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Thread: Infantry ammo loads: Malaya & Vietnam?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Infantry ammo loads: Malaya & Vietnam?

    Amidst a far longer SWJ article 'Malaya: The Myth of Hearts and Minds' the author Sergio Miller (not a SWC member) touched upon this question. Perhaps the expertise of SWC can help? Calling Ken!

    The lack of contacts was reflected in ammunition loads – the standard load was just three magazines (60 rounds), including in SAS patrols .... This compares with Vietnam where a GI carried a standard load of 32 magazines of 5.56mm. (The author found this standard Vietnam GI ammo load in an unrelated reading of My Lai testimonies in answer to the question how much ammunition was carried, the defendant answered the standard load of 32 magazines, with one loaded. The author cannot recall which testimony and there are scores of documents to search. If veterans can recall a different standard ammo load, the author is happy to be corrected.) They were quite different wars.
    Link to article:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art...arts-and-minds
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Kiwi Fruit and Pomegranates...

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Amidst a far longer SWJ article 'Malaya: The Myth of Hearts and Minds' the author Sergio Miller (not a SWC member) touched upon this question. Perhaps the expertise of SWC can help?

    " "The lack of contacts was reflected in ammunition loads – the standard load was just three magazines (60 rounds), including in SAS patrols .... This compares with Vietnam where a GI carried a standard load of 32 magazines of 5.56mm. (The author found this standard Vietnam GI ammo load in an unrelated reading of My Lai testimonies in answer to the question how much ammunition was carried, the defendant answered the standard load of 32 magazines, with one loaded. The author cannot recall which testimony and there are scores of documents to search. If veterans can recall a different standard ammo load, the author is happy to be corrected.) They were quite different wars." "
    He's right, they were quite different wars. However, the Ammo loads quoted are a reflection of other things as well.

    In Malaya, as elsewhere, the SAS was better trained and more selective as well as more tolerant of deviations from norms while on operations; they did what worked and did not hew to a book. They also had the Mark IV (or a few Mark Vs) early on and the FN later; all in .303 or 7.62, the latter for the FN is 20 round magazines -- so 60 rounds was a good compromise and adequate. As the author stated, smaller, fleeting and generally fleeing contacts...

    Thus the Pomegranates are SOF folks while the Kiwi Fruit are run of the mill Infantry in Veet Nam.

    In Viet Nam, with far larger and rarely fleeing contacts to include occasional and somewhat unpredictable major battles with Bn and Bde sized units, different norms prevailed. With the 7.62mm M14 in the early years, the 20 round magazine was issued five per weapon, thus 100 rounds and that's what almost everyone carried. There were also only rare large contacts during that period.

    Later, with increasing activity and with the concurrent issue of the M16, two more magazines were added due to the lighter ammunition and thus 140 rounds were normal, the standard issue Basic Load, and that's what most good units carried. In units that allowed, promoted or commonly used full automatic firing -- and not all did -- some people carried more ammo as full auto burned it up rapidly (for little effect but that's another issue...).

    The My Lai cite indicates the Americal division, not ever a particularly good unit and noted for excessive firing and 'trigger happiness.' They weren't alone, all divisions had good and bad units and they varied over time. The poorer units and more poorly trained people after early 1966 tended to fire on full auto a lot and thus the troops in those units would collect extra magazines which they would carry in their rucksacks. Some even carried additional ammo in cartons.

    All in all, 32 mags was NOT a standard load, that remained at seven for 140 rounds rising to 210 after the 30 round magazine was generally introduced in late 1968. My guess is that probably about 20-30% of committed Infantry troops carried as much ammo as they could though I believe the 32 Magazines to be somewhat exceptional, 15 20 would be more likely. Probably another 20-30% or so carried extras to the tune of around 10 or 12 total mags. In my observation, the ammo load varied by unit more so than by individuals. Good units carried and used less. Still, probably 60-75 % or so of troops probably carried extra ammo in the 1966 and 1968 periods . I suspect that may have increased a bit later as training slipped and inexperienced Officers and NCOs became more prevalent. The personnel policies of the era also helped reinforce bad habits; rotating leaders at six month intervals is not conducive to unit coherence, much less cohesion...

    For the less good units, the Infantry rule of thumb is use METT-TC but always worst case the possibilities.

    For the US SOF elements, ammo load varied considerably, mission dependent but some of them also carried massive Ammo loads -- again, a different war.

    As an aside, I never carried more than five magazines -- less weight and aimed semi-automatic fire being the why. IIRC, I never fired on full automatic in either tour -- nor, when I was a Reconnaissance Platoon Sergeant, did I allow the Troops to do so. I did once have to bounce a steel helmet off a guy to reinforce the idea. Also restricted them to 10 Mags maximum. We never had a problem due to that. I would have carried more Ammo had I needed to but the METT-TC considerations didn't call for it. A lot depends on where you are, who you face and how they operate...

    The fact remains, they were indeed quite different wars...

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Vietnam ammo loads were quite often dictated by unit, and varied greatly. DePuy when he had the 1st ID was very specific in his instructions. SOG tended to carry more ammo than most, which was understandable given their mission and typical AO. It also depended on how frequently a unit could expect resupply. Outfits like the 1 CD, who had many, many helicopters, could resupply once a day (if not more). Others (like the aforementioned Americal or 4th ID) carried more because they could resupply less.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Trying to imagine the pouches and rucksack needed to store 31 loaded 20 rds mags, all strapped to a boy at 90% humidity sunshine and 28 °C in the shadows...


    That being said, the prospect of carrying only 120 7.62 for our G3 rifles in a European war was not popular among the German soldiers I knew.
    (2 mag pouches each 2x20, 1x20 in rifle, 1x20 as last reserve in small combat bag)
    Most thought it wasn't enough for the scenarios of warfare that we imagined.

    Then again, the Bundeswehr practically stuck to the dominant '34-'43 model of a squad being a machinegunner (80% firepower) with his escort and porters (20%) until few years ago. The average peacetime rifleman never really understood that his rifle was not his dominant raison d'ętre.

    ('44-'45 saw experiments with an emphasis on assault rifles or with two GPMG per squad).

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    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Then again, the Bundeswehr practically stuck to the dominant '34-'43 model of a squad being a machinegunner (80% firepower) with his escort and porters (20%) until few years ago. The average peacetime rifleman never really understood that his rifle was not his dominant raison d'tre.

    ('44-'45 saw experiments with an emphasis on assault rifles or with two GPMG per squad).
    Which model was better?

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    Default Old School Thinking

    1-The 5.56 ammo was issued in a bandoleer with 5 pouches. Inside each pouch was 2-10 round stripper clips. The old timmers told us to take 2 bandoleers (=10 twenty round mags) as a basic load, empty mags were put in a empty claymore bag,grenades were put inside the original issue 20 round M-16 ammo pouches.

    2-Our basic load was as Ken said 7 twenty round magazines, except when we were alerted during Yom Kippur War(spelling) OCT 73, the basic issue was 10 mags and they even gave us an extra ammo pouch and then they took it all back after the alert
    Last edited by slapout9; 04-17-2012 at 06:56 AM. Reason: spelling stuff

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post
    Which model was better?
    Not sure, but keep in mind that the all assault rifle model was a very offensive one - basically an assault squad model.

    The 2 machine gun model was a very defensive one.

    Strangely, the rather offensively-employed Panzergrenadiere with their support from AFV machineguns were the ones who took 2 MG 42 with them... (maybe simply because they could thanks to AFV ammo support).

    In practice, all the TO&E squads were usually depleted to a single machinegunner and few escorts/porters; groups of 6 were quite common. German TO&Es from the 1942-1945 period are almost worthless; units varied a lot and were rarely at full strength.
    A battalion being led by a 1st Lt and only about 150 strong with an above proportional qty of extant machineguns wasn't uncommon.


    In the end, soldiers usually carry as much as they can because their superiors order it. Superiors tend to exploit their resources fully, there's little intentional self-restraint in play.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Infanteer View Post
    Which model was better?
    I suggest that since 1945 such issues would be based purely on theoretical guess work in the German army. Ask rather where they got the idea from.

    I have suggested that this issue (TO&E) be approached rather as a golfer does with his bag of clubs. Pick your club for the shot required.

    I found that different equipment and ammo scales were required for just about every different type of deployment and in each different geographic area. I suggest that fixed TO&E are about as stupid as fixed tactical drills.

    All this of course returns to the need for experience retention in units at all levels/ranks. Virgin units take losses that can/should be avoided.

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