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Archive for January 1st, 2008

Chronology
The conventional approach to the history of LRRP, LRP, and Ranger unit employment in Vietnam is first to acknowledge the three chronological periods of their existence: LRRP from late 1965 to December 1967, LRP from late September 1967 to February 1969, and Ranger thereafter to the end of the war. The first period began in December 1965, with the creation of a provisional LRRP platoon by the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.1 The 1st Infantry Division and 173d Airborne Brigade both formed provisional LRRP units in April and the 25th Infantry Division in June 1966.2 General William C. Westmoreland, commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), officially authorized the creation of provisional LRRP units on 8 July 1966.3 Other divisions and brigades stood up provisional LRRP units during the ensuing months: the 4th and 9th Infantry Divisions in November 1966, 196th Light Infantry Brigade in January 1967, and 1st Air Cavalry Division in February 1967.4 The 9th Infantry Division LRRP Platoon came into being in the fall of 1966 while the division was still at Fort Riley, Kansas, and deployed to Vietnam in January 1967. This unit was expanded to a company in July 1967.5 The 101st Airborne Division “main body,” while still at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, converted its divisional Recondo School into a provisional LRRP unit in the summer of 1967, before the division deployed to Vietnam. This provisional company arrived in Vietnam in late November 1967.6

The second period began in late June 1967, when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle G. Wheeler, authorized the formation of two long-range patrol companies for I and II Field Forces.7 Company E (Long Range Patrol), 20th Infantry (Airborne) was activated on 25 September 1967 and assigned to I Field Force with station at Phan Rang. The nucleus of this unit came from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division LRRP Platoon, along with soldiers from the replacement stream. Company F (Long Range Patrol), 51st Infantry (Airborne) was activated on 25 September 1967 and assigned to II Field Force with station at Bien Hoa. Its nucleus came from the LRRP platoon of the 173d Airborne Brigade, along with soldiers from the replacement stream.8 Each of the two field force LRP companies had an authorized strength of 230, and was commanded by a major.9

In an apparent response to division commanders’ tactical requirements, and bolstered by the proven combat effectiveness of the provisional LRRP units, in the fall of 1967 the Army authorized separate company designations for LRRP units in divisions and detachments in separate brigades.10 The divisional LRP companies were authorized 118 men and the brigade detachments 61 men. The wholesale renaming of existing divisional LRRP units occurred on 20 December 1967 in the 23d (Americal), 1st Air Cavalry, 1st Infantry, 4th Infantry, 9th Infantry, and 25th Infantry Divisions.11 LRP detachments were created in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade on 10 January 1968, in the 173d Airborne Brigade on 5 February 1968, and in the 3d Brigade 82d Airborne Division and 1st Brigade 5th Mechanized Division on 15 December 1968.12

On 1 February 1969, the final period of the existence of these units began when the Department of the Army re-designated the LRP companies and detachments as lettered Ranger companies of the 75th Infantry Regiment under the combined arms regimental system (CARS). All of the LRP companies and detachments were “re-flagged” as Ranger companies on that date, except Company D (Ranger), which was formed on 20 November 1969 upon the rotation of the Company D (Ranger), Indiana National Guard back to its home state.13 The third period ended when the Ranger companies were inactivated as their parent units were withdrawn from the war between November 1969 (Company O of 3d Brigade 82d Airborne Division), and 15 August 1972 (Company H of 1st Air Cavalry Division).14

Doctrinal and TOE Baseline

When the first US Army conventional forces (173d Airborne Brigade) entered Vietnam in May 1965, Field Manual (FM) 31-18, Infantry Long Range Patrol Company, was in its second edition.15 The Army had a well-established, somewhat concise doctrine for the employment of long-range patrols. It was based on several years of experience in Europe, where both V Corps and VII Corps had organized, trained, and fielded LRP companies as early as 1960. The doctrine emphasized reconnaissance of specific routes, areas, or locations, and did not emphasize general reconnaissance of an area of operations (AO). While the LRP company had sufficient wheeled-vehicle transportation to move itself from the garrison to the field, it could only insert its own patrols by walking. Any other means of delivering a patrol to an operations area required external support. The G2/S2 staff exercised the greatest influence over LRP operations, followed closely by the G3/S3 staff. Finally, while higher headquarters exercised continuous control of a LRP operation, this control was accomplished through the LRP company commander, who also was responsible for the recovery of his patrols.

The US Army made modest revisions to this doctrine and published a new FM 31-18, Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol Company, in August 1968.16 The title was modified slightly to Long-Range Reconnaissance Ranger Company in a change published in March 1969, a logical step after the re-designation of all the existing LRP companies as Ranger companies.17 While the 1968 manual with 1969 changes contained many subtle alterations, the more significant ones deserve specific mention.

When reading the mission list provided in the new manual, one is struck by the fact that “execute combat raids on a limited basis as required,” which was the last item on the 1965 mission list, does not appear at all in the 1968 mission list, despite that in late 1968 LRRP teams in Vietnam were regularly assigned this type of mission. Two missions were added to the 1968 manual: “Deploy on periphery of area of operation (AO) to detect enemy’s attempts to break contact and evade friendly forces,” (screen mission) and “maintain surveillance over suspected infiltration routes and avenues of approach.”18 Both of these missions were regularly assigned to LRRP teams in Vietnam. On the subject of training, the 1968 doctrinal time standard for an “effectively trained and reliable LRRP unit” remained at eight months.19

Whereas in 1965 continuous control during LRP operations was to be exercised by higher HQ, in 1969 “operational control” of LRRP company operations was further delegated to the G2/S2 staff section of that higher HQ.20 The 1968 manual contains a new paragraph titled “Combat Support.”21 It discusses the responsibilities of the controlling HQ in providing combat support, the use of Army aviation for mobility, and the attachment of specially trained persons (linguists, indigenous guides, scout dog teams, and tracker teams) and equipment (long-range surveillance systems) to LRRP units for specific missions. This paragraph also strongly reflects Vietnam experience accumulated up to that time.

FM 31-18, 1968 contains another new section titled “Security.”22 Curiously, this section belies the common employment of ambush tactics by LRRPs in the combat theater by stating that patrols possess “no offensive capability” and use weapons “only for self-defense or to break enemy contact.” This language strongly suggests that the manual’s authors did not advocate the offensive employment of LRRP patrols, a practice that was, in fact, widespread and growing in the combat theater in late 1968. While it is difficult to assess the pervasiveness of the use of the administrative security measures advocated here, all of the tactical security and deception measures listed are readily visible in the Vietnam LRRP/Ranger memoir literature of the period.

Paragraph 4-2, “Reconnaissance and Surveillance,” mirrors the same-titled section in the 1965 manual with one exception: the words “or may accomplish the [surveillance] mission using reconnaissance by movement” were added in 1968, both here and at the front of the manual where the LRRP was defined.23 In the 1968 version, paragraph 4-6, “Methods of Patrol Delivery,” contains a new subparagraph on the employment of the helicopter for LRRP insertions.24 It also contains a new paragraph titled “Debriefing,” which requires the debriefing of patrols as soon as possible upon return from mission and charges the responsibility to conduct this debriefing to the LRP company operations section.25

The most significant change to FM 31-18 was the addition of Chapter 5, titled “Stability Operations.” It appears to have been included in this manual to acknowledge the extensive employment of provisional LRP units in Vietnam. While the base 1968 manual continued to maintain the reconnaissance nature of the LRRP mission in this chapter, the March 1969 change added the following sentence to paragraph 5-2, “Planning Concepts”: “A secondary mission for LRRP is to conduct small-scale offensive actions, i.e., ambushes of small enemy patrols or units.”26 More than any other portion of the manual, chapter 5 clearly describes the responsibilities of various parties for the conduct of a LRP mission, from the controlling HQ to the LRRP company commander, operations officer, communications officer, platoon leader, platoon sergeant, and patrol leader.

In tacit recognition of what had already occurred in Vietnam some two years before this manual’s publication, chapter 5 contains a paragraph titled “Provisional LRRP.”27 According to the manual, delineating command-and-staff responsibilities for LRRP activities is key in the following areas:

• identifying and recruiting leaders and soldiers
• logistical support
• training
• planning, preparing, and conducting operations
• other support actions

New to this manual are two appendices: patrol steps (one page) and a rudimentary LRRP SOP (two pages). A section later in this study will compare LRRP and Ranger employment in Vietnam to the doctrine contained in these two field manuals.

Doctrine of Employment

Depending on how one counts, two field-army (or corps-level) companies, eight divisional companies, and five brigade detachments were employed in Vietnam in the four-year period before their re-designation as Ranger companies. Eventually 13 Ranger companies were formed. Given the geographical variance of the field force, division, and brigade operational areas, the average field force command-tour lengths of 15 months (I Field Force) and 10 months (II Field Force), division command-tour length of approximately nine-10 months, and the changing tactical and operational situation over the course of the war, characterizing the employment doctrine of any single LRRP/LRP/Ranger unit in Vietnam is problematic, let alone the doctrine of more than a dozen such units. But through examining both the primary and secondary sources, one can identify missions assigned to LRRP/LRP/Ranger teams and from that draw conclusions about their doctrinal employment.

Here, for example, is a list of missions assigned to LRRP teams of 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, by the brigade S2 during the period from June 1966 to November 1967: confirm enemy control of specific terrain, determine if enemy has moved back into an area vacated by brigade maneuver battalion, obtain intelligence on enemy re-supply activity, confirm sightings of enemy troops and identify unit, capture enemy prisoner, conduct reconnaissance in zone to find enemy force (several iterations), support civil-affairs project, conduct road checkpoint, confirm intelligence information obtained from a PW interrogation, reconnoiter an area and establish ambush, provide extended-range listening post/observation post (LP/OP) for forward fire-support base, and establish blocking position for advancing infantry unit. One can also add to this a number of routine close-in ambush patrols around the brigade base camp, which were required of all combat units but also were used by LRRP units to train new personnel in patrol procedures.28 Two trends can be observed in this list: the brigade intelligence officer was assigning the missions, and the preponderance of LRP activity was intelligence-driven and not intended to result in combat.

The main body of the 101st Airborne Division deployed to Vietnam in November 1967. The division formed F Company (LRP), 58th Infantry (Airborne) in January 1968 by combining the forces of 1st Brigade’s provisional LRRP platoon with the divisional Recondo School-based unit from Fort Campbell and soldiers from the replacement stream. The 101st Airborne Division used this LRP company for a variety of defensive missions in southern and northern South Vietnam through the late spring of 1968, when the division commander finally released it to the control of the division intelligence staff.29 Here is a list of missions assigned to this LRP unit’s teams from late March through November 1968: conduct area reconnaissance to update intelligence information on enemy base camps and units (secondary-interdict and destroy rocket teams or sites), monitor junction of three high-speed trails (secondary-look for regimental base camp), deliver and install seismic-intrusion devices in remote area (multiple occasions), conduct area reconnaissance for suspected enemy base camp, find radar-controlled antiaircraft heavy machine gun, conduct saturation patrols of a border area (multiple teams inserted), find and eliminate rocket teams, observe enemy troop movement in zone (secondary-locate and destroy enemy radio transmitter), find and ambush small parties of enemy soldiers, and attempt to capture a prisoner.30

It is clear from the memoirs of soldiers who served in the 101st Airborne Division’s LRP unit that the division G2 assigned missions and members of the G2 staff briefed LRP teams before departure on missions, debriefing them upon their return.31 An officer of this unit informed the USARV Long Range Patrol Conference in August 1968 that “the LRP company receives its missions directly from the division G2, the Commanding General authorizes each mission, and the G3 provides the assets.”32 Of course, many of these patrols resulted in enemy contact, some of it initiated by patrols and more of it by the enemy upon their discovery of LRP teams in their midst. Many brave soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division were killed and wounded in these actions. But the mission analysis alone leads to the conclusion that, in this division, LRP teams were employed more as an intelligence asset than a combat asset.

Like other LRP companies, the 101st Airborne Division’s F Company, 58th Infantry was re-designated to a Ranger company (L Company) in early February 1969. Despite this change in designation, the unit continued to maintain an intelligence-gathering focus. In February 1969, for example, patrols were sent out to identify and call in indirect fire on enemy rocket-firing sites, implant remote sensors, monitor NVA infiltration routes, verify enemy activity in a particular area using saturation patrols, and monitor enemy sampan traffic on a river.33 In March 1969, missions included search and rescue for downed helicopter crewmen, location of rocket-firing sites, and reconnaissance around a firebase. The latter resulted in the detection of a large enemy dismounted force’s approach to the firebase. The ensuing warning from the Ranger patrol gave the firebase defenders approximately 2 hours to prepare for the ground assault, which resulted in a successful defense of the position.34 In October 1969, this unit inserted a four-man reconnaissance team into an area to confirm “people sniffer” sensor reports of enemy presence for the division G2.35 In September 1970, a four-man team from this Ranger company successfully installed a wiretap on an enemy land-line in the A Shau Valley.36

Indications of offensive, direct-action missions planned or conducted by this Ranger company include the insertion of a team to destroy suspected bridges in late March 1970, the forming and insertion of a heavy team (11 men, equipped with an M60 machine gun) in early April with the mission to hunt and kill, and the reinforcing of a team with both a sniper rifle and M60 machine gun in later April.37 Meanwhile, in July and August 1970, a special cadre team from L Company (Ranger), comprised of one officer and four enlisted men, performed duty as instructors for an eight-day “ranger strike operations course” taught to the reconnaissance company of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) 1st Infantry Division. This team provided instruction at the Screaming Eagle Replacement Center and also followed the ARVN soldiers into the field for the field-exercise portion of the training.38

In the 18 months from May 1970 until its deactivation in November 1971, teams of the 101st Airborne Division Ranger Company were employed for long-range reconnaissance of the jungle-covered mountains of northern South Vietnam adjacent to Laos. These patrols frequently relied on remotely sited radio-relay stations operated by other Ranger teams. Although the overarching purpose of these patrols was to acquire intelligence information on the enemy, the mission was often accompanied by contact with enemy forces and ensuing Ranger casualties. The Ranger company was also tasked on occasion to conduct raids, such as three unsuccessful platoon-size efforts in April 1971 to ambush an enemy motorized convoy in the A Shau Valley.39 Another company-size mission was launched in July 1971 to locate a suspected enemy hospital, but was suspended after a night in the woods amid heavy enemy rocket fire.40

In this late period of the war, the pendulum in 101st Airborne Division was clearly swinging from the intelligence mission to the combat-raid mission. As to why this was so, here is one explanation from a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division LRP Company:

In Vietnam, Rangers worked best in the capacity of their Long Range Patrol predecessors. Trained to operate in six- to 12-man teams, they were poorly tasked to perform offensive operations. Their successes in small ambushes and in defending themselves even when heavily outnumbered by enemy forces often misled brigade and division commanders into believing they were capable of conducting large, more complex offensive combat operations.41

Major General William R. Peers’ 4th Infantry Division had four LRRP platoons in 1967, one assigned to each of three maneuver brigades and the fourth to a cavalry squadron for use by the division G2.42 The platoons at brigade level were assigned to the headquarters and headquarters company (HHC) but took their instructions directly from the brigade S2. These platoons had 40 assigned LRRP soldiers in eight teams of five men each, plus three “Hawkeye” teams of two US and two indigenous personnel each. Supporting each platoon were two officers, an intelligence sergeant, operations sergeant, and six communicators, for a total of 56 US and six indigenous personnel in each platoon.43

The primary mission of these LRRP teams was observation. Negative observation reports-the absence of sightings of enemy units-were also considered important. LRRP teams were also used extensively to reconnoiter helicopter landing zones in preparation for combat assaults by larger units. The LRRP teams were inserted into an area three to five kilometers from a landing zone (LZ) two to three days ahead of a planned operation and would then walk into the LZ. The LRRP team would remain in position observing the LZ until the assault was executed. This practice saved large amounts of artillery ammunition that would have been expended firing preparations on undefended LZs, and gave infantry units greater confidence in the ground situation as they approached an LZ. This pathfinder-like mission came directly out of LRRP doctrine developed in USAREUR and published in 1962 and 1965.44

Because the enemy in the 4th Infantry Division AO was aware of the use of LRRP teams, he frequently reacted quickly against them upon or shortly after insertion. The LRRP team thus functioned as a lure, and was quickly extracted and replaced by a much larger infantry force. LRRP teams were also employed as screening forces to detect enemy infiltration into specific areas.45

A soldier assigned to the LRRP platoon of 2d Brigade, 4th Infantry Division during the first half of 1967 lists the following activities of his unit: combat and raid missions, special reaction teams to brigade headquarters for downed helicopters, rapid reinforcement of outposts, OP/LP outside of forward operating bases for early warning, local ambush patrols, reconnaissance of an LZ, search of a border area for an enemy base camp or headquarters, provision of security for a sniper team, and service as a radio-relay team for other deployed teams.46 Peers’ successor, Major General Charles P. Stone (January through November 1968), maintained the organization and mission of the division’s LRP company as it had been developed by General Peers.47

Major General Donn R. Pepke, who commanded this division from 30 November 1968 to 14 November 1969, on 6 October 1969 directed the consolidation of all the brigade LRRP platoons into the division Ranger company. Up to this time, LRP activities in the division had been divided between the brigade LRRP platoons and the division-controlled Ranger company. Here is Major General Pepke’s description of the division Ranger company’s mission:

The mission of Company K (Ranger), 75th Infantry is to provide a long range reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capability to the 4th Infantry Division; provide personnel and equipment to train, administer, plan for, and employ LRPs as directed; and conduct limited harassing activities.48

Upon this re-organization of division LRP assets, Pepke gave the division G3 responsibility for staff supervision of this asset and charged the G2 to recommend missions to the G3 according to weekly intelligence reports.49 The overall focus of 4th Infantry Division LRP and Ranger operations appears to have trended more toward combat actions.

The 9th Infantry Division LRRP units, deployed in the lowlands south of Saigon, had an entirely different problem-terrain that teemed in civilian population and lacked in concealment. Helicopter insertions were problematic due to the high likelihood of compromise of patrols. Regardless of the insertion method, patrols frequently had to be extracted after 24 to 48 hours on the ground. The missions performed by 9th Infantry Division LRRP units included general surveillance of enemy infiltration routes and suspected base-camp areas, terrain analysis of the many waterways and canals in their AO, providing security for underwater demolition teams (UDT) and explosive ordnance detachments (EDT) while they removed enemy-placed ordnance, and point reconnaissance of designated locations.50

Upon the activation of the 9th Division’s long-range patrol company in December 1967, LRP teams continued to conduct both area- and point-reconnaissance missions east and south of Saigon. In January 1968, some 9th Division teams joined with US Navy SEAL teams to conduct ambushes and attacks in the waterways of the Mekong Delta, while others continued the reconnaissance of this water-logged terrain. The description of the LRP company’s operations through 1968 contains both reconnaissance and combat actions, performed by single LRP teams or in concert with US Navy SEALS, Provincial Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) personnel, ARVN marine units advised by US Marines, and sniper trainers from the US Army Marksmanship Training Unit.51 The division commander from February 1968 to April 1969, Major General Julian J. Ewell, cryptically characterized the employment of his Rangers with the words “Rangers (LRRP) as hunter-killers (or as recon parties)” in his post-command debriefing report.52

The period from 1 February 1969 to mid-September 1970, during which the 9th Infantry Division LRP unit carried the designation of Company E (Ranger), 75th Infantry, is characterized by a mix of reconnaissance and offensive combat operations. When the 3d Brigade of 9th Infantry Division was selected in June 1969 to stay in Vietnam while the remainder of the division redeployed back to the United States, the Ranger company was transferred to that brigade and prepared for brigade-level reconnaissance tasks in the province southwest of Saigon.53 Even though the 3d Brigade itself moved north to the Tay Ninh area for the invasion of Cambodia in May and June 1970, the Ranger company remained in or near the former 9th Infantry Division base camp at Dong Tam or Tan An, both due south of Saigon. There, the Ranger company continued to conduct ambush patrols and, later in the summer, responded to reports from unattended electronic-surveillance and manned ground-surveillance radar systems. The Rangers’ mission was “to reconnoiter the exact nature of as many potential targets as possible.”54 Given the nature of the terrain south of Saigon, many of this unit’s activities were water-borne. During March through July 1970, for example, Ranger teams used engineer-crewed small boats to conduct ambushes in the canals and tributaries of the area.55 In sum, 9th Infantry Division LRRP/LRP/Ranger teams conducted a combination of reconnaissance and combat missions, with a tendency toward the latter, that were influenced heavily by the densely populated terrain lacking means of concealment for inserted teams.

When it was stood up in February 1967, the 1st Cavalry Division LRRP unit was comprised of two six-man teams and a HQ element.56 For operations in the field, these teams were placed under the operational control of maneuver brigades, where the brigade S2 designated their missions.57 These missions emphasized reconnaissance over contact.58 A veteran of this unit cites the following accomplishments early in the unit’s history: correcting maps; finding numerous high-speed trails, bunker complexes, base camps, cache sites, and jungle hospitals; and monitoring movement of enemy units.59

From its designation as the 1st Cavalry Division Long Range Patrol Detachment in April 1967 through re-designation as Company E (Long Range Patrol), 52d Infantry in December 1967 until October 1968, the 1st Cavalry Division LRRP teams remained parceled out to maneuver brigades, who used them in a variety of missions. These missions included close-in reconnaissance for maneuver infantry units and LP/OP duties around forward fire-support bases.60

In late October 1968, the 1st Cavalry Division was shifted from I to II Field Force and headquartered at Phuoc Vinh, north of Saigon. The division’s AO extended along the Cambodian border in Tay Ninh, Binh Long, and Phuoc Long provinces. These areas contained significant routes for enemy infiltration into the Saigon area from Cambodia. In this new AO, Company E’s patrol teams continued to be tasked by the division G2 or brigade S2s.61 In an effort to ensure the proper use of his personnel, the E Company Commander communicated directly, in writing, with the division commander when he felt his teams were being improperly tasked.62 Another indication of the company commander’s intelligence focus is his maintenance of an enemy order of battle (OB) file in the company area, which was updated by every patrol upon its return from a mission.63 However, while missions may have had an intelligence or reconnaissance purpose, many of them resulted in contact with small and large enemy elements.

Examination of 1st Cavalry Division’s H Company (Ranger) mission activities after its re-designation in February 1969 suggests that its repertoire included both reconnaissance and direct-action activities. The unit’s two Ranger platoons were organized in five-man teams, and the available literature does not reference heavy teams (combined teams) for raids, strikes, or other small-unit offensive actions. However, Ranger patrols were sent out with instructions to conduct ambushes of small enemy elements, reconnoiter roads and trails that came out of Cambodia, employ anti-vehicular mines, search for enemy base camps, conduct bomb-damage assessment, search for enemy “rocket teams” proximate to US Army base camps, recover bodies and equipment from crashed helicopters, and capture enemy soldiers. In the summer of 1969, Rangers from four teams trained for a POW-camp raid into Cambodia, but the mission was cancelled.64 The early reporting of a large enemy ground infiltration by a Ranger team in early November 1969 is credited with saving a 1st Cavalry Division forward fire-support base from being overrun.65

During the period from December 1969 to April 1970, as part of the larger program of “Vietnamization” of the war, the Ranger company formed two joint teams with South Vietnamese paratroopers, three Americans and three Vietnamese on each team.66 H Company Rangers were employed extensively for ground reconnaissance during the incursion into Cambodia that occurred in May and June 1970.67 As some American combat units were sent home from Vietnam, those that remained were repositioned and drawn in closer to protect strategic assets. The 1st Cavalry Division Ranger Company, reduced in size when large portions of the division departed Vietnam in April 1971, was re-assigned to the remaining 3d Brigade and moved to the Bien Hoa area. Here it continued to conduct surveillance missions northeast of the capital area and later to conduct combat missions to interdict enemy rocket teams firing into the capital area. These missions frequently were reactions to enemy activity brought to light by SLAR (side-looking airborne radar), infra-red, “sniffer,” or agent reports. If enemy activity was confirmed by a Ranger patrol, some type of offensive combat action was enjoined: an infantry assault, artillery fire, airstrikes, or combinations of these three actions.68

The difficulty of characterizing LRRP and Ranger missions in Vietnam as either “intelligence/reconnaissance” or “direct-action combat” in nature is driven home by the example of the 25th Infantry Division. Major General Harris W. Hollis, shortly after assuming command in September 1969, changed the mission of the Ranger company from intelligence gathering to offensive combat:

Beginning in October 1969 our Rangers’ method of employment was oriented primarily to ambush and reconnaissance, to “snatch”
missions, and “sniff” operations, and air rescue missions with sniper teams.69

To facilitate this mission shift, General Hollis gave responsibility for staff supervision of Ranger employment to the division G3 and placed a Ranger platoon in direct support of each maneuver brigade in the division. Further evidence of these teams’ offensive mission is the arming of each one with an M60 machine gun and the inclusion of at least one sniper-qualified team member.

Just six months later, Major General Edward Bautz, Jr., the new division commander, about five weeks after assuming command, changed the division Ranger company’s mission back to acquisition of intelligence. This mission change was accompanied by the division intelligence staff’s increased reliance on electronic sensor fields and ground-surveillance radar acquisitions.70

Finally, Brigadier General Hubert S. Cunningham, commander of the 173d Airborne Brigade from August 1969 to August 1970, used his Ranger teams “primarily as an intelligence gathering source and to further develop intelligence based on sonar readouts, Airborne Personnel Detector (Snoopy) readouts, and agent reports.”71 His immediate successor, Brigadier General Elmer R. Ochs, while acknowledging that the Ranger company’s mission was surveillance and reconnaissance, also ascribed to it the capability of “conducting small unit ambushes, limited raids, POW snatches, and pathfinder operations for heliborne and parachute operations.72

The general conclusion one can draw from this overview of LRRP/LRP/Ranger employment by several maneuver divisions and a few separate brigades in Vietnam is that there was no single, standard approach to the issue. These units were employed for a variety of reconnaissance and combat missions, based on the terrain and enemy situation in a given division or brigade’s AO, the density of the civilian population, the tactical and operational imperatives of the division or brigade, and the desires of the controlling-unit commander and his G2/G3. One can also posit that the writers of LRRP doctrine in 1965 and 1968 probably did not envision the amount of combat these units would engage in, given the reconnaissance focus of both fielded editions of FM 31-18.

Two additional LRP units in Vietnam bear examination-the LRP companies of the two corps-level headquarters, I and II Field Force. Both units were formed in the fall of 1967 by combining combat veterans from other LRRP units with soldiers recruited from the replacement stream. In the case of Company E (LRP), 20th Infantry (I Field Force), the combat veterans came from the 1st Brigade LRRP Platoon of the 101st Airborne Division.73 Company F (LRP), 51st Infantry (II Field Force) received the bulk of its combat veterans from the LRRP platoon of the 173d Airborne Brigade.74 Although the formation of these two companies was authorized in mid-September 1967, neither became fully operational until early December.75

On paper, the mission of Company E (LRP), 20th Infantry, I Field Force was long-range reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition in the corps-level AO.76 In fact, the unit performed a broad spectrum of reconnaissance, combat, and training missions in its four-year period of existence.77 Platoons and teams of this company operated as standard rifle units, as attachments to special forces-led units, as training cadre for ARVN infantry divisions and the ARVN Ranger Training Center, as reconnaissance support to the Republic of Korea 9th Division, and as LRP and Ranger forces for the 4th Infantry Division and 173d Airborne Brigade.78 General Peers, commander of I Field Force from March 1968 to March 1969, strongly supported the LRRP concept and used his own LRPs to train ARVN soldiers for both long-range and medium-range patrolling.79 The memoir by two of this unit’s veterans describes its activities in the period September 1969 to September 1970 as much more inclined toward direct-action “hunter-killer” activities than reconnaissance.80 Their characterization is supported by the words of Lieutenant General Charles A. Corcoran, who commanded I Field Force from 16 March 1969 to 23 February 1970:

The mission of the Corps Ranger Company . . . has also been modified. Rather than gathering intelligence by passive means, the Corps Ranger Company was employed in attacking small groups of enemy and in gaining intelligence by capturing personnel and documents. During the past calendar year, the Ranger Company achieved a 48:1 kill ratio, better than any of the other units in II Corps.81

The pattern of activities of F Company (LRP), 51st Infantry, II Field Force was somewhat more regular. This unit was stationed at Bien Hoa, near II Field Force HQ, and remained there except for an occasional foray to nearby Cu Chi or Phuoc Vinh, where it supported subordinate divisions or brigades.82 Whereas the I Field Force reconnaissance company spent its entire existence moving throughout the area of responsibility (AOR), performing a variety of reconnaissance, combat, and training missions for numerous allied and US Army divisions and brigades, the II Field Force reconnaissance company had one overriding mission from late 1967 to early 1969-to provide reconnaissance and intelligence necessary for the protection of the capital region. Despite its name and paper mission, F Company veterans paint a picture of a unit whose primary activity was seeking out and killing enemy soldiers, by ambush, indirect fire, or close-air and helicopter-gunship support.83 An officer who served in this unit recalls that it was subordinated to the higher HQ G3 (not G2) staff section.84
The II Field Force Commander during this early period was Lieutenant General Frederick C. Weyand. In his post-command debriefing report, he praised the effectiveness of his LRP company in “reconnoitering enemy base areas and lines of movement” and recommended the formation of more such units.85

F Company, 51st Infantry was inactivated in late December 1968, upon the arrival in Vietnam of its replacement, Company D (Long Range Patrol), 151st Infantry, Indiana National Guard.86 Through an administrative sleight of hand orchestrated between General William Westmoreland, Chief of Staff of the Army, and General Creighton Abrams, the MACV commander, Major George Heckman of F Company retained nominal command of the Indiana Rangers, as they came to be called, and combat operations continued as before with different faces in the patrol teams.

Upon the departure of the Indiana Rangers from Vietnam in November 1969, II Field Force quickly formed Company D (Ranger), 75th Infantry to replace it. Its mission for the brief period of its existence (November 1969-April 1970) was “to provide corps-level Ranger support to II Field Force Vietnam by collecting intelligence, interdicting supply routes, locating and destroying encampments, and uncovering cache sites.”87
It is clear from this broad overview of LRRP/LRP/Ranger unit missions in Vietnam that while high-level commanders may have been cognizant of the employment doctrine contained in FM 31-18, that knowledge certainly did not inhibit their use of these units for missions unrelated to reconnaissance. LRRP/LRP/Ranger soldiers engaged in a great deal of combat in support of their controlling HQ.

Organization

A 230-man LRP company, such as existed in I and II Field Forces in the fall of 1967, was a surprisingly large organization. Commanded by a major, this company had four line platoons plus headquarters, operations, communications, mess, and maintenance sections. The officer component included the commander, operations, intelligence, and communications officers, and platoon leaders. Each line platoon had up to seven patrols with six men in each patrol. In addition, the II Field force LRP Company had attached to it a dedicated Huey helicopter-lift platoon for insertions and extractions, a gunship platoon for fire support, a full ground-cavalry troop to act as a quick reaction force (QRF), a forward air controller (FAC) to coordinate and deliver air strikes, and artillery liaison officers to coordinate artillery support.88 This was a battalion-size force of up to 500 personnel, all focused on a single LRP company and its training and combat operations.

While the I Field Force LRP Company was similarly structured, it was more often dispersed throughout the II Corps Tactical Zone. In August 1968, for example, the company HQ with 2d Platoon was under the operational control (OPCON) of Company B, 5th Special Forces Group. The 1st Platoon was OPCON to 4-503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade, the 3d Platoon was OPCON to 3-503d Infantry, 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 4th Platoon was OPCON to 3-506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.89 Because this unit was often decentralized, it did not have dedicated helicopter support but instead received aviation support from the units for which it was operating.

Both field-force LRP companies had regular access to fixed-wing FAC support for teams in the field. These aircraft were used for radio relay and for directing close-air support in II Field Force, and also for managing deployed teams in I Field Force.90 An August 1968 description of the FAC support to the I Field Force LRP Company in that period uses the term “direct support” to describe the subordination of the FAC.91

The provisional LRRP units and their successor LRP companies at division were much smaller organizations. They typically had a captain commander and two or three lieutenants who served as operations officer and platoon leaders. The early 1st Air Cavalry Division LRRP unit had two six-man LRRP teams and a headquarters element comprised of two medics, a communications section, and an operations section.92 When this unit was enlarged to a company in the spring of 1967, it was authorized 16 teams of six men each.93 Additional officer, operations, and communications personnel in the company HQ would round out this unit to a full MACV-authorized strength of 118. This particular LRP unit was initially attached to the 191st Military Intelligence Detachment for logistical support, but remained under the operational control of the division G2.94 Later, the LRRP detachment was attached to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry (Air) for logistic support, messing, and Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).95

F Company, 58th Infantry (LRP), 101st Airborne Division, when it was formed at Fort Campbell in the summer of 1967, had a headquarters element with a strong communications section, and two patrol platoons with four or five six-man patrols in each.96 When it arrived in Vietnam and until August 1968, this company was administratively assigned to the 326th Engineer Battalion.97 In August 1968, the company looked roughly the same: two line platoons, with six six-man teams in each. The company HQ section included the CO, XO, 1SG, two to three clerks, and a driver. The communications section consisted of a sergeant and eight to 10 communications specialists.98 The LRP company was collocated with and put under the operational control of 2d Squadron, 17th Cavalry (Air), which provided its lift and gunship helicopter support and QRF.99 Later, when this unit transitioned to a Ranger company, it had headquarters, supply, and communications sections and two field or line platoons.100

In the Americal Division in 1968, the LRP company HQ served as an administrative, logistical, and training base for LRP teams that were parceled out to the operational control of the division’s three brigades. The division HQ maintained control over the use of the teams by requiring the commanding general’s approval of the teams’ missions.101

When it was formed in April 1966, the LRRP detachment of the 1st Infantry Division had two officers-the commander and an XO/operations officer. The unit fielded six teams of five men each and was assigned to Troop D, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment for support (mess, barracks, supply, and QRF).102

When General Peers established the 4th Infantry Division Recondo Detachment in June 1967, it was administratively assigned to the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry. This provided the LRRP unit with both helicopter support and a QRF from the aero-rifle platoon. This assignment was retained even when the detachment was a Ranger company in 1969.103 Similarly, the 25th Infantry Division’s LRRP Detachment, when it was formed in June 1966, was attached to the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry and collocated with that unit at Cu Chi for messing and UCMJ matters.104

An early example of the organization of a brigade-level LRRP detachment is provided by the 173d Airborne Brigade in late April 1966. This provisional platoon was commanded by a captain and had a lieutenant XO, intelligence and communications sergeants, two communications specialists, and a medic in the platoon HQ. The nine patrols each had six men: patrol leader and assistant, radioman, scout, and two assistant scouts. This particular platoon was attached to Troop E, 17th Cavalry (Armored).105 When the brigade formed the 74th Infantry Detachment (Airborne Long Range Patrol) in December 1967, its organization strength remained at two officers and 59 men.106 Two years later, the brigade commander, considering the operational commitments of his Ranger company, increased its strength from the authorized 61 to 115.107

In similar fashion, Company M (Ranger), formed from the 71st Infantry Detachment of 199th Light Infantry Brigade in February 1969, was paired closely with Troop D, 17th Cavalry (Armored).108 The 196th Infantry Brigade Long Range Patrol Detachment, when it was formed in January 1967, was assigned to the brigade intelligence section but placed under the administrative control of Troop F, 17th Cavalry (Armored).109 When the successor to this detachment in the 23d Infantry Division (Americal) was re-designated as Company G (Ranger), 75th Infantry two years later, the Ranger company was “satellited with the 16th Aviation Group for administration, helicopter transport, and aerial or ground assistance.”110

A clear pattern emerges from this overview: The bulk of LRRP/LRP/Ranger units in Vietnam were operationally controlled by, assigned to, attached to, or collocated with an air cavalry or ground cavalry unit. These were marriages both of necessity and convenience, since the requirements for helicopter lift, gunships, and QRFs were certainly met by many of these affiliations. The LRRP units also needed mess and logistic support, along with someone to administer their UCMJ needs. They frequently gave back, in return, detail support to the mess hall (kitchen police-KP), soldiers to perform perimeter bunker guard and ambush patrols, and for the air cavalrymen, additional QRFs for downed helicopter rescue and retrieval operations (combat search and rescue-CSAR).

At the team or patrol level, one can find patrols as small as three and four men under special circumstances, but the generally adopted LRRP team strength was five or six.111 Special attachments for a specific mission might enlarge a standard patrol team to seven or eight men. The 9th Infantry Division LRP unit, operating in the Mekong River Delta region in 1968, used eight men because they divided evenly into two boats.112 The 25th Infantry Division Ranger company in late 1969-early 1970 was also organized around eight-man teams.113 The duty positions were variously named but included a team leader and assistant team leader, one or two radio-telephone operators (RTO), and two or three scouts. Whatever the team size, someone with experience had to walk “point” (lead) and “trail” (last man in column) to provide the required movement security. While some units may have had a few MOS-qualified medics assigned to them, the typical patrol did not, and one of the team members performed this function. Those units that engaged in offensive combat actions on a regular basis frequently combined two “light” teams into a single “heavy team” on an ad hoc basis to provide more firepower and security.

Indigenous Soldiers

Many LRRP, LRP, and Ranger units had indigenous soldiers assigned or attached to them, on a temporary or permanent basis. Indigenous soldiers came from three primary sources: the ARVN, Montagnard tribesmen, or former enemy soldiers from the Chieu Hoi program in the form of Kit Carson Scouts. In some units, such as the 1st Cavalry Division and 173d Airborne Brigade, indigenous personnel were recruited, trained, and embedded in LRRP teams.114 The 1st Cavalry Division, which first began using indigenous personnel in May 1967, suffered one of the drawbacks of employing indigenous personnel in early 1968. One of its Kit Carson Scouts, a former North Vietnamese Army (NVA) lieutenant, deserted the unit while on patrol. He took with him all the TTP learned while assigned to the LRRP unit.115

The 101st Airborne had extensive experience working with indigenous personnel. A platoon of ARVN Rangers was assigned to F Company (LRP) in July 1968 and for about a month, two of these soldiers deployed with each LRP team. The experiment was not well received by 101st LRRP soldiers due to the tactical incompetence of the ARVN troops.116 L Company (Ranger) began using Kit Carson Scouts in the fall of 1969 with better success.117 When L Company was again assigned a group of ARVN Rangers in the summer of 1970, the tactical ineptitude of the South Vietnamese contributed to the project’s demise.118

Other units that employed indigenous forces at some time during the war included the LRRP or Ranger units of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 199th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, 173d Airborne Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Division, 25th Infantry Division, and 5th Infantry Division.119 General Peers strongly advocated for the use of indigenous forces when he was commander of I Field Force in 1968:

I have found here in this environment that it is very advantageous to utilize one or two indigenous personnel with each of the LRP teams. The reason for this is that they are natives of these areas and know the patterns, the markings, the life within the jungle. They can see and hear things that the ordinary American ear or eye is not accustomed to seeing or hearing. They have proved most satisfactory.120

Company E (LRP), 20th Infantry (I Field Force) not only trained South Vietnamese Rangers for several months in 1968 but also employed many of them in LRP operations, along with Kit Carson Scouts.121 Its successor unit, C Company (Ranger) also employed soldiers from the Republic of Korea Army in late 1970 and early 1971.122 Company F (LRP), 51st Infantry (II Field Force) also employed Kit Carson Scouts, as did its successor unit, Company D, 151st Infantry (Ranger) of the Indiana National Guard.123

The advantages of employing indigenous personnel were obvious: they had language and cultural knowledge, better understood the terrain, knew enemy TTP, and by their non-American appearance bought a few moments of precious time for the remainder of the patrol to react appropriately during a sudden encounter with the enemy on a jungle trail. The disadvantages of employing indigenous personnel were equally obvious: unit security was compromised, communication within teams was difficult, standards of training and conduct differed, and mutual trust and cohesiveness were hard to build. Examples of these problems occurred throughout the war and in several units.124

Training

Training unit personnel was among the most difficult issues LRRP-unit commanders faced in Vietnam. The two primary methods employed, singly and in combination, were training in the LRRP unit and training at the MACV Recondo School in Nha Trang. In a few exceptional cases, such as the 9th Infantry Division in 1966, 101st Airborne Division in 1967, and Company D, 151st Infantry (Indiana National Guard) in 1968, units formed and trained before they arrived in Vietnam. But once in country, they were faced with training their own replacement soldiers like every other unit.

Unit Training

Several LRRP memoirs describe unit training in terms of a week to two weeks of classes, eight to 12 hours per day. In the 101st Airborne Division in the summer of 1968, this week of training included classes in noise and light discipline; hand signaling; escape and evasion; patrolling techniques; radio procedure; calling for fire missions and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC); land navigation; immediate action drills (IAD); emergency medical treatments for various wounds, injuries, and ailments; camouflage of person and equipment; load packing; and helicopter operations. This week of classroom training was followed by training patrols just outside the perimeter of the base camp.125

In the 1st Cavalry Division in 1967, this training included classes in map reading, identification of enemy weapons and equipment, marksmanship, terminal guidance of aircraft and helicopters, LZ selection, medical training, rudimentary language training, physical conditioning, ambush techniques, radio and communications procedures, combat-reaction drills (IAD by another name), and explosives and demolition.126 In 1968 this unit-training course lasted 10 to 12 days and was still at two weeks in length a year later, after the unit was converted to a Ranger company.127 In 1969 the unit training ran for two weeks and included map reading, rappelling, radio maintenance and operation, aerial-rocket and gunship coordination, medic training, ambush techniques, enemy weapons familiarization, enemy unit identification, and physical conditioning.128

In the 173d Airborne Brigade in 1968, unit training for individual soldiers lasted from one to two weeks and was followed by a trial mission.129 Another source describes training for the Ranger unit of the 173d Airborne Brigade as a minimum of 96 hours over the course of seven to 10 days.130 While the 173d Airborne Brigade used MACV Recondo School, it also made a concerted effort to send personnel to the Malaysian Tracking School.131 Soldiers selected for assignment to E Company (LRP), 20th Infantry, I Field Force attended a 15-day course taught at An Khe by Ranger-qualified instructors. Subjects included physical conditioning, rappelling, radio procedures, first aid, day and night land navigation, patrolling tactics, ambushes, weapons familiarization, MEDEVAC procedures, artillery and gunship terminal guidance, and helicopter operations.132

The capstone of all unit-training programs was actual combat patrolling. When conditions permitted, ambush patrols that most LRRP units were tasked to perform outside their base camp perimeters as a matter of routine were used as training opportunities.133 These were generally overnighters, for which a light (six-man) or heavy (12-man) patrol walked out the main gate before last light to the nearest area of concealment, established an ambush on a road or trail leading toward the base camp, and returned just after first light in the morning. When soldiers had mastered this task and their leaders felt they were prepared, they were assigned to “break-in” long-range patrol missions, normally no more than two “newbies” to a six-man team. At times, however, the operational tempo did not permit the use of these missions and new team members were committed to combat patrols without them.134
Because soldiers were rotating into and out of LRRP units singly and in cohorts, training was both episodic and continuous. On several occasions, due to large personnel turnover, a LRRP unit would have to stand down from combat operations for several weeks to conduct unit training. An example of this occurred in the 101st Airborne Division in December 1968 and January 1969.135

It is no coincidence that all these unit-training programs were remarkably similar in both content and length. The unit cadre who served as instructors were a somewhat homogeneous lot, being infantry NCOs with Ranger and special forces backgrounds. A second explanation for this commonality was the mission itself. While the terrain certainly varied between the central highlands and the delta, so much of what LRRP soldiers practiced and executed was the same in all places. A third reason for the similarity in unit training throughout Vietnam was the MACV Recondo School in Nha Trang.

MACV Recondo School

MACV Recondo School was a product of the 5th Special Forces Group, created expressly for the purpose of training soldiers from all the free-world forces in the art and science of long-range reconnaissance techniques.136 General William Westmoreland formally approved the school’s creation in a message to the 5th Special Forces Group commander of 4 September 1966. The facilities and instructor group in Nha Trang had previously been used to train reconnaissance teams for Project DELTA, a special forces and South Vietnamese Army enterprise that had conducted special operations in Viet Cong-controlled areas since late 1964.

The course taught at MACV Recondo School was three weeks in length, with 260 hours of classroom and field instruction. It was made available to all free-world forces, resulting in the attendance of Vietnamese, Korean, Australian, Thai, and Republic of the Philippines soldiers and airmen, along with personnel from all branches of the US Armed Forces. The typical class size was 60 students, with a new class intake every two weeks. Due to the high academic and physical demands of the course, the dropout rate over time was about 30 percent. Graduates returned to their parent units and were then subject to being re-assigned to a LRRP/LRP/Ranger unit for the remainder of their in-country time.

The prerequisites for attendance at MACV Recondo School were listed in USARV Regulation 350-2:

• Must be a volunteer and possess a combat-arms MOS.
• Must have been in country for one month and have six months’ retainability after graduation.
• Assignment to a LRRP unit is anticipated.
• Must be proficient in general military subjects.

Because non-graduates and graduates alike returned to their parent units, it was in the best interest of units to fill their quotas with carefully selected students. On the other hand, many LRRP soldiers were not afforded the opportunity to attend MACV Recondo School. General Peers, 4th Infantry Division commander, briefing other senior commanders on LRRP issues in September 1967, stated that “due to the quotas for the school and to the rapid turnover of personnel, only about one out of every five of our [4th Infantry Division] LRRP personnel ever attend the Recondo School.”137

Students arrived at the school with their personal assigned weapon and load-bearing equipment (LBE), and with a prescribed number of loaded magazines and hand grenades. The school provided a standard issue of required special equipment, along with a 30-pound sandbag. The sandbag was carried in the student’s rucksack at all times and was subject to being weighed by any instructor at any time. Students were formed into five-man teams and assigned an instructor/adviser, who advised and evaluated the team throughout the course.

Every morning began with physical conditioning before breakfast. In September 1967, this meant a modest period of calisthenics followed by conditioning marches in week one. The marches began at a distance of two miles on Monday and increased to seven miles on Saturday, with a required completion time of under 90 minutes for the 7-mile march. Students carried their rifles and wore all of their LBE with rucksack, four full 1-quart canteens, and their sandbag for these marches. Students who failed to make the grade physically were returned to their units after the first week. Physical conditioning during the second week employed a formation run in place of the forced march, and the weapons, LBE, and rucksacks with sandbags were left in the barracks.

MACV Recondo School’s curriculum contained the following major subject blocks and time allocation in the spring of 1967:

• Administration-15:00
• Physical Training-14:20
• Medical-3:30
• Communications-8:30
• Intelligence-4:40
• Patrol Training-62:40
• Weapons Training-15:10
• Air Operations-18:30
• Combat Operations-112:40
• Land Navigation-15:30
• Quizzes, examinations, and critiques-6:30
• Commandant’s Time-13:00

Of the total 288 hours, 45:30 was concurrent training in patrolling, weapons training, and air operations.138

The first week of formal instruction was conducted in a classroom on the school compound. The second week was spent in training areas outside the compound on practical subjects, such as weapons firing, tower and helicopter rappelling, and other field activities. The third week was spent in preparing and conducting an actual instructor-led combat patrol in a relatively safe jungle environment. These patrols occasionally made contact with enemy forces and resulted in the wounding and death of both US and enemy personnel.

Upon completion of MACV Recondo School, graduates were awarded a certificate with a Recondo number and a Recondo patch to wear on their right pocket while in country, then were sent back to their parent unit for possible assignment to a LRRP/LRP/Ranger unit.139

While the typical Recondo School class was comprised of enlisted and NCO personnel from all services and a few foreign armies, company-grade officers were also permitted to attend. The list of graduates by class shows on average two or three lieutenants and the occasional captain in a graduating class of 40-45 students.

All seating in the school was set aside in October and November 1967 to train personnel for the LRP companies of Company E (LRP), 20th Infantry (I Field Force) and Company F (LRP), 51st Infantry (II Field Force) in four truncated classes. A total of 333 personnel were trained, but did not complete all the requirements for graduation and therefore were not awarded Recondo numbers.

MACV Recondo School graduated 2,700 US students and also trained the 333 additional personnel mentioned above, for a total of about 3,000 US personnel between September 1966 and December 1970.140 But the school’s training impact was far greater than sheer numbers. The training conducted in LRRP units around the country was inextricably linked to MACV Recondo School training. Most units required their soldiers to have demonstrated aptitude and ability to conduct LRRP operations before they sent them to Recondo School. These units conducted training to qualify soldiers for LRRP duty and also to prepare them for success at Recondo School, based on their knowledge of its physical- and academic-training standards. This pre-screening provided the special forces instructors at Nha Trang with better students, and undoubtedly raised the standard of Recondo School graduates.

MACV Recondo School, in turn, with its comprehensive and detailed classroom and field curriculum and rigorous physical conditioning, defined a common set of TTP for all LRRP units in Vietnam, irrespective of their mission or operating terrain. The importance of this common set of standards cannot be overemphasized. Graduates left Nha Trang with their mental and physical rucksacks full of knowledge of the intimate details of LRRP activities. They took back to their units the paper handouts used by the school in academic instruction.141 They incorporated sandbags in their unit physical conditioning training.142 Primarily as a consequence of Recondo School training, every LRRP unit in Vietnam spoke a common language of long-range patrolling.

Materiel

TOE 7-157E, the authorization document for a long-range patrol company during the Vietnam War, contains a list of all items of equipment that should have been present in both of the Field Force LRP companies. For the purposes of this study, this TOE serves as a guide to the general types of equipment one might find in any LRRP unit in Vietnam. The several memoirs written by LRRP veterans are a better source to determine what weapons and equipment units actually had access to and used in the performance of their combat mission.

Outside of the two Field Force LRP companies, few LRRP units had assigned vehicles. At most, a unit might have a jeep for the commander and first sergeant, a 3/4-ton truck for the supply sergeant, and perhaps one 2 1/2-ton truck to move personnel from the unit area to the helipad and return. Because provisional LRRP units were not established on authorized TOEs, these vehicles were normally borrowed but sometimes stolen from other units (with commensurate modification to data plates and bumper markings). The practice of “liberating” a vehicle from its owning unit and repainting its bumper markings was common in Vietnam and should not surprise anyone. When a unit was relocated from one area in country to another, these “stolen” vehicles were frequently abandoned in place or returned to their rightful owners.143

Another method of requisition commonly used in Vietnam was the trading of commodities between units. When the 1st Cavalry Division stood up its LRRP unit in late 1966, “horse-trading” was used to obtain exotic weapons, radios, generators, and rucksacks.144 In addition to standard supply items, LRRP-unit personnel frequently possessed enemy weapons and equipment that could be traded away in rear areas, with the full knowledge that more trophy items would be acquired on a re-occurring basis.

TOE 7-157E provided for a standard assortment of weapons: M14 rifles in large numbers, several M60 7.62mm and M2 .50-caliber machine guns, M1911A1 .45-caliber pistols, an M79 grenade launcher, and several 3.5-inch rocket launchers. Replace the M14 with variants of the M16 rifle, drop the .50-caliber machine guns, replace the 3.5-inch rocket launchers with the M72 LAW, add several additional M79 grenade launchers (and late in the war the XM203), and the result is a fairly standard list of armaments found in virtually every LRRP unit by the late-war period. But this list does not begin to describe the total weaponry possessed by LRRPs. Other weapons abounded, some military and some of civilian origin. Here is a list of these other weapons:

• “exotic” weapons (unspecified) in the 1st Cavalry Division145
• Silenced Sten guns in multiple units146
• assortment of modified, unauthorized, classified, stolen, silenced, and otherwise illegal weapons in the 101st Airborne Division147
• M2 (full-automatic capable) carbine in multiple units148
• M3 submachine gun in multiple units149
• Thompson .45-caliber submachine gun in 1st Infantry Division and Americal Division150
• 12-gauge shotgun in multiple units151
• AK47 (common in many units for use by point man, who may also have been wearing black pajamas to provide the patrol greater reaction time to sudden enemy contact)152
• Simonov semi-automatic carbine (SKS)153
• CZ58 rifle in the 173d Airborne Brigade154
• silenced/unsilenced Swedish K submachine gun in multiple units155
• M79 with cut-off barrel and stock in multiple units156
• M14 with and without scope in multiple units157
• Winchester Model 70 bolt-action rifle in the 101st Airborne Division158
• high standard .22-caliber pistol (government-issue) or Ruger .22-caliber pistol159
• numerous personal weapons160

Men carried personal weapons other than standard-issue M16 variants for many reasons as diverse as the list itself. Perhaps the best reason was expressed by a veteran of the 1st Infantry Division LRRP Detachment: “[We used] anything that made fire fights sound more like their weapons and gave no indication of the size of our force.”161 In general terms, these men understood that a non-standard weapon required them to carry their own irreplaceable ammunition supply. They also learned that silenced weapons were not always silent and that “sawed-off” weapons (M79, M14, even the M60 machine gun) did not perform to the same standard as an unmodified weapon of the same type. Any submachine gun that fired the .45-caliber round was exceptionally heavy in combination with its ammunition supply. And a black-pajama-clad point man carrying an AK47 did not want to be observed by a friendly patrol or helicopter. That could lead to a disastrous outcome.

Different units had various rationales for issuing and carrying the M72 LAW. In II Field Force, the M72 LAW was initially viewed as a psychological weapon, used to shock and stun enemy soldiers and also to confuse them as to the size and identity of the American unit they had engaged.162 But on occasion the weapon was actually fired for its destructive effect, in one case at an enemy sampan.163 Infrequent mention of the M72 LAW is made in 101st Airborne Division memoirs. In one case, the LRRP team’s mission was to find and destroy an enemy radio transmitter. In another mission, conducted in April 1969 in the A Shau Valley, a team carried a LAW because of rumors of NVA armor using the road through the valley. In the third example, in March and April 1971, Ranger teams equipped with claymores, shaped charges, and LAWs were inserted along a road to ambush and destroy enemy vehicular traffic.164 The LAW was occasionally used to break contact with the enemy in the 1st Cavalry Division LRRP company.165 The paucity of references to this weapon in memoir literature suggests that its use was not widespread.166

The list of standard-issue items for a LRRP soldier looks about the same across all units, plus or minus a garment here and there or the different number of canteens (reflecting seasonal weather and terrain variations). If one inspected the personal gear and rucksack of any LRP soldier in any LRP unit in 1968, one would likely find the following items:

• personal weapon (M16 or CAR15) with at least 18 to 20 20-round magazines (18 rounds per magazine with ball-to-tracer ratio as per unit SOP)
• fragmentation grenades (minimum four-six)
• smoke grenades (minimum 1)
• white phosphorus grenades (frequently 1)
• chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile (CS) grenades (frequently 1)
• claymore mine (minimum 1)
• map in protective plastic
• C4 or other explosive substance (1/4-pound block or more)
• detonation cord, non-electric blasting caps
• dehydrated rations (two per day for anticipated duration of patrol)
• water (minimum two quarts) and purification tablets
• strobe light (team leader and assistant team leader)
• signal mirror, pen flare, signal panel (selected patrol members)
• PRC-25 or PRC-77 radio (selected patrol members), signal operating instructions
• URC-10 radio (selected patrol members)
• extra radio battery (selected patrol members)
• Starlight scope (selected patrol member)
• Olympus Pen EE or Polaroid camera (selected patrol members)
• serum albumin or other blood products (selected patrol members)
• binoculars (selected patrol members)
• drugs (morphine syrette, tetracycline, dextroamphetamine, darvon, codeine tablets, and others)
• large knife (issue survival knife or commercial knife)
• lensatic compass
• insect repellant
• camouflage stick
• rope (six-foot length) for rappelling seat, two snap links
• heavy-duty leather gloves
• clothing items (extra socks, poncho liner, sleeping sweater)
• extra ammunition for M79 or M60 (as required by mission)167

The AN/PVS-2 Starlight Scope weighed seven and one-half pounds and was about 18 inches long and eight inches high. This first-generation night vision device, intended to be attached to an M14 or M16 rifle as a sighting device but more often hand-held, was used by some units that operated in more open terrain. These included the LRRP/Ranger units in I and II Field Forces, 1st Infantry Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division, and the 173d Airborne Brigade.168

Depending on the exact load configuration of a rucksack, particularly in heavy items such as water, ammunition, and communications gear, the overall combat load for a LRRP soldier could easily range from 70 to 100 pounds. The physical demands on LRRP soldiers were great indeed. LRRP soldiers’ tendency to load themselves down did not escape the attention of General Peers, who had intimate knowledge of LRRP activity from his own command experience in Vietnam:

It is my view that most of our LRPs go in too heavy. They’ve got everything but the kitchen sink hung on them. The mission that these people perform should determine the equipment that they take along. There are a few basic items and anything beyond that is pure impedimenta. First is the man himself; of course, he must take along food, but he should not have to take along water. In dry areas during certain seasons, maybe yes, because it may be a tremendous inconvenience and dangerous to go back and forth to a water hole. . . . He needs his weapon. He needs ammunition, and he perhaps needs a poncho. . . . In our environment we operate with the radio, so a radio has to go along. If they are going out on a surveillance mission, it would be advantageous to take along a pair of binoculars. . . . I would recommend to all of you that you cut down to the minimum what these men will take to the field.169

No discussion of the materiel aspect of LRRP/Ranger unit operations in Vietnam can be complete without mention of the helicopter and other dedicated aircraft. Company F (LRP), 51st Infantry (II Field Force) had dedicated helicopters. The former operations officer of this unit mentions a dedicated lift platoon and gunship platoon.170 Another source describes the helicopter support to this unit as “one C & C, three Slicks [lift helicopters], and three to four gunships . . . for exclusive use by the company.” This same source’s description of the unit cantonment area includes a helicopter landing pad.171 A veteran of one helicopter-support unit recalls that whenever a LRP team was inserted, his unit kept a gunship team and a lift helicopter physically mission ready in a small field at the LRP compound. The crews for these helicopters slept in the LRP compound. This veteran, who flew a Huey UH-1C gunship, indicates that he was under the operational command of the LRP company commander unless the cavalry’s ground platoon was also committed, at which time the helicopters reverted to the control of the cavalry troop commander.172

In one other LRRP unit, in the 1st Cavalry Division, there is a suggestion of a single dedicated helicopter and four crewmen for the LRRP-unit commander.173 The time period for this particular source is very late in 1966 or early in 1967, and the presence of four crewmen suggests a Bell UH-1 Iroquois Huey utility helicopter rather than a Hughes OH-6A light observation helicopter (LOH, but commonly called “loach”), which had a crew of two (pilot and observer). In either case, one helicopter was insufficient to satisfy all the transportation requirements of a LRRP unit, even one with only two deployable teams.

In all other cases, helicopters were borrowed assets, provided by higher HQ on request of the LRRP-unit commander or by direction from the controlling HQ staff. To be sure, many LRRP units, particularly those operationally controlled by a cavalry squadron, had habitual relationships with their helicopter-support units. And within those helicopter units, some pilots appear to have become particularly adept at supporting LRRP insertions and extractions.

So what was the typical helicopter requirement for a LRRP team? A single UH-1, two if the unit SOP required it, was needed to conduct a pre-mission air reconnaissance or overflight. The purpose of this flight was to enable the LRRP company and reconnaissance team leadership to view the reconnaissance zone in its entirety from the air, to select primary and alternate insertion LZs and extraction pick-up zones (PZ), and to view possible movement routes or select observation positions for the patrol. Participants in this overflight were normally someone from the company chain of command (company commander, operations officer, or platoon leader), the reconnaissance team leader, and possibly his assistant. This overflight was normally executed about 24 hours in advance of the planned insertion time. Logically, the same helicopter pilot who flew the reconnaissance overflight would also fly the insertion mission on the following day.

The actual insertion of a six-man LRRP team was normally accomplished using five helicopters: a C & C helicopter for the LRRP company commander or his designated representative (operations officer or platoon leader), two UH-1s (one for the inserted team and the other to portray false insertions), and two Huey or Cobra gunships. If a 12-man heavy team was being inserted, at least one more UH-1 was required to carry the additional six men. If helicopters were plentiful, additional lift helicopters could accompany the mission to portray the insertion of a larger force, or additional gunship helicopters could accompany the insertion to provide additional fire support and a safe extraction in the event of enemy presence in the LZ area.

Picture, then, a LRRP company commander attempting to insert a half dozen or more six-man teams in a brigade or divisional AO over a period of several hours to execute a “saturation” mission. Such an AO may be 20 kilometers or more from the base camp, requiring refueling between insertion sorties. It could take a relatively limited number of helicopters a long time to insert all the teams, or conversely a relatively large number of helicopters a short time.

Once inserted into its reconnaissance zone, the LRRP team was then at the mercy of the weather and the chain of command for subsequent helicopter support. A notable example of a LRRP team in contact that could not be extracted because helicopters were not immediately available occurred on 20 November 1968. About an hour after springing an ambush on a small enemy force in mid-morning of that day, a 101st Airborne Division LRP heavy team (12 men) came under attack and spent the remainder of the day pinned in its position by a larger enemy force. It could neither be extracted nor reinforced due to the unavailability of helicopter-lift support. By the end of the day the team had lost four KIA and several WIA, and were finally rescued by an ad hoc force of off-duty LRP company personnel followed by a QRF from the cavalry squadron.174

Lift helicopters used for emergency LRP-team extractions out of severe terrain or triple-canopy jungle typically had to be rigged with rope ladders, jungle penetrators, and McGuire rigs. Helicopter crews had to be trained in the use of all these devices, because their use severely affected control of the helicopter. By their very nature, these extractions were frequently conducted under enemy fire, sometimes at night, and often involving wounded personnel. It is no surprise that LRP units developed a special relationship with their habitual helicopter-support units and crews.

In a similar fashion, gunship pilots who routinely supported LRP units developed TTP intended to bring suppressing and killing fire in close to LRP-team positions. LRP teams identified their exact locations using panels, strobe lights in the open and in M79 grenade-launcher barrels, colored smoke, trip and pen-gun flares, and tracer fire. Skilled gunship pilots routinely delivered ordnance to within mere feet of LRP positions. Also on occasion LRP soldiers sustained injury from gunship fire.

Even though an enormous number of helicopters were present in the theater, they were a critical asset and, thus, strictly managed. In August 1968, General Peers stated that “any time you get about five or six LRPs out you have to keep about two gunships, sometimes four gunships depending on the situation, and two to four slicks setting aside that you cannot use for anything else.”175 As the former commander of 4th Infantry Division and at that time I Field Force commander, Peers knew well the aviation support required for LRP operations.

Other types of aircraft support to LRP teams included dedicated fixed-wing O-1 (L-19A) “Bird Dog” light observation aircraft in both I and II Field Force LRP companies. In both of these units, the aircraft flew above or off to the side of a reconnaissance zone in direct support of the LRP patrol. The pilot or observer had several functions: to serve as an aerial radio relay operator, to adjust artillery, to provide exact position coordinates to a patrol on the ground, to make visual contact with patrol for extraction, to provide information and warning to patrol of enemy activity, and to precisely locate a patrol in contact.176 The front-seat pilot was, of course, an Air Force FAC, who was empowered to bring in and control close-air support (CAS) aircraft. When it first formed a LRRP detachment in October 1966, the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division made frequent use of an L-19A for airborne radio-relay with its LRRP teams.177 In 1968, the 101st Division LRP unit used FAC support for insertions.178 Other LRP units had occasional access to fixed-wing aircraft support for radio-relay and other purposes; however, it was on a periodic rather than continuous basis.179

Tactical Role of Leaders

The administrative duties and responsibilities of small-unit leaders to sustain, shelter, promote, reward, punish, and in other ways provide for soldiers’ daily existence are constants in peace and war. This section examines the tactical role of the leadership component of LRRP units: the commander, operations officer or NCO, and platoon leadership. As in other areas of this study, one size does not fit all. Many LRRP units had inspired leadership; some did not. The focus of this section is more on what leaders did to contribute to their unit’s tactical mission than on how well or poorly they did it.

Doctrinally, in the tactical realm the LRRP/Ranger company commander was charged with specific responsibilities in 1965:

• Control the tactical employment of the long-range patrol platoons.
• Maintain close liaison with the staff of the controlling HQ.
• Participate in the initial planning for patrol operations.
• With assistance from company operations section, prepare detailed patrol plans.
• Issue orders and control patrol-recovery operations.
• Report the information gathered to G2 staff.

With one exception, these same responsibilities were contained in the new FM 31-18 published in August 1968, but with the following added company-commander tasks in stability operations:

• Issue warning order to patrol platoon.
• Assisted by operations officer, analyze mission and develop detailed plans for aerial reconnaissance, insertion, extraction, fire support, and communication.
• Continue preparation, planning, supervision, inspections, and follow-up actions to ensure the continuance of a high state of operational readiness.

The missing duty for LRRP company commanders in 1968 stability operations was, “Issue orders and control patrol recovery operations.” This task was now shared by the controlling HQ (“initiates contingency plans for emergency extraction”) and the aviation-mission commander (“directs the emergency extraction”).180

The writings of several LRP/Ranger veterans give us some “keyhole” insights into the actual duties performed by LRRP/LRP/Ranger company commanders in the Vietnam War. In F Company (LRP) 51st Infantry, II Field Force, the company commander is depicted as responding to the scene of LRP-team contacts in the C & C helicopter, bringing with him a pair of gunships to assist in the extraction of the team and its wounded personnel.181 The company commander participated in both insertions and extractions of teams.182 On other occasions, the company commander issued tactical orders by radio to deployed teams, telling them to stay in position or move, and approving or denying team requests to be extracted.183 The company commander was also present when a team was debriefed upon completion of a mission.184

A partial picture of company-commander duties and responsibilities is available for the LRRP unit of 1st Cavalry Division. The first commander, a combat-experienced Ranger- and special forces-qualified officer, stood up the unit in November 1966 and guided it through recruitment, training, and operational commitment until his date eligible for return from overseas (DEROS) in June 1967.185 Because this provisional unit’s teams initially were placed under the operational control of brigade HQ, little description exists of this commander’s tactical role. However, on one occasion he is depicted participating in the aerial reconnaissance overflight and on another as debriefing the division G2 about the results of a successful patrol.186

A later commander of E Company (LRP), 52d Infantry, 1st Cavalry Division (which in time became H Company [Ranger]), participated fully in the tactical activity of his unit.187 He was brought into command of the LRP company in the summer of 1968 to either resurrect it or bury it. At the time, the commander of 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, to which the LRP company was attached for logistic support and UCMJ authority, was attempting to make it into his E Troop. After the unit deployed from I Corps to III Corps tactical zone in October 1968, this commander went on the first mission in the new AO as the “bellyman” in the extraction helicopter.188 The new commander made tactical misuse of his LRP teams by brigade S2 and S3 personnel more difficult by establishing a tactical SOP and by communicating in writing with the division commander.189 Occasionally, this commander went on a combat patrol, once with the mission to plant anti-vehicular mines along an enemy infiltration route and another time to recover remains from a helicopter crash site.190 A successor to this commander is noted as giving tactical orders to a deployed team by radio (as opposed to the S2 or S3).191

The history of the 101st Airborne Division’s LRRP, LRP, and Ranger units is well told in nine or 10 separate accounts by seven different authors. One of the early commanders of the1st Brigade’s LRRP Detachment was a 23-year-old OCS-graduate second lieutenant.192 In May and June 1967 he planned and then participated in LRRP missions to capture enemy personnel.193 On at least one other occasion, this young officer went on a patrol as team leader during which several large groups of enemy soldiers were observed.194

Almost a year later, in May 1968, the commander of F Company (LRP), 58th Infantry was in a C & C helicopter, circling above a team and controlling a pair of Marine F-4 Phantoms in an air strike on enemy troops spotted by the team.195 The company commander was also frequently present when a team leader briefed back his mission order.196 In late June the company commander was involved in directing the insertion of a patrol from his C & C helicopter.197 In late July 1968, after a “fragging” incident involving an unpopular new commander, a replacement commander was brought in to shape up the unit or disband it.198 The new commander made tactical decisions about and participated in the insertion and extraction of teams.199 In October 1968 and February 1969, he ordered the tactical deployment of several teams to saturate patrol of an area of particular interest.200 The company commander was also a frequent participant in reconnaissance overflights to select helicopter LZs and PZs.201 These tactical activities, attributed to the early commanders, continued to be performed, in greater or lesser degrees, by subsequent commanders of the 101st Airborne Division LRP and later Ranger company.202

Irrespective of the division of assignment, the LRP-unit commander was the most important interface to the supported unit and its staff regarding missions assigned to his company. The typical divisional LRP company commander was a captain and his mission taskings came from majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels. Unless he had the ear of a higher-ranking officer, it was difficult for a LRP company commander to refuse or even negotiate a mission he felt was inappropriate for his unit.

The other area where the divisional LRP company commander had little tactical control was the availability of helicopter support. Even when LRP units were placed under the operational control of divisional air-cavalry squadrons, which had their own helicopters, the LRP captain was at the mercy of the aviation lieutenant colonel and his staff. The availability and tactical control of lift- and gunship-helicopter support was always an issue of concern when LRP patrols were in the field.

What tactical role did lieutenants perform in LRP units? Of course it varied from unit to unit and from commander to commander. But one can generalize based upon the available secondary sources. In the I Field Force LRP Company, lieutenants supervised patrol activities from the back seat of a light fixed-wing aircraft.203 Before the platoon leader could control patrols from the air, however, he was expected to participate in a few ground missions to gain an understanding of what teams were doing.204 A lieutenant also went to the field with his platoon when it was deployed to a forward base from which patrols were sent out.205 And lieutenants participated in the insertion of patrols.206 In F Company (LRP), 51st Infantry in II Field Force, a platoon leader was killed while leading a patrol on 15 December 1967.207 It was a regular policy in this unit that a platoon leader lead or accompany heavy teams in the field, and this was apparently done on many occasions.208

In the spring of 1967, the detachment commander of the 4th Infantry Division’s 2d Brigade LRRP unit showed an interest in going on patrol, something “his predecessor did not do often, except to familiarize himself with what kind of conditions we worked under in the field.”209 A veteran of the 173d Airborne Brigade LRP/Ranger Detachment, without naming specific leaders, indicates that someone from the chain of command always went to the scene to assist and control the extraction of teams that had been in contact.210 Another veteran of this unit, from the 1970-71 period, states that the lieutenants (platoon leaders) controlled the infiltrations and extractions.211 In the 1st Cavalry Division, a platoon leader in H Company (Ranger) was expected to accompany his team leaders on reconnaissance overflights and supervise the insertion and extraction of his platoon’s teams. He accompanied patrols to conduct special missions and also to confirm patrol-leader qualifications and performance.212 A new lieutenant was sent out on a mission to simultaneously expose him to patrol activities and expose the soldiers to him.213

The record of platoon-leader tactical duties in the 101st Airborne LRP/Ranger companies is replete with examples. An account of this unit for 1968 credits the XO as the only officer to have taken a team out under his own command, which leads to the conclusion that platoon leaders were not doing so during that time period.214 Another account cites the need for field duty and combat time to qualify a lieutenant for his Combat Infantryman Badge as the reason a platoon leader went on a patrol.215 According to a third source, lieutenants in the 101st Airborne LRP unit went on reconnaissance overflights with their team leaders, participated in pre-mission briefings, and went on patrols in other-than-leader roles.216 Another task of the platoon leader, apparently routine, was to deliver artillery pre-plotted fire lists and operational overlays for upcoming patrol missions to the radio-relay team supporting the missions from its forward location.217 Platoon leaders also flew insertions and extractions, sometimes in the C & C aircraft with the commander and other times as the bellyman in the extraction helicopter.218

Late in the war, in the period between April and July 1971, L Company (Ranger) of the 101st Airborne Division was ordered to conduct several offensive missions in platoon or larger strength. A platoon leader was killed during a road-ambush mission on 16 April 1971.219 A different platoon leader led his teams into the same area three days later and was forced out by heavy contact. A third, stay-behind mission into the same area on 23 April began with the helicopter insertion of the entire Ranger company (two platoons), followed a short time later by the planned extraction of one platoon. This mission also ended in failure as its radio-relay team on a ridge above the valley came under heavy attack.220

This same platoon leader accompanied one of his teams as a sixth man in a June 1971 mission, deferring to the leadership of the team’s sergeant E-5 team leader.221 Another platoon leader led a heavy team on a reconnaissance mission in mid-June that ended in contact and several Ranger casualties.222 In mid-July, both of these platoon leaders led the entire Ranger company in a raid operation that ended inconclusively.223 Generally speaking, the active participation of lieutenants in the 101st Airborne Division Ranger Company in team-level patrols was a function of personality and expediency. Lieutenants were not required to go on patrols, but some did of their own volition. They actively participated in patrol preparation, insertion, and extraction.224

Active participation by platoon leaders in Ranger team actions also occurred in other divisions. In the 25th Infantry Division, a first lieutenant led a Ranger heavy team on a combat patrol on 2 April 1970 that ended in heavy contact with the enemy. Two E-7 team leaders joined him in leadership of this patrol, one of whom was killed during the action.225

In many respects, the tactical role of platoon sergeants in LRRP units mirrored that of platoon leaders. They flew on pre-mission aerial-reconnaissance flights, supervised the team leaders as they prepared mission orders, and participated in insertions and extractions of teams as bellymen.226 A platoon sergeant in F Company (LRP), 51st Infantry of II Field Force met with the controlling S2 and S3 daily, scheduled his teams for upcoming missions, managed team assignments, coordinated artillery for the team leader, coordinated with helicopter pilots, participated in reconnaissance overflights, insertions, and extractions, supervised controlled substances (issue and turn-in of drugs), helped the team leader with map and special equipment issue and turn-in, supervised team rehearsals and briefings, and supervised turn-in of all weapons and ordnance upon completion of missions.227 On occasion, one can find a reference to a platoon sergeant accompanying a patrol or in rare cases leading a patrol.228 Whether they went as a “supernumerary” or led the patrol was a matter of personal choice. One can find references to two platoon sergeants in the 101st Airborne LRP and Ranger companies who frequently led patrols, and another reference to a Ranger platoon sergeant who rarely went on a patrol.229

If platoon leaders and platoon sergeants had significant tactical roles in reconnaissance overflights and insertion and extraction of patrols in helicopter-supported operations, their tactical role was diminished in units that relied less on helicopters and more on other methods of insertion. In late 1967 and early 1968, LRRP teams from the 25th Infantry Division LRRP detachment, which was attached to the 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, were sometimes used for extended LP/OP duty in support of one of the division’s maneuver brigades or battalions. These teams, both light and heavy, were inserted by walkout or stay-behind methods into LP/OP or ambush positions selected by the using unit, without any reconnaissance overflight or other LRRP-unit input. If the patrol was being conducted by a heavy team, its leader was the senior NCO of the two teams that comprised the patrol. The patrol would submit its periodic situation reports to the using unit and had to rely completely on the using unit for QRF and other combat support in the event of contact. Platoon leaders and platoon sergeants had no role whatsoever in the conduct of these patrols.230

In summation, LRRP- and Ranger-unit commissioned officers had important tactical roles to play that did not necessarily involve leading men on the battlefield. Effective company commanders participated in mission development and planning, personally supervised the insertion of teams, led reaction forces to the field when a team was in contact beyond its capability to withstand, and made the life-and-death decisions concerning extraction under fire. Platoon leaders, who frequently rotated to other assignments and units after just six months in position, conducted pre-mission reconnaissance, participated in insertions and extractions, and occasionally went on patrols as a team member, less often as a team leader. Late in the war, when Ranger units were more frequently assigned raid-type missions, lieutenants led heavy teams and platoons of Rangers into the field. Platoon sergeants assisted in preparing teams for combat, supported insertions and extractions, and on occasion led patrols to the field.

Personnel

With sufficient time and resources, one could examine the enlisted personnel who comprised the patrol teams and support elements in Vietnam LRRP and Ranger units from many perspectives: age, induction source (conscript or volunteer), formal civilian education, military occupational specialty, time in service, combat experience before LRRP assignment, ethnicity, urban or rural, and in other demographic, sociological, and psychological aspects. These perspectives, though interesting and no doubt informative, are beyond the reach of this study.
When one addresses the personnel issue as it relates to LRRP and Ranger units in Vietnam, the dominant theme is recruitment and retention of soldiers. In the words of a former company commander, “Proper recruiting is half the battle in developing a highly proficient Ranger company.”231 The reason is obvious-the “DEROS clock” of every soldier who volunteered for service in one of these units was already below one year and counting at the time of his assignment. The doctrine of the period, based on prewar experience of LRRP units in Germany, postulated that it took eight months to train an “effective and reliable LRRP unit.”232 In the early days, many soldiers arrived in LRRP detachments having already served up to six months in other units. Although these soldiers had valuable line-unit combat experience, the LRRP unit had scant time to take advantage of it. LRRP-unit commanders addressed this problem in a number of ways.

Some early LRRP commanders were permitted to “raid” line-infantry units for personnel.233 Line-unit commanders generally opposed this process, for a good reason expressed here in simple terms by General Peers:

Looking at it from a commander’s point of view. . . as a division commander or as a brigade commander, the LRPs are expensive and don’t forget it. Why are they expensive? You want to remember that you are dealing with select people. Where do you get select people? You get them from the units and when you take 200 select people from the combat elements of an infantry division, you have taken 200 potential fire team and squad leaders. Believe me, that hurts a division.234

There was some reliance on volunteerism from ordinary soldiers in line units who were looking for a change of duty, but this required cooperation not necessarily forthcoming from the losing chain of command.235 A brigade LRRP unit of 4th Infantry Division generated a recruiting handbill in the early summer of 1967 and circulated it around line units.236 In August 1967, a notice was sent out to 25th Infantry Division units requesting qualified volunteers for attendance at MACV Recondo School, with the possibility of subsequent assignment to the division LRRP detachment.237 Many LRRP units dispatched short-time NCOs to division or brigade in-country training centers to actively recruit new personnel directly out of the replacement stream.238 In at least one case, the LRRP-unit commander made this recruitment pitch.239

The benefit of this method was that the soldiers thus acquired had a full 12 months remaining in their tour of duty. On the downside, these soldiers typically had no combat experience and little relevant training, which affected unit operational readiness and combat performance. Here, for example, is a report from a representative of the II Field Force LRP Company to the August 1968 Long Range Patrol Conference at Nha Trang:

The company has been short on personnel. Because it needs a full 28 teams to accomplish its mission, it maintains this number by cutting down on the number of people in each patrol from six to five, sometimes to four. A limiting factor is turn around time. This has been as low as 36 hours per five-day patrol. It is not desirable to cut the turn around time that much, especially with the influx of untrained personnel directly out of the replacement pipeline.

A LRP operation requires trained, experienced people, but these replacements have been assigned directly to BCT, AIT, airborne school, then directly assigned to the Long Range Patrol unit. They do not even know squad tactics much less LRP tactics. Previously, every incoming individual had a training period of three months; now due to operational pressure, they have to learn in the field.240

In August 1968, the commander of the LRP detachment of 173d Airborne Brigade reported that about six weeks were required to “mold a soldier into a LRP member”:

All the 173d Airborne Brigade LRP members are volunteers who have been in a rifle company at least three months, pass a selection board, receive a week of training and then are integrated into an operational team. After a period of time, he attends the MACV Recondo School and if he graduates, is again integrated in the unit. . .241

The list of desired characteristics in a LRP soldier varied from one unit and recruiter to the next, but generally included high school education or above, 20 or 21 years old, rural as opposed to urban background, clean police record, physically strong and healthy, psychologically stable, and able to work as a member of a team.242 General Peers spoke on this issue at the August 1968 Long Range Patrol Conference at Nha Trang:

[A]n individual must be qualified both physically and psychologically. I would insist upon this. Physically, because LRP duties are very, very arduous and you never know when you are going to have to cover 10 to 15 kilometers on the ground in very short order. You must have the kind of people that are capable of doing this. . . The psychological qualifications to be a member of a LRP are extremely difficult. You need somebody out there who has nerves of steel, who can stay in there along the side of a trail, can sit there and watch that trail with a large enemy formation going by and not have the slightest inclination to stand up and fire a rifle or even move. . . To do this, he has to be qualified mentally and physically.243

Divisions made a concerted effort to make duty in a LRRP unit attractive. Here, for example, is a list of the “emoluments” authorized by Peers in 1967 for his 4th Infantry Division LRRPs:

• distinctive items to wear in base camp, including a bush hat with identifying band and a pocket patch
• priority consideration for promotion as he becomes eligible
• special attention on awards and decorations
• additional out-of-country R&R (every soldier was authorized one 7-day rest-and-relaxation leave during a 12-month tour of duty)
• minimum of 36 hours stand down following a mission to rest and recover

Apparently they were sufficient to attract an adequate number of soldiers to the LRRP unit: “With these emoluments a ready source of highly qualified volunteers is available. We have had no problem getting volunteers.”244

The outgoing commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division raised the issue of the shortage of trained personnel for his Ranger company in his post-command debriefing report. Major General John M. Wright, Jr., who commanded the division from May 1969 to May 1970, opined that “every man assigned to the company should be a graduate of the Army Infantry School’s Ranger Course.” The effort in his division to identify the Ranger qualification or lack thereof for incoming replacements was complicated by the Army’s use of only a single MOS identifier in personnel rosters, G for Ranger-qualified personnel and P for parachutist-qualified personnel. Because parachute qualification was a pay issue, that identifier took precedence over other identifiers. He concluded his discussion by recommending that “all replacements for the ranger companies in Vietnam be ranger qualified personnel.”245

A fair number of soldiers assigned to LRRP units stayed in them beyond their one-year DEROS by voluntarily extending their tours of duty.246 The standard extension increment was 180 days. Adding to the genuine desire of some soldiers to serve longer in an assignment they liked were two other primary reasons for extending: the granting of a bonus 30-day home leave before serving the extension and the granting of an early release from active duty upon completion of the extension if their remaining time in service was below a stated threshold. This would enable these soldiers to avoid any stateside garrison duty, considered by many as onerous, upon the completion of their combat duty.

Other factors, aside from end-of-tour departure of soldiers, caused chronic personnel shortages in LRRP units: casualties, illnesses, training (primarily MACV Recondo School), 7-day R & R leave, emergency leave, and 30-day extension leave. The 9th Infantry Division LRRP unit, when the division was operating in the Mekong Delta region, suffered particularly high illness rates due to disabling skin disease and bacterial infections from prolonged exposure to water.247

The literature on specific LRRP and Ranger units clarifies the impact of personnel shortages across the entire span of the war. Virtually every LRRP unit had to run its own two- to three-week training program, either continuously or periodically, to train inexperienced replacements for combat duty. Units would also respond to the problem by reducing team size from six down to five and even four members, and then by reducing the number of fielded teams.248 On occasion, units stood down for periods of days or even weeks in order to rebuild teams.249 Before one such stand down, in December 1968 the 101st Airborne Division LRP Company had two experienced men per team.250

Maintaining the NCO strength of a LRRP unit was as difficult, if not more so, than maintaining troop strength. Early in the war, junior and middle-grade NCOs had from two to 10 years of active-duty experience with possible attendance at Ranger school. But by late 1967 it was not uncommon to find LRP teams deployed to the field under the leadership of a specialist 4th class or very young sergeant with only several months of in-country experience. As the war dragged on, junior NCOs began arriving in LRRP and then Ranger units straight out of training- center schools with virtually no troop-leading experience in the real Army. 251 These “shake `n’ bake” sergeants from Fort Benning were combined with combat-seasoned soldiers promoted to NCO rank from within. The following quote reflects this practice in the 1st Cavalry Division in the summer of 1968:

Lately there has been a lack of trained team leaders as most of the present team leaders are rotating in August. To get the new NCOs and potential team leaders more experienced, team integrity is being broken in an effort to get these people as much experience as possible in the field before the others rotate.252

In either case, teams tended to be led by younger and less-experienced NCOs as the war went on.253

The Vietnam Experience

The Vietnam War provides an excellent opportunity to study the combat experience of LRP units in an operating environment that in some ways resembles the current and predicted future operating environments. Even though Vietnam lacked the desert terrain that has characterized US Army combat operations since 1990, it was heavily populated with towns, agricultural areas, and rural villages. LRRP units operating in relatively open terrain along the coast, in the delta region, or near Saigon always were in danger of compromise by civilians, innocent or otherwise. Vietnam was laced with rivers and canals that the enemy used for movement of troops and supplies. Vietnam had vast regions of jungle and forested mountain areas, beyond which were international borders with concealed infiltration routes. In Vietnam, the insurgent enemy soldier frequently demanded support from or hid amid the peaceable population. The conventional enemy soldier was typically well trained, competently led, and heavily armed. LRRP soldiers fought them both.

Infantry division and separate brigade commanders adapted their LRRP-unit tactical operations to the mission, enemy, terrain, and troops available. LRRP teams were inserted and extracted largely, but not exclusively, by helicopter. Other common methods of reaching the mission area were stay-behind or drop-off from conventional infantry units, some use of walk-out insertion from remote firebases, and use of US Navy or indigenous craft in areas best served by waterborne insertion. The preponderance of divisional LRRP units were in some degree controlled by or dependent on a ground or air cavalry unit for administrative, logistic, and UCMJ support. Their combat missions were largely assigned by brigade, division, or higher G2 staffs, and in some cases by G3 staffs.

LRRP units, and later Rangers, performed most of the routine missions for a standard rifle platoon in Vietnam, along with their doctrinal missions of reconnaissance, surveillance, damage assessment, and target acquisition. As the LRP companies transitioned into Ranger units, the tactical pendulum tended to swing over from covert reconnaissance and surveillance (human intelligence or HUMINT activities) to the direct-action combat side. Late in the war, Ranger units were conducting platoon- and even company-size operations not directly related to reconnaissance (screens, raids, ambushes, et cetera). LRRP and Ranger-unit veterans criticize high-level commanders for this so-called misuse of a special capability. This criticism may fairly be applied to commanding generals who paid little attention to their LRRPs and Rangers or permitted them to be used for routine “palace guard” ambush patrols or extended LP/OP for fire-support bases or field tactical headquarters. However, those commanding generals who employed their LRRP or Ranger units for direct-action missions did so deliberately, each for his own reasons, and not necessarily out of ignorance of LRRP doctrine.

Whether organized as a company or platoon, most LRRP units functioned in six-man light teams or 12-man heavy teams, the latter most often employed when enemy contact was sought or anticipated. These teams were primarily but not exclusively led by young NCOs, with platoon leaders and platoon sergeants occasionally accompanying or leading teams. Some LRRP units maintained their own around-the-clock tactical operations centers with assigned communications personnel, while others relied on the units to which they were attached.

Vietnam-era LRRP soldiers trained both at their units and at the MACV Recondo School in Nha Trang. While the doctrine of both the 1965 and 1968 versions of FM 31-18 postulated that more than eight months were required to train a LRRP solider to proficiency, virtually no Vietnam-era LRRP soldiers were afforded that luxury. Early in the war many of them came to LRRP detachments with combat experience in conventional infantry units, but late in the war the bulk of LRRP soldiers were coming directly out of the replacement stream. They were introduced into combat after just weeks of training at the unit, with possible later attendance at MACV Recondo School for the select few.

LRRP soldiers went into combat equipped primarily with M16 rifle variants, but also were prone to carrying M60s, M79s, shotguns, standard sniper rifles, AK47s, and numerous other weapons. Their communications equipment was standard-issue PRC-25 and PRC-77 radios, with the occasional URC-10 in some units. They had access to night-vision devices of that period, primarily the AN-PVS2 Starlight Scope, but found it bulky, heavy, and impractical in many terrain situations. In their medical-kit bags they carried blood products or substitutes, morphine, and an assortment of performance-enhancing drugs that were issued, sometimes abused, and later turned in after each patrol.

One of the unstated objectives of this study was to determine whether LRRP units of the Vietnam War benefited from the experience gained by LRRP units in USAREUR and Italy in the preceding years. The most tangible evidence of this benefit should be the field manual itself, but very few LRRP soldiers in Vietnam ever saw FM 31-18.254 Two examples exist of officers with LRRP experience in Europe in command of LRRP units in Vietnam.255 A former acting first sergeant from the 3d Infantry Division LRRP Detachment served as the first sergeant of the Ranger unit of 173d Airborne Brigade several years later.256 And there are at least two isolated cases of USAREUR LRRP company enlisted men serving in LRRP units in Vietnam, both having volunteered for the duty.257 There does not appear to have been any official attempt by the Army personnel system to identify European LRRP-unit veterans for assignment to like units in Vietnam.

At higher levels of command, senior officers can be found in Vietnam who had some working knowledge of LRRP activities in Europe before the Vietnam War. Such a case is Major General Melvin Zais, Jr., who was a deputy commanding general of 1st Infantry Division in May-June 1966, later commanded 101st Airborne Division from July 1968 to late May 1969, and then XXIV Corps from June 1969 to June 1970. From July 1959 to May 1962, Colonel Melvin Zais was the G3 of Seventh Army in USAREUR, where he played a crucial role in the formation of the first provisional LRRP units in both V and VII Corps.258

General Creighton Abrams arrived in Vietnam in mid-1967, well after LRRP provisional units were authorized and were being formed. He was familiar with LRRP doctrine from his own command experience in 3d Armored Division (1960-62) and V Corps (1963-64). He was serving as Westmoreland’s deputy when all the provisional LRRP units were designated LRP companies and detachments in December 1968, and was the Commanding General of MACV when all the LRP companies and detachments were re-designated as Ranger companies in early 1969. As Chief of Staff of the US Army after the war, and undoubtedly influenced by Ranger-unit performance in Vietnam, General Abrams authorized the creation of Ranger battalions.

Passing the Guidon

What legacy, if any, did the Vietnam LRRPs and Rangers pass to LRSU soldiers when their units were formed in the mid-1980s, over a decade after the Vietnam War’s end? This is a difficult question to answer. Certainly there were many NCOs and officers with Vietnam LRRP and Ranger experience still on active duty when LRSU were being established. But without written histories and personnel rosters of these LRSU to peruse, it is difficult to determine how many of the new LRSU NCOs were Vietnam LRRP- or Ranger-unit veterans. Certainly the officers assigned to a LRSU were unlikely to have served in Vietnam combat, except as enlisted men.259

On the other hand is the example of Lieutenant Colonel David Ohle, a Vietnam Ranger company operations officer and company commander in early 1971 who, in 1986, was commanding a cavalry squadron at Fort Campbell, and had assigned to his operational control the LRSD of the 101st Airborne Division.260 Lieutenant Colonel Ohle’s Vietnam experience certainly qualified him to mentor the LRSD commander and also those above him who may not have had previous exposure to LRRP or LRS activities. Brigadier General (Retired) David Grange also commanded a platoon in the 101st Airborne Division Ranger Company in Vietnam, in the summer of 1971.261 Throughout his post-Vietnam career, which included several special-operations assignments before he commanded the 1st Infantry Division in 1997, he would have had many opportunities to draw upon his Vietnam Ranger combat experience.

The most tangible evidence of Vietnam influence in the post-Vietnam LRSU world is in doctrine, which will be reviewed in some detail in the following chapter. It is clear that LRSU doctrine developers studied the Vietnam LRRP and Ranger experience when developing the missions and TTPs for LRSU.

Finally, the Vietnam LRRP and Ranger soldiers left a legacy of courage and sacrifice that stands as an example to all current and future LRSU leaders and soldiers. Three hundred and thirty-three of them gave their lives in that war, hundreds more were wounded, and several remain among the missing in action; three earned posthumous Medals of Honor.262 The lessons they learned were paid for at a high price, indeed. The youngest veterans of Vietnam LRRP/LRP/Ranger units and operations are now approaching retirement age. Many of them have organized themselves in such a way as to be accessible via the Internet. Those Army agencies or commands with particular interests in regard to TTP for specific enemy, mission, or terrain conditions similar to those experienced in Vietnam will find a group of veterans that has been waiting almost four decades to share its experiences. As Chapter 4 will show, at least two LRSU tapped into their Vietnam roots for inspiration in the 1990s.

(Eyes Behind the Lines: US Army Long-Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Units)

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  • Suppressive fires – won’t.
  • If it’s stupid but works, it isn’t stupid
  • Don’t look conspicuous – it draws fire. (For this reason aircraft carriers have been dubbed bomb magnets.)
  • When in doubt, empty the magazine.
  • You are not supermen. (Freshly graduated recruits and all fighter pilots, especially take note.)
  • Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than you.
  • Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.
  • If your attack is going really well, it’s an ambush.
  • No plan survives the first contact intact.
  • All five second grenade fuses will burn down in three seconds.
  • Try to look unimportant, because the bad guys may be low on ammo. (Trivia devotees will recall the sudden disappearance of rank and distinctive caps on the uniforms worn by Soviet officers in Afghanistan.)
  • If you are forward of your position, the artillery will fall short.
  • When you have secured an area, don’t forget to tell the enemy.
  • Incoming fire has the right-of-way.
  • The enemy diversion you are ignoring is the main attack.
  • The important things are always simple.
  • The simple things are always hard.
  • The easy way is always mined.
  • If you are short of everything except enemy, you are in combat.
  • No combat ready unit has ever passed inspection.
  • If the enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU!
  • Beer math is 2 beers times 37 men equals 49 cases.
  • Body-count math is 3 guerrillas plus 1 probable plus 2 pigs equals 37 enemy killed in action.
  • Friendly fire – isn’t.
  • Things that must be together to work usually can’t be shipped together.
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support desperately. (Corollary: Radar tends to fail at night and in bad weather, and especially during both.)
  • Anything you do can get you shot – including doing nothing.
  • Make it too tough for the enemy to get in, and you can’t get out.
  • Tracers work BOTH ways.
  • The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
  • If you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will have more than your fair share to take.
  • When both sides are convinced they are about to lose, they are both right.
  • Cancian’s Dictum: The side with the simplest uniforms wins.
  • Professional soldiers are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs
  • The easy way is always mined.
  • If the Enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU!
  • When you have secured an objective, don’t forget to let the enemy know about it.
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support desperately
  • If you are short of everything except enemy, you’re in combat.
  • Anything you do can get you shot, including doing nothing.
  • If you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will have more than your fair share of objectives to take.
  • When both sides are convinced that they are about to lose, they are both right.
  • Air strikes always overshoot the target, artillery always falls short.
  • When you have sufficient supplies & ammo, the enemy takes 2 weeks to attack.
  • When you are low on supplies & ammo the enemy decides to attack that night.
  • If at first you don’t succeed call in an air-strike.
  • Exceptions prove the rule, and destroy the battle plan.
  • The enemy never watches until you make a mistake.
  • One enemy soldier is never enough, but two is entirely too many.
  • The more a weapon costs, the farther you will have to send it away to be repaired.
  • Field experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  • No matter which way you have to march, it’s always uphill.
  • The one item you need is always in short supply
  • Friendly fire isn’t. If the sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
  • Remember, a retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping.
  • Never draw fire, it irritates everyone around you.
  • Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.
  • The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions: a. when you’re ready for them. b. when you’re not ready for them.
  • Teamwork is essential; it gives them someone else to shoot at.
  • If the enemy is in range, so are you
  • If you can’t remember . . . the claymore is pointed at you (The claymore is a flat mine that is set up and pointed at the enemy, unless you set it up the wrong way)
  • The important things are always simple
  • No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection
  • No inspection-ready unit has ever passed combat
  • All-weather close support doesn’t work in bad weather
  • The bursting radius of a grenade is always one foot greater than your jumping range
  • The only terrain that is truly controlled is the terrain upon which you’re standing
  • The law of the bayonet says the man with the bullet wins
  • The best tank killer is another tank. Therefore tanks are always fighting each other . . . and have no time to help the infantry
  • Precision bombing is normally accurate within plus/minus one mile
  • Cluster bombing from B-52s and C-130s is very, very accurate.
  • Perfect plans aren’t
  • The easy way generally gets you killed
  • Armored vehicles are bullet magnets, a moving foxhole that attracts attention
  • Ammo is cheap; your life isn’t
  • If you can’t see the enemy, he still may be able to see you
  • Final protective fire doesn’t
  • The most dangerous thing on a battlefield is an officer with a map
  • A sucking chest wound is Nature’s way of telling you to slow down
  • The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions: 1. when they’re ready 2. when you’re not
  • There is no such thing as a perfect plan
  • There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole
  • A retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping
  • Things that must work together, can’t be carried to the field that way
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support
  • Radar tends to fail at night and in bad weather, and especially during both
  • There is nothing more satisfying than having someone take a shot at you and miss
  • Military Intelligence is a contradiction
  • Fortify your front; you’ll get your rear shot up
  • The easy way generally gets you killed
  • Mines are equal opportunity weapons
  • The Cavalry doesn’t always come to the rescue
  • Bombers are the ultimate close support weapon
  • The one item you need is always in short supply
  • It’s not the one with your name on it; it’s the one addressed “to whom it may concern” you’ve got to think about
  • Whenever you have plenty of ammo, you never miss.
  • Whenever you are low on ammo, you can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
  • The complexity of a weapon is inversely proportional to the IQ of the weapon’s operator
  • To steal information from a person is called plagiarism. To steal information from the enemy is called gathering intelligence
  • The weapon that usually jams when you need it the most is the Machine gun.
  • The crucial round is a dud.
  • If your ambush is properly set, the enemy won’t walk in it.
  • Equipment will be damaged in direct proportion to its cost.
  • You can win without fighting, but it’s a lot of tougher to do. And the enemy may not cooperate.
  • Having all your body parts intact and functioning at the end of the day beats the alternative…
  • If you are allergic to lead it is best to avoid a war zone.
  • Hot garrison chow is better than hot C-rations which, in turn, are better than cold C-rations, which are better than no food at all. All of these, however, are preferable to cold rice balls even if they do have little pieces of fish in them.
  • A free fire zone has nothing to do with economics.
  • Medals are OK, but having your body and all your friends in one piece at the end of the day is better.
  • Being shot hurts.
  • Thousands of Veterans earned medals for bravery every day. A few were even awarded.
  • There is only one rule in war: When you win, you get to make up the rules.
  • C-4 can make a dull day fun.
  • There is no such thing as a fair fight — only ones where you win or lose.
  • If you win the battle you are entitled to the spoils. If you lose you don’t care.
  • Nobody cares what you did yesterday or what you are going to do tomorrow. What is important is what you are doing — NOW — to solve our problem.
  • Always make sure someone has a can opener.
  • Prayer may not help . . . but it can’t hurt.
  • Flying is better than walking. Walking is better than running. Running is better than crawling. All of these, however, are better than extraction by a Med-Evac even if it is, technically, a form of flying.
  • If everyone does not come home none of the rest of us can ever fully come home either.
  • Carrying any weapon that you weren’t issued (e.g, an AK) in combat is Not A Good Idea!
  • A combat vet will know the sound of an unfamiliar weapon in an instant and will point and shoot.Not only that, AKs use green tracers which mean “shoot ’em all and let God sort them out”.
  • As has been noted, “Friendly fire isn’t!”
  • When the going gets tough, the tough go cyclic.
  • Military Intelligence is not a contradiction in terms, “Light Infantry” is!
  • Proximity factor: The need for relief is directly related to the distance of the relief station.
  • Always keep one bullet in the chamber when changing your magazine.
  • In peacetime people say, “War is Hell”. In combat, under fire from artillery, airplanes, or whatever, a soldier thinks, “War is really really really LOUD as Hell!!!”.
  • If you can think clearly, know exactly what’s happening, and have total control of a situation in combat, then you’re not in combat.
  • When you get the coveted 1,000 yard stare, don’t forget about the enemy who is 30 yards away and about to pop your ass.
  • Stay away from officers in combat; they’re clever decoys for noncoms.
  • If you think you don’t need something for your combat load for an OP PLAN, you’ll probably wish you had it after the shit hits the fan in combat.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
    Failure of plan A will directly affect your ability to carry out plan B.
  • War does not determine who is right, war determines who is left.
  • Lackland’s Laws:
    • Never be first.
    • Never be last.
    • Never volunteer for anything
  • An escaping soldier can be used again.
  • If you think you’ll die, don’t worry you won’t.
  • Near death, but still a live? There is nothing wrong with physics. God doesn’t like you.
  • It is better to be lucky than good in the battlefield.
  • If it’s worth fighting for…it’s worth fighting dirty for.
    If god wanted boots to be comfortable he would have designed them like running shoes.
  • If you survive the extraordinary things, it will often be the little things that will kill you.
  • Give an order, then change the order, will get you disorder.
    You never have fire support in heavy firefight but you always have it on a silent recon mission
  • The only thing more dangerous to you than the enemy, is your allies
  • Night vision – isn’t
  • When you need CAS, they’ll be on last weeks radio fill and you won’t be able to reach them
  • When you need Gun ships, they’ll be busy escorting the generals bird around
    Supply & Demand law
    whatever you have, you won’t need; whatever you need, you won’t have.
  • Leadership law
    If it was risky, it worked and no one got hurt: you were brilliant
    If it was risky, it worked and someone got hurt; you were courageous
    If it was risky, it didn’t work and no one got hurt; you were lucky
    If it was risky, it didn’t work and someone got hurt; you were stupid (and probably dead)
  • The best sniper position is always the hardest to reach
  • Snakes aren’t neutral.
  • When you need to use the bathroom – the enemy is watching your position
  • Murphy was a grunt.

Laws of War for Helicopters

  • Helicopter tail rotors are naturally drawn toward trees, stumps, rocks, etc.
    While it may be possible to ward off this event some of the time, it cannot, despite the best efforts of the crew, always be prevented.
    It’s just what they do.
  • The engine RPM and the rotor RPM must BOTH be kept in the GREEN.
    Failure to heed this commandment can adversely affect the morale of the crew.
  • The terms Protective Armor and Helicopter are mutually exclusive.
  • “Chicken Plates” are not something you order in a restaurant.
  • The BSR (Bang Stare Red) Law:
    The louder the sudden bang in the helicopter, the quicker your eyes will be drawn to the gauges.
    Corollary: The longer you stare at the gauges the less time it takes them to move from green to red.
  • Loud, sudden noises in a helicopter WILL get your undivided attention.
  • The further you fly into the mountains, the louder the strange engine noises become.
  • It is a bad thing to run out of airspeed, altitude and ideas all at the same time.
  • “Pucker Factor” is the formal name of the equation that states the more hairy the situation is, the more of the seat cushion will be sucked up your butt.
    It can be expressed in its mathematical formula of:
    S (suction) + H (height above ground) + I (interest in staying alive) + T (# of tracers coming your way).
    Thus the term ‘SHIT!’ can also be used to denote a situation where a high Pucker Factor is being encountered.
  • Running out of pedal, fore or aft cyclic, or collective are all bad ideas.
    Any combination of these can be deadly.
  • Helicopters have been described as nothing more than 50,000 parts flying in close formation. It is the mechanics responsibility to keep that formation as tight as possible.
  • It is mathematically impossible for either hummingbirds, or helicopters to fly. Fortunately, neither is aware of this.
  • LZ’s are always hot.
  • There are ‘old’ pilots and ‘bold’ pilots, but there are no ‘old, bold’ pilots.
  • The mark of a truly superior pilot is the use of his superior judgment to avoid situations requiring the use of his superior skill.
  • Ch-53’s are living proof that if you strap enough engines to something it will fly.

Laws of War for Tanks

  • The same gun tube that would probably stay in alignment after lifting a car, will get you beaten after calibration if used to assist in climbing on the tank.
  • Tanks draw fire. A lot of it. It does not behoove the infantryman to hide behind one.
  • If you’re close enough to actually hear an M1 series tank running, while in combat, and not part of the crew, you’re too close.

Law of Fighting Airplanes

  • The enemy is always has the advantage.
  • Heat-seeking missiles don’t know the difference between friend and foe.
  • ‘Armor’ is a fantasy invented by your C.O. to make you feel better.
  • Afterburners aren’t.
  • Air Brakes don’t.
  • Your cannon will jam in combat, and then when you get back to base there will be nothing wrong with it.
  • You may have the better plane, but the enemy is the better pilot. (or vise versa)
  • When getting spare parts for your aircraft, you can get them CHEAP – FAST – IN GOOD CONDITION, pick two. (This applies to everything)
  • Your radar will not pick up the enemy behind you or the one in the sun.
  • If you have got into the sun and are about to ambush the enemy, it will either be a trap or you’ll run out of fuel.

Read Full Post »

  • Suppressive fires – won’t.
  • If it’s stupid but works, it isn’t stupid
  • Don’t look conspicuous – it draws fire. (For this reason aircraft carriers have been dubbed bomb magnets.)
  • When in doubt, empty the magazine.
  • You are not supermen. (Freshly graduated recruits and all fighter pilots, especially take note.)
  • Never share a foxhole with anyone braver than you.
  • Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.
  • If your attack is going really well, it’s an ambush.
  • No plan survives the first contact intact.
  • All five second grenade fuses will burn down in three seconds.
  • Try to look unimportant, because the bad guys may be low on ammo. (Trivia devotees will recall the sudden disappearance of rank and distinctive caps on the uniforms worn by Soviet officers in Afghanistan.)
  • If you are forward of your position, the artillery will fall short.
  • When you have secured an area, don’t forget to tell the enemy.
  • Incoming fire has the right-of-way.
  • The enemy diversion you are ignoring is the main attack.
  • The important things are always simple.
  • The simple things are always hard.
  • The easy way is always mined.
  • If you are short of everything except enemy, you are in combat.
  • No combat ready unit has ever passed inspection.
  • If the enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU!
  • Beer math is 2 beers times 37 men equals 49 cases.
  • Body-count math is 3 guerrillas plus 1 probable plus 2 pigs equals 37 enemy killed in action.
  • Friendly fire – isn’t.
  • Things that must be together to work usually can’t be shipped together.
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support desperately. (Corollary: Radar tends to fail at night and in bad weather, and especially during both.)
  • Anything you do can get you shot – including doing nothing.
  • Make it too tough for the enemy to get in, and you can’t get out.
  • Tracers work BOTH ways.
  • The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming friendly fire.
  • If you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will have more than your fair share to take.
  • When both sides are convinced they are about to lose, they are both right.
  • Cancian’s Dictum: The side with the simplest uniforms wins.
  • Professional soldiers are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs
  • The easy way is always mined.
  • If the Enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU!
  • When you have secured an objective, don’t forget to let the enemy know about it.
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support desperately
  • If you are short of everything except enemy, you’re in combat.
  • Anything you do can get you shot, including doing nothing.
  • If you take more than your fair share of objectives, you will have more than your fair share of objectives to take.
  • When both sides are convinced that they are about to lose, they are both right.
  • Air strikes always overshoot the target, artillery always falls short.
  • When you have sufficient supplies & ammo, the enemy takes 2 weeks to attack.
  • When you are low on supplies & ammo the enemy decides to attack that night.
  • If at first you don’t succeed call in an air-strike.
  • Exceptions prove the rule, and destroy the battle plan.
  • The enemy never watches until you make a mistake.
  • One enemy soldier is never enough, but two is entirely too many.
  • The more a weapon costs, the farther you will have to send it away to be repaired.
  • Field experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  • No matter which way you have to march, it’s always uphill.
  • The one item you need is always in short supply
  • Friendly fire isn’t. If the sergeant can see you, so can the enemy.
  • Remember, a retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping.
  • Never draw fire, it irritates everyone around you.
  • Try to look unimportant, they may be low on ammo.
  • The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions: a. when you’re ready for them. b. when you’re not ready for them.
  • Teamwork is essential; it gives them someone else to shoot at.
  • If the enemy is in range, so are you
  • If you can’t remember . . . the claymore is pointed at you (The claymore is a flat mine that is set up and pointed at the enemy, unless you set it up the wrong way)
  • The important things are always simple
  • No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection
  • No inspection-ready unit has ever passed combat
  • All-weather close support doesn’t work in bad weather
  • The bursting radius of a grenade is always one foot greater than your jumping range
  • The only terrain that is truly controlled is the terrain upon which you’re standing
  • The law of the bayonet says the man with the bullet wins
  • The best tank killer is another tank. Therefore tanks are always fighting each other . . . and have no time to help the infantry
  • Precision bombing is normally accurate within plus/minus one mile
  • Cluster bombing from B-52s and C-130s is very, very accurate.
  • Perfect plans aren’t
  • The easy way generally gets you killed
  • Armored vehicles are bullet magnets, a moving foxhole that attracts attention
  • Ammo is cheap; your life isn’t
  • If you can’t see the enemy, he still may be able to see you
  • Final protective fire doesn’t
  • The most dangerous thing on a battlefield is an officer with a map
  • A sucking chest wound is Nature’s way of telling you to slow down
  • The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions: 1. when they’re ready 2. when you’re not
  • There is no such thing as a perfect plan
  • There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole
  • A retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping
  • Things that must work together, can’t be carried to the field that way
  • Radios will fail as soon as you need fire support
  • Radar tends to fail at night and in bad weather, and especially during both
  • There is nothing more satisfying than having someone take a shot at you and miss
  • Military Intelligence is a contradiction
  • Fortify your front; you’ll get your rear shot up
  • The easy way generally gets you killed
  • Mines are equal opportunity weapons
  • The Cavalry doesn’t always come to the rescue
  • Bombers are the ultimate close support weapon
  • The one item you need is always in short supply
  • It’s not the one with your name on it; it’s the one addressed “to whom it may concern” you’ve got to think about
  • Whenever you have plenty of ammo, you never miss.
  • Whenever you are low on ammo, you can’t hit the broad side of a barn.
  • The complexity of a weapon is inversely proportional to the IQ of the weapon’s operator
  • To steal information from a person is called plagiarism. To steal information from the enemy is called gathering intelligence
  • The weapon that usually jams when you need it the most is the Machine gun.
  • The crucial round is a dud.
  • If your ambush is properly set, the enemy won’t walk in it.
  • Equipment will be damaged in direct proportion to its cost.
  • You can win without fighting, but it’s a lot of tougher to do. And the enemy may not cooperate.
  • Having all your body parts intact and functioning at the end of the day beats the alternative…
  • If you are allergic to lead it is best to avoid a war zone.
  • Hot garrison chow is better than hot C-rations which, in turn, are better than cold C-rations, which are better than no food at all. All of these, however, are preferable to cold rice balls even if they do have little pieces of fish in them.
  • A free fire zone has nothing to do with economics.
  • Medals are OK, but having your body and all your friends in one piece at the end of the day is better.
  • Being shot hurts.
  • Thousands of Veterans earned medals for bravery every day. A few were even awarded.
  • There is only one rule in war: When you win, you get to make up the rules.
  • C-4 can make a dull day fun.
  • There is no such thing as a fair fight — only ones where you win or lose.
  • If you win the battle you are entitled to the spoils. If you lose you don’t care.
  • Nobody cares what you did yesterday or what you are going to do tomorrow. What is important is what you are doing — NOW — to solve our problem.
  • Always make sure someone has a can opener.
  • Prayer may not help . . . but it can’t hurt.
  • Flying is better than walking. Walking is better than running. Running is better than crawling. All of these, however, are better than extraction by a Med-Evac even if it is, technically, a form of flying.
  • If everyone does not come home none of the rest of us can ever fully come home either.
  • Carrying any weapon that you weren’t issued (e.g, an AK) in combat is Not A Good Idea!
  • A combat vet will know the sound of an unfamiliar weapon in an instant and will point and shoot.\Not only that, AKs use green tracers which mean “shoot ’em all and let God sort them out”.
  • As has been noted, “Friendly fire isn’t!”
  • When the going gets tough, the tough go cyclic.
  • Military Intelligence is not a contradiction in terms, “Light Infantry” is!
  • Proximity factor: The need for relief is directly related to the distance of the relief station.
  • Always keep one bullet in the chamber when changing your magazine.
  • In peacetime people say, “War is Hell”. In combat, under fire from artillery, airplanes, or whatever, a soldier thinks, “War is really really really LOUD as Hell!!!”.
  • If you can think clearly, know exactly what’s happening, and have total control of a situation in combat, then you’re not in combat.
  • When you get the coveted 1,000 yard stare, don’t forget about the enemy who is 30 yards away and about to pop your ass.
  • Stay away from officers in combat; they’re clever decoys for noncoms.
  • If you think you don’t need something for your combat load for an OP PLAN, you’ll probably wish you had it after the shit hits the fan in combat.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
    Failure of plan A will directly affect your ability to carry out plan B.
  • War does not determine who is right, war determines who is left.
  • Lackland’s Laws:
    • Never be first.
    • Never be last.
    • Never volunteer for anything
  • An escaping soldier can be used again.
  • If you think you’ll die, don’t worry you won’t.
  • Near death, but still a live? There is nothing wrong with physics. God doesn’t like you.
  • It is better to be lucky than good in the battlefield.
  • If it’s worth fighting for…it’s worth fighting dirty for.
    If god wanted boots to be comfortable he would have designed them like running shoes.
  • If you survive the extraordinary things, it will often be the little things that will kill you.
  • Give an order, then change the order, will get you disorder.
    You never have fire support in heavy firefight but you always have it on a silent recon mission
  • The only thing more dangerous to you than the enemy, is your allies
  • Night vision – isn’t
  • When you need CAS, they’ll be on last weeks radio fill and you won’t be able to reach them
  • When you need Gun ships, they’ll be busy escorting the generals bird around
    Supply & Demand law
    whatever you have, you won’t need; whatever you need, you won’t have.
  • Leadership law
    If it was risky, it worked and no one got hurt: you were brilliant
    If it was risky, it worked and someone got hurt; you were courageous
    If it was risky, it didn’t work and no one got hurt; you were lucky
    If it was risky, it didn’t work and someone got hurt; you were stupid (and probably dead)
  • The best sniper position is always the hardest to reach
  • Snakes aren’t neutral.
  • When you need to use the bathroom – the enemy is watching your position
  • Murphy was a grunt.

Laws of War for Helicopters

  • Helicopter tail rotors are naturally drawn toward trees, stumps, rocks, etc.
    While it may be possible to ward off this event some of the time, it cannot, despite the best efforts of the crew, always be prevented.
    It’s just what they do.
  • The engine RPM and the rotor RPM must BOTH be kept in the GREEN.
    Failure to heed this commandment can adversely affect the morale of the crew.
  • The terms Protective Armor and Helicopter are mutually exclusive.
  • “Chicken Plates” are not something you order in a restaurant.
  • The BSR (Bang Stare Red) Law:
    The louder the sudden bang in the helicopter, the quicker your eyes will be drawn to the gauges.
    Corollary: The longer you stare at the gauges the less time it takes them to move from green to red.
  • Loud, sudden noises in a helicopter WILL get your undivided attention.
  • The further you fly into the mountains, the louder the strange engine noises become.
  • It is a bad thing to run out of airspeed, altitude and ideas all at the same time.
  • “Pucker Factor” is the formal name of the equation that states the more hairy the situation is, the more of the seat cushion will be sucked up your butt.
    It can be expressed in its mathematical formula of:
    S (suction) + H (height above ground) + I (interest in staying alive) + T (# of tracers coming your way).
    Thus the term ‘SHIT!’ can also be used to denote a situation where a high Pucker Factor is being encountered.
  • Running out of pedal, fore or aft cyclic, or collective are all bad ideas.
    Any combination of these can be deadly.
  • Helicopters have been described as nothing more than 50,000 parts flying in close formation. It is the mechanics responsibility to keep that formation as tight as possible.
  • It is mathematically impossible for either hummingbirds, or helicopters to fly. Fortunately, neither is aware of this.
  • LZ’s are always hot.
  • There are ‘old’ pilots and ‘bold’ pilots, but there are no ‘old, bold’ pilots.
  • The mark of a truly superior pilot is the use of his superior judgment to avoid situations requiring the use of his superior skill.
  • Ch-53’s are living proof that if you strap enough engines to something it will fly.

Laws of War for Tanks

  • The same gun tube that would probably stay in alignment after lifting a car, will get you beaten after calibration if used to assist in climbing on the tank.
  • Tanks draw fire. A lot of it. It does not behoove the infantryman to hide behind one.
  • If you’re close enough to actually hear an M1 series tank running, while in combat, and not part of the crew, you’re too close.

Law of Fighting Airplanes

  • The enemy is always has the advantage.
  • Heat-seeking missiles don’t know the difference between friend and foe.
  • ‘Armor’ is a fantasy invented by your C.O. to make you feel better.
  • Afterburners aren’t.
  • Air Brakes don’t.
  • Your cannon will jam in combat, and then when you get back to base there will be nothing wrong with it.
  • You may have the better plane, but the enemy is the better pilot. (or vise versa)
  • When getting spare parts for your aircraft, you can get them CHEAP – FAST – IN GOOD CONDITION, pick two. (This applies to everything)
  • Your radar will not pick up the enemy behind you or the one in the sun.
  • If you have got into the sun and are about to ambush the enemy, it will either be a trap or you’ll run out of fuel.

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In 1759 Major Robert Rogers commanded s small unit of scouts and raiders in what was then Britain’s American colonies, fighting against French and Native American Indians.

These are Major Robert Rogers standing orders issued to his Rangers. Some of the language and details are dated, but these orders are still very relevant and guide our every action in the field.

The standing orders for this unit represent a  blueprint for the tactical operations of special forces even now.

  1. Don’t forget anything.
  2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatched scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.
  3. When you’re on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer.  See the enemy first.
  4. Tell the truth about what you see and what you do.  There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lay all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don’t ever lie to a Ranger or an officer.
  5. Never take a chance you don’t have to.
  6. When you’re on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can’t go through two men.
  7. If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it’s hard to track us.
  8. When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
  9. When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
  10. If we take prisoners, we keep them separate till we have time to examine them, so they can’t cook up a story between them.
  11. Never march home the same way.  Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed.
  12. No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout twenty yards on each flank and twenty yards to the rear, so the main body can’t be surprised and wiped out.
  13. Every night you’ll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
  14. Don’t sit down to eat without posting sentries.
  15. Don’t sleep beyond dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians attack.
  16. Don’t cross a river by a regular ford.
  17. If somebody’s trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
  18. Don’t stand up when the enemy’s coming against you. Kneel down, lie down, and hide behind a tree.
  19. Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it and jump out and finish him with your hatchet.

Read Full Post »

In 1759 Major Robert Rogers commanded s small unit of scouts and raiders in what was then Britain’s American colonies, fighting against French and Native American Indians.

These are Major Robert Rogers standing orders issued to his Rangers. Some of the language and details are dated, but these orders are still very relevant and guide our every action in the field.

The standing orders for this unit represent a  blueprint for the tactical operations of special forces even now.

  1. Don’t forget anything.
  2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatched scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march at a minute’s warning.
  3. When you’re on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer.  See the enemy first.
  4. Tell the truth about what you see and what you do.  There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can lay all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don’t ever lie to a Ranger or an officer.
  5. Never take a chance you don’t have to.
  6. When you’re on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can’t go through two men.
  7. If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it’s hard to track us.
  8. When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
  9. When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
  10. If we take prisoners, we keep them separate till we have time to examine them, so they can’t cook up a story between them.
  11. Never march home the same way.  Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed.
  12. No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout twenty yards on each flank and twenty yards to the rear, so the main body can’t be surprised and wiped out.
  13. Every night you’ll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
  14. Don’t sit down to eat without posting sentries.
  15. Don’t sleep beyond dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians attack.
  16. Don’t cross a river by a regular ford.
  17. If somebody’s trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to ambush you.
  18. Don’t stand up when the enemy’s coming against you. Kneel down, lie down, and hide behind a tree.
  19. Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch. Then let him have it and jump out and finish him with your hatchet.

Read Full Post »