Recon by Colt

55 Years Ago Today.

Original Caption:

On 8 September 1967, PFC Michael J. Mendoza (Piedmont, CA) uses his M16 rifle to recon by fire. Earlier, the company received sniper [fire] from the valley below. His company; Company “A”, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Brigade [Division], was moving to a mountain top to secure a landing zone. This was mission was a part of Operation “Cook” conducted in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. Mendoza was also known for his helmet graffiti “Goin-home!! California”.

By Sp5 Robert C. Lafoon, Department of the Army Special Photo Office. National Archives Identifier:100310264

Note PFC Mendoza’s early model (XM16E1) M16 with its heavily-scarred plastic furniture, at least three casings in air, and brass being pushed into the chamber by the BCG. These guns had most of the externals seen on the later M16A1s (3-prong FH, triangular handguards, forward assist, and A1 sights) but did not have a chrome-lined barrel/chamber. These were fielded to airmobile units such as the 101st around mid-1965 before the A1 was standardized. Note there is no brass deflector and the “fence” around the mag release is very shallow, with users of these rifles often complaining they would accidentally eject a mag when going to close the dust cover.

While there are a dozen Mendozas listed from PFCs to a light colonel among the more than 58,000 named on The Wall, our particular PFC is not among them, so at least he seems to have made it back home to California. 

As noted on the Vietnam Veteran’s page for the 2nd/502nd: 

The 2nd Battalion of the 502nd Infantry Regiment (often referred to as the ‘O Deuce’) was part of the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. The 1st Brigade of the 101st was one of the first major units in Vietnam – arriving by boat in July 1965. The O Deuce was on that boat as part of the 1st Brigade, and remained in Vietnam until 1972. The historical average “time in combat” for WWII Infantry Soldiers was 40 days, and in Vietnam they give 240 days as the norm or average. In the O Deuce the norm was much closer to 330 days – in a 365 day tour. We lived “in the bush”, and saw the “rear area” for only a couple of days at a time, often a month or more apart.

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