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.

For headgear, I only wore a green cravat on missions. It was light, didn’t get caught on jungle branches or knocked off my head by prop wash, and it broke up the color of my blond hair. As a practical matter, it kept the sweat out of my eyes. Hats didn’t do that. I often wore camouflage “paint” on my face. I always wore an extra cravat around my neck.

I wore the traditional Army jungle fatigues because they dried more quickly while on the ground than the camouflage fatigues available at the time. I had the tailor at Phu Bai sew an extra zipped pocket on the upper right and left arm of my fatigue where I carried pens, notebooks, pen flares, one plastic spoon, and my signal mirror. The tailor also sewed zipped pockets between the front top and bottom buttoned pockets, where I’d place maps, morphine syrettes, an extra notebook with any mission-specific notes, and the URC-10 emergency radio.

This is one of the best photos of unique weapons as modified by SOG recon men: a sawed-off M-79, which is held by author John Stryker Meyer while on the range at Phu Bai, outside of the MACV-SOG top-secret compound, FOB 1. This is one of the shortest versions of the chopped-down M-79; it fired a 40mm round. In the foreground is Lynne M. Black Jr., with his CAR-15 and an XM-148 grenade launcher attached beneath. The M-79 gave SOG recon teams additional firepower in the area of operations and by cutting it down in size, removed a few pounds of extra weight while making the weapon less bulky when in use in jungle vegetation.

On my right wrist, I wore a black, self-winding, luminescent Seiko watch, which was so bright at night that I wore it face-down on the bottom of my wrist, under my glove. Thus, even in the pitch-black jungle, I knew when to make communication checks with the airborne command aircraft — usually at midnight or at 2 a.m. Additionally, in the jungle, I always wore black contact gloves for protection against jungle plants, thorns, and insects. I cut the thumb, index, and middle finger off of the right glove down to the first joint for improved grip.

On my left harness strap, I taped my KA-BAR knife, with the handle facing down, then hand grenades, small smoke canisters, and a sterile bandage. On my right harness strap was a strobe light, held in a cloth pouch, more hand grenades, a rappelling D-ring, and a smoke grenade. My preferred web gear was the WWII BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) ammo belt and shoulder straps because five CAR-15 magazines fit snugly into each individual pouch — one pouch would be used for M-79 rounds. A plastic water canteen in a cloth canteen holder fitted onto the belt, as well as one white phosphorous grenade and my survival ax.