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Thread: Small Arms Weapons Effectiveness in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War

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    Default Small Arms Weapons Effectiveness in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War

    Small Arms Weapons Effectiveness in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War and the Modernisation of Infantry Small Arms in the PLA.

    Lieutenant Colonel Harold ‘Hal’ Moore in his after-action report on the Battle for IaDrang wrote:

    (4) The LAW was effective against the anthills behind which the PAVN were hiding. Training on the use of LAWs must be emphasised.

    (5) If PAVN are encountered close-in during a friendly attack, the best solution may be to back up under artillery and ARA, let the artillery and ARA work the area over and then start again, loading off with plenty of M-79s and grass and LAWs into the ant hills.

    (7) Careful placement of M-79 men should be emphasized in order to give him the best possible fields of fire. They must always be on the lookout for enemy in trees. It was found that M-79s were extremely effective against enemy in trees as well as troops in the open. M-79s must be fired into tress and the high grass even no enemy are seen.
    Of the Vietnamese regulars he wrote:

    (1) He appeared well trained. He was aggressive. He was equipped with a preponderance of automatic weapon and plenty of ammunition. He carried 3 – 5 Chinese potato masher hand grenades. He carried a softball-sized wad of cooked rice, most of them carried a bed roll of a piece of waterproof plastic and a hammock. His weapons were well maintained.

    (2) he was an expert in camouflage and used every bit of cover and concealment to perfection. With only small arms, mortars, and anti-tank weapons he obviously sought to close with us in strength quickly-before we could discover him – possibly to render our fire support less effective and certainly to overwhelm us and to fight us on our terms. Without much overhead fore support, he probably has to fall back on expert camouflage techniques, attacks in mass, infiltrators and stay-behind killer parties.

    (3) He was a deadly shot. In caring for my men who had been killed or wounded, I was struck by the great number who had been shot in the head and upper part of the body—particularly in the head. He definitely went for the leaders—the men who were shouting, pointing talking on radios. He also aimed for the men carrying the radios…….

    (5) When met by heavy ground fire or by mortar, artillery, TAC air or ARA he becomes less organized,. However, he did not quit……

    (7) He fought to the death. When wounded, he continued fighting with his small arms and grenades. He appeared fanatical; when wounded and had to be approached with extreme care. Many friendly were shot by wounded PAVN.
    When the Chinese attacked the Vietnamese militia in 1979 they faced the same issues with some new problems at the squad and platoon level.

    The PLA infantry squad consisted of a forward scout group of three men with Type 56C (lightened AK-47 copies) carbines and hand grenades, a four man rifle group with Type 56 (AK-47) rifles and hand grenades, and a two man Type 56 (RPD) light machine gun with an assistant squad leader/marksmen among one the groups.

    A PLA nine-man reconnaissance squad contained Type 56-2 and Type 64 and Type 79 7.62 x 25mm suppressed sub-machine guns. After the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War Chinese forces incorporated captured M79 grenade launchers.

    The Vietnamese Army, having been on the receiving end of United States firepower, and having captured vast amounts of US supplied materiel in 1975 and equipped its militia infantry squads with formidable firepower, knowing that high-explosive is the largest killer on the battlefield. A Vietnamese militia nine man squad had a six man rifle group containing AKMs, AK-47s and Type 56 assault rifles, hand grenades and importantly M-72 LAWs; a two man B41 (RPG-7 copy) rocket-propelled grenade group and a M-79 grenadier. This was anti-armour and fire support squad, and there were hundreds of them.

    Selected Vietnamese militia marksmen were equipped with Russian 7.62 x 54mmR sniping rifles, although the weapon is more a marksman’s weapon.

    The People’s Liberation Army had seriously underestimated the capability of the forces it went against. The Vietnamese Government relied on militia and territorial forces to blunt the PLA’s attacks and had provided weapons training for people in the border areas in the months before the attack. These citizen soldiers dan quan were backed up by regional forces dia phunog quan and enabled five regular or main force Vietnamese Army divisions to be kept in the rear to protect Hanoi and to defeat any breakthrough. There were two principal areas in the conflict, Lao Cai and Lang Son, which is southeast of Cao Bang. The fighting around Lao Cai involved eight PLA infantry divisions while the fighting around Lang Song involved 11 PLA infantry divisions. Due to the terrain, PLA armour and trucks were forced to travel along the few mountainous roads, and if they went off the road were channelled into columns. The area around Lang Son had narrow roads with steep sides, many commanding heights and was not heavily vegetated, containing very little jungle. By employing local knowledge the Vietnamese militia using mortars, land mines and ambushes with rocket propelled grenades, took a large toll of invading PLA units. The Type 62 light tanks suffered severely from RPG hits due to the close nature of the terrain.

    Chinese tactics above the company level had atrophied during the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese fought a battle of attrition that wore down the Vietnamese defences but suffered horrendous casualties in the process. If a company failed to secure an objective a battalion was sent in, and if it failed, a regiment was used. It demonstrated that morale amongst the PLA was still strong as they were prepared to suffer heavy casualties to achieve victory, even if their tactical ability was poor. After the capture of Lang Son the Chinese media started to comment on the forces against which they fought. The Chinese media announced that the Vietnamese equipment was not as good as the Chinese had thought, that some were about 15 years old, and among the soldiers some were old men. Xinhua, the Chinese news service, reported: ‘In the pillboxes and bunkers around Lao Cai were large supplies of weapons, ammunition and rice, and most of the weapons and ammunition and all the rice came from China’. The PLA also discovered that some of this Chinese made equipment was newer than that used by some of their own units. These comments and discoveries were in line with the Vietnamese use of militia and territorial forces.

    New Infantry Weapons Introduced into Service as a Result of the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War

    The PLA’s high casualty rate in the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War saw a shakeup in the arming of the People’s Liberation Army infantry.

    The effectiveness of the M-72 LAW impressed the PLA so much, that its technology and the 80mm warhead from the Type III anti-tank round developed for the Type 69 40mrocket propelled grenade launcher were mated into the PF-89 individual anti-tank rocket launcher.

    The effect of the M-79 in combat saw the PLA border troops employ captured M-79 40mm grenade launchers, and the M203 underbarrel grenade launcher copied into the QLG91/Type 91 35mm rifle mounted grenade launcher.

    The Russian SVD 7.62 x 54mmR SVD was copied as the Type 79/85 7.62x54mmR sniping rifle.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-25-2014 at 11:32 AM. Reason: Hal Moore's comments in quotes

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