Editor’s note: Since this article is talking about gear, we wanted to give a shoutout to The Loadout Room for a great launch. Check them out if you haven’t already!
In the Vietnam war, the most important piece of equipment we carried on missions was the CAR-15. It was the preferred weapon of choice by everyone on ST Idaho. The sling for it would vary: Sometimes I used a cravat or a canvas strap taped tightly to both ends of the weapon for soundless movements. The only exceptions to the CAR-15 were an AK-47 carried by “Son” when he was our point man (he also wore an NVA uniform to complete the look) and an M-79 carried by our grenadier. In November 1968, Henry King carried the experimental pump M-79 weapon on one mission. It held up to five rounds of 40mm high-explosive ammunition. His secondary weapon was the Model 1911 Colt .45. On occasions, Black would carry the M-60 machine gun.
Every American on ST Idaho carried a sawed-off M-79 for additional firepower. We thought of it as our handheld artillery. During a patrol, the Americans would load a special M-79 round with flechettes or double-ought (00) buckshot for close contact. The sawed-off M-79 would be secured either with a canvas or rope lanyard or by using a D-ring that was covered with black electrical tape to prevent any metallic banging. During the fall of 1968, I had a one-of-a-kind sawed-off M-79 holster, which I lost when I was unconscious during a rope extraction in Laos.
I would carry at least 34 20-round magazines for the CAR-15. We only placed 18 rounds in each magazine, which gave me 612 rounds for that weapon, and at least 12 rounds for the M-79. The CAR-15 magazines were placed in ammo pouches or cloth canteen pouches, with the bottoms facing up to prevent debris from getting into the magazine, and all of the rounds pointing away from the body. We taped black electrical tape to the bottom of each magazine to make it easier to grab them out of the pouch during firefights. I also carried 10 to 12 fragmentation grenades, a few of the older M-26 grenades, the newer M-33 “baseball” grenades, and one or two V-22 mini grenades.