Vietnam - Equipment and Uniform

A Reference Tool for Reenactors

Field Gear - Assembly and Use

How to Assemble your ILCE

Fitting the Individual Belt

The individual belt helps to support the buttpack and carries the E-tool & carrier, ammunition pouches, canteens & covers and first aid compass pouch.  The belt is issued in medium and large sizes so that it can be adjusted to fit over all layers of outer clothing including the armoured fragmentation vest.  If you bare chest measures less than 30 inches wear the medium size.  If you measure 30 inches or more wear the large size.  To fit the belt, unfasten the hook on each end of the belt from the center eyelet in which it is engaged.  Shorten or lengthen the belt so that it fits around your waist just loose enough not to constrict your clothing.

Fitting the Suspenders

The suspenders help to support the buttpack and equipment belt.  Suspenders come in regular, long and extra-long size.  If you are under 68 inches tall, without shoes, wear the regular size.  If you are over 68 inches tall, without shoes, wear the long size.  If you are tall or broad chested or you expect to wear your webbing over cold weather clothing and/or a fragmentation vest, wear the extra-long size.  The shoulder pads should be centered on your shoulders to distribute the weight of the load evenly.  The suspenders may be worn without the buttpack, so for this, attach the suspender straps directly to the belt. Adjust the straps so that the they place the belt evenly at your waist.  To keep the load evenly on both shoulders, attach the rear suspender straps at even spaces from the center of the rear of the belt.

Attaching the Buttpack to the Belt

Lay the pack with the back facing up, the flap to the top, and the two slide keepers in an open position.  Lay the belt out flat with the back facing up and the  male belt buckle to your left.  Locate the center of the belt, and insert the belt into the two open slide keepers so that the center of the belt matches the center of the pack.  Close the two slide keepers, making sure that the tip of the sliding bar engages the hole in the bottom of the clip (Insert).

To avoid loosing equipment make sure all clips are attached properly.

Attaching the Suspenders to the Buttpack and Belt

Lay the suspenders out flat, above the pack, with the inside facing up and the back suspender straps to the bottom.  Attach the back suspender straps to the pack by putting the hooks of these two straps into the center of the two webbed tabs of the pack.  Attach the front suspender straps to the belt by first fastening to the belt fasteners.  Fold the suspenders back on the pack so that they lay with the ouside of the suspenders facing up.  Put the hook of the left front suspender strap into the top eyelet on the front of the belt, nearest the female belt fastener; put the hook of the right front suspenders into the top eyelet on the front of the belt, nearest the male belt fastner.  The open part of each hook should be to the front of the belt and the loop to the side away from the center fasteners.


To prevent the equipment belt from "riding up" in front when the ammunition cases are empty or are partially filled, put the front suspender strap hooks in the    top eyelets of the belt at the sides under your arms.

Adjusting the Front Suspender Straps

Unfasten the belt, put on the assembled equipment, and fasten the belt.  Unfasten the buckles on the two front suspender straps.  Center the shoulder pads of the suspenders outside shoulders, and adjust to the length of  front suspender straps so that the belt is properly located on your waist.  Fasten the buckles to hold the adjustment pressing each buckle firmly with the thumb to insure that it is fully closed.

Adjusting Suspender Straps

Remove the assembled equipment and place it on a flat surface.  Fasten the belt.    Unfasten the buckles on the two back suspenders straps.  Locate the center of each shoulder pad of the suspenders.  Fold the shoulder pads over at the center.   Adjust the length of each back suspender straps so that the fastener hangs evenly at the front and back.  Fasten the strap buckless to hold the adjustment.  Make certain the buckles are properly fastened by pulling slightly on the suspenders.

Attaching the E-Tool Carrier & Canteens with Covers

Attach the E-Tool carrier to the belt on the left aide by means of the two slide keepers at the back of the carrier.  Do not attempt to insert the clips over two thicknesses of the equipment belt webbing because the clips were designed to fit over only one thickness of webbing.  Attach the two canteens with covers to the belt on either side of the buttpack   Alternatively you can attach the cover to the sides of the Buttpack (Insert).



Attaching the Ammunition Cases

Attach the case to the belt on both the left and right sides, next to the front suspender straps.  Unfasten the buckle of the supporting straps of the cases.  Attach the snap of the supporting strap of the cases to the metal loops located at the bottom edge of each of the shoulder pads.  Make sure the straps are not twisted.  Adjust the length of the supporting straps so that the cases do not hang down.  Fasten the buckle on the supporting straps to hold the adjustment.

Attaching the Compass Pouch/First Aid Case and Bayonet with Scabbard

Attach the compass pouch to either the belt in the front on the right side next to the ammunition case or to the web keeper on top of the padded portion of the suspenders.  Attach the bayonet scabbard into the eyelets of the belt next to the left ammunition case.  Alternatively you can attach it to the eyelets on the buttpack (Insert)



How to Assemble your Frame

When you acquire your rucksack it may be in its separate components.  Putting it together for the first time can cause some headaches.  This section helps you on your way by explaining how to assemble the different types of rucksacks you are likely to be using when doing re-enactment.  It also suggests how to attach your extra equipment and pack your rucksack if you are going out on any missions.

Frame Components

Your lightweight rucksack and frame are made up of the following components:


                                                                                  Aluminium Frame
                                                                                  Two Shoulder Straps (Left one quick release)
                                                                                  Upper Back Strap
                                                                                  Middle Back Strap (Early models do not have the middle horizontal strap)*
                                                                                  Lower Back Strap
                                                                                  Waist Strap
                                                                                  Two Vertical Cargo Straps

*Note that in the picture above the frame is equiped to use a middle back strap, the small metal tabs to retain the strap in place are present on the frame, but the strap is not mounted.

Attaching the Shoulder Straps


Left shoulder strap


Right shoulder strap with quick release

You should have two shoulder straps similar to the ones pictured above.  The left shoulder strap has a quick release device, whilst the right strap does not.


At the bottom end of either straps is a loop. Thread this around the outer bar of the frame and then around the strap itself. Then pull until it tightens itself.

At the top of the frame are four frame loops.  The outer two are for the vertical cargo straps and the inner two are for attaching the rucksack shoulder straps.
Face the frame so that the curved side, i.e. the side that goes against your back, is towards youself.  Thread the upper shoulder strap around the outside of the upper bar of the frame and through the inner riveted loop.  Secure it through the shoulders strap's buckle.  Adjust to fit.

Attaching the Upper and Middle Back Straps

Face the frame so that the shoulder straps are away from you.  The upper back strap is secured between the two riveted clips visible in the picture above.  Thread the strap between two aligning placements, so that the buckle is towards you.  Thread the one end through the clip and secure.  Secure the extra webbing flap by fastening the snaps.

Attaching the Lower Back and Waist Straps


The lower back strap is arranged around the rucksack frame as pictured above.  Face the rucksack so that the curved side is away from yourself.  Wrap the strap around the frame and secure with the buckle. Adjust to fit.  To attach the waist strap (Not pictured) secure both ends in a similar way to the shoulder straps on the same frame part as the lower back strap. Adjust to fit.

Attaching the Cargo (Chape) Straps

To assemble the vertical cargo straps first attach the upper frame buckle chapes through the two outer loops, remember the inner two loops are for the shoulder straps.  While facing the curved side away from you, thead the looped end of the chape through the buckle and round the upper frame bar.  Loop over the other end and pull tight.  The cargo straps attach in the same way to the buckles on the middle frame bar. The cargo straps are pulled upwards to secure on the chapes own buckles.


The Lightweight Tropical Rucksack has several key features:

Pouch Flap (With Map Compartment)
Nylon Drawstring
Three Cargo Pockets
2 Hangers A & B
Frame Securing Strap
Canteen Securing Strap
Pouch Reinforcement Straps

How to Attach your Rucksack

The Lightweight tropical rucksack is attached to the frame on the lower bars. The lower position is the standard, but can also be attached to the frame in an 'Upper Position'. If you havent done this before it can be quite tricky. 

Attaching in the Lower Position

If you have the back of the rucksack facing you you will see two straps and buckles like those in the above picture.

Put the rucksack down with these straps facing towards you. Then place the rucksack frame on top. The curved section is towards you with the middle frame bar positioned as in the photograph.

Place the two straps between the three cargo buckles. Loop one of the straps through its own buckle and back on itself. Repeat with the other strap.

Next secure the sides of the rucksack to the frame using the frame securing straps.  The result looks like below......


How to Alternate your ILCE

Compass pouch
The compass pouch under the standard ILCE system is normally secured on the pistol belt to the front or on the side of the right ammo pouch.  The single clip on the back allows it to be secured almost anywhere.  In Vietnam it was often positioned on the left suspender webbing attachment.  Try it on the buttpack or even the helmet band.  There is no reason why you cannot have several compass pouches on your webbing, since it can carry a compass, bandage and is just the right size for a 20 round magazine.  This Air Cavarly re-enactor (Pictured below) wears the standard 'System' with the compass pouch on the left shoulder away from the side he would fire from.  Notice his empty bandolier, characteristic of a recent battle.


Most Vietnam re-enactors carry at least 2 canteens on their webbing.   Where you attach it is down to personal choice.   I secure mine either side of my lightweight tropical rucksack, hooked on with the ALICE clips and secured from flapping by the straps attached at that point on the ruck.  The other common position is directly on side webbing of the buttpack or on the web belt on either side of the butt pack.  If you carry more than two they can be positioned all around the pistol belt, even replacing the ammo pouches or on buttpack carrying handle.  The alternative to carrying several canteens is using a 2 qt collapsible instead.  You can carry the same amount of water taking up less space, and it allows for more equipment.  The trooper in the picture below is carrying 2, 1QT canteens on the rear of his pistol belt next to a M1956 ammo pouch.  He also has a jungle first aid kit attached high up on his suspenders.

Ammo Pouches

Ammo pouches are positioned on front by most re-enactors, some carry up to 4. I have two on my web belt carried front on left and right sides.  This makes for some comfort when you are firing from the prone position.  In light combat conditions you could do away with the buttpack and position one between your two canteens or around on the hips.


The E-tool is heavy and bulky and a pain in the butt.  In the standard configuration it is worn on the left hip.  But you will find some re-enactors wearing it on either the left or right hip next to the buttpack, or on the buttpack-carrying handle.  If you have it on the hip, I find it better to counter-balance the weight with a canteen or two on the other hip.  The USMC carry theirs on their havasack high on the back which makes a comfortable position.  For the US Army system you can do this by securing the e-tool on the buttpack carrying handle and positioning it on the shoulders with the buttpack adaptor.  This is not very secure.  The re-enactor pictured below left wears his on the left hip with a bayonet attached to the E-tool cover.  Alternatively the grunt pictured below center wears his on the right with his bayonet hanging between beside the buttpack. The USMC soldier below right wears his E-tool in the standard layout attached to his havasack. Note the grenade carrier on the side of the havasack and the extra first aid/compass pouch hanging off his jungle first aid kit.    

Bayonet, KA-bar & Machete

If you carry a bayonet there are many ways of doing so.  If you carry an e-tool with M1956 cover then it has a bayonet scabbard attachment on it.  Otherwise it can be hung anywhere on the pistol belt or on the webbing eyelets on the side of the buttpack.  The KA-bar knife strictly speaking is a USMC item, but was worn by the Army.  This was commonly worn behind the pistol holster or on one of the hips to the rear.  Many re-enactors wear them upside down on the suspenders and taped into position.  Whether this was commonly carried like this in Vietnam is debatable, though nothing is outside the realm of possibility.  Individual preference is the deciding factor in a lot of the equipment placement in a combat environment.  What works best for the troop and he believes will help keep him alive and combat effective.  The machete is not often worn on the ILCE because of its size and awkwardness.  The only position, which works well, is on the webbing eyelets of the buttpack or on the eyelets located on the top horizontal strap on the lightweight tropical rucksack frame.

Pistol Holster

If you wear a pistol holster it can only be worn on the right side of the pistol belt, unless you have a shoulder holster.  You will also need a .45 magazine pouch. Most re-enactors position this between the ammo pouch and the belt clip.  But it can go almost anywhere you feel it gives you best access.  This grenadier (Pictured below) carries his holster on the right side and his magazine pouch is situated right in front for quick access.

Gas Mask

You can only wear it on the leg like it says in the manual or sling it over your shoulder.  This re-enactor (Below) is wearing his in the correct way but higher up above the pistol belt. Note he wears a M1967 flak jacket but with the ballistic lining removed, not recomended for the reenactor as it serves no purpose this way and looks really bad in the process.  If you are going to wear it, then wear it right. 

How to Assemble your M1 Helmet

Assembling your helmet

You should have the following helmet components.

Fitting the Helmet Cover

  1. First place the M1 helmet on a surface right way up and undo the chinstrap if you have one.
  2. Stretch the helmet cover over the helmet, ensuring the wings go either side of the chinstrap fittings.
  3. Put the scrim band around the cover and over the helmet. Push it down to the base of the helmet.
  4. Use the scrim band to hold the helmet cover in place while you are stretching it over the helmet.
  5. Once the cover is in place turn the helmet upside down.
  6. Fold the wings of the cover inside the interior of the M1 helmet.
  7. Next place the helmet liner inside the interior the helmet. This holds the wings of the helmet cover inside and helps keep the cover on the helmet. Make sure you put the liner in the right way round, with the neckband fittings to the rear. You will know which way round it goes as the liner will fit snug into the helmet.

Fitting the Headband

  1. If the headband is already attached to the liner, unclip it. To dissengage the 6 clips, push the levers down (You will hear them click).
  2. Place the headband around your head and adjust to a size just larger than your head.
  3. Make sure the leather portion is at the front, the buckle is at the back and the clips are open and facing inwards.
  4. Adjust the headband to a snug fit, then remove it.
  5. Insert it into the liner so that the clips are towards the crown of the liner and the buckle is at the back.
  6. Fix the clips over the liner's web suspension band and finally close the clips.

Fitting the Neckband

  1. The Type 1 neckband isn't really adjustable, but the Type 2 has some adjustment.
  2. If you have one thread the two long tapes into the small buckles at each side of the liner, making sure the smooth surface of the neckband forms against your neck and faces the front of the liner
  3. Thread the short tape into the rear buckle.
  4. Put the liner on your head and adjust to fit by tightening the long tapes uniformly so that the neckband fits snugly and comfortably against the back of your neck. Pull the short tape to take up the slack.

Putting finishing touches to your helmet

  1. If you have a chinstrap on the helmet reconnect it.
  2. Push it over the back rim of the helmet, so that it rests around the helmet's rear.
  3. Pust some accessories into your scrim band if you like such as C-Ration cigarettes, matches, toilet paper, a zippo lighter etc.
  4. Feel free to graffiti your helmet with a black marker with anything you wish.

Helmet Band Items

C-Ration Cigarettes

Ahhhh, what can you say....FREE cigarettes in every C-Ration box.  Great for the nerves, bad for the lungs, a must have item.  A small pack of cigarettes that came with the C-Ration accesory packet. It contains 4 cigarettes. There is a choice of packs e.g. PalMal, Marlboro, Winstons, Bensons & Hedges, Newport.
Not a hard to find item.  It gives your helmet that recognisable 'Nam look'.  DO NOT TRY TO SMOKE THEM!  If you want to smoke, don't waste these little jewels, go to a smoke shop or flea market, pick up one of those metal cases that are just the size of a pack of cigarettes.  Stick you current smokes in the case to hide the new wrapper.  The more beat up the case the better.

Bug Juice (Insect Repellent)

A small plastic bottle with screw lid containing sweet smelling liquid to keep the flies away.  Sweet smelling....are you shitting me!  There are three varieties that I know of: (1) clear bottle with paper label, (2) clear bottle with printing directly on the bottle and (3) green bottle also with printing directly on the bottle.  I used to put this stuff in my Zippo and it burned just fine!

C-Ration Spoon

A white plastic spoon that came with the C-Rations accessory pack.  Don't think that any old white spoon will do, it will not.  The Vets can spot them!

P-38 Can Opener


A small metal device for opening cans.  When soldiers had C-rations, the P-38 was your access to food, that made it a high priority.  Soldiers discovered the tool acquired its name from the 38 punctures required to open a C-ration can, and from the boast that it performed with the speed of the World War II P-38 fighter plane.  Never in its 52-year history has it been known to break, rust, need sharpening or polishing.  The P-38 was an extremely simple, lightweight, multipurpose tool.  In warfare, the simpler something is and the easier access it has, the more you're going to use it. The P-38 had all of those things going for it.  The P-38 is one of those tools you keep and never want to get rid of because you can use it as a screwdriver, knife, anything.  Perhaps that is why many soldiers, past and present, regard the P-38 C-ration can opener as the Army's best invention.  I still have mine!!

Gun Oil

A plastic bottle containing LSA gun oil. (Light Small Arms).  Sometimes seen in the helmets.

C-Ration Matches

A cardboard packet of damp resistant matches that comes with the C-Rations accessory packet.  Nice to have but damp resistant is a relative term.  Usually mush and useless if there is any sort of moisture in the air.

First Aid Packet

A small first aid packet sealed in plastic wrapping containing a sterilised cotton gauze.  Normally kept in the Compass Pouch, but also seen kept in the helmet band, especially by Medics.  Be sure to keep an eye out for dates on these packets.  A lot of them around the market place and dates range from the 60's to current dates.  Details are where it counts.

Other items sometimes seen

 Toilet Paper, Death Cards, the chewing gum from C-rat packs, other personal items.  Be careful not to get carried away.


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