199th Infantry Brigade History (Condensed)
The 199th Infantry Brigade (Separate)(Light) “Redcatchers” is often one of the most overlooked and underrated U.S. Infantry units to serve during the Vietnam War. (The 199th LIB was not at any time in its history associated with any of the other Brigades that fought valiantly with the Americal Division in I Corps). It was the epitome of U.S. Army Infantry units to fight in Southeast Asia during the American involvement there. Never listing more than 25,000 personnel on the roster during its history, there were more staff officers assigned to rear echelon jobs at Tan Sanh Nhout Airbase than there were members of the 199th LIB in January of 1968.
Created specifically for combat service in Vietnam and Cambodia, the 199th LIB was born at Ft. Benning, Georgia on Kelly Hill in June of 1966. The unit was organized around four of the United States Army’s most historic and celebrated Infantry Regiments; the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry and the 4th and 5th Battalions of the 12th Infantry. The 2nd Battalion, 40th Artillery (Towed) supplied the Brigade with its own organic, 105mm Artillery support. Each of the four 105mm batteries were assigned to provide timely and accurate fire support to each of the Brigade’s infantry battalions. By mid-1970, the 2-40th Artillery had fired over 1,000,000 rounds in support of combat operations and it was the only artillery unit in Vietnam to participate in fire missions from Cambodia to the South China Sea.
LRRP and Ranger detachments were also represented within the unit, this being assigned to the 71st Infantry Detachment (LRRP), F Company, 51st Infantry (LRP) and Company M, 75th Infantry. There was also one combat engineer company, the 87th Engineers, one armor component, D Troop, 17th Cavalry, a signal unit, the 313th Signal Detachment and the 152nd Military Police Company and two scout dog units, the 49th Infantry Platoon Scout Dog and the 76th Combat Tracker Team. With the addition of these combat gallant support units, the 199th LIB became the only truly separate and light combat brigade to fight in Vietnam.
After four years of near constant combat in the III Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam and Cambodia, the unit rotated back to the United States in Operation Keystone Robin in October 1970. The Brigade was deactivated on the same field where it was created.
Whereas the larger divisions usually contained three to four brigades, the 199th LIB took orders specifically from MACV and II Field Force, although some of the units' infantry battalions were op-conned to other units at various times. At any given time from 1966-1970, the brigade's roster consisted of approximately 4300 combat-ready soldiers. In addition, the 199th never suffered from drug, discipline or racial problems in large capacities like some of the other units experienced and it attained a superb war record during its service there. The facts show this to be true.
Seven hundred, fifty-seven young men were killed in action while in the 199th from 1966-1970 and over 4,500 wounded were suffered. It is also interesting to note that two of the Brigade’s commanding officers were WIA, one Deputy Commander was WIA and one Commanding General was KIA (BG William R. Bond-1 April, 1970. Bond was the only general officer killed in ground combat during the entire war). Four Medals of Honor were earned by the unit, including the Brigade Chaplain in 1967, who by himself, carried over 25 badly wounded soldiers to safety during a fierce clash with VC/NVA forces south of Saigon in December of 1967. Chaplain Angelo Liteky became the first chaplain of the Vietnam War to earn the Medal of Honor the fifth in military history. You know the unit is tough when the brigade chaplain is a war hero.
While in Vietnam, the Brigade's Area of Operations consisted mainly in the III Corps area around Saigon, Long Binh, Xuan Loc, Bien Hoa, Dinh Quan, Ho Nai, the Pineapple Region, War Zones C & D, Cambodia and the Cambodian border region itself. The unit would also assigned to the 9th Infantry Division in the Delta Region and took part in countless Mobile Riverine Operations. The 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry was op-conned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and took part in the Cambodian Incursion from May to June, 1970. For two months, the 5-12th Infantry was in constant combat with some of the toughest units of the North Vietnamese Army.
Of further interest, the first black man to ever command an Army brigade in combat commanded the 199th in 1968 and 1969. This honor was earned by BG Frederic E. Davison. He would also become the first black general to command a division (the 8th Infantry Division) after Vietnam. The 199th was also the first major US unit in Vietnam to begin Nixon's program of "Vietnamization." From 1967 onward, the 199th would be paired battalion for battalion, company for company with an ARVN Ranger unit.
During the Tet and May Offensives of 1968, the 199th LIB was instrumental in driving back the communist onslaught against Saigon, Bien Hoa, Long Binh and the surrounding areas. On 1 February 1968, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry participated in one of the most important and strategic battles of either offensive when it single-handedly retook the Phu Tho Racetrack from a mixture of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese units that had congregated there.
2nd Battalion 3rd Infantry
3rd Battalion 7th Infantry
4th Battalion 12th Infantry
5th Battalion 12th Infantry
Troop D, 17th Cavalry
Company F, 51st Infantry
Company M, 75th Infantry
2nd Battalion 40th Artillery
7th Support Battalion
Headquarters Headquarters Company 199th
HHC MP Combined Reaction Infantry Platoon
71st Infantry Long Range Patrol Detachment
49th Scout Dog Platoon
179th Military Intelligence Detachment
87th Engineer Company
313th Signal Company
152nd Military Police Platoon
76th Infantry Combat Tracker Dog Detachment
44th Military History Detachment
503rd Chemical Detachment
856 Army Security Agency Detachment
40th Public Information Detachment
Basic Vietnam Impression and Equipment TO&E by Robby Gouge and David Stieghan
This is not intended to be a history of the conflict nor of the soldier, so we apologize now for any wandering thoughts. What this is for and the posts to follow are to give you some background information and knowledge for ideas on your Vietnam Infantry Soldier impression.
Before we get into the particulars about Vietnam-era uniforms and uniform composition/appearance, start doing your research and pouring through your sources of books, magazines and web-sites on the US soldier in Vietnam and make some of your own decisions about your impression and appearance. We know that with out high-standards and levels of authenticity in other time periods, these important characteristics will follow in this era as well.
Because of the spirit of individuality that comprised many Infantry units in Vietnam, especially after 1967, it was hard to find two grunts who wore their web gear the same, packed their rucksacks the same and in short, looked the same. Even though everyone wore the standard OD fatigues, boots, helmets, gear, etc., (leave your MACV SOG Special Forces Tiger Stripes at home) it was how each grunt made himself as comfortable as possible in a tropical climate with 60+ lbs of equipment that made him different. In short, we are portraying Vietnam in the III CTZ, so leave your manuals about the stateside military with equipment and proper military appearance/etiquette at home in the bathroom. As for insignia, a patch on the left shoulder and collar insignia are Number 1.
There are two basic ways on which you can base your infantryman's impression; the veteran or the brand new replacement FNG. For the newly-arrived FNG, wear some brand new, crisp jungle fatigues, nice black, shiny jungle boots and a helmet cover that has no tears or no soldier's graffiti on it. Likewise your web-gear will look newer, you will act scared and clueless and be a cluster for the event and the veterans will ignore you and not ask for your name (in theory).
For the veteran look, wear some dirty and faded fatigues, jungle boots that are scuffed and dirty and web gear that has seen better days. Your helmet cover may have your DEROS date scribbled on it, your favorite biblical verse, your wife or girlfriend's name, hometown or other favorite sayings (keep all of this to a minimum as you don't want to look like walking gang graffiti....some guys did it, others didn't). Also, in your helmet band, some soldiers carried insect repellent (this was the most widespread item on the helmet), toilet paper, cigarettes, LSA oil or other such items (once again, don't go overboard with this).
If guys had all their insignia and rank on their fatigues they were either new guys or REMF's. Depending on the unit, some officers and NCO's rarely wore insignia as well, lest they became targets for snipers. For grunts in the field, it would differ as to what was sewn on and what was not. Some may have a sterile uniform, some with only the US tape, some with the US tape and unit insignia, some with only the unit insignia, some with their name tapes...the list goes on and on.
Keep in mind with the helicopter and resupply, some grunts may get clean fatigues on the resupply drop, if they were lucky, and others may not (rarely were soldiers in the field given back their issued fatigues, only back in basecamp). Finally, and we are sure that all of you are aware of this, make sure your fatigues are period OD green, ripstop, especially with slanted pockets for the jackets. Be sure you don't have the modern OD fatigues as they are very different from the real ones and you will stand out like a real idiot. An issue OD towel comes in very handy as well around your neck for extra padding and to wipe the sweat and grime from your face.
Get a proper green t-shirt or wear a green towel with a serape, or poncho, slit in the middle for your head. The former are often found at surplus stores with a little scrounging or you can use modern US Marine Corps shirts if you wash them a few times before coming out (around $ 6.00). The latter may be found in the same way or in thrift shops. The guys wore these under their frag vests for padding and to soak up sweat. Use your WWII drawers if you cannot obtain a pair of period boxers.
Have EVERYTHING secured in plastic or other waterproof containers. Many troops used "elephant condoms," euphemistically called "elephant bags" in some surplus catalogs these days. The early ones were WWII invasion rifle covers cut down to the last 18" or 24" to stuff wallets, photographs, cameras, audio tapes, matches, cigs, etc. Also available were the 1967 contract "case, pistol or personal effects" bags issued by the army. Believe me, you will want to have dry socks and underwear after it rains. Take care of your old 1960s stuff and your old, bad self.
For equipment, your web gear should be the canvas, OD M56 stuff that was issued to all personnel that served in-country. Each soldier was issued a set of canvas H-harness suspenders, a web belt with either vertical or horizontal weave, two canvas M14/M16 ammo pouches, and two canvas canteen pouches w/ OD canteens, although more canteens were acquired and carried by the grunts. The two-quart canteens with nylon carriers are acceptable as they were first introduced in late 1967 (You should be able to find a Vietnam-dated one). A canvas first-aid pouch was also issued and usually clipped to the suspenders. Nylon gear began to make its widespread appearance in mid-1970. Nylon ammo pouches are acceptable if the event fits this time frame. Also, Vietnam-era gear is very different from the modern ALICE gear and should not be worn. You can arrange the web gear to however it is most comfortable to you since you are the one wearing it.
There were two common types of e-tools in use during the early to middle part of the Vietnam War: M1943 with the late WWII OD carrier, or the M1952 with the M1910 or M1956 carrier. Do not bring a tri-fold type. Every soldier carried an entrenching tool. It is used to dig a slit trench or a fox hole, to fill sandbags, or to bury things. We also need guys to bring their machetes to pass through the "jungle" and to selectively clear fields of fire in front of fighting positions. If you don't bring one, another troop will gladly loan one to you when it's your turn. Expect to sharpen the shovels and machetes every fifteen minutes or so.
The next item is probably the hardest of all items to find so don't sweat it if you don't have it; use a canvas M56/61 butt-pack instead or an ARVN ruck. This item is the Lightweight Rucksack with the tubular, aluminum frame. Modern-day ALICE packs were not used at any time in Vietnam and are NOT acceptable!!! There are two ways in which you can configure your ruck to the frame....either at the top or bottom. Personally, I think the weight is distributed better when the ruck is at the top. For your carrying enjoyment, I would suggest that you try to pack a poncho, poncho liner, extra socks, extra magazines and ammo and anything else you think is useful. Once again, you are carrying this so pick and choose your gear wisely.
Another very useful item that was invaluable was the claymore mine bag (just as useful as the gas mask bag or ammo bag in WWII). I would advise that you try and find one (I carry one tied to the frame of my rucksack) as it will be the bag you want to put your spent magazines, ammo, camera and other stuff in.
As for the basic rations for the period, the most prevalent ration of the Vietnam War issued to US troops were C-Rations (LRRP rations were issued as well, but mainly to SF, LRRPS, etc., and never in great quantities to line troops). Modern-day MRE's are not acceptable and did not come out until the early 80's. C-rations were somewhat similar in composition to the WWII ones with some minor differences, mainly with the choice of menus and cigarettes offered. If you want to make the most out of your experience, then I would suggest ordering some of Hogan's repro rations as they are somewhat similar to the Vietnam era, complete with all the goodies. Some canned goods of the same size and spray painted OD green are good. Bring the right size cans of fruit cocktail, peaches, beans with weiners, etc. Take off the rings and use your P-38 if you must. Make sure the cans are smooth-sided without folds or corrugations, and paint them a pale green. Then, either put them carry them inside your ruck, inside a claymore mine bag, or put them inside a standard GI issue sock and tie it from the ruck.
Do not bring MREs. Reproduction WWII C-rations are better. Do not overlook the efficacy of cooking rice in your canteen cup. These guys captured tons of rice on sweeps and much of it was still in the USA food aid bags! It was considered a welcome change from the "ham and motherf--kers" or John Wayne cookies in the C-rats. When possible, fresh fruit was delivered with C-rats (apples, oranges, etc.) so the guys would void more than once a week. If you have a WWII or later mermite can, bring it. Especially if you have the three inserts. One can will carry enough hot or cold chow for a complete squad. If you take a look at original pictures of fire bases, you will notice the large number of # 10 cans the men are using to shave, bathe, or cook in (or for other body functions while on alert). These cans came in with fruit cocktail, dehydrated potatoes, etc. If you use tryoxane bars, charcoal, scrounged DRY hardwood, or a C4 block, you can cook more than coffee.
You should plan on bringing LOTS of water (at least 4-5 quarts). When you study period pictures, besides ammunition, grunts had canteens everywhere on their rucks and web belts. This will be heavy, but remember these are summer events with lots of walking and dehydration is not a fun activity for the weekend. We advise that you carry as much water as you possibly can. No, you don't have to find Vietnam-era canteens, buy the modern 1qt. as they are the same. Just make sure you get the correct cap. Also, the repop 5 qt. are good to go as well. Four canteens translates into four quarts. That can be done with two one-quart and one two-quart canteen, or four one-quart canteen. Good repops of the five-quart canteen/floatation device are available for $14-18.00 in stores, catalogues, or the internet. If you don't want to buy extra covers, just loop the naked canteens on your combat suspenders or your ruck frame like they did.
Don't salute officers in combat. One or both of you will be identified as a leader by a sniper. You must learn to SALUTE, however. When reporting any activity, privates knew they were to render a SALUTE report:
Size of enemy group?
Activity what is the enemy doing?
Location where exactly did you see the enemy?
Uniform what uniform and individual weapons and gear did the enemy have?
Time what time, or how long ago, did you see the enemy?
Equipment what equipment, i.e., crew-served weapons, commo gear, mines, etc., did the enemy have?
During events you will hear a lot of period military acronyms (OCOKA, METT, RATELO, FPL, FPF, FRAGO, SITREP, BOMREP, T & E, T. O. & E., FMs & TMs, GM angle, FNG, REMF, Short, Lifer, Point, LP/OP, concertina, foo gas, claymore, Victor Charles, 364 days and a wake up, shake 'n' bake, boom boom, dinky dao, diddi mau, numba one, numba ten, Top, CO, frag, high and tight, R & R, AFVN, USO, Spec4 Pat Sajak, the Green Weenie, APC, MPC, LPC, LES, OPORD, and a thousand more). If you don't know, ask.
Here is a list of required uniforms and equipment:
1. OD 3rd Pattern Jungle Fatigues-Poplin or Ripstop
2. Undershirt, OD
3. Boots, Jungle, Vietnam-era with inserts (No modern pairs)
4. Socks, wool, OD
5. Helmet, M1 with liner and Vietnam-era cover and proper chin straps
6. M1956 LBE Web Gear (No nylon or Y-straps)
7. M1956 Web Belt (Vertical or horizontal weave)
8. Pouch, canvas, first-aid
9. Two M1956 canvas ammo pouches
10. M1956/1961 canvas buttpack
11. Two or more OD 1-quart canteens, canteen cup, and canvas carriers (Period 2-quart acceptable)
12. E-tool and canvas carrier (no tri-folding e-tools)
13. Period-looking c-rations
14. Proper Weapon; either AR-15/M16A1 or M-14/M1A in the correct period style with Hollywood BFA and cleaning kit, patches, LSA oil -Plenty of blanks
15. 20rd magazines
List of recommended optional equipment:
1. Liner, poncho, ERDL with center seam
2. Poncho, rubberized, Vietnam-era
3. Tags, Identification with proper information
4. Flash-light (T122) with red lens
5. Powder, foot
6. Rucksack, Lightwieght with frame (No ALICE Gear)
7. Machete and period carrier
8. M16 7 pocket cloth bandoleers
9. Period ammo cans
10. OD Boonie Hat
11. Personal hygiene kit
12. Repellent, Insect in either the clear plastic or OD bottle
13. Towel, OD
If anyone needs to borrow something, speak up and let us know. This is a good list of basic items issued and carried by the common infantryman in Vietnam. When collecting these items for my impression over the years, I ran into a lot of stuff that I didn't know I needed that I could have gotten for nothing that are now difficult to find. If you don't have all of the basics on this list, either you haven't found it yet, can't afford it, or just didn't know you needed it. While I bought basics first, I ran into other stuff that I picked up to complete my impression "out of sequence." Do not let the mere fact that you don't have all the kit keep you from coming along. We have several complete sets of gear ready to go, including helmets.
If you don't have 1960s dog tags, use your WWII ones. Otherwise, David Stieghan can help. He can have you a pair of dog tags on a chain made for $4.00 and four embroidered name tapes for $4.00 a set. You can order matching US Army name tapes for the same amount or just use the stamped ones on nylon. The earlier you get in your order, the more time that you have to get them sewed on. Otherwise, get out your sewing kit at the fire base. My turn around is 24 hours from time of cash order to pick up, but then I have to mail them out. If you want them shipped include a couple of bucks to do so.
Before October 1968:
First Name MI
Army Service Number
Religious Preference Blood Type
After 10-68, the soldier's Social Security Number replaced the ASN. If you do not have a middle initial, "NMI" is substituted.
Use lengths of 550 cord to make chain cushions and "friction tape" to tape them together.
Don't forget your P-38 opener and dufflebag key.