Vietnam - Equipment and Uniform

A Reference Tool for Reenactors




The Jungle Uniform based on the WW2 Para uniform, was a rare example of Army and Marine clothing that combined functional practicality with comfort and attractive design. It is a quick drying coat and trousers made of tightly woven, rip-stop or twill cotton poplin fabric. It provided good protection against the sun, insects, and other tropical hazards. The loosely fitted garments provide ventilation and moisture dissipation. The coat is worn outside of the trousers and the trousers are bloused into the boots. Jacket sleeves are rolled up or cut off.

Utility Fatigue Shirt

The shirt was a cotton sateen dyed in olive drab army shade 107. Used early on it had two straight chest pockets and exposed buttons on all closures. This shirt was supposed to be worn tucked into the trousers.


Tropical Jungle Jackets

The Jungle Jacket is an all cotton wind-resistant poplin or Rip-Stop cotton fabric, dyed olive green army shade 107. It has two chest bellows pockets and two lower bellows pockets.
There are three standard patterns
1st Pattern:
Manufactured from Poplin it had exposed buttons on angled pockets, jacket closure, shoulder loops, gas flap and side adjustment tabs. Sleeves had adjustable cuffs to allow them to be rolled up. Each pocket has drainage eyelets at the bottom.
2nd Pattern: Manufactured from Poplin it had concealed buttons on the angled pockets and jacket closure. And had the shoulder loops, gas flap, side tabs, adjustable cuffs and drainage eyelets on the pockets.
3rd Pattern: Manufactured in Poplin or Rip-Stop it had concealed buttons on angled pockets and jacket closure. However it had no shoulder loops, side tabs or gas flap.

1st and 2nd Patterns will be the hardest of the Jungle Jackets to find. There are also some 'intermediate' type jackets which are essentially 3rd pattern but with 2nd pattern fittings. It is not known whether there are any reasons or reference to these although examples can be found.  There are many 3rd Patterns around in all sizes so this is your best option for reenactment.
The jacket is cool and comfortable and makes a great casual jacket.  Accuracy is important for the Reenactors, care should be taken to get it right.


                                                                                                                    1st Pattern


                                                                                                                     2nd Pattern

                                                                                                                3rd Pattern

Jungle Trousers

The trousers are made of all cotton poplin or rip-stop poplin in olive green army shade 107. They have two front pockets, two hip pockets, and two bellows cargo leg pockets. A small pocket inside the left cargo pocket was designed to carry a survival kit. The trouser legs have draw cords at the bottom.  

                                                                            There are 3 standard patterns
1st Pattern: This had exposed buttons, leg ties in thigh pockets, small loops in crotch for the leg ties and came in Poplin only.
2nd Pattern: This had concealed buttons. The rest was the same as 1st Pattern.
3rd Pattern: This had concealed buttons, no leg ties or loops, and came in Poplin or Rip stop.
The ERDL jackets and trousers were the same as 3rd Pattern Jungle Jackets and Trousers. Some trousers have a slide fastener fly (zipper) others with a 5 buttoned fly. Sizes range from small to extra large. Larger sizes are hard to find.. Rip-stop poplin trousers appear at around 1968, but there are some early 1967 prototypes around.  These pants are cool and comfortable, but have a tendency to rip, especially at the knee.  Be sure to check for the small inner pocket in the front left hand cargo pocket, this is a sure way to date jungle trousers, since the post war ones didn't have this feature. Also check the rear trouser pockets. There should be a single button. If there are two then you have a post war copy. Check the drawstring at the bottom of the trousers. This should be a 'rope' string as opposed to the modern 'tape' string.  Accuracy is important for the reenactor, care should be taken to get it right.


                                                                                                           1st Pattern


                                                                                                              3rd Pattern


                              First Aid Pocket - Inner Pocket in Front Pants Pocket                                          Hip Pocket

Combat Boots

There were 5 types of combat boot used in Vietnam

1st Type


The first type deployed were the standard all leather combat boots.  Although used everywhere else these proved to be totally useless in the jungle environment.  It should be noted that air crew and chopper pilots tended to wear them throughout the war because of fears about the nylon boot melting in a fire, also the lack of heavy lugs on the boot soles prevented aircrew from getting hung up on things such as rudder pedals.

2nd Type

The second type that was worn was an early attempt at a leather and canvas jungle boot which was introduced in the 50's, it looked like the WW2 M43 combat boot and was used by some early advisors.

3rd Type (AKA - 1st Pattern Jungle Boot)

This pattern had the black leather toe and heal box and green nylon duck upper sides. It had two drainage eyelets in the side of the boot to allow the foot to breathe and allow water to escape after immersions. It looked almost identical to today's boot, accept that it had the Vibram sole with no angled ankle support panel and no 'spike protection' plate in the sole.

4th Type (AKA - 2nd Pattern Jungle Boot)

The '2nd pattern' boot was identical to the 1st Pattern, but introduced the angled ankle support panel and the spike protection plate. This pattern still retained the Vibram sole.

5th Type (AKA - 3rd Pattern Jungle Boot)


This pattern is identical to the 2nd Pattern and introduced the anti-mud traction Panama sole. This replaced the earlier Vibram sole although 3rd pattern were produced with both soles.  An easy way to distinguish wartime boots is to look at the heel. The original boots have a vertical stitch up the heel.  This stitching seems to have disappeared sometime in the mid 1970's, thus later made boots don't have this feature. It would be OK to use either for reenactment since its sometimes hard to find the original boots in you size.

First Pattern 1962 or earlier. Black leather, green canvas, leather band at top, leather strap from heel to top. Vibram sole.
Second Pattern 1965 or earlier. Black leather, green canvas, nylon band at top, nylon strap from heel to top. Vibram sole.
Third Pattern Vibram Sole 1965-1968. Similar to second pattern but with addition of nylon ankle reinforcement band. Vibram sole.
Third Pattern Panama Sole 1967 and later. The Pamama sole had a thin steel spike protection plate embedded to block Punji Sticks. Otherwise, same as Third Pattern Vibram Sole.

All Jungle Boots came with an "information tag" attached that provided instructions for use. The key points on the tag were:

Soft Headgear

ERDL Boonie Tropical Hat

Soft tropical sun hats were used by all forces in Vietnam.  They were made of either cotton poplin or rip-stop fabric.  The hat featured an adjustable chin-strap, foliage loops and ventilation eyelets around the crown. The insect net was issued with it, but not often used.  ERDL pattern was used by the US Army ARVN and Marines.   Look at the leather toggle on the hat strap. If it is rectangular shaped then its a Vietnam dated Hat.  Post Vietnam and modern ones have toggles with rounded corners.


OG - Green Boonie


The OD green version of the boonie hat.  Vietnam era hats had two vents on the sides.

Boonie Insect Net

Made of a netted mesh to keep insects away. The top has an elastic suspension that fits over your head, boonie or helmet.  There a semi-rigid hoops sewn into the netting to hold a cylindrical shape to keep the netting away from the users head.  Can also be worn between the helmet and the liner.

Fatigue Cap

This was a visored baseball style hat made of polyester and rayon gabardine cloth dyed olive green army shade 406.  This hat was very unpopular with troops. The stitching is a good way to recognize wartime fatigue caps, as they have a double row (Two rows) of stitching around the visor and cap. Post war caps have two double rows (Four rows) of stitching.


Steel Helmets

M1 Helmet

The M1 helmet of the 1960's has a lower profile than the M1 helmets of WW2, otherwise the design was unchanged. The two-part chin strap was typically fastened up around the rear of the helmet .  There are many of the Vietnam era helmets to be found.  Some things to look out for..... The WW2 helmet's rim joins at the front, the Korean and Vietnam helmet rim joins at the rear. The helmet strap should have a little anchor insignia on it.  If you are new to reenacting you will find these helmets heavy to wear but you will get used to it.


Earlier Pattern M1 Helmet Liner

                                                   The early pattern is the same as the WW2 helmet liner interior, but it has olive green webbing.

Later Pattern M1 Helmet Liner


The liner includes a 6 point suspension system made up of cotton webbing with 3 adjustable web straps. The headband is attached to the suspension webbing. There are also three small buckles attached to the inside of the liner used to attach the nape strap.  The Vietnam liner webbing are attached with rivets, whereas the later ones have a detachable suspension system.

Mitchell Pattern Helmet Cover


                                                                 Green                                                                                 Brown


                                                                    Tight Weave Fabric                                               Twill Fabric

The Mitchell leaf pattern was a disruptive camouflage pattern using selected organic dyes and resin bonded pigments. A reversible cover with leaf patterns in greens and brown colors for spring and summer wear, and brown colors for fall and winter operations. For additional camouflage the cover contained small slots for inserting natural foliage. The elastic helmet band could also be used to  hold foliage in place.  It is possible to buy a cover with graffiti written on it. Graffiti on helmet covers was a means of expressing identity and opinion.  If you choose to put your own graffiti on a helmet care should be taken to use graffiti appropriate to the period and service and also keep in mind you will be in full view of the general public, so you might want to temper it a little bit.  The easier dates to find are between 1970 -1975. 1960's dated are around but you have to hunt for them.  If you have a twill cotton cover then it was definitely made in the 1960's. Likewise early Mitchell pattern covers were still marked with FSN. The FSN (Federal Stock Number) marked covers predate the later DSA marked ones, therefore you have a 1960's date. Notice on many covers that they were made by the Minneapolis Society for the blind.


The headband is a leather covered web strap provided with 6 metal clips and a buckle for attaching and adjusting the headband to the liner.  The clips lock around the webbing that goes around the inside of the helmet.  The open ends of the clips should be pointing up when the band is on your head.  It is easier to adjust the band by fitting it on your head before you put it into the helmet.

Helmet Band

An elastic cotton webbing placed around the helmet. It was designed to hold foliage in order to blend the helmet into the surrounding terrain.  In Vietnam, however it was more commonly used to hold personal items such as cigarettes, toilet paper, insect repellent or a spare magazine.

1st Pattern Nape Strap or Neckband

                    A web strap with studs to attach to the back of the liner to give support to the neck. It has a buckle for adjusting the headband.

2nd Pattern Nape Strap


The neckband is a web strap with a long adjusting tape sewed to each end and a short adjusting tape sewed to the middle. Designed to be fitted to the 2nd Pattern helmet liner.  This helped to hold the helmet at the back of your head, keeping the thing from pitching forward on your forehead or nose.  These were often discarded by the troops.

Helmet Chin-strap.

A cotton web strap attached to the sides of the helmet, utilizing a ball and hook type closure (clasped together in this picture).
Commonly worn over the back of the helmet.  The ball and hook was designed to release the helmet should undue pressure be exerted on the helmet thus offering some protection from neck injury (overpressure from a blast or the helmet being grabbed or snagged thus yanking the wearers head back).  There is a different chin-strap for paratroopers that is designed to hold the helmet securely on the soldiers head during a jump (below).

M1956 Web Gear

M1956 Pistol Belt

A pistol belt is what all other web gear hooks to. You attach your suspenders, ammo pouches, first aid or compass pouch, canteen and fanny pack (to name just a few items) to it. There are two types available Pistol (pictured above) and Davis.  Davis belts had a flat metal tab the locked into a slot on the other end of the belt.  They were reputed to come undone when you laid on you stomach.

M1956 Universal Ammo Pouch


The standard ammo pouch for the M16 magazine. There are carriers either side for attachment of grenades.  The M1956 ammo pouch was introduced in 1957. It was originally designed to carry magazines for the M14 rifle and not M16.  It does carry both types of magazines.  Troops were known to put a bandage from their first aid pouch in the bottom of this pouch so that the M16 magazines would fit to the top of the pouch.  There are several variations of this pouch.  The earliest pouch is made of canvas and has a metal front plate to protect the ammunition from fragments and a grommet through the securing tab. This was replaced in 1962 with a pouch of the same size but without the metal plate and tab grommet. This gives a a crumpled appearance when empty (Pictured above).  A smaller size of pouch still made of canvas appeared in late 1967 to early 1968. These were designed for easier access to the shorter M16 20 round magazine. Both types fit the same number of magazines but in the smaller pouch magazines are easier to reach. There is another of the smaller size pouches but made of nylon. This is part of the M1967 webbing. The forth type is the early ALICE pouches specifically designed for 20 and 30 round M16 magazines, but these are not Vietnam War period.

1st Pattern M1956 Buttpack


Also called the Fanny pack.  This pattern has wings of canvas that fold inwards. It has a plastic window pocket to put your name. It has two carry straps on the bottom and ALICE clips on the rear to attach to the pistol belt. The suspenders attach to the top of the bag on the back through riveted holes on stitched tabs.  A nice pack and easy to acquire.

Differences between the M1956 & M1961 butt pack as follows :
1. length - M1956 is 4-1/2' while M1961 is 5-1/2"
2. height - M1956 is 7-3/4" while M1961 is 8-1/2"
3. width - M1956 is 8" while M1961 is 9"
4. Flap - M1956 has a simple narrow flap while M1961 has an improved flap that both sides fold down a little bit.
5. M1956 has 2 side extensions that folded over the content while M1961 has waterproof throat around the opening.

2nd Pattern M1961 Buttpack


An improved version of the earlier one in a moderately larger size. The interior contains a plastic lining.  The rest of the features are identical to the M1956.  M1956 buttpacks are the more scarce of the two.

M1956 Buttpack Adaptor

This isn't necessary for your gear, but it is a useful item.  What it does is convert your butt pack into a backpack by strapping it higher up on your shoulders, by attaching to your M1956 suspender.  There is no reason why you could not have two butt packs on your webbing, one on the pistol belt and one on an adapter. All in all, a nice little accessory.

M1956 Suspenders

The suspenders attach to the front of your pistol belt and to your butt pack or the back of pistol belt. They are there to keep your belt up, and distribute the weight more evenly.  They come in three sizes: regular and long and X-long. Regular fits most, but if you're a tall person, over 6 feet, then get the long size though, they can be harder to find.

M1956 Compass Pouch


A small pouch designed to carry either a lensatic compass or a Field Dressing, the field dressing being the most common content.
It can fit on a number of places on the web gear. You need only one of these for your basic kit but you can have as many as you like. Very handy for all sorts of personal items.  Take care not to overdo it.

M1956 1 Quart Canteen


One quart canteen, made of olive drab polyethylene plastic.  This replaced the M1910 aluminium/stainless steel canteen.  Buy only Vietnam dated ones, there are a lot of them around.  You need at least two of these as a minimum for your collection.  You will find the dates of molded into the underside.


A felt lined cotton duck water canteen cover.  Earlier dated examples (Pre 1967) have a canvas trim around the edge flaps, later ones are nylon.  There is also a later fully nylon type (M1967) with a little pouch for purifying tablets. The felt lining helps keep the water cool.

M1956 E-Tool Cover


                    Cover utilizes ALICE slide clips to fit wherever you want to put it.  It has an attachment to fix your bayonet with M8A1 Scabbard.

M1956 Sleeping Carrier

A complicated set of straps, also called "spaghetti straps". Use it to strap your sleeping bag or poncho with liner rolled inside, on to your M1956 suspenders.

M1967 Web Gear

The M1967 Individual Load Carrying Equipment was a modernized version of the M1956, designed specially for Vietnam. The M1967 LCE did not entirely replace the M1956 equipment. Often M1956 and M1967 equipment were mixed together to form composite webbing, since both types were fully compatible with each other. The new equipment was essentially the same but replaced canvas for nylon, and metal for plastic, which unlike the canvas, was mildew resistant.

M1967 Davis Belt

The same as a pistol belt but it has the quick release Davis buckle, quick release buckle, it had the tendency to come undone at annoying times.

M1967 Ammo Pouches


Similar to the small version of the M1956 Universal Ammo Pouch, but made of nylon and with a quick release closure.


Additional photos showing M1967 M16 30 rounds magazine pouch. Date is 1969. But there are limited war time photos showing the use of this pouch during Vietnam War.

M1967 Buttpack




One difference between M1956 butt pack with M1967 butt pack is that M1967 butt pack has 2 straps with snap under the slide keeper on each side.  On the M1967 version, you don't need to use butt pack adaptor to move up the butt pack to your back shoulder.  Because there are 2 hooks on the M1967 harness to hold the M1967 buttpack. And the 2 snap straps on the M1967 butt pack will then secure the pack to the H-harness.

M1967 Suspenders

Similar to the M1956 Suspenders with the H-shape system on the back.  Made of padded nylon, there are metal loops on each suspender front for the attachments of small items.

M1967 Compass Pouch

                                                                     Identical pattern to the M1956 Compass Pouch accept made of nylon.

M1967 Canteen Cover

                  The cover is made of nylon and has a small pocket on the right hand side for water purification tablets. This example has plastic snaps.

M1967 Tri-folding E-Tool & Case


This tool had a hollow triangular shaped handle and a shovel blade with one edge sharpened for cutting, the other serrated for digging. The blade could be adjusted to different angles in the same way as the M1951 E-Tool. It folded twice for carrying and was stored in a nylon pouch.  My studies have yet to show a picture of a troop in Vietnam with one of these.  If you have a picture, please share it and I will post it here on the web page. 

M1967 Sleeping Carrier

The sleeping gear carrier is not a nylon version of the M1956 but is a rectangular piece of nylon with 2 long straps and D-rings.

Additional Equipment

The Tropical Combat Neckerchief was a sweat cloth of highly absorbent dark green cotton in Army shade 409. It is a standard 36" by 24" and matches the color of the undershirt. This item became popular for wiping perspiration and dirt from the brow and hands and for cleaning weapons and ammunition. It was worn over or around the head as a bandanna or sweatband.  Troops also wore them tied around their necks.  These neckerchiefs were very well made and had many uses.

Field Towel

U.S. Towel

British Towel

U.S. Towel above British Towel for comparison

A green towel with single wide band at the end. Often worn around the neck to wipe the face free of sweat and protecting the neck and shoulders from heavy equipment.  The Vietnam era towels are single banded in a OG-107 color.  The towels from the 1980's and beyond are similar but in a brown color. Most other nationalities towels are double banded.  The devil is in the details, care should be taken when deciding if you want to substitute for the original item.  This is true of all the equipment and personal items that you choose to use in reenacting.  Respect to the era and the veterans of this conflict is paid through getting it right and not cutting corners.


Socks, one of the more important items needed by the troops.  Clean, dry socks were critical to prevent jungle rot and trench foot.  A trooper down for bad feet was of no use to the mission.  There are examples of these wool socks available.  If  you need to substitute, try to get close.  The socks are hidden by your boots, but if you take the boots off, there you are.  I wore white tube socks when I was in the Army, nobody ever tagged me for it.

Boxer Shorts

Boxer style drawers made of cotton muslin, dyed olive green army shade 408. Standard issue during the Vietnam War.  Again, out of sight.  You have to make the call of how far to go. 

M51 Field Jacket

Made from a 9 ounce cotton, wind-resistant sateen in olive green army shade 107. The coat has waist and hem draw cords, breast patch pockets and lower front hanging pockets.  There was a light hood that stored in a pocket sewn into the coat collar.

M65 Field Jacket

A cold weather field coat with hood, made of nylon cotton sateen in olive green army shade 107, with rounded collars, snap pocket closures and Velcro sleeve closures.  The waist cord to draw the jacket in was on the inside, a hem cord was included in the same fashion.  The hood was stored in a pocket in the collar closed by a zipper.  There were buttons inside the coat that allowed for the use of a button in jacket liner for cold weather.  In addition a heavier fur edged winter hood could be buttoned onto the jacket.

Canteen Cup


                                                Made of stainless steel, the canteen cup fits into the canteen cover and the canteen fits into the cup.

1st Pattern 2 QT Canteen  and Cover


A 2 QT collapsible canteen consisting of a square, molded-vinyl bladder and an M1910-pattern cap with chain. The bladder flattened when empty. The canteen could only be carried on the belt or on other awkward positions and took up too much room.  Utilizing a nylon duck carrier with overlapping flap secured with Velcro. There is a small pouch on the left corner for water purifying tablets.  These are pretty hard to find.

5 QT Canteen Bladder

A 5 quart collapsible vinyl-film bladder with nylon cover. It has a canteen like neck and a cap with a rubber gasket. A removable strainer filter was inserted into the neck of the bladder. The cover has retainer loops and tie down cords at each corner. The funnel shaped pouch was to assist in filling it. It has a pocket in the to right corner for water purification tablets. There are also instruction diagrams on both sides indicating how to use it.  It can also be used as a floatation bladder.  Unissued bladders can be easily found, but whether they are genuine or not is another matter.  There are a lot of reproductions out there, care needs to be taken to be sure you are sold an original item.  They should be stamped with the US.  The corner tabs sewn onto the carrier will not be the same color material as the carrier itself. 

M1951 E-Tool

Standard folding entrenchment tool.

Mess Kit & Utensils

Mess kit - Also known as mess tins, mess gear, cook kits, and shit tins.  What can be said about these things.  You can cook and eat in them.  Stand in line endlessly for a marginal meal to be slopped into them.  They were washed by hanging the lid and utensils on the handle as seen above and dipping them into a succession of hot water cans (AKA - garbage cans) using immersion heaters to bring the water to proper temperature.  You dipped and sloshed in a "dirty" dip can then moved to a cleaner can and then if you were really lucky a third clean water very hot temperature dip to finish.  Failure to do this would result in all sorts of nasty stomach and lower problems.  Check for a date on the handle of the mess kit, be sure to get a kit with a date within the proper range for Vietnam.

Individual C-Ration Meal

C- Ration, Meal Combat Individual, consisted of a box containing a main meal (such as Pork and beans, spaghetti and meatballs, or worst of all Ham and Eggs, etc.), a B2 unit (crackers, candy, cheese, jelly), a desert (Canned fruit, pound-cake, etc.) and an accessory pack (Pictured). The accessory pack contained a hot drink mix, gum, matches, toilet paper, salt, sugar, a plastic spoon and a small pack of cigarettes.  If you get hold of a complete C-Ration meal DO NOT EAT THE THING!  Keep the cigarettes, matches, toilet paper for goodies to stick in your helmet band.  You can empty the large can to make a makeshift cook stove, or better yet, get one of those can openers that cut the outside edge rather than the inside of the can.  You can lift the lid and dump the contents (which will most likely be really nasty) and then fill it with an inert substance for weight (or not) and then put the lid back on using glue or epoxy.  This gives you an accurate C-Rat for exhibition purposes with out risk of the thing corroding through and screwing up your gear when it leaks.


A rubber coated fabric poncho with hood. Dyed olive green army shade 207.  Known to become heavy when wet, and the shiny finish gleams in the rain. Two poncho's can be snapped together to make a shelter.  A must have for its usefulness as a shelter or ground sheet.  It is really hot and sweaty to use as a rain garment.  Users often ended up as wet inside the poncho as they would have been without it.

Poncho Liner


This replaced the heavy and scratchy wool blanket. A quick-drying lightweight quilted poncho liner, made of a rip-stop fabric.   Could be laced into the poncho to make a makeshift sleeping bag. Notice the seam down the middle of the liner in the right hand picture.  If the date is missing or has worn away look out for that vertical seam. Only the Vietnam poncho liners had this.

Air Mattress

The Air Mattress or Pneumatic Mattress was an inflatable, coated fabric mattress, ridged with side panels. The color was in olive green army shade 207.  Its size and shape conformed to the sleeping bag.  It often doubled as a float for carrying items across streams and flooded land.  Nicknamed "Rubber Bitch"

Shelter Half

A water-repellent mildew-resistant cotton duck dyed olive green army shade 107.  It was one half of a tent panel with triangular flaps that was carried one per individual.  Two of these could be buttoned together to form a complete tent. Each soldier would carry a half tent, one tent pole (That can be split into three sections), and tent pegs.  Good equipment to have lots of uses.



A olive drab plastic right angled flashlight.  It has a 3 way switch, 0ff-Blink-On.  Inside the battery compartment under the spring is a storage compartment for a spare bulb. The bottom section unscrews revealing a compartment containing colored filters that can be attached to the front of the flashlight, by unscrewing the front ring, placing the filter inside and screwing the ring back on.  The original Vietnam War torches don't have the raised guards on the long sides of the switch.  Also look out for the reference number MX991/U which should be written on the left side surrounded by a circle.

Protective Gear

M17 & M17A1 Field Protective Gas Mask


                                                            M17                                                                                            M17A1

M17 - A rubberized mask worn over the face, it protects the face, eyes and respiratory tract against chemical biological agents, in the form of gases or aerosols and from splashes and liquid drops of the agents.  The entire kit contains the mask, a carrier and a personal decontamination kit.  The 1st pattern does not have the drinking tube in the front of the mask.

M17A1 - Same as the 1st Pattern but with a drinking tube that can attach to the 1 QT Canteen with modified cap.


                                                                  1st Pattern                                                         2nd Pattern

A canvas bag that opens fully at the one side. It has straps that enable you to attach it around your left leg. The carrier comes with three external pockets for straps and ABC items.  There are three variations in carriers. The earlier carrier has the chemical symbol printed on the exterior and has a wide strap at the rear with 2 slide keepers for alternative attachment. The second variation is the same but with the "US" symbol and no chemical symbol. The third variation has the US symbol but no wide strap with slide keepers.

Sun, Wind and Dust Goggles


A close-fitting plastic single-aperture goggles with elastic headband.  In the 1960's dated goggles the strap goes through the lens. This is the only difference between Vietnam War dated goggles and modern examples. This pair is dated 1974.

Fragmentation Vests


The M1952 was developed during the Korean War and was used right through the Vietnam War.  The vest contained a filler of semiflexible layers of ballistic nylon cloth with a quarter inch layer of sponge rubber over the ribs and shoulders. This served as a shock absorbing layer to alleviate contusions and fractures from the impact of missiles. The vest closed with a full length zipper and could be adjusted by laced closures at both sides. It had two chest pockets, shoulder straps and two rows of web hangers for grenades etc.


The M1969 vest was an improved version of the M1952.  There are 12 layers in the front and upper back, two in the lower back, and an additional two down the length of the spine. The jacket does not have shoulder loops of the M1952, but incorporated a semi-stiff three-quarter inch color with three layers of ballistic filling, providing protection to the neck.  This can be fairly comfortable to wear, but with your webbing as well, it will get to feeling heavy pretty quick.  I have seen these vest with Velcro for closing rather than zippers, with dates starting at 1970.

If you are going to purchase a vest keep these sizes in mind:

Armour Vest Sizes
If your chest measures
36 or less = Small
37" - 40 " = Medium
41" - 44 " = Large
45" or more = X Large


Lightweight Tropical Rucksack


The Lightweight Tropical Rucksack was standardized in 1965 and was issued in the following year to replace the unsatisfactory M1956 and M1961 Buttpacks. It consisted of a water resistant nylon bag with one large compartment and three external pockets, the middle outside pocket is slightly bigger than the other two. The pack was fixed to a tubular aluminium frame.  Very pricey items to purchase, you will find them often in places like EBay, but seldom in good repair for less than $150.00 or more.  The rucksack prevent items being worn on the back of the pistol belt, thus water canteens and other items are hung on the pack, there are straps on each side to hold the canteens down and stop them from flopping when the soldier is on the move.  A machete was usually mounted using the two eyelets located on the top horizontal strap on the pack frame.  The waist strap is not often seen in photographic evidence of field use.  You can tell an older pack frame from the later versions by the middle horizontal back strap.  The older versions did not have this strap (as pictured above), nor provisions for mounting one.  The later versions had small ears welded to the frame, just like the top strap, that would hold the middle strap in place.

Tropical Rucksack


This rucksack has a larger capacity than Lightweight rucksack, with three external pockets. The rucksack is kept rigid by an 'X' frame, that is held in place by a central snap at the top back of the pack. 

Edged Weapons

M7 Bayonet

This is a darkened steel bayonet sharpened on the downside and partially on the upper side. It has a large barrel ring that fits over the flash hider of the rifle.  It has plastic Handles. The attachment to the rifle is at the butt of the bayonet.  Some pristine bayonets still sealed in their foil lined boxes can be found. When you buy one of these, check that it fits onto your M16 bayonet mount. If it doesn't you may have a M4 or M6 bayonet. Note that a the M7 bayonet will not fit onto an airsoft Vietnam version M16.

M8A1 Scabbard

This is a self sharpening scabbard with attachment to hang from webbing. This one has the leg tie wrapped around the body

Pilots Survival Knife with Sheath

Not just used by pilots, these knives were found in many places in Vietnam.  Not uncommon to see them on the belts or web harnesses of troops.

M1942 Machete

Older Non-Sharpening Sheath

This type sheath is made from a semi-flexible plastic.  The webbing attachment is fixed and doesn't have the blade sharpening device. This type appears to have stopped being made around 1966.

M1967 Self Sharpening Sheath

A semi-hard plastic sheath with a swivel webbing attachment and self-sharpening device.



The U.S. Rifle 7.62 mm M14 was adopted for military service by the United States in 1957. It is a rotating bolt, gas operated, air cooled, magazine fed, shoulder fired weapon. As adopted, the M14 was 44.14" long and weighed 8.7 pounds. With a full magazine and sling it weighed 11.0 pounds.  The M16 rifle replaced the M14 rifle in the mid-1960s as the standard arm of the U. S. Armed Forces.


The first in the series of M16 rifles by Colt, this model did not have a forward assist and the flash suppressor was of a three prong open ended construction.  The first of the ammunition caused a lot of fowling with the bolt and gas system and the bolt did not always lock back into battery.  The open ended flash suppressor would catch on the jungle growth.  It was important to keep the rifle very clean for it to operate properly.  To say the M16 had growing pains was an understatement.


Much the same as the M16, but the M16A1 featured slight improvements, namely the addition of a forward assist and the 'birdcage' flash suppressor as opposed to the tri-pronged example. The forward assist was a device to counter the bolt jamming.  The device was a plunger that engaged with corresponding notches on the bolt, driving it forward if it stuck. The birdcage flash suppressor was a simple fix to the problem of the open tri-pronged suppressor snagging on foliage.


This model of the M16 was a short barreled version.  Internal operations were the same.  The rifle is recognized by the collapsible stock and extended flash hider.  The rifle was seen in theater with both the twenty and thirty round magazine.  Not a common battlefield rifle for the troops, this weapon was seen with members of the K9 units and Special Forces troops such as Navy Seals and Green Berets, though it did make it's way into the hands of some standard troops.

M79 Grenade Launcher

 Commonly known as the 'Thumper' or 'Blooper', this weapon first appeared during the Vietnam war and closely resembled a large bore, single barrel, sawed-off shotgun.  The first M79 Grenade launchers were delivered to the US Army in 1961.  The M79 was a single shot, shoulder fired, break-barrel weapon which fired a spherical 40mm diameter grenade loaded directly into the breech. It had a rubber pad fitted to the shoulder stock to absorb some of the shock.  The M79 had a large flip up sight situated half way down the barrel, with a basic leaf foresight fixed at the end of the barrel. The rear sight was calibrated up to 375 meters (410 yds) in 25 meter (27.3 yds) intervals. In the hands of a good experienced Grenadier the M79 was highly accurate up to 200 meters. Later in the war the M79 was superseded by the M203.


The M203 was the melding of the M16A1 and the technology of the M79 grenade launcher.  Slung under the barrel of the rifle, the grenade launcher fired the same ammunition as the M79.  The barrel unlatched and slid forward to allow loading of the grenade.  Ranges and effectivity were pretty much the same.

M1911A1 Colt Pistol

The .45 caliber Colt M1911 is a weapon that  has a reputation the world over.  This was the preferred sidearm for troops in Vietnam.  The magazine holds 7 rounds.

M60 Machine Gun

 A 7.62mm general purpose machine gun that gave infantry units the edge in firepower in close-quarter firefights.  Nicknamed "The Pig", it weighed at 23.75 lbs. Ammunition was generally distributed amongst the squad, each carrying at least 100 rounds, usually worn in bandolier fashion, or in special linen ammunition carriers.  It was employed in a light role on it's bipod (effective range 500 meters) or in a medium role on a tripod (effective range 1,100 meters) as well as being used as protective armament on vehicles and helicopters.  Gas operated, air cooled and belt fed, with a quick-change barrel to counter overheating during sustained firing.  In Vietnam it was the main firepower of the infantry rifle section.

M3A1 Sub-Machine Gun

Introduced during World War 2 as the M3, the updated version, the M3A1, saw duty in Vietnam.  Firing the same .45 caliber bullet as the M1911 pistol, it was a short range weapon with minimal accuracy.  But it could lay down the lead, which had it's advantages.  This weapon was issued to armor vehicle crews throught the war and beyond.

M72 LAW - Light Anti-Tank Weapon

M72 LAW (top half of picture) and M72A1

M72 LAW (top half of picture) and M72A1

Weighing 5.2 pounds, the LAW was designed as a discardable one-man rocket launcher primarily for use as an anti-tank weapon.  In Vietnam however, the LAW was used almost exclusively as a bunker buster or for attacking entrenched enemies.  In action, the end covers were opened by removing safety pins and the inner tube was telescoped outwards.  The LAW Fired a 1-kg rocket to a maximum effective range of 300m.  Once fired the tube was discarded.  There is a m ajor difference in the construction betwen the M72 and the M72A1, as seen above,  The structure housing the firing mechanism and extension tube locking device are completely different.  The warheaqds on the rockets were also improved. 


M18 Smoke Grenades


 This grenade weighs 19 ounces and contains a filler of 11.5 ounces of coloured smoke mixture.  It employed an igniter type fuse that had a time delay of 2 seconds and emitted colored smoke for 50-90 seconds.  The body of the grenade was painted olive drab with a horizontal white stripe.  The writing on the side was also white.  The grenade was designed to produce one of four colors: Red, Green, Yellow or Violet.  The M18 smoke grenades were used to help helicopter pilot gauge wind direction as well as identifying enemy/friendly positions.  Often carried by the radio operators (RTO).

Hand Grenades

M61 Fragmentation Hand Grenade A.K.A. M26A1

This is the standard fragmentation hand grenade. It has a smooth sheet metal body and is shaped like a lemon. It weights 16 ounces and is filled with 5.5 ounces of explosive material, using a detonator type fuse. The grenade is olive drab with yellow markings.  Prior to the reclassification program they were known as the M26A1 grenade.

M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade

A fragmentation grenade used by the U.S forces.  A replacement for the M61 grenade used during Vietnam and the older MK2 "Pineapple" grenade used since World War Two and well into the Vietnam War. 

MK2 Fragmentation Hand Grenade

Used in World War Two, and Korea as well as Vietnam.  It has a cast iron body that is deeply grooved in a crisscross fasion. It weighs 21 ounces and uses a detonator type fuse to ignite 2 ounces of flaked TNT. It is olive drab with yellow markings.

Hand Held Rocket Propelled Signal Flares


These hand held rocket propelled signal grenades eliminated the need for a rifle or grenade launcher for signalling purposes. These signals contained their own launching mechanism and were designed to reach a minimum height of 200 metres. This group of ground signals includes the single star parachute flares, five star clusters, smoke parachutes, colored smoke streamers and in addition the white parachute flare.  The signals were shipped in grey waterproof metal containers. They have black markings which identify their type and in addition they have letters embossed in the container ends to help identify at night.  The signal is composed of three parts:  Rocket Barrel (Launcher Tube)   The rocket barrel made of drawn aluminium contains the complete launching and signalling devices. Different signals are identified by a gummed label on its side.  This label contains information regarding the signal type, lot number, date of manufacture and instructions for firing.  A narrow band coated with red lacquer is located just above the base (Primer end) of the rocket barrel.  At the muzzle end of the barrel is the firing cap assembly.  When this assembly is removed prior to firing, a colored cork seal is visible.  This colour matches the color of the signal.   Signal Carrier: The signal carrier is contained within the rocket barrel and holds the signal compostion and rocket motor. It has four flexible steel fins that unfold and stabilize the carrier in flight.  Signal Compositon:  This is the chemicals that burns to produce a light or smoke. This could be parachute supported depending on the type of signal.  With the aid of a parachute the signals will float to the ground at a rate of 2 meters per second.

Types of Hand Held Rocket Propelled Signals

M125E1 Green Star Star Cluster Signal Grenade
M126E1 Red Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M127 White Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M128 Green Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M129 Red Star Parachute Signal Grenade
M130 Yellow Streamer Signal Grenade
T133 Red Star Cluster Signal Grenade
T134 Red Streamer Signal Grenade
T135 Green Streamer Signal Grenade
T137 White Star Cluster Signal Grenade
T138 Green Star Parachute Signal Grenade

Claymore Mine

An antipersonnel land mine.  Widely used in Vietnam, the claymore antipersonnel mine was designed to produce a directionalized, fan-shaped pattern of projectiles.  The claymore used a curved block of C-4 explosive, shaped to blow all its force outward in a semicircular pattern.  A large number of pellets were embedded in the face of the explosive, creating a devastating blast of fragments similar to the effect of an oversized shotgun.  With their directional pattern, claymores were well-suited as a perimeter-defense weapon.  With electronic firing, defenders in bunkers could set claymores in a pattern to cover all approaches and fire them at will.  The mines could be4 command detonated or rigged as booby-traps. 


Your Field Gear - Assembly and Use

Going for "The Look"

Organizing the Unit

Some of the information for these pages was recovered from the now defunct Vietnam Database web site, composed by Graham Sherwood.

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