unit was back at base camp, because at any point, any number of bad things could happen.

At every step were the myriad dangers of Vietnam, ambush, booby traps, landmines, and snipers. Many combat infantry soldiers like me were sent into the field on their first day in Vietnam and rarely left it until they went home. We spent virtually our entire tour humping the boonies or setting up night ambushes and could count on our fingers the numbers of nights we slept on something as luxurious as a folding cot.

The Army brass called us the ultimate weapon. Infantrymen are the ones who do the dirty work of war. The uniforms and the weapons have changed, but the job of the foot soldier has changed hardly at all. We are the ones who have to muck it out with the enemy at close range, the ones who ultimately conquer and hold or lose the real estate.

In Vietnam, the foot soldiers picked up a new nickname, (grunts) whether in the field with a squad or a platoon or even a battalion, the combat soldier could feel very much alone in the thick jungle and tall grasses. One of the loneliest and spookiest jobs in the army was walking point in Vietnam. It was a tough job but we are the infantry, the grunts, and the life line of the army. The job of the infantry is to move forward, to attack, whether it means crossing an open field, inching up a battle scarred hill, or penetrating the thick jungles where visibility could sometimes be no more than a yard or two. Carry on, soldiers!

Source: Vietnamwarstories

The Red Devil Brigade

Helicopters in Vietnam

The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.

The helicopter ushered in a radically different way of fighting a war: instead of armies engaging each other across vast fronts, advancing slowly, and holding ground, the U.S. Army would quickly carry troops into hostile territory and deploy them, then removing them after the fighting ended. While the overall strategy was questionable—no territory was ever really held—the tactic was often very successful. Helicopters offered high mobility for troops and a tremendous element of surprise. An enemy that had been sitting unchallenged for days or weeks could suddenly, without warning, find itself under assault from troops brought in by helicopter. Large troop transport helicopters like the CH-47 Chinook were developed for this purpose, but the workhorse UH-1 Huey became the most popular helicopter for moving troops into and out of battle.

The Army also used armed helicopters to support ground troops, eventually fielding dedicated helicopter gunships like the AH-1 Cobra. A helicopter could be equipped with guns, grenade launchers, rockets, or even guided missiles, and provide rapid and wide-ranging fire against an adversary on the ground. By the middle of the war, the helicopter had become as important to the Army as the tank, the armored personnel carrier, and the jeep, and the Huey was the most symbolic weapon of the Vietnam War.

“Air mobility” came at a heavy price, however. During the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1973, the United States lost 4,869 helicopters to all causes (with more than a thousand lost in 1968 and another thousand in 1969). Fifty-three percent of these losses were due to enemy fire (including enemy attacks on airbases). The rest resulted from operational accidents. The high rate of operational accidents occurred largely because helicopters are prone to mechanical breakdown if not regularly maintained, and during a war, maintenance often suffers. Vietnam’s heavy jungle canopy also made helicopter operations difficult, with few places to land a stricken helicopter.

MEDEVAC helicopters flew nearly 500,000 missions. Over 900,000 patients were airlifted (nearly half were American). The average time lapse between wounding to hospitalization was less than one hour. As a result, less than one percent of all Americans wounded who survived the first 24 hours died. [VHPA 1993]

The helicopter provided unprecedented mobility. Without the helicopter it would have taken three times as many troops to secure the 800 mile border with Cambodia and Laos (the politicians thought the Geneva Conventions of 1954 and the Geneva Accords or 1962 would secure the border) [Westmoreland]

Approximately 12,000 helicopters saw action in Vietnam (all services). [VHPA databases]

Army UH-1’s totaled 9,713,762 flight hours in Vietnam between October 1966 and the end of American involvement in early 1973. [VHPA databases]

Army AH-1G’s totaled 1,110,716 flight hours in Vietnam. [VHPA databases]

It is believed that the Huey along with the Huey Cobra had more combat flight time than any other aircraft in the history of warfare assuming you count actual hostile fire exposure versus battle area exposure.  As an example, heavy bombers during World War II most often flew missions lasting many hours with only 10 to 20 minutes of that time exposed to hostile fire.  Helicopters in Vietnam seldom flew above 1,500 feet which is traffic pattern altitude for bombers and were always exposed to hostile fire even in their base camps.

Military Mottos – Unofficial

Funny “unofficial” Military Mottos
These “mottos” are NOT meant to offend anyone.
They are just jokes…
                       

“The last to know and the first to be blamed”
– Communications Division

“YOU CAN TALK ABOUT US, BUT YOU CAN’T TALK WITHOUT US!”
– Signal Corps

“The best care anywhere”
– 4077 MASH (TV show)

“Nothing happens until something moves”
– US Army Transportation Center.

“You have to go out out. You don’t have to come back.”

“Support Search and Rescue, get lost”

“When you have a Target that has to be Suppressed, Neutralized or Destroyed – Right Now!”
“You Yell, We Shell”
– Unofficial Motto – Fire Support Element, 40th ID (M)

“You didn’t see me, I wasn’t there, and I’m not here now!”
– U.S. Navy Communication Technicians (spooks)

“What are they gonna do? Send us home?”
– 6th Communication Battalion

“Without Weapons, It’s just another airline.”
– USAF Weapons, Air Force Weapons troops are known as Load Toads

“We may not be the ‘Pride of the Air Force,’ but without us; the Pride don’t Ride!”
“No Excuses! No Second Chances! If being a Vehicle Operator was fun, everyone would want to be one!”
“You’re not ‘Miss Daisy;’ so don’t call me ‘driver.'”
“They have taught monkey’s to fly, but they never taught them to drive!”
“Nothing happens until something moves!”
– USAF Vehicle Ops, Air Force Vehicle Ops troops are known as Roadwarriors

“Box Kickers & Label Stickers.”
– USAF Supply

“WITH LOVE FROM A RUBBER GLOVE”
– 314 MEDICAL GROUP LITTLE ROCK AFB AR

“You can talk about us, but you can’t talk without us!”
“No Comm, no Bomb!”
– 37th Communications Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base Texas

“The US Coast Guard has done so much with so little for so long, that We can do everything with nothing, forever.”
– US Coast Guard

“Drive it like you stole it”
– Transport Units

“It takes a college education to fly it but a high school education to fix it!”
– Army Aviation

“What are they going to do, send me to the field?  I am in the field”

– SP4 Fast Freddy

“Spooky”

The Douglas AC-47: Puff the Magic Dragon, Vietnam Gunship

AC-47 Vietnam Call Sign: “Spooky”

Background

In the early-1960s, the Air Force Systems Command began experimenting with fixed-wing, side-firing weapons systems for possible use in Vietnam. By 1964, the first gunship conversion of a World War II Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport was completed under the Project Gunship I program. Initially designated FC-47D (Fighter-Cargo), it was later changed to AC-47D (Attack-Cargo).

On 15 December 1964, the AC-47D, using the call sign “Spooky”, was introduced into combat in Southeast Asia. It was an instant success in breaking up enemy attacks on hamlets and other defensive positions, and within a year, substantial numbers of the rehabilitated “Gooney Birds” were in action throughout the region.

Following the highly successful Project Gunship I combat test program, the U.S. Air Force created the 4th Air Commando Squadron (ACS) in August 1965 as the first operational unit equipped with “Spooky” gunships. Although the 4th ACS was based at Tan Son Nhut AB, it deployed from several forward operating locations throughout South Vietnam (Bien Hoa, Pleiku, Na Trang, Da Nang and Can Tho). In November 1965, the 4th ACS (tailcode EN) was assigned 16 operational aircraft with four more assigned as “advanced attrition” aircraft. Within two years, the 4th ACS and the newly formed 3rd ACS (tailcode EL) were serving under the 14th Air Commando Wing (ACW). In August 1968, the unit designations were changed from “Air Commando” to “Special Operations” (SOS/SOW).

A total of fifty-three C-47Ds were converted for use as gunships during the Vietnam War. Although the AC-47D “Spooky”, commonly referred to as “Puff” (as in “Puff the Magic Dragon”), was an effective attack system, it was also vulnerable to enemy fire. Fifteen aircraft were lost between December 1965 and September 1969.

Features 

The AC-47D was equipped with three 7.62mm SUU-11A Gatling Miniguns mounted in the fifth and sixth windows on the port side of the fuselage and in the aft passenger/cargo door area. Approximately 16,500 rounds of ammunition was carried on a typical mission. Note: The SUU-11As were later replaced by specially designed 7.62mm General Electric MXU-470/A Gatling Miniguns.

For night missions, the aircraft carried approximately 48 MK-24 Mod 3 flares. Each flare could last up to three minutes and produce a light magnitude of two million candlepower. The delivery system was extremely simple, the loadmaster armed and dropped each flare out the cargo door when the pilot signaled by flashing a cargo compartment light. Note: Initially, 30 MK-6 flares of 750,000 candlepower were carried before the MK-24 flares were available.

Airspeed during attack maneuvers was normally 120 knots indicated air speed (KIAS). With the Miniguns firing at a rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, aerial coverage was provided over an elliptical area approximately 52 yards in diameter, placing a projectile within every 2.4 yards during a three-second burst.

A modified adaption of the Douglas C-47 Cargo plane by fitting it with 7.62 mm mini guns that could fire up to 6,000 rounds per minute. The convenience of cargo space allowed for the gunship to carry 54,000 rounds.

While other aircraft would eventually succeed the C-47, such as the C-119 and C-130 with their larger capacity and features, the C-47 pioneered the development of gunships with the first AC-47 during the Vietnam war. It’s Call Sign was “Spooky”.

The AC-47 was capable of putting a highly explosive bullet into every square yard of a football field size target in 3 seconds, and it could do this intermittently while loitering over its same target for hours as long as it had the ammo on board.

It didn’t take long for it to earn the nickname “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, or “Dragonship”. Impressive from a distance, it appeared to roar as never-ending blazes of bright red tracer rounds from its mini guns shot to the ground against a dark background of night.

Enduring and Deadly

In early February of 1965, one Spooky fired 20,500 rounds into a Vietcong position while flying over the Bong Son area, killing some 300 Vietcong troops during a four-hour period.

From the ground at night, the sight resembled that of a fire-breathing dragon, to which the enemy began to refer to as “dragonship”,  and our US troops affectionately nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” or just “Puff”.

Through the years, the military has updated, modified, recreated, and devloped more efficient Gunships.  Modern technology will continue to change, replacing yesterday’s “outdated” machines, but in my mind, “Puff” will never be forgotten and no other gunship will have the pulse racing, fear inducing, state of mind to an enemy that it did, nor the chest swelling pride from people like me.

Spooky saved our butts several times.  It was a fantastic spectacle with its cone of light.  It looked like a stairway.  When we were really in a sh**storm it was comforting to see Spooky in the sky above.

Below are two great videos of “Spooky”

My AC-47 Gunship (Spooky13) Aircraft and Crew

Douglas AC-47 Spooky aka Puff, the Magic Dragon

Now, here are some pictures

Bizarre Intelligence

Cockroaches – Gross facts and information!

Cockroaches are so hardy that they can even live nine days without their heads before they starve to death.  But, you knew that, right?

For those who think nothing good ever comes from cockroaches, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. used cockroaches to detect farmers who were doubling as Communist guerrillas.

First, suspected Vietcong guerrilla meeting places were sprinkled with synthetic female cockroach pheromones.

Then, questionable Vietnamese farmers were made to walk slowly past cages containing male cockroaches. If a farmer had visited the meeting place earlier, the female scent on him would make the male cockroaches react. I bet you didn’t know that, right?

MONTAGNARDS

The term Montagnard means “mountain people” in French and is a carryover from the French colonial period in Vietnam. The term is preferable to the derogatory Vietnamese term moi, meaning “savage.” Montagnard is the term, typically shortened to Yard, used by U.S. military personnel in the Central Highlands during the Vietnam War. The Montagnards, who are made up of different tribes, with many overlapping customs, social interactions, and language patterns, typically refer to themselves by their tribal names such as Jarai, Koho, Manong, and Rhade. Since Montagnard is still the most commonly recognized term for these people, it is the term used in this profile.

Many of the first group of Montagnard refugees in the United States adopted the term Dega as their name instead of Montagnard because of the latter’s colonial associations. Dega comes from the Rhade language and refers to a creation myth in which the first two Montagnards were named De and Ga. One was of Mon-Khmer heritage and the other of Malayo-Polynesian heritage, and all Montagnards are descendants of these first people of the Highlands, according to the myth. In fact, Montagnard languages are traceable to the Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian groups.

A Rhade term was chosen because among the first group of Montagnard refugees in the United States the Rhade were in the majority, and their language had been the lingua franca among the resistance fighters. The initial Montagnard organization formed in the United States in 1987 selected the name Montagnard Dega Association in an effort to establish an identity that was inclusive, independent, and recognizable to the community at large. Some Montagnards in the United States, though certainly not all, continue to identify strongly with the term Dega.

The literature on hilltribes in northern Vietnam and Laos that relies on traditional French sources sometimes refers to these peoples as Montagnard. However, the Montagnards from the Central Highlands of Vietnam should not be confused with hilltribe groups in other regions. The Montagnards from the Central Highlands are ethnically distinct from the Hmong and other hilltribe groups from Laos and from hilltribes from northern Vietnam even though they have similar histories of involvement with the U.S. military during the war in Vietnam and Laos. The Montagnards are also distinct from other ethnic minorities in Vietnam, including the Cham, a Muslim minority, who populate parts of Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Nung, as well as other tribal groups from northern Vietnam. A couple hundred Nung have been resettled as refugees in North Carolina and are developing an association with the Montagnards there though the traditions between the two vary significantly. Some Montagnard tribes have also resided in the jungles of Cambodia near the border of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the border having been drawn by the French during their occupation.

Before the Vietnam War, the population of the Central Highlands, estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million, was almost exclusively Montagnard. Today, the population is approximately 4 million, of whom about 1 million are Montagnard. Of these, between 229,000 to 400,000 are thought to follow evangelical Protestantism. An additional 150,000 to 200,000 are Roman Catholic. The 30 or so Montagnard tribes in the Central Highlands comprise more than six different ethnic groups drawn primarily from the Malayo-Polynesian and Mon Khmer language families. The main tribes, in order of size, are the Jarai (320,000), Rhade (258,000), Bahnar (181,000), Koho (122,000), Mnong (89,000), and Stieng (66,000). The Rhade and Mnong are also known as the Ed and the Bunong.

As the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands, the Montagnards are completely different in their culture and language from the mainstream Vietnamese. The Vietnamese arrived much later into what is now Vietnam and came primarily from China in different migratory waves. Primarily lowland rice farmers in the south, the Vietnamese have been much more influenced by outsiders, trade, the French colonization, and industrialization than have the Montagnards. Most Vietnamese are Buddhists, belonging to varying strains of Mahayana Buddhism, although Roman Catholicism and a native religion known as Cao Dai also have large followings. Part of the Vietnamese population, especially in larger towns and cities, maintain Chinese traditions and language. The ethnic Chinese constitute the largest minority in Vietnam.

Physically, the Montagnards are darker skinned than the mainstream Vietnamese and do not have epicanthic folds around their eyes. In general, they are about the same size as the mainstream Vietnamese.