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TA-50 Field Gear Cookin' with C-Rations Hot Chow in the Field Getting Clean - Showers
MPC Zippo Lighters P-38 Tiger Beer
Swagger Stick Rolling Your Beer Company Mutt Malaria Pill
Hair Cut Sleeping in the Weeds Short Timer Letter Home Chaplains
Roger's Rangers

TA-50 (Fancy way of saying field gear)

Nick Gallo models the latest in TA-50 in 1970.  His gear is carried in an aluminum-framed nylon rucksack.  He has two different types of canteens: the quart sized hard plastic and the 2 quart "bladder" type.  Under his rucksack is an M-72 LAW (Light Antitank Weapon), used for "bunker busting."  You can also see the cylindrical smoke grenades used to mark positions so our aircraft would know where we were, and a couple of round fragmentation grenades.  His rifle is the M-16A1 version, with a closed flash hider.  Notice Nick has his sling setup in a non-issue manner with the front of the sling attached to the front sight, and the back wrapped around the butt.  His ammunition is carried in the pouches that came in the waterproof ammo cans.  Notice the OD towel - needed to mop that sweat.  All told, Nick is carrying somewhere between 75 and 100 pounds - depending on how many letters from his girl friend he is carrying.h

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Courtesy Nick Gallo

Compare Nick's gear to what SFC Antonio Torres-Perez wore in May 1966, four years earlier.  His weapon is the first model M-16 with an open flash hider (often used to break the wire around cases on C-Rations).  He is still wearing state-side fatigues (no cargo pockets on the trousers), though he does have jungle boots on.  His load-bearing equipment is the harness, web belt and butt-pack of that era.  His entrenching tool (small shovel) is attached to the belt.  He is carrying the then new plastic one quart canteen.)

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Courtesy Edgar Irizarry

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Cookin' with C-Rations

All during the war, the main chow in the field was the C-Ration - canned meals consisting of such delicious entrées as ham & lima beans, beans & wieners, or turkey loaf.

The trooper at right (the only name we have is Sadler, and we think he was from Florida) is "enjoying" his meal.  Circled in red is a plastic package that probably holds his letters from home.  Perched on top are three cookies.  Circled in blue is a 5 pack of cigarettes - they came with the meal.  The green circle shows a can of food being heated over a "field expedient" stove - nothing more than a short can with holes punched in it, with a blue "heat tab" in the bottom.

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Courtesy Don Jensen

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Hot Chow in the Field

On occasion, troops in the field were able to get hot food.  While not exactly what Mom used to cook, it sure was better than C-Rations.  But, a number of things had to happen before hot chow was sent out - the company had to be in a place where there was little likelihood of enemy contact because the helicopters that delivered the food had to return to pick up the Mermite can (large insulated cans, seen at right, that kept the food hot) and because the company would be in one place for awhile - a tempting target for enemy mortars.  Tom Rutten's picture taken in 1967 indicates C 2/5 Cav was operating near a village.

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Courtesy Tom Rutten


Getting Clean - Showers in the Weeds

While operating out in the field, there wasn't much chance to get clean, unless you came across a river or a flooded bomb crater. Even at a base camp, showers were not luxurious.

Clockwise, starting upper left:  The showers at Camp Radcliff (An Khe) in October, 1966.  Note the water cans on the ground.  Somebody had to climb the rickety ladder to get water into the 55 gallon drums.

 Upper right:  Sometimes we could build a shower out of ammo boxes, such as the one to the near right on LZ Ike in the summer of 1969.  (All we know of the trooper is that his name was Gonzalez.)  

Bottom:  A different kind of shower used in 1970.  Note the metal water cans in 1969, and the plastic water jugs of 1970.

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Courtesy Ray Long

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Courtesy Jim "Tree" Machin

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Courtesy Jim Holcombe

MPC (Military Payment Certificate)
It was illegal to carry American currency in Vietnam.  As soon as you arrived "in-country", you had to turn in your "greenbacks" for MPC.  Officially, the Vietnamese currency was the piaster, but there was little the MPC couldn't buy.  In order to keep the MPC from being the real currency, every few months everyone had to turn in their old MPC for new ones - and each series would be different from the others.  Of course, this caused a panic in the Vietnamese who had accepted MPC from GIs.  These samples are from 1969, and were contributed by Mike Hayes.

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Zippo Lighters
Way back in the 60s and early 70s, nobody was too worried about the dangers of smoking.  A majority of us smoked cigarettes, and most of us used a Zippo lighter.  Each of us carried our smokes in a hard plastic case, and often that was carried in the elastic band that kept the camouflage cover in place on our steel pots.  At some time during the time C 2/5 Cav was in Vietnam, specially decorated Zippos were given to the guys as they left for home.  According to Jim Sims, who served as the Company Clerk in 1968, he ordered them at the direction of 1SG Solloway in September 1968.   This sample was contributed by Mike Hayes, who served from April 1969 to May 1970.

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P38 Can Opener
Okay - did you carry yours with your dog tags, or did you carry yours on a key chain?  For the uninitiated, this is a can opener - and its shown approximately actual size.  From Mike Hayes, April 1969 to May 1970.

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Tiger Beer
This picture shows much of the grunt's life in Vietnam.  Didn't we all wear an OD towel around our necks?  It was there to mop the sweat.  And - Tiger Bier - the Vietnamese beer.  Of course, it was never cold, and you wondered if the VC had poisoned it.  And cigarettes - many of us no longer smoke, but most of us did back then.  Cigarettes were even included in the C ration boxes, and cartons of various brands were sent to the field.  You carried your open pack in a hard plastic box (it  had space for matches), often held in the heavy elastic band around the steel helmet.

Ken Burington took this picture while the company was working out of the division's main base at An Khe in 1967.  He titled it "Still Life on Termite Mound."

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Swagger Stick

See what can be done with a piece of an old mortar round crate?  Jim Mullen was a platoon leader in 1966 when this beautiful swagger stick was carved for him.  The blacken is shoe polish.  Note the beautifully carved Pegasus on the top, representing the winged cavalrymen of the 1st Cav.  On the backside is carved the word "Trooper."  (Courtesy Jim Mullen)

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Rolling Your Beer

Remember when the log bird would bring out "bravos and charlies" - beers and cokes?  Along with them came big blocks of ice.  You knew you could have at least one cold beer before the ice was gone.  It didn't take new guys to learn the trick of  "rollin' your own."  SSG Ronnie Hayworth (who once served with 4/6) demonstrates proper technique.  (Identified by Chuck Moore.)

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Courtesy Mel Wilikison

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Company Mutt

Every unit had some sort of mutt for a company mascot.  Of course, the Infantry units couldn't have one in the field, but C 2/5 Cav had one in the rear trains area most of the time.  This mutt's name was "Short Round", seen here in Quan Loi in February 1969.

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Courtesy Mel Wilkison

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Malaria Pill

Okay - 'fess up.  Did someone have to stand over you and make you take that weekly pill?  Because taking pill caused diarrhea in some people - and because they were so big - some guys didn't want to take that pill.  In this picture from the fall of 1971, a medic leans over a branch to hand the pill to an unknown trooper.  The trooper in the background had previously served with the 101st Airborne Division as indicated by the 101st patch on his right sleeve. (Anyone knowing the names of any of these troopers, please email the webmaster.)

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Courtesy Dolf Carlson

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We had to keep those locks shorn somehow.  Most people who have not served in the armed forces think the short haircut is just "military."  Actually, it is very practical.  The dirt, mud, and bugs would get in long hair and bring on lice and other health problems.  

Near right:  SGT Dennis Kelly is shown here giving a haircut to SGT Kenneth Jones in the fall of 1965, probably at An Khe.  Note the hand-powered clippers.

Far right:  In October, 1966, the barber shop at An Khe looks a little nicer.  Notice the soldier's uniform - his shirt appears to be the old style, stateside fatigues, while he has on jungle fatigue pants (with cargo pockets) and jungle boots.

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Courtesy Dennis Kelly

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Courtesy Ray Long

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Sleeping in the Weeds

The top two pictures show how we stayed dry in the rainy season.  (Well, kinda dry.)  A poncho served as a mini-tent, and all three guys sharing a foxhole at night could use it.    Not shown in this is a foxhole, but it was very close by.  Notice the "neck" of the poncho is tied together and held up to create a sloping "roof."  Obviously, somebody's poncho liner got wet, because its draped over the bamboo to dry.

Some folks were lucky enough to have a hammock to sleep in.  Jim "Tree" Machin and Gaylord Russell enjoy all the luxuries of life in the weeds.  Hammocks either came from a Vietnamese village, or taken from the body of a dead enemy soldier.  They were nylon, very light weight, and tied between two trees.  A poncho could be tied above it in tent fashion to keep the rain off, with a sock or "drip knot" at both ends to keep water from running down the cords.  This gear had to be light weight, as we carried it with us at all times - we only saw a log bird every three days.  Circa spring/summer 1969 in Tay Ninh Province.

The bottom picture shows how things were done when there were no trees around.  Depending on the tactical situation, the log bird might fly in bedrolls in the late afternoon, then take them back out again in the morning.  That way we were always "light to fight."  Air mattresses were used - if you could get one.  Circa December 67- January 68 in Binh Dinh Province, up in the mountains.

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Above Courtesy Jim Machin

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Courtesy Larry Wood

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Short-Timer Letter Home

Almost all of us sent a short-timer letter home.  Often, the letters we sent  were oft-copied typed messages.  Parnell Bethune sent his home in the summer of 1966 - Jerry "Doc" Watson sent his home three years later in August, 1969.  Yet - note the striking similarity between the two.

What is unusual about Jerry Watson's letter was that he mentions Comanche in the letter.  From an email written by Jerry "Doc" Watson:

" . . . . is a copy of a form letter that I sent home while I was at Tay Ninh healing from my wound. I’m sure that all sent home a letter something like this. The letter was meant to be a joke, but after reading it again after all of these years, I now realize how true it really was."

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Courtesy Parnell Bethune

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Courtesy Jerry Watson

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Chaplains were valuable to all of us during our tour - even those who did not have a "religious" bent.  Father Ferrigan, the Catholic Chaplain with 2/5 Cav in 1969, even went out on patrol with us - unarmed.  Chaplains helped us commemorate our buddies who had just been killed in action.  They helped us celebrate home holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, and they conducted worship services when they could.

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We don't know when this practice started, but the chaplains would send this letter home to the next of kin of newly arrived troopers.  Mike Comb's parents received this in March, 1970.

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Courtesy Mike Combs

Chaplain Perkins conducted the service commemorating the lives of the nine C 2/5 Cav troopers killed on March 11, 1967.

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Courtesy Tom Rutten

Most of the larger units had their own chapels at An Khe.

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Courtesy John Licavoli

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Standing Orders - Roger's Rangers

Many of us received this card when we went through the 1st Cav's week long training center at either An Khe or Bien Hoa. Dennis Henzi received his in December, 1966, and kept his all these years.

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Courtesy Dennis Henzi

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Updated August 26, 2006