Platoon Leader

I can not stress enough how important it is to be true to your efforts to obtain “The Look”.  As a devotee to the the mission of portraying the Vietnam Soldier you are representing history.  By taking part in re-enactment you are committing to the task of creating living history.  The soldiers you will be portraying deserve to have you get it right.  Your efforts should not be cheapened by half measures.  Now this sounds serious, maybe stern……and it is.  If you are looking to just play soldier, then stop reading the page now.  Go play airsoft games with your buddies, this page is not for you. 

If you are a member of a living history group, then read on!  Are you looking for information to start a group and you want to get it right?  Then keep reading!  It is my goal to provide a tool that will help you to reach your goals.  If you find reason to disagree with something I have placed in these pages, by all means contact me.   Tell me what you have found to be wrong or in need of improvement..  State your sources, provide photographic proof if you can.  Please don’t waste time with “My buddy says….” or  “I saw it in a movie….” or  something like that.  Facts and data, not stories and hearsay.  I am striving for absolute fact, for the purpose of creating accurate information for those who have chosen to commit to the task of creating living history for the Vietnam era.  Now, enough preaching, let’s get down to business!!

Platoon Leader

The Platoon Leader is the most senior leader in the platoon.  He is the person everyone else looks to for orders and sets the uniform standards.  This makes him a target, so he should appear very much like a rifleman.  The differences are very subtle, and the only way you should be able to identify him is by the RTO’s surrounding him.

This platoon leader is studying his map co-ordinates, his watch strapped to his wrist and he has his RTO nearby. He is wearing poplin jungle fatigues with the shoulder sleeves rolled up. On his back is a lightweight rucksack and frame, the rucksack is hung in the lower position on the frame. Under the webbing straps is a poncho liner rolled in a poncho and tucked in underneath is a M1942 machete. On the frames side is a coil of rope, which partially obscures a M1956 canteen with cover. Around his waist and across his shoulder is a 7 pocket M16 bandoleer loaded with magazines. Off the webbing you can glimpse some M18 smoke grenades.

In this picture the same Platoon leader is seen, this time from the front.  His webbing is not visible.  The ammunition pouches are the smaller later variety better designed for the 20 round M16 magazines and hanging off each side of the amo pouch are M26 grenades.  He has positioned his compass pouch lower on his suspenders and it rests on the right of his chest.  Hung from his left shoulder and under his right arm is the 7 pocket cotton bandoleer.  The straps you see that look like part of his webbing are in fact the rucksack shoulder straps.  Note that the weapon resting next to him is a CAR-15, which is characteristic of a Platoon Leaders chosen weapon.  Official designation for this weapon was XM177, the Air Force called them GAU-5’s.  GAU stands for Ground Assault Unit.

This picture shows a Captain of an Air Cavarly Division, he is probably a Company Commander.  He wears the standard poplin jungle jacket, M1 helmet with Mitchell pattern cover and green olive drab t-shirt.  He sports standard M1956 webbing with horizontal weave pistol belt.  On his webbing he has two compass pouches, one of which is upside down.  Both sides of his ammo pouches are sporting grenades and to the front is a pistol ammuniton pouch, suggesting he carries an M1911A1 – standard issue for Officers.  Unusually this Captain has a Pilots Survival knife taped upside down on his suspenders.  This is a personal preference, no doubt the Captain is hoping to facilitate a quick draw from the sheath, in a downward stroke into on-guard position.  He carries a standard M16. Note he is wearing a army issue watch.  Further note he has black on white name tapes, suggesting he has been in Vietnam in the early years of the war.

The final picture is of another Captain wearing an M1 helmet an unbadged jungle jacket, and trousers that are blossomed to his boots.  Over his fatigues he wears an M1969 Fragmentation Jacket with 3/4 collar.  He has standard M1956 webbing consisting of suspenders, pistol belt, 2 ammo pouches, compass pouch, M7 bayonet in M8A1 bayonet, and probably buttpack and 2 canteens (Although not visible here).  Strapped to his left leg is a M18 Gasmask and Carrier, which  slightly blocks the bayonet.  On his left side is a M1916 holster containing a M1911A1 pistol.  Take note that he wears a watch also, it is not threaded through a button hole on his shirt pocket as some troopers chose to do.
Load & List of Equipment – Platoon Leader

Here I have listed what I think you should have in your collection to display a typical platoon leader, above and beyound the basic combat equipment issue all the troopers would have  in the US Army in Vietnam.  Don’t forget, even the LT has personal preferences for what he carries, just like any other troop, but he is expected to lead by example, so… Love Beads, Peace symbols, Hippie crap.

Uniform – Jungle jacket, trousers, M1 helmet with cover, T-shirt, socks, boxer shorts, combat boots.

Web Gear – standard system M1956 or M1967 webbing:  This is belt, suspenders, two ammo pouches, two canteens with covers, buttpack (Optional),     compass pouch, E-tool and cover.

Optional additional system equipment – 5 QT canteen, bayonet, machete

Existence Equipment – poncho and/or pup tent, poncho liner, mess tin and C-rations

Firearms & Accessories – Colt M16, M16A1 or XM-177 and at least three loaded cotton bandoliers, M1911A1 pistol, .45 magazine case with two magazines, M1910 holster or shoulder holster, fragmentation grenades, smoke grenade 

Additional equipment – 1 claymore mine bag (to carryyour extra goodies), map case, Army issue compass, Army issue binoculars and case, Army issue wrist watch, lightweight rucksack w/frame, 550 parachute cord, M1952 or M1969 flak jacket.


5 responses to “Platoon Leader

  1. Mike

    Just some friendly FYI, the photo of the Cav Captain was a staged photo taken by fellow reenactors. reason said, I’ve met a few of the fellas’ in it. What should be pointed out is that the Captain is carrying a Colt SP-1, not a Colt 601. Either way, neither would be appropriate for the period of uniforms and gear they are wearing. Plus the Army didn’t use either except for trials. 3rd pattern jungles with subdued insignia (The name tape is OD, not white. Its just faded and over lighting) White name tapes were phased out by the time the 3rd pats came around. while some “sometimes show up” they weren’t authorized and a Captain sure as hell wouldn’t be caught mixing and matching as suggested. so to sum it up, uniforms and gear point to 1968-1970 and the weapon: early 1960’s trials.

  2. Huynh Kinh-Luyên

    How did the Captain on the last picture attach his holster at an angle like that?

  3. The picture of the captain (my friend James) is not a re-enactment photo and is taken out of context. It was originally shot in the New Forest (UK) in about 1998 and was my first attempt at taking photos of someone in uniform using 3200 speed ISO film. So it was an experiment using film types. The subject in question was just a collector of Vietnam war memorabilia. I used the photo later in The Vietnam Website but really it shouldn’t have been used. He actually has a modern scrim band (anyone notice that?). The holster is hanging from one connection, hence it’s angle.
    G. Sherwood

    • m151dave

      I have only received one comment about the picture and that was about the holster. I told the person commenting that the hanger for the holster coming undone is one of the many reasons equipment changed to the ALICE clips. Stuff falls off with the older loop hangers. Never received a comment on the band.

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