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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Blue Legs
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Tue May 06, 2014 10:55 pm

Thanks a lot guys! I love getting on here and reading all of your posts. I really enjoy reading the stories and and memories you guys have. Whether you're giving us useful info, or you're just reminiscing, all the info is extremely helpful.

I have another question for you guys:

What was the typical breakdown of a squad by rank? I know the squad leader was typically a SG or SSG (correct?) and the remaining members were lower ranked enlisted guys. I'm pretty sure each guy in a squad typically had a certain job...were there certain ranks usually tied to each job? I guess what I'm asking is...what would the rank of an RTO usually be and so on?
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed May 07, 2014 9:44 am

I saw your post last night and held off saying anything because I figured some Infantry guy would be the one to tell you about it. I hope one comes along to straighten out what I'm about the say.

There was a general rule of thumb for rank of platoon sergeant and squad leaders and whatever other lesser pecking orders there were in a platoon. Assistant squad leaders, if there were any, were probably generally Specialist 4th class territory. However, although E6 Staff Sgt. was the general rank of platoon sergeants, I remember a couple of E7's who came along to get the job for a while in Alpha Company in 1970. Squad leaders were generally positions held by E5 sergeants, although I'm sure seasoned Specialist E4's held some of the slots when there was a shortage of E5's. But, unlike FO lieutenants, the Army never seemed to run out of shake and bake E5's, especially in late 69 and into 70. Some platoons, in mid to late 1970, might have had more shake and bakes than they had leadership slots for. This didn't set all that well with guys who came in as PFC's and had been seasoned over time and expected to get a promotion past E4...but didn't because the company already had plenty of new guy E5's. But....nobody said the Army was fair.

One thing you have to keep in mind about 69/70 is that the infantry didn't have any hard stripe rank of corporal like the artillery still did. Specialist E4 was the same pay grade as corporal...but filled the slot of a top pay grade private. Somebody had to do the grunt work..... hard stripes only supervised. Specialist E4's filled sand bags and burned shit and were just paid a little more for it than E3 PFC's.

I'll let somebody who knows what they are talking about wax poetic on the pecking order in a squad. There were specific jobs.... 60 gunner, assistant gunner, RTO, medic, grenadier, and rifleman. These were all positions filled by PFC's and E4's generally. Sometimes you might find a medic who was a Spec. 5...but Spec 5 was not a supervisor, although with the otherwise actual status of an NCO.

You asked specifically about RTO's. RTO's were generally PFC's and Specialist 4th class. I did have an E5 RTO assigned me from the infantry once for a particular operation when I didn't have an RTO from the Artillery...... but that was a fluke on several accounts. In a platoon the Platoon Leader would have an RTO and the Platoon Sergeant would have an RTO. The Company CP , with the company commander, would have either one RTO or two, depending on the operation. If two RTO's one would be on battalion frequency and one on company frequency.

Ok...so much for off the top of my head. Maybe some infantry guy will straighten this out a bit.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Delta » Wed May 07, 2014 9:55 pm

Also, IIRC, there were no privates in Nam, as soon as you were in country, you were promoted to PFC.
I always heard that Corporal was the best rank in the Army, they couldn't put you on guard duty, KP, or other really
crappy details, but you didn't have enough rank to be put in charge of anything important. AND you could get
into the NCO Club, which was always nicer than the EM Club.
There were stories of guys back on the '30s and '40s being "Career Corporals", probably just stories.
At the Shake-N-Bake schools, you were a CPL while in school, and made SGT at graduation.

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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Delta75 » Thu May 08, 2014 8:43 am

Generally you didn't have a SP4 squad leader, although I guess that it happened from time to time...reason being that SP4 was not considered what some referred to as a "hard stripe" (junior non-commissioned officer) thus having no command authority. I encountered this right away, upon my arrival, at the incoming reception station at Long Binh. I was a "Shake and Bake" SSG and was given a some supervisory duty to do some temporary task (can't remember what) and was told to pick some men to supervise that "something". I picked several SP4's and got jumped all over by the Senior NCO who was giving me the orders. He was screaming...."these men don't have hard-stripes, they can't tell anyone what to do". In other words, I should have picked only Corporals or E5 Sgts.

As to Corporals....yes...we were given the rank of Corporal in NCOC school, and graduated as either E5 or E6. The only Corporals that I remember after NCOC were men who had been busted down from E5...or higher. My squad leaders were all either E5 or "acting" E5. The other men in my platoon were either SP4 or PFC. I assume that some of the guys back at Dong Tam who had been either PFC or SP4 before deciding to stay out of the field so that they could do their drugs and burn shit may have been busted back to PVT. Looking at our 6/31st roster of over 3,000 men...there are 18 men listed as Corporal....some in every company with the exception of my company (Delta). There are also 19 men listed as PVT.

As stated in previous responses above.....yes....everyone in the squad was assigned a specific role....and...under each squad leader you might have two fire team leaders. The number of squads, at any one time, within a platoon, depended on the number of men actually available for the field. You might be lucky and have as many as 30 men available; however, due to emersion foot problem, etc., at one time, I operated with as few as 13.

As previously stated, in other responses, the platoon usually operated as follows:

Platoon Leader: 1st or 2nd Lt. (I even had an E7 for a while. He was probably early 30's, 2nd tour, and so out of shape that he lasted only a couple of weeks. He was trying to cover for a wounded Lt).
Platoon Sergeant: Usually E6...sometimes E5. Also sometimes E7...but, as stated above, some of these guys were older and out of shape and could not handle the rice paddy mud.
Squad Leader: E5 Sgt
Team Leader: If available, E5 Sgt or "acting" E5 Sgt...if not available, SP4 (again...not a "hard stripe" junior NCO).
Men in the Squad: PFC and SP4.......the weapon carried did not align to a specific rank. Usually, but not always, the M-60 was carried by a larger man. At times the Radio might also be carried by a larger man.
Medic: Usually SP4...maybe every now and then a SP5.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Thu May 08, 2014 9:25 am

Delta75 was a Platoon Sergeant , so what he just wrote is what to read and remember about the platoon structure.

One thing you didn't ask, but is part of the mix, is that there were men assigned to every company who were trained mortar men with an MOS of 11C instead of standard infantry llB. In some divisions mortar infantry went to the field with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd platoons of a company. But...not in the 9th Division delta. It was too wet. I remember one CO who in a previous tour took mortars to the field in the 101st. I told him taking them to the field wasn't a good idea. After doing it anyway, one guy nearly drowned trying to hump a base plate through a stream and later the CO found it next to impossible to find a dry enough piece of ground to set one up. It became a lesson learned and the captain didn't try taking mortars to the field again.

Mortar men filled a role in company sized firebases that we worked out of from time to time. They would fire illumination at night and could add significant support to the base and various close in night locations when needed. The mortar squad was assigned to the 4th platoon along with company HQ guys...like clerks, commo, supply, armorer, whatever else. Most mortar teams were very limited in number and the excess assigned company mortar men were filtered into the rifle platoons and used as needed.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby jbayer » Fri May 09, 2014 9:55 pm

Vern,
When I became Delta's FO, I replaced Lt. Byron Dickson, but I guess by 69-70 there just weren't many FO's in the pipeline for some units. When I was commissioned, only a handful of my fellow butter bars at U. of Mo. were sent to Ft. Sill. Everyone else was infantry. Even so, platoon leaders were in short supply when I was with Delta. We went through nine of them during my time in the field.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Delta75 » Sat May 10, 2014 7:03 pm

In 9 months in 3rd platoon Delta Company, in 1969, I went through 5 platoon leaders; however, only one left the field with an injury. It seems that in 1969 there were plenty of platoon leaders and division apparently wanted to give them all a chance to command a platoon in the field.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby jbayer » Sat May 10, 2014 10:07 pm

Delta 75,
After rereading my post, I guess it didn't seem to make complete sense. In the back of my mind was the situation where we had one platoon commanded by a platoon sergeant for a while and Cpt. Lowe even asked me to take over the platoon. We did have a lot of turnover. The numbers: two rotated out of the field, two were relieved, one left with skin disease, one WIA, one KIA, and two new guys right before we went into Cambodia.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed May 21, 2014 4:11 pm

So I'm in the process of putting my uniform together, and I've figured out that a pair of pants for that time period are very difficult to come across, for a reasonable price at least. So for now I'm looking at going with a pair of reproduction pants...something that looks very similar to the originals. I came across the pair below, which are reasonably priced. They are rip-stop as the pants back then were, but the visible lines are throwing me off...I haven't seen any other rip-stop pants with them. What do you think? Do they pass as pants from back then, or should I look for something else?
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed May 21, 2014 5:42 pm

I don't have a pair of pants to compare any longer. But I have a jacket that shows the pattern. And... I don't think the ripe-stop pattern looks like vertical stripes in any case.

By the way.... are those pants button up or zipper? Both were used, but the zippers were pretty cheap and they broke pretty regular.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed May 21, 2014 6:28 pm

Yeah...those don't look much alike. What would you say as far as those pants go? Use them, or not?

And they are zipper.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed May 21, 2014 6:41 pm

Use them. If a better pair comes along you can always add them to your kit.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed May 21, 2014 7:04 pm

Sounds good to me. Thanks! I just want to make sure they pass the test. We don't want to use anything that doesn't accurately represent that time period.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed Jun 11, 2014 5:47 pm

Frags...

I've noticed a mix of M26 and M67 frag grenades in the pics in the photo section. I'm going with M67s for my gear. Do any of you remember exactly how they looked color-wise? All I can really see in the pics is that the frag part was OD green. What color were the spoons? Were they also green or were they red and blue? When I got my dummies, they were grey with a red and blue spoon. Want to make sure I paint them right. Thanks.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:44 pm

I wasn't a grenade man. I left that to the infantry. I did carry smoke grenades when I was humping the radio. They had different color keys... the smoke grenades. I think the bottoms showed the color of the smoke....or was it the tops? Not that it seemed to matter much what color any of them were...other than when one was popped to bring in a chopper you could tell the pilot what color it was so it would head to the right group. Don't think the pilot cared too much about color. I sometimes wonder , now, if the smoke made a difference to them as to which way it blew in order to judge how they were going to come in or to see how hard the wind was blowing. Somehow, I don't think they gave a damn.

The regular frags seemed to be all OD green of one shade or another ...as I remember. The handles that would be bent around to attach to web gear weren't blue or red or any color that anybody would notice. I think they were just metal color... as in pot metal, lead, whatever they were made out of. Maybe they were flat OD green too. They weren't blue or red for sure.

Grenades that you can buy for show and come with red or blue handles were probably that color because they were for some non combat purpose....like practice.. to show they weren't "live".

I think there were both the baseball kind and the more lemon looking ones. The baseball got to be the more often seen kind in 1970....again off the top of my head and just remembering....or thinking I remember.

There were other kinds of grenades..... concussion grenades ....and white phosphorous grenades come to mind. The concussion grenades were kind of rubber like plastic on the outside. They came in handy for keeping the enemy from crossing a river on your perimeter.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Wed Jun 11, 2014 11:48 pm

Again, you have been more than helpful. Thanks!
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Sun Jun 29, 2014 4:09 pm

Can someone tell me the dimensions of the Alpha Aces pocket patch? We are wanting to have some recreated for our uniforms.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Sun Jun 29, 2014 4:56 pm

I took some photos with measurements for you.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:03 pm

Awesome! Thanks a lot man!
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:09 pm

I found an old ..half of a pair of jungle pants I brought home. I had cut them off to make shorts at some juncture. I didn't realize I still had them. Found them when looking for something else I had stored away. Since you had asked in an earlier post... I took some snap shots.
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Mon Jun 30, 2014 3:47 pm

Great pics of the pants! Thanks! I actually found a pair on eBay that I was able to snag for a great price. My size was hard to find...seems like most of you guys were pretty small back then. A large was not easy to find! Ha!
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Alpha » Mon Jun 30, 2014 5:04 pm

When I came home from Vietnam I was so skinny I couldn't lay down flat on my back because the skin would pull too tight against my rib cage and the skin would feel like it had a rash. I weighed less than 130 pounds at 5 ' 9" and when I had arrived in country I was somewhere around 140. Now days my pants have a 38 inch waist...although I need a belt to keep them up. And I'm lots more than 140 pounds too. :D
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Mon Jun 30, 2014 5:23 pm

Oh yeah...I'm much more than 140! :lol:
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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Niner Delta » Mon Jun 30, 2014 7:16 pm

I can honestly say that I'm "twice the man" I was back then...................... 8)


Seeing those big green buttons on your pants reminded me of the time one of those buttons on my shirt stopped
a piece of hand grenade booby trap from entering my chest. Although it did leave a big bruise and shattered the
button. Luckily it was a Chi-com grenade, one of ours would have probably killed me........... :shock:

.
Vern

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Re: 6/31 Reenactment/Living History Group Questions

Postby Blue Legs » Sun Jul 06, 2014 10:11 pm

What kind of "stuff" would you carry with you on patrol? I know some of the stuff that would be carried, but I want to know just about everything. I do not have a ruck...just a M61 field pack that goes on my web gear...not very big. What kind of stuff would I need to carry in it to accurately simulate what would've been carried in Vietnam?

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