Tag Archives: cidg

That My Khe beach aesthetic, tho

Here we see an excellent photo of a Vietnamese Ranger of the ARVN clad in sandals, shades and an nón lá “rice hat” over his U.S.-supplied duck hunter/frog lizard camo uniform (which was popular at the time among irregular units around Indochina). Armed with a similarly surplus M1911 .45 in his belt as well as what looks to be a French MAS 38 SMG over his shoulder, he sports binos and a commercial transistor radio for the latest in Saigon-based AM stations.

Note the more traditionally-equipped ARVN infantry behind him, armed with M1 Garands.

Speaking of which, this beauty came from a recent blog post over at the “WWII After WWII” blog examining M1 Garand use in Vietnam.

More of that here.

The brief affair with HBT camo and the U.S. Army, or, the Duck Hunters of D-Day

In the first part of 1943, the Army began flirting with a two-piece (jacket and pants) herringbone twill (HBT) camouflage uniform. Now, one thing to note is that this differed from the Marine HBT “duck hunter” or “frog skin” camo that was introduced around the time of the invasion of Tarawa as the Devil Dog kit was based on their P41 design while the Army’s was a slightly different variant based on Big Green’s M1942 fatigue uniform.

Jacket, Herringbone Twill, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/179880-the-abcs-of-collecting-wwii-army-issued-hbt-clothing/

Jacket, Herringbone Twill, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum

Trousers, HBT, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/179880-the-abcs-of-collecting-wwii-army-issued-hbt-clothing/

Trousers, HBT, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum

These two-piece camouflage uniforms were fielded by units of the 2nd Armored Division, including the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment and 17th Armored Engineer Battalion for D-Day. They appear in photos between June to September 1944.

Private Joseph De Freitos of Yonkers (New York) of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd US Armored Division, heats his rations on a stove, taken at Pont-Brocard in late July 1944. There is nothing particularly strange about the way he is wearing his e-tool; this was fairly common when the M1928 haversack was not being used.

Private Joseph De Freitos of Yonkers (New York) of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd US Armored Division, heats his rations on a stove, taken at Pont-Brocard in late July 1944. There is nothing particularly strange about the way he is wearing his e-tool; this was fairly common when the M1928 haversack was not being used.

Records and photos indicate that at least some units of the 2nd Infantry Division and 30th Infantry Division received them also.

U.S. soldiers in HBT camouflage uniforms in a Half-track M2, Pont Brocard July 28, 1944, 41st Armored Inf. Regiment, 2d Armored Division http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlq/817019996/in/pool-529233@N22/

U.S. soldiers in HBT camouflage uniforms in a Half-track M2, Pont Brocard July 28, 1944, 41st Armored Inf. Regiment, 2d Armored Division. Cherbourg Library via Flickr.

hbt camo normady HBT Normandy camo-1 2nd armored HBT camo medic pants

Camouflaged US Soldiers of the 41st Armored Infantry Battalion working with the 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd Armored Division) study a captured German map during Operation Cobra in Normandy, France, in July 1944. Note the added foregrip to the M1 Thompson on the right and the German pistol holster on the scout to the left, the latter surely a “battlefield pickup.”

Battle of Saint-Lô July 1944,41st AIR, 2AD. LIFE Frank Scherschel Photographer

These surviving examples from the Normandy Tank Museum shows a diorama of 2nd Armored Div troops in your typical battlefield mix-match:

camo 2nd armor normandy

The first dummy has the regular GI shirt, camouflage pants, M1 Garand ammo holder belt, M36 web, M1 Garand reproduction, M28 bag, M1 helmet, gaiters very similar to the medic above. The second dummy has much the same but adds a T shovel worn in the same way as the C-rat connoisseur Pvt. De Freitos above, and gas mask cover. The third has the full HBT suit, original camouflage pants, and jacket, M36 webbing with FM-BAR belt and charger holder. He also seems to have ditched his gaiters because he is that kinda guy.

Saint-Georges-d’Elle Normandy France, July 1944, 2nd Infantry Division, note the camo on the one Soldier to the right. LIFE Archives photo by Frank Scherschel

Saint-Georges-d’Elle Normandy France, July 1944, 2nd Infantry Division, note the camo jacket on the one Soldier, the M3 Grease gun in his lap, and the censored unit patch. LIFE Archives photo by Frank Scherschel

The thing is, with so many Waffen SS guys and German Fallschirmjäger wearing camo smocks, the idea of GIs in camo proved unpopular and they were soon withdrawn from the ETO.

However, the material, especially that of discarded parachutes, was recycled by the locals.

“Homemade dress” made out of a parachute used on D-DAY. It was worn by Renée Catherine, a little girl of Sainte-Mère-Eglise

Speaking of which, there is at least some evidence that German paras found U.S. camo very useful in Normandy.

A German cavalry officer (note the spurs and breeches) during the battle for Normandy wearing a crude cover fashioned from U.S. parachute silk duck hunter camo peers through a hedgerow. Also, note his Beretta 38 SMG

Fallschirmjäger at Normandy wearing a cloth cover made from U.S. duck hunter camouflaged cloth, secured to the helmet with a chicken-wire keeper

Meanwhile, in warmer climes

Some U.S. Army units were issued some of the two-piece HBTs in the Pacific late in the war.

U.S. Army Alamo Scouts, two in HBT uniforms. William E. Nellist (middle) pictured with unidentified trainees from the 4th Class. Cape Kassoe, Hollandia, DNG. August 1944. Via Alamo Scouts website. http://www.alamoscouts.com/photo_archives/420_439.htm

U.S. Army Alamo Scouts, two in HBT uniforms. William E. Nellist (middle) pictured with unidentified trainees from the 4th Class. Cape Kassoe, Hollandia, DNG. August 1944. Dig the folding stock para model M1A1 Carbines, very useful in jungle fighting. Via Alamo Scouts website.

Official caption: “Nissan Atoll, Green Islands, South Pacific, 31 January 1944: Inside enemy territory, a recon party lands, senses keyed up for sounds of the Japanese troops known to be present. A perilous fact-finding mission is underway.” The SMLEs and Mills bombs on the men in the center of the landing craft point to Commonwealth troops, probably Australian, in Marine frogskin camo. The non-camo’d fellows at the ramp are likely USCG. A Marine is at the rear, his M1 Carbine at the ready

That theater also saw the use of a one-piece uniform jumpsuit. They were reversible with regular mustard green on the inside.

27th Infantry Division trains in Hawaii before embarking on the amphibious operation to seize Makin in the Gilbert Islands, Fall 1943. Soldier in one piece camouflage uniform is to the right.

27th Infantry Division trains in Hawaii before embarking on the amphibious operation to seize Makin in the Gilbert Islands, Fall 1943. Soldier in one piece camouflage uniform is to the right.

Issued briefly, this zippered onesie was found by the Joe in the field to suck balls and was withdrawn.

Many of the Army’s surplus HBT went on to be donated to French forces such as was seen operating in French Indochina, and the Dutch trying to pacify their East Indies archipelago.

HBT clad French Paratroops in Indochina circa 1953 ready their Mat 49 sub machine guns for a assault on Viet Minh guerrillas

HBT-clad French Paratroops in Indochina circa 1953 ready their MAT-49 submachine guns for an assault on Viet Minh guerrillas

Dutch KNIL infantry with British SMLE Enfields figting Indonesian sepretists in 1948-- dig the ex-Army HBT

Dutch KNIL infantry with British SMLE Enfields fighting Indonesian separatists in 1948– dig the ex-Army HBT

Army SF guy rebooted the pattern briefly in the early 1960s, complete with a camo beret, and issued the same to CIDG units in the hills.

us army special forces vietnam 1966 note camo beret bar gun and m3 grease gun m-3

U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam, Sept. 1966. Note camo beret, BAR, and M3 Grease gun. D-Day in the A-Shau

Here is a look at how effective the “Beo Gam” was in Indochina:

And of course as with anything, both surplus and recreations were popular with hunters in the 1950s and 60s as seen in this 1952 sportsman’s catalog image:

Dig the pith helmet, srsly?

Dig the pith helmet, srsly?

They are popular with reenactors who likely wear it more frequently than the Army ever did.

Interestingly enough, Turkey, Iran, and Red China switched to duck hunter-ish schemes for a time in the 1970s and early 1980s, proving the last nails in the coffin for the pattern in military service.

Turkish soldiers stand ready during the war in Cyprus, the 1970s with locally made HK G3s and Aegean camouflage pattern, based on American frogskin

Iranian soldiers photographed during the Iran-Iraq War, in the 1980s. The man in front has a locally made version of American P42 camouflage, which was made in the 1970s for the Shah and continued to serve in the war against Saddam

This rakish Chicom soldier during the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979) is wearing Type 81 duck hunter camouflage, with a Type 56 AKMS over his shoulder and a painted combat helmet handing from the muzzle

The Quai Vat of the Plain of Reeds

In 1959 this chap by the name of Christopher Cockerell working for Saunders-Roe on the Isle of Wight came up with the first working and practical hovercraft, the “Saunders-Roe Nautical 1” (SR.N1), using an Alvis Leonides radial piston engine that drove a lift fan, and used ducted air from the fan for propulsion, producing a neat three-person craft that was capable of crossing the Channel at 35 knots.

This led to the 65-foot SR.N2 in 1961, which could make 73 knots (that’s seventy-three) and carry 48 passengers.

1963 brought the SR.N3 which was designed for military use and mounted a quartet of Bristol-Siddeley Gnome gas turbines, which enabled it to make 70 knots. The prototype didn’t work out too well but set the stage for what was to come.

SR. N3 Loading Royal Marines at Cowes for the Inter-Service Hovercraft Unit trials.

SR. N3 Loading Royal Marines at Cowes for the Inter-Service Hovercraft Unit trials.

Saunders-Roe and Vickers Supermarine merged to become the British Hovercraft Corporation (BHC) in 1966, and their fourth hovercraft, SR.N4, was a mammoth design that eventually topped out at 185-feet long. While the RN theorized using these as mine countermeasures craft, these vessels, of which six were eventually built, were used as passenger ferries as last as 2000.

Then came the primary subject of our tale, the SR.N5 military model of which 14 were built, half by BHC in the UK and the other half Bell in the U.S..

Navy patrol air cushion vehicle glides over the waters of Cau Hai Bay near Hue, South Vietnam hovercraft

Navy patrol air cushion vehicle glides over the waters of Cau Hai Bay near Hue, South Vietnam hovercraft

These 39-foot hovercraft were beamy, at 22 feet wide, and tall at almost 17 feet with the skirt inflated. Powered by a single 900hp Rolls-Royce Gnome turbine for both lift and propulsion, they could make 70 knots and carried enough jet fuel for about 3-4 hours of patrol. They could carry 16 troops.

The hovercraft were flown more than they were sailed

The hovercraft were flown more than they were sailed

Of the 7 British built vessels, one each were bought by the Sultanate of Brunei and the Canadian Coast Guard, the Brits kept four for the RNAS and the last UK boat went into commercial use. Of the 7 Bell hovercraft (designated SK-5s by that company and equipped with a GE engine), three were bought by the U.S. Navy as Patrol Air Cushion Vehicle (PACV, “Pac Vees”) and three by the U.S Army as Air-Cushion Vehicles (ACV) while the last U.S. boat was bought by San Francisco and Oakland Helicopter Airlines to use as a high speed ferry around the Bay Area.

1949ca317c587f330d8fd4bacd4235a4

Navy PACV, dig the mouth

In U.S. military service in Vietnam, these hovercraft picked up .50 cal and 7.62mm machine guns, a modicum of armor and sandbags to protect their four-man crews (thought they could get by with just two crewmen), and by 1966 were hot and heavy in South East Asia as part of Task Force 116 for the Navy craft while the Army’s boats followed the next year as the catchy Air Cushion Vehicle Test Unit, (Armor Platoon Air Cushioned) 39th Cavalry Platoon of 24 men.

Note the sandbagged fighting position atop the house

Navy PACV3. Note the sandbagged fighting position atop the house

USN 1119446

Crewmen of a PACV (patrol air cushion vehicle) and Vietnamese troops round up Viet Cong suspects Caption: During an operation conducted in the plain of reeds near Moc Hoa. The very presence of the “roaring monsters” which the air cushion vehicles are called, skimming across the rice paddies at speeds up to 65 mph, was inducement enough for some Viet Cong to surrender. Photo taken on 21 November 1966 by Photographer’s Mate Second Class D.M. Dreher. Catalog #: USN 1119446 Copyright Owner: National Archives

USN 1119444

UH-1 Iroquois helos of Helicopter Combat Squadron One (HC-1), Detachment 25 Escort a PACV (patrol air cushion vehicle) during Operation Moc Hoa. Photo taken on 21 November 1966 by Photographer’s Mate Second Class D.M. Dreher.

USN 1119845

Troops and detained locals leave PACV (patrol air cushion vehicle) during Operation Moc Hoa. Photographed 23 November 1966 by Photographer’s Mate Second Class Dreher.Description:Catalog #: USN 1119845 Copyright Owner: National Archives

Operating on the Mekong Delta, Cat Lo, and other hot spots, these half-dozen craft were soon dubbed Quai Vat (Monsters) by Mr. Charles as they raced around the swamps dropping off ARVN troops, Nung mercenaries and U.S. forces in hard-to-reach mudbogs. They were loud as hell (ever been around an LCAC?) but they were effective and, with the turbine shut down and the skirt on a relatively dry spot in the middle of the marsh, they were instant fighting positions.

By early 1968, the Army was even looking at (neat report here) making entire platoons of these craft, armed with 106mm recoilless rifles, Tow or Shillelagh missiles and FFAR rockets much like the helicopter gunships of the day.

Army ACV

Army ACV

Army ACV

Army ACV. They weren’t as wild as the Navy’s PACVs

That Loach is really hugging (and looks like it is having a hard time keeping up)

That Loach is really hugging (and looks like it is having a hard time keeping up)

Then came the epic six-day battle in the Plain of Reeds.

While conducting a combat operation in July 1968 in support of a South Vietnamese CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Force) unit and US infantry advisors, the Army SK5s were engaged in a 7-hour continuous fight with enemy forces.

During the reconnaissance sweep, the SK5 boats inspected over 60 houses along the waterline and discovered over 25 bunkers within the area.

After destroying the bunkers with their supporting infantry, the two hovercraft came under enemy fire. Both craft returned fire, but were unable to press the attack since the CIDG forces were unwilling to dismount into a potential ambush.

After disengaging, both ACVs repositioned to another area and were once again taken under fire. Both vessels returned fire and when the infantry inspected the area they discovered several killed enemy soldiers.

All was good until one of the Army craft, ACV #901, was destroyed on 9 Jan 1970. ACV #902 was destroyed in August 1970. The final Army unit, #903 was returned stateside.

The three Navy PACVs were likewise brought back CONUS and transferred to the Coast Guard in 1971.

Behold, the Coast Guard's hovercraft fleet!

Behold, the Coast Guard’s hovercraft fleet!

They actually look snazzy in hi-viz livery

They actually look snazzy in hi-viz livery. Above is CG-38102, formerly PACV1.

Numbered CG-38101, 38102 and 38103, one (103) was lost in an accident while the first two were transferred to the US Army Mobility Equipment Research and Development Center on 25 April 1975, making the Army the only U.S. military hovercraft owner until the Navy took possession of the first 87-foot long Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) vessels in 1986.

Of the British hovercraft, the original SR.N1 is held by the Science Museum at Wroughton, the only SR.N2 was broken up in the 1970s, SR.N3 was used for target practice, 4 of the 6 SR.N4 ferries were broken up and the two left are currently at the Hovercraft Museum in Lee-on-the-Solent but are facing imminent destruction.

Of the SR.N5s, one U.S Army boat, ACV 903, was returned to the states and is on display at the Transportation Museum in Ft. Eustis, VA. The sole remaining Navy PACV is at the Bellingham International Maritime Museum in Washington.

As for the British Hovercraft Corporation, moving past the SR.N5s they built the 58-foot SR.N6 in large numbers in the 1960s, being their most successful model of all with at least 54 completed. Popular in commercial use as a 58-passenger ferry, a military version capable of carrying a platoon was used by the Canadian Coast Guard, Italian Navy, Egyptian Navy, Iraqi Navy, Iranian Navy and the Saudi Arabian Frontier Force. The Shah liked them so much he ordered a half dozen larger 78-foot BH.7 hovercraft in the early 1970s while the CCG bought three of BHC’s last hovercraft, the 90 passenger AP1-88 boats before the company folded in 1984.

But we do have 91 U.S.-built LCACs today…

A landing craft air cushion leaves the well deck aboard the USS Iwo Jima in the Persian Gulf, Sept. 21, 2006

A landing craft air cushion leaves the well deck aboard the USS Iwo Jima in the Persian Gulf, Sept. 21, 2006