6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Forum created for the purpose of living history and reenactor groups to interact with former veterans of the 6th battalion of the 31st Infantry
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6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Sun Apr 27, 2014 9:38 pm

Me and a few other guys have started the process of forming a 6/31 reenactment/living history group based out of Louisiana/Mississippi. We are planning to portray the 1969-1970 time frame. We have discussed some of the logistics, and decided that the best way to honor those who served in the 6/31 was to be as historically accurate as possible. With that being said, I like to ask some questions that hopefully some of you vets can answer. When I came across this site, I figured there was no better place to get the needed info that from the men who served in this unit. Any help/suggestions/feedback would be more than greatly appreciated.

1. Questions (looking for answers that pertain to the 1969-1970 time frame):

2. Was the "Go Devil" insignia worn anywhere on the uniform? On the breast pocket as a pocket patch? A patch or pin on the boonie hat?

3. Name tapes...were they worn horizontal to the ground or slanted along the top of the pocket?

4. Division insignia...were there any colored patches during this time or were they all subdued?

5. Enlisted rank insignia...was it worn on the sleeve or on the collar in the form of a pin? Was there a mix of both? According to info I found on Moore Militaria's website, pin on insignia was not made mandatory until July 1, 1969...and that '69 saw a mixture of both. The site states that by 197o rank insignia was almost exclusively pin on. I personally like the look of on the sleeve, but historical accuracy is more important.

6. Web gear...what was the most prevalent combination of gear? Was there any piecs of M67 gear being used during this time, or was it all M56? Was the LW rucksack more or less common during this time?

7. How common was the M16A1 during this time period? I want to know if our rifles need to not have a forward assist or if it is okay to have one.

8. Were jungle boots with the "Panama" sole being worn at this time? The main reason I ask is because they are much easier to find.

9. When did the use of the flak jacket become mandatory. I read somewhere that they were required to be worn starting at some time.

That's all I can think of for now. Hopefully you guys can give some feedback. If I think of anything else later, I'll be sure to ask. We want to make sure we get this right, as we see that as best way to honor you guys.

From the son of a 20 year USN veteran..thank you guys so much for your service to our country!
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:25 pm

Welcome to the site Blue Legs. We would be honored if you picked the 6/31st to model as a living history group. You might have noticed we have a 9th Division group from Italy that asks questions here too from time to time. Here's a link to that string.

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3475


What part of the Mississippi/ Louisiana area are you in? Maybe I'll travel over from Alabama sometime to one of your events to check it out.


I'll work on your list tomorrow. I'm sure some others will want to comment too. Just a couple of off the top comments....the name tags on the jackets in 69/70 were slanting following the top of the pocket. Some guys had the old model M16's with the prong flash suppressor and others, including myself, had the updated version with the closed end suppressor and forward assist...which I take it would make it the M16A1. The prong ones were good for breaking the wire band around a case of C rations. The boots could have been either style soles. In fact I ended up with a pair from each version. There's a post here someplace telling about it. I'll attach it here .viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1100

I'll give some other guys a chance and will come back tomorrow to go through your list for any that gets left out.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:40 am

Ok... got a little time. Looks like nobody but me has answered yet. I'll take a crack at answering the questions. Bare in mine now is 44 years later and what we think we remember is sometimes bent a few different ways from Sunday. However, thinking I'm at least in my right mind, if not altogether in my right memory, here goes.

1. 69/70 was a transitional period for the 9th Division and the military in Vietnam. As part of Nixon's withdrawal of troops the 9th was no longer a full division after the middle of 69. They were among the first troops to begin to close up shop. The first two brigades went home officially in the summer of 69 and their less than full time service guys were sorted out to different outfits to continue their tour. The 6/31st got a few guys from other outfits at this time as did they later when the First Division pulled out. At the same time , the 6/31st as a battalion had been moved from the 1st Brigade to the 3rd Brigade because they were late comers to the Division. That mean moving from the "Recondo" brigade to the "Go Devil" brigade.

2. The Go Devil insignia was not seen in so far as I remember. Some may have had what I understand collectors call a beer can pin of the Devil head. It was not something the guys identified with near so much as they had the "Recondo" idea and patch which many did tie to...if they had continued service after the brigade change.

What people did take to, in 1970 were company made patches for particular companies. They would wear them on pockets and on hats. There were even some "beer can" images made. You can buy a boat load of Bravo Bear patches on ebay any day for a couple of bucks. Some enterprising somebody decided to go into business making copies and pretending they were real. The emblems themes were... Alpha Aces, Bravo Bears, Charlie Charlie Hunters, Delta dragons. If Echo had one I don't know what it was...but they were recon and heavy mortars so...strange group.

3. Name tapes were worn to follow the slant of the pocket. I know some earlier uniforms had the horizontal tag but the time you want to mirror they were issued slanted. One thing on the uniforms is that most grunts would trade in a uniform or two of their issued uniforms for the grab bag offered by supply. It was trade one dirty uniform for one clean one. No muddy and dirty grunt wanted to pay laundry bills on uniforms the Army caused the soiling of every day. Those uniform exchanges could be anything. Privates got sergeants strips. FO team guys got CIB's Platoon Sergeants got no rank at all. You could get a jacket with a unit sleeve patch with some whole other division on it. But most guys had at least a few uniforms that had their name on it and was generally filled out with Division patch, cloth sleeve rank, CIB after they were awarded one and assorted other status patches.


4. In the 9th the Division patch was just about always OD and subdued. If some grunt wore a color patch it wouldn't have caused any upset in the field or on the company sized firebases. At brigade HQ it may or may not have caused some conversation about the regulations.

5. Enlisted rank was sewn on kept uniforms. In the field the grab bag could have promoted you and demoted you and most times had no rank at all. Those tin insignia were stateside things.

6. Webgear? I didn't know webgear had numbers.... I had a light weight rucksack at one time. Take a lot of looks in the photo section and study all the various ways guys went to the field.

7 Both kinds of M16 were used as answered previously.

8.Both kinds of boot sole configurations were used.

9. Flak jackets were a sometimes you had to and sometimes not, depending on if the HQ orders slacked off and they didn't make the CO's enforce it. Most grunts would rather have done without it. It was already hot as hell and those plastic on the outside and thick on the inside jackets were more likely to promote heat stroke than protect from booby trap shrapnel. And since nobody was going to zip it up and lock in the heat, it didn't offer very much protection anyway.

I'll add a few photos to show images from some of the above comments.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Tue Apr 29, 2014 9:43 am

Niner Alpha, thanks for taking the time to reply. You have given a lot of very helpful info. Right now our unit is very small...only 4 guys. We have literally just started it. I live in Brandon, MS which is right outside of Jackson. The other three guys live in Louisiana. When we finally get rolling, I will gladly let you know when and where we will be having events. It would be an honor to have you come check it out.

As for the Italian reenacting thread...that was one of the first things I found when googling info on the 9th. Glad I found this site since we chose 6/31. There is a ton of good info in that thread.

If you don't mind, I'm going to ask some more questions based on the answers you have given. This is to ensure that I am 100% clear on what you are saying so that we get this right!

2. As for the "Go Devil" emblem, the guys heading up our unit want to use it. I think it's a neat concept. But in order to be historically accurate with it, should we just stick to a pin on our boonie hats, possibly the helmet cover? Certainly don't want to put it on the uniform if it wasn't back then.

I like the idea of the company patches. I'll be sure to bring that up with the others. What pocket were they worn on?

3. The grab bag concept is very interesting...I had never heard of it until now. I don't think we'll be doing that however, lol. I'm sure we'll go with the name tapes slanted.

4. I figured almost all division patches would be subdued...just wanted to make sure we wouldn't be historically inaccurate if we had some colored ones too.

5. So the best thing to do with our enlisted ranks is to have it on the sleeve, or not have it at all? Like I said, I like the look of it on the sleeve so if that is historically accurate, that's the look I'm going to shoot for.

6. The biggest differences in the M56 gear and the M67 gear was the material it was made of and the snap closures. Here is the site I got this info from if you want to check it out: http://www.mooremilitaria.com/reference.htm

Everything else I'm good on. Again, I really appreciate the time you're taking to help us out!
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Tue Apr 29, 2014 11:26 am

The Go Devil emblem could be used more visibly I'd think without destroying any of the illusion in what you are going to do, although I didn't see it done. Now the earlier Recondo thing was done with some show it seems like, although that brigade was done and gone by the time I got there in January of 1970. The grab bag thing I mentioned so you know you have some latitude in what your uniforms look like if you are going to try to mirror 6/31st grunts. As I said before study the photos in the album. Those people in the photos are the real thing. Sometimes they wore their personal uniforms and sometimes grab bag uniforms.

That link you sent is interesting but take all such information, although useful, with a grain of salt. Study the unit and not the people doing a general observation of whatever they have gleaned from wherever they have gleaned it. For instance, that statement, "By 1970 however you see almost an exclusive use of the pin-on insignia". That was true enough in the states and maybe other units in Vietnam, but not a rule in the 6/31st. And that guy shows a flack jacket it says was Marine equipment. Maybe... but I had an RTO that sported one. It was unusual for the Army, but from the photo it wasn't exclusive to the Marines.

The division patches were subdued in most divisions as a matter of SOP. There was an exception in the 101st. The Screaming Eagle was worn full color by everybody, exceptions may have been made in LRP's , but everybody else. Funny thing, when guys in the 101st came back to the states they had to change their full color combat patch on their combat sleeve to OD in order to follow the rules at state side Army posts...at least at Ft. Sill Oklahoma.

The company patch was usually placed on the wearers left top pocket. And..they were always full color. No OD company patches.

I'll add a couple of photos showing the Marine Flack jacket , me talking on the radio and my RTO with the flack jacket......and another with a guy showing what his personal jacket looked like complete with Division patch, Sgt. Stripes, and company patch. This photo is of David Young of Alpha in 1970.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Tue Apr 29, 2014 12:47 pm

Thanks a lot! That is all very useful info! Hopefully we can get something going soon. Maybe I can get all my stuff together soon and get some pictures posted. Then I could get some feedback on that.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Tue Apr 29, 2014 1:35 pm

As far as the company patch goes...I see the one you posted has blue trim. All the ones I've found online have red. Do you know anything about this?
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Tue Apr 29, 2014 2:02 pm

The ones you see online are bogus. If you check closely the blue one I have posted, which is real and comes from a guy who served in Bravo, against the ebay stuff, they aren't exactly the same in image detail. At the same time Bravo, as I understand it, had different color combinations made depending on which platoon. There may have been a red, and a blue and a green...or some other combination. However, if you want to be Bravo Company, those ebay patches can be gotten for any price and the cheaper the better since they weren't actually company patches. Now, you can have patches made. There are several patch companies online....but cost considered, you will have to have 100 made to justify the cost. I say this because I had some patches made for a milsurp site I run.

Another thing about the patches is that I think all the genuine patches were made in 1970. Earlier ones didn't seem to have existed.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:16 pm

Now that you say it, I actually see several differences in the detail. I looked and can't find any of the original patches. I'm sure they are hard to find and expensive as well. I'm okay with using the bogus ebay patches, as long as you think it's okay with those that served in the unit. Certainly don't want to use something that wouldn't be considered acceptable.

In the picture you posted above of you and another guy wearing the flak jackets, I noticed what looks like a University of Texas Longhorns logo on the stock of the rifle in the foreground. Was "customizing" your rifle something that was common?

Do you have any examples of helmet graffiti from the time you served?
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:42 pm

My RTO was from Texas. That's the reason for the decal. People would write stuff on their helmet covers. Don't have an example. I think what I eventually did was write the name of every place I went that had name to it...firebase...geographic name like Parrots Beak, etc.

I don't think anybody from Bravo would care if you used the bogus patch. It would be more likely that somebody seeing your re-enacting who is some kind of patch collector would question it on some kind of material basis. But that would be a remote possibility too.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:09 am

Niner Alpha,

What company did you serve in?
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:27 am

I was the Forward Observer for Alpha Company. The FO teams all had call signs that began Niner followed by the Company letter followed by Oscar for RTO or India for Recon Sergeant. I started out as Niner Alpha Oscar. I became Niner Alpha India. After May of 1970 I was to all extent and purposes Niner Alpha since there were no new guy arty lieutenants the artillery support battalion...the 2nd of the 4th...had, or wanted, to send to the field. After four and a half months in the field I got the former Lieutenants job on a rating of PFC and was the FO in fact, from late May to mid September of 1970. So... I use Niner Alpha as my handle when I started the site. Niner Alpha was the description of my job responsibility that former 6/31st guys would recognize right away.

You will see some other FO guys posting at this site. Niner Delta did the same job as me, only for Delta Company and a year before. He was an E5. There are also some former FO's, like John Bayer, who was a full fledged Lieutenant Forward Observer, but doesn't use a handle that shows it.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:31 am

I kinda figured it was Alpha Company, but didn't want to assume...we all know what that means.

By the way, where about in Alabama do you live?
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:34 am

I live down on the coast at Mobile.

Like your avatar. Couldn't help but point out the arty red in the 9th Division patch is above the infantry blue. Artillery... the King of Battle trumps Infantry... the queen of battle. Or as one arty battalion motto goes.."We put the balls where the Queen wants them."
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:35 am

No kidding! I'm from Pascagoula. Parents still live there. I go to Mobile all the time when I'm down there.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:41 am

Pascagoula, noted for Chevron, hurricane damage, and the birth place of Jimmy Buffett. I got a good friend that lives there. Lost his home in the 2005 hurricane. He built it back since on the same lot....only on stilts and well anchored.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed Apr 30, 2014 9:46 am

Yup, lots of my friends from high school either work at Chevron or the ship yard. My parents' house wasn't leveled, but got about 5 feet of water. Was not a fun time.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Ron » Fri May 02, 2014 7:08 pm

I was issued the horizontal pockets with O.D. name tags and division emblem. No company patches, medals or emblems issued during my 68- 69 tour.
Flack Jackets were like Robert stated "too cumbersome" or not breathable to be worn in water & swamp operations, but were mandatory during truck convoys or highway mine sweep patrols. Remember all to well during my 1st arrival in-country that 11B20's were given the duty for 2 weeks of tagging along on truck convoy troop and material supplies, and mandatory wearing of flack jackets was ordered.

Helmets were pretty much standard issue, but some of our outfits were allowed to wear 'boonie' hats for ease of operation & gear.
Not everyone had available web gear although it was the major issued item for most of us. We later opted for ruck sacks or "modified" back packs made by the locals per our design or used altered jackets with multi pockets for ammo and/or personal items.

Gas masks were passed out during some operations, but later discarded due to constant water immersion. Unless we knew before hand that we'd encounter 'charlie' using chemicals or gas we pretty much tried to carry more ammo than useless items.

As far as boots are concerned I'm attaching a photo of my original jungle issue ones. Went through 2 sets like most of us did, but my originals rotted out due to constant swamp, rice patties and marshes operations.

M-16 weapon issue was the open end muzzle (3 slotted) which later was exchanged for the closed muzzle flash suppressor & Stainless Steel barrel.

There were also 2 types of rations we were issued. In the beginning of my tour it was primarily C-rations (canned) and later during 1969 we were then issued LRRP's which were dehydrated food packets or 'long range patrol rations' for ease of carrying & quiet. No more cans banging on your shins or socks stuffed with cans!

One always learned during our tour to modify our loads or packs accordingly to what our weapon of choice was, namely M-16, M-60, M-79 or RTO so that things never interfered with our movements during operations away from base camps.

btw....have you checked out our photo album for other ideas? Pictures might give you a better insight as to what was worn and how the uniform looked.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Sat May 03, 2014 3:31 pm

Just noticed this in "Sharpening the Combat Edge" , which was written by two 9th Division generals in 1973. Page 90. Under Load of the Soldier.
http://www.history.army.mil/books/Vietnam/Sharpen/



It was apparent that an infantryman in the delta mud and heat suffered terribly from both heat and fatigue. The flak jacket was a primary cause. After analyzing wound data and flak jacket saves, we determined we were not saving many casualties by their use and, as a result, made the wearing of flak jackets optional. Some experts felt that the gain in mobility paid off in better results with few consequent casualties although this was never clearly established. Even in heavily booby-trapped areas, one could get by with using jackets on lead men only. By rotating lead men, the fatigue element could be held down. We did not direct the abandonment of flak jackets, however, as some people derived considerable

[90]

psychological assurance from them. Due to the fact that our men were only out two days and could usually be resupplied easily, we also reduced the individual load to a bare minimum by reducing ammunition loads and other paraphenalia. The theory was to get the men to the battle fresh. Perhaps not all individual riflemen would agree.


Lt. Colonel Gearin, in 1970, was taking orders from a Brigade commander and up the line to the 25th Division. Whomever did the flak jacket rules probably didn't follow this thinking.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Sun May 04, 2014 11:12 pm

Ron wrote:btw....have you checked out our photo album for other ideas? Pictures might give you a better insight as to what was worn and how the uniform looked.


Yes Ron, I have checked the pictures. There are a lot of great shots and they will serve as a great reference for us. Thanks for your info...it will also be used as it is very helpful.

Niner Alpha,
Thanks again for more information. That was definitely an interesting read and will be used as we continue to work on accurately portraying the unit.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Delta » Mon May 05, 2014 8:13 pm

I did have a SGT stripes pin on the front of my boonie hat, still have it and pin is still there. Had that
because as mentioned earlier, lots of times our laundry had no markings. On one side of my boonie hat
I had written the state I was from, the other side had my wife's name and a peace symbol on the top.
Am pretty sure my steel pot was marked the same.
Beside hating flak jackets like everyone else, I do remember sitting on mine while flying in the Hueys,
I usually sat on the floor with my feet hanging out and held onto the back of the co-pilot's seat. I didn't
want to get shot straight up from below.
I left in the summer of '69 when the 9th pulled out, we never had LRRP rations, only C-rats.

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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Mon May 05, 2014 9:25 pm

The only time I saw those dehydrated in a brown tinfoil bag things was after I went to the 101st for my last three months of Vietnam. They looked good with the water added.....but they still tasted like soggy crackers...as best I recall.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby jbayer » Mon May 05, 2014 9:51 pm

Niner,
I remember trading C''s to the Navy at Tra Cu for LRRP rations. I found them pretty tasty after choking down C-rats for so long.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Delta » Tue May 06, 2014 1:50 pm

Ahhh yes, C-rations. Who can ever forget the savory taste of cold 'ham & lima beans'........ :(

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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Delta » Tue May 06, 2014 2:11 pm

jbayer,

You and I had the same job, FO for Delta 6/31st. When I first got to the 6/31st, LT Jackson was the FO, I was
Recon SGT and there was an RTO. By the time I left, there was only 2 Recon SGTs, me and Mike Karnisky.
Since I trained Mike and was ranking SGT, I was acting FO, in reality we took turns carrying the radio. And
I don't remember what we each used for a call sign back then.
At that time C Btry 1/11th furnished the FO team, until 1/11th went back with the 9th in summer of '69.
It was the same situation that Robert was in, seems they never had enough LTs for FOs, never figured out why.

.
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