‘THE LOOK’ US ARMY LONG RANGE PATROL SCOUT VIETNAM 1968
PATROL SCOUT

COMPANY F, 58TH INFANTRY (LONG RANGE RECONNAISSANCE PATROL)

101 ST AIRBORNE DIVISION
CAMP EAGLE - SEPTEMBER 1968


Historical Background

When the US began the build up of conventional forces in Vietnam, the Army found itself unsuitably equipped and trained for engaging an elusive enemy in the harsh climate of South East Asia. In the mid-1960s, with The Cold War at its height, the military forces of the US and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries were developed to fight similarly equipped Warsaw Pact forces in a conventional war in Northern Europe with an obvious front line. Thought was given to the deployment of reconnaissance units behind that front line – predominantly in the form of ‘stay behind’ observation posts (in anticipation of NATO forces giving ground ahead of advancing Warsaw Pact armoured columns) which could report on troop movements and call in massive firepower to disrupt and slow the advance.

NATO LRRP School students practising insertion techniques at the end of The Cold War (Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

In Vietnam however, there was no front line. The Communist forces in South Vietnam waged a guerrilla war from within the population, supported from well hidden bases deep in the jungles and countryside which defied location by US conventional reconnaissance assets such as aircraft, direction finding / locating radars and radio intercept. US ground commanders quickly recognised the need for special, covert reconnaissance patrols which could operate within the enemy’s back yard to locate him and prepare the way for assault by highly mobile conventional forces. As a result, in 1965 provisional Long Range Patrol (LRP) units were formed but their existence was very much reliant on what manpower could be spared and what training could be provided by Special Forces. The success of these ad-hoc units led to the Army to formalise the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) concept in 1967, with companies being created for each Division and smaller detachments formed for each Army Light Brigade. Training was delivered for the majority of personnel in-country. These units proved their worth to commanders time and again. However, as the war dragged on the Army decided to convert all LRRP companies into lettered 75th Ranger Companies in 1969. This change of title saw the slow demise of the LRRP pure reconnaissance operations as the Rangers began to be tasked with more and more direct action missions.

***

This article concentrates on the early LRP/LRRP unit in mid 1968, prior to the conversion to Ranger status. In particular the focus is on a Patrol Scout from Company F, 58th Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division (Co F-58th Inf) which arrived In-Country in January 1968 to join with its 1st Brigade which had been in Vietnam since mid 1965.

US Army Parachute Qualification Badge – ‘wings’

Although parachute training was not an essential skill for LRRP personnel the associated mental and physical stress endured by those who attended 
and passed ‘Jump School’ proved that such men were likely to be suitable for specialist training.

 

The LRRP Company Structure in Vietnam 1968

By 1968 most Divisional LRRP Companies had an authorised strength of 118 men, although through the operational attrition of training, tour rotation, sickness, injury etc few units operated at full strength. On paper the companies were divided into an HQ platoon and 2 x patrol platoons. HQ platoon had an operations section, communications section, medical section and supply.

In theory, patrols platoons consisted of a platoon leader, platoon sergeant and 8 x 6 man patrols.

The 6 man patrols ordinarily consisted of a Staff Sergeant as Team Leader, a Sergeant as Assistant Team Leader, two radio operators and two scouts (E-4 – Senior Enlisted Rank below Corporal). In reality teams rarely had the prescribed rank structure – experience in role being considered more important, especially given continual manpower shortfalls.

 

Patrol Operations

The Primary role of the LRRP team was to conduct reconnaissance missions for the Division, working directly for the ‘S-2 Shop’ (Intelligence Section). Commanders seeking to engage the enemy and disrupt his movement and operations needed to first know where he was. A typical LRRP mission would see a team inserted into an area of interest to Divisional S-2 with orders to locate specific traces of enemy presence or activity. The Area of Operations (AO) for a patrol was typically a 2km x 4km rectangle with a 1km buffer zone around the perimeter to provide a safe zone from friendly fire support. The team was usually expected to be on the ground for 6 days, inserting at first light on the first day to give them the best chance of landing undetected and the most amount of daylight to escape and evade if compromised by the enemy.

The Team Leader would plan a patrol route to investigate areas of interest following a reconnaissance over-flight of the AO. To enable LRRP HQ to support a small team deep in enemy territory, the patrol route plan would include Rendezvous Points (RVs) to allow progress to be monitored, Artillery Defensive Fire (DF) coordinates for protection or deception, potential Night Defensive Positions (NDPs) where the team would expect to lay up overnight and Pick-up Zones (PZ) in the event that the team needed extraction ahead of schedule. All these coordinates could be changed and updated via radio once the team had been deployed as dictated by the terrain, vegetation and above all, enemy activity. Teams were usually inserted by helicopter, sometimes with the aircraft landing on, other times by fast-rope or rappel (abseil). These latter methods were not popular as the helicopter was required to hover over one spot for a period to allow all team members to reach the ground safely – exposing the helicopter to the enemy and also being a one way trip for the team. Once successfully inserted into the AO the team would follow the patrol route noting all signs of enemy activity (trails, base camps, weapon caches etc) as well as noting map accuracy, vegetation density and tree canopy thickness (anything that would be needed to help Commanders plan an operation by conventional troops).The team would stealthily move by day, usually in single file with one scout leading and the other bringing up the rear (and covering signs of movement left by the patrol). At night the team would take up a NDP, radio in coordinates for On-Call artillery DF tasks, deploy protective Claymore Mines and send one of their three daily scheduled Situation reports (SITREP) A mission was considered a success if the team were able to complete their route through enemy territory undetected and be extracted with information on the enemy 
and terrain within the AO.

 

The Look – A Study of the Uniform and Equipment of a Patrol Scout

Co F-58th Inf 101st Abn Div

 

SP/4 Taylor – Patrol Scout Co F 58th Inf Vietnam 1968. (Photo Copyright US Army (available www))

 

Rolling Thunder LRP Scout Co F 58th Inf Camp Eagle Sept 1968 (Photo Copyright PE Hawtin)

Weapons and Ordnance / Ammunition

In June 1968, newly trained LRP Team Member Gary Linderer arrived at Camp Eagle, Phu-Bai , Vietnam, home of The 101st Airborne Division and in particular home to ‘Company F, 58th Infantry (LRP) – The Eyes of The Eagle’. In his book Eyes of The Eagle F Company LRPs in Vietnam 1968, Linderer recorded the weapons, ordnance and equipment he was required to draw for a standard LRP mission. His weapons and ordnance issued on 27 June 1967 were as follows: 

1 x M16 Assault Rifle

6 x Fragmentation Grenades

1 x CS (riot agent ‘tear gas’) Grenade

1 x white Phosphorus Grenade

10 x 40mm High Explosive Grenades (for an M79 Grenade Launcher)

1 x block C-4 Plastic Explosive with 10’ Detonator Cord

1 x M18 Claymore Mine with Detonator

2 x M18 Coloured Smoke Grenades

20 x rifle magazines 5.56mm calibre

At first glance this might seem excessive. However if a team were engaged by the enemy they needed the ability to return fire sufficient enough in volume to create shock and confusion to gain an opportunity to break contact with the enemy and to escape and evade him. Rifle fire and grenades could help achieve this, along with the use of CS gas grenades as the tear gas would linger in vegetated areas and deter an unprotected enemy from rapidly following a fleeing patrol. The Claymore Mine was also a useful weapon in this situation as it could be rigged as a booby trap or command detonated from a distance sufficient (up to 100’) to create enough shock to allow the patrol to escape. Coloured smoke grenades and flares were generally used to mark the patrol’s position to friendly aircraft, especially during prolonged engagements where air delivered fire support was required, or when needing to identify the patrol to extraction helicopters (‘ships’).

US Colt 5.56mm M16A1 Assault Rifle

By mid 1968 the standard issue M16A1 Assault Rifle was the most common weapon carried by LRRPs. A number of the shorter CAR-15 / XM-177 versions of the M16 were sometimes available. This rifle has been adapted for LRRP use. The butt, fore-stock and muzzle cover have been camouflaged with green tape. Patrolling with the muzzle cover in place prevented moisture and dirt entering the barrel and it could be fired through if required. The front sling-swivel beneath the foresight has been removed as a noise prevention measure. The standard sling has been discarded and replaced with lighter, more convenient para-cord. Taped along the fore-stock are cleaning rods, easily accessible in the event of a stoppage being caused by a round or empty case being jammed in the chamber. An additional 20 round magazine has been taped to the one fitted to the weapon to allow a rapid reload in contact.

(Photo Copyright PE Hawtin)

Some Ordnance / Ammunition carried by LRRP Team Members

L to R: M18A1 Claymore Mine c/w 100’ command wire, unit circuit tester and M57 firing switch (clacker). 2 x M127A1 white star parachute (pop-up) flares. From back: 2 x M18 coloured smoke signal grenades, 2 x M26 fragmentation grenades, 2 x M67 fragmentation grenades. M16A1 assault rifle. 12 x 20 round 5.56mm ammunition magazines.

(Photo Copyright PE Hawtin)

 

Uniform

Co F Team Leader John Burford stated that the men of the LRRP companies never wore regular uniforms on missions, he himself opting for an NVA shirt and Ho Chi Minh sandals. However, the majority of photographs of LRRP Teams at this time show members invariably wearing the indigenous ‘Tiger Stripe’ uniforms. Being either locally made, or offshore made in places like Japan, Korea and Okinawa, the colours, patterns and textiles varied considerably and the harsh nature of the terrain and climate often ensured that their useful lifespan was short. The pockets were also very small and unable to carry much in the way of patrol equipment. Given the considerable differences in terrain and vegetation across Vietnam there were occasions when standard OG uniforms were worn as they provided better camouflage than Tiger Stripe. Rarer still, the odd reference mentions LRP members spraying splotches or bands of black paint on regular jungle fatigues in some instances, and although veteran LRRP Gary Linderer has confirmed to me that this did occur, I have yet to find a photograph of a LRRP in this style of uniform.

In 1968 a tropical uniform made in the US Engineer Research and Development Laboratory (ERDL) camouflage pattern, initially designed in 1948, began to be issued. The LRRP teams nicknamed this pattern ‘the flower-power’ and although he was issued these style of uniforms on his arrival at Co F, Gary Linderer stated to me that the teams preferred the tiger stripe uniform as it blended in better amongst the deep shadows beneath the jungle canopy.

 

Examples of Tiger Stripe (Left) and ‘Lime Green’ Dominant ERDL Camouflage Patterns

Off-shore produced Tiger Stripe (TS) Uniform and Pocket Contents

From L/R Lime Green Dominant ERDL tropical jacket underneath sweat rag, tailored TS ‘boonie’ hat and black M1950 leather gloves with fingers cut off. TS shirt (modern reference to this particular pattern is ‘sparse tadpole light’). Right chest pocket: notebook and pencil in plastic bag, ‘zippo’ lighter, plastic spoon. USGI watch attached to left collar. Left chest pocket: Camouflage cream stick, sunscreen tin. All these items were in use regularly on patrol.

Left sleeve pocket: cigarettes. (not for smoking on patrol but for calming pre-mission nerves and relaxing on the extraction ‘ship’. TS trousers. USGI clasp knife. Right leg pocket: Pre-prepared dehydrated meal. Left leg pocket: map and protractor. (Photo Copyright PE Hawtin)

 

Equipment

On the same day as his weapons issue, Gary Linderer also received his field equipment, listed as the following:

1 x rucksack with frame (at this stage lightweight ruck with cut down frame) (Ruck)

1 x set M56 LBE, 1x radio battery

1 x poncho liner, 1 x survival knife

1 x pen flare gun with 4 x cartridges

1 x cigarette lighter

1 x penlight, 1 x strobe light

1 x fluorescent orange signal panel

1 x signal mirror, 1 x compass

4 x 1 quart plastic canteens, 1 x 1 gallon collapsible canteen

1 x camouflage stick, 4 x bottles insect repellent

1 x acetate covered map and grease pencil 1 x flashlight with red lens

1 x d ring

1 x 20’ length nylon cord

1 x 20’ length para cord

1 x machete (although in practise seldom if ever carried)

1 x Serum Albumin canister (blood volume expander)

2 x dehydrated LRRP rations (per day of mission)

As well as this he was issued first aid and preventative medicines, field dressings, toilet paper and candy. Some of the smaller, more regularly used items were stowed in the uniform pockets, however the majority of the equipment was stowed in the ruck with those items needed quickly either secured under the top flap or in the external pockets.

 

The ‘Ruck’

Fully laden Tropical Rucksack. These became available in Vietnam from 25 August 1968 and often replaced indigenous rucksacks and the modified Light Weight Rucksacks that had been used by LRRP teams up until this point. Attached above the centre pocket is a 2 – quart collapsible canteen and above that an M18 Claymore mine secured under the top flap. The 20’ nylon rope and coloured smoke grenades are also visible. (Photo Copyright PE Hawtin)

 

Ruck Contents. From L to R on the ruck, 1 x quart canteen, nylon rope and D-ring, dehydrated LRRP ration, MX-991U red filtered flashlight, 2x ‘pop-up’ signal flares. Items below the ruck: trip wire spool, PX privately purchased camera, weapon cleaning kit and weapons oil. (Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

Under the ruck top flap – A bandolier of 7 x 20 round magazines for the 5.56mm M16 A1 rifle and a collapsible water bladder (Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

 

Items for a NDP – Poncho (not always carried), sleep shirt and poncho liner. The poncho liner would also be used to pad the inside back of the ruck. (Photo Copyright PE Hawtin)

 

Individual Load Carrying Equipment (ILCE)

In 1968 the majority of US Army troops in Vietnam were using the M1956 ILCE although some units were beginning to receive items of the latest and improved M1967 MLCE system. M1956 ILCE, more often referred to as LBE (Load Bearing Equipment) or simply ‘web gear’ had been developed at the end of The Korean War. It was designed for use by troops who it was anticipated would ride into battle in armoured personnel carriers and who would never be too far from rapid resupply and overnight equipment. In basic configuration it allowed for the carriage of a limited ammunition load, water, rations and an entrenching tool and bayonet. Made from OD No7 cotton it was reasonably robust, but lacked a compatible rucksack. Additionally, like all cotton webbing equipment, it absorbed water and shrank slightly when wet, making it heavier to carry and awkward to remove items from pouches in a hurry. Another disadvantage was the high number of metal clips used to hold it together which could cause heavily laden pouches to move on the equipment. In order to carry their equipment and ammunition, LRRP personnel spent a great deal of time modifying their web gear so it was fit for their particular needs.

LRRP Scout M1956 Web Gear c 1968

The LRRPs generally carried as much ordnance and survival equipment in their web gear as possible, just in case they became separated from their rucks or they had to jettison them to help rapid movement in an emergency. This gear has been configured for this purpose. It consists of a standard belt and H-Harness suspenders, 2 x first aid pouches, 2 x 1st/2nd pattern ammunition carriers and 4 x water canteen carriers. The contents of this set are: 8 x 20 rd 5.56mm magazines, 6 – 8 fragmentation grenades, 3 x wound dressings, 3 x 1 – quart water canteen, 1 x canteen cup, 1 x bottle of water purification tablets, 1 x compass, 1 x USAF survival knife, 1 x SDU-5/E strobe light, 1 x D-ring.

Not shown are the CS grenade, WP Grenade and Serum Albumin can which would also be attached.

(Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

 

Close up view of web gear stowage

The front ammunition carrier holds 4 x 20 rd magazines, however owing to the depth of the pouch a field dressing was often carried beneath the magazines to raise them so they could be grasped quickly (shown here in the pouch lid for size purposes).. Magazines were never discarded by LRRPs, so an empty one is turned upside down to prevent inadvertent loading into the weapon in a hurry / darkness. When able, empty magazines were secured in the ruck and replaced with charged spares. Grenades are carried both on the side of the ammunition carrier and in a canteen carrier as these proved easier to access than a standard ammunition carrier and had greater capacity. Note the tape securing the grenade pins and water purification tablet bottle.

(Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

Compass and Strobe in web gear – Map and Protractor in uniform leg pocket.

Note these vital items are attached to the LBE by ‘dummy cord’. Many LRRPs would also sew a piece of the fluorescent orange marker panel inside their boonie hats. (Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

Inside View of Web Gear Note the tape wrapped around straps and belt to prevent movement. Additionally, each pouch has been secured through its metal belt attachment clip by use of a piece of inner filament from parachute cord. This prevents the clips from opening and the potential for pouches becoming detached from the belt.

(Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

‘On The Man’ Equipment – Web Gear, M16A1, 7 pocket ammunition bandolier

 

LRRP Full Mission Gear – In order for gear to sit correctly when worn and to demonstrate the burden carried by LRRPs to the public at shows the weight of equipment and ordnance is made up through simulated loads of wood & lead (magazines and ammunition), sand (grenades) and housebricks (radio batteries), The 65lb does not include the uniform and pocket items, and when this photo was taken the 5 quart, 2 quart and 1 x 1 quart canteen were not full. These add another 14.6lbs to the total when full – full gear equalling around 80lbs.

(Photo copyright PE Hawtin)

The ‘Look’

 

LRRP Scout Pre-Mission Camp Eagle Sept 1968 – Note early pattern vibram soled jungle boots


Pre-Mission weapon check

Checking Individual Compass Error (ICE) Note the evident equipment weight showing at the neck!

 

References and Acknowledgements

References

The Eyes of the Eagle. Gary A. Linderer – Presidio Press, New York 1991

LRRPs in Action. John Burford – Squadron Signal Publications Inc, Texas 1994

US Army Uniforms of the Vietnam War. Shelby Stanton - Stackpole Books, PA 1989

US Army Long Range Scout in Vietnam 1965-71. Gordon L Rottman - Osprey Publishing, Oxford 2008

Vietnam War US & Allied Combat Equipments. Gordon L Rottman - Osprey Publishing, Oxford 2017

 

Acknowledgements

US Army Sergeant (Retired) Gary A Linderer

The International Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School, Weingarten, Bavaria

Rolling Thunder, The Vietnam Experience Committee

 

Why LRP Scout?

Retired military Senior Officer Pete Hawtin joined Rolling Thunder in early 2018 with the express desire of creating a LRRP Team Scout in the pre - Ranger era impression. Pete served in The British Army and Royal Air Force for 28 years gaining a large number of qualifications and experiences that he believes help with his portrayal. Qualifications included: The Army Platoon Commanders Battle Course, The 81mm Mortar Platoon Commanders Course, The Combined Arms Tactics Course, The Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) Commanders Course, The Unit Signals Officers Course, Pre- Parachute Selection Course and British Basic Military Parachute Course. Most relevant to the LRRP portrayal though was The NATO LRRP Patrol Leaders Course at ILLRPS Bavaria, and gaining US Army Parachute Wings with The US Army 5th Special Forces Group in Kuwait in 1998.

Pete transferred from The Army to The RAF Regiment in 1988. At that time the Regiment Light Armoured Squadrons were trained and equipped to defend RAF mobility assets (Support Helicopters) and Close Air Support assets (Harrier ac) deployed into field sites along The Inner German Border as part of NATO’s defence against The Warsaw Pact. Enemy threat spectrum was primarily Special Forces, Airborne Forces and Helicopter Assault. To counter these threats extended covert patrolling, observation posts (both surface and sub-surface) and rapidly deployed armour borne strike were employed. Due to the unique nature of the task, the high value of assets being defended and high calibre of enemy forces expected, the RAF Regiment had high priority placing on all courses delivered by ILRRPS until the school closed in the late 1990s/2000s. The majority of tactics taught at ILRRPS were those developed in Vietnam, particularly on the summer patrol courses. 6 man teams, insertion and extraction by UH-1D helicopters, escape and evasion, and patrolling with heavy loads through the forested mountains and hills of Bavaria certainly had their parallels with LRRP training in Vietnam. The high number of US instructors and students from SF and Ranger units helped to cement this.

Additionally, Pete worked on the helicopter trials unit where he was involved in insertion and extraction trails for UKSF, door gunnery and personnel recovery. This latter project he revisited in 2004 and became one of the UKs leads for developing a recovery capability working extremely closely with the USAF Para Rescue community in Europe and the USA. He served world-wide, in desert, arctic and jungle environments and participated in every major UK operation from Gulf War 1 to Afghanistan, his final deployment being with The US Marine Corps in 2013.

 


 

 
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