New Weapons Research and development projects

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By Richard H Dick James

54 years ago, 15 May 1967, I was the Staff Sergeant Demolition Sergeant on Detachment A-422 (Vinh Gia), 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in the western Mekong Delta (IV Corps) of South Vietnam, 2,000 meters from the Cambodian border. I was on my 6-month voluntary extension in Vietnam.

In the 15 May Operational Report for the quarterly period ending 30 April 1967, from Headquarters, 5th Special Forces Group, it was reported that 5th Special Forces strength was 2,697 as of 30 April, a decrease of 35 men from 1 February. Of the strength, 511 were officers, 11 warrant officers, and 2,175 enlisted. During that same three-month period, 1 February to 30 April 5th Group casualties included 26 KIA (6 of them officers), 3 MIA, and 114 WIA. It was also reported that The Mobile Guerrilla Force had been expanded, to include two MGF companies in each corps area although, as of that date there were only six MGF companies. The unit had one company in I Corps Tactical Zone (CTZ), two in II CTZ, two in III CTZ, and one in IV CTZ.

Of interest in the quarterly Operational Report were some 5th Special Forces Group evaluations and results of some research and development projects, some of which sounded more like they came from a James Bond book, or movie. 1) The Manpack Personnel Detector (MPD) was intended to warn a foot patrol of any close concealed humans awaiting its chance to ambush our forces. It worked by detecting certain human chemical effluvia (unpleasant odor, secretion, or discharge). The evaluation was completed in February, concluding that MPDs would have very limited use for SF. 2) The Battlefield Illumination System consisted of twelve flares, each contained in a filament-wound launch tube. The system was designed to provide six minutes of continuous illumination, or shorter combinations. At the time of the report, 5th Group had ten kits. The report indicated the system worked excellently. 3) The XM-148 40mm Grenade Launcher was designed to be mounted under the front hand guard of the M16A1 rifle. A total of 57 were issued to 5th Group on 30 March. Tests indicated 5th Group would have limited use for the weapon. 4) A Battery-Operated Fluorescent Lamp (Safari Light) was tested by group. The lamp consisted of an 11-inch miniature fluorescent tube powered by two 69-volt batteries, or a 110-volt AC source. Tests were completed in April, results being very successful. A request was submitted to USARV S-3 (supply) for issuance of the item to SF. 5) Linear Anti-Personnel Mine (Fragmacord) was a 25-foot length of waterproof, flexible, explosive cord, beaded with coiled fragmentation rings crimped to the cord. The results prior to release of the 15 May report were excellent. Yet to be evaluated, or even issued, was a 40mm Rapid Fire Grenade Launcher. Four different systems were to be assigned to evaluators. The four systems were (1) a hand-cranked, slow-velocity launcher; (2) an automatic, slow-velocity launcher; (3) a hand-cranked, high-velocity launcher; and (4) an automatic, high-velocity launcher.

A weapon that proved to be an extremely valuable asset, was the Colt, Submachinegun, 5.56mm, CAR-15. The weapon was similar to the M-16, but with a shorter barrel and handguard, a telescoping buttstock, and a variety of flash suppressors. It weighed 5.6 pounds and was only 28 inches long with the stock closed. The weapon was later issued to some units. The Rucksack, Lightweight Nylon was constructed of nylon, with quick-release buckles on the shoulder straps. Thirty-one of the rucksacks had been issued to II and III Corps personnel.

As of 15 May, the item was said to have been a great improvement over existing rucksacks. An improved M-79 ammunition carrier vest had six pockets, four in the front, and two in the back, designed to hold eighteen M-79 or XM-148 rounds. The material was lightweight nylon mesh. The evaluation as of 15 May indicated that the vest was excellent. A new 105mm howitzer artillery, XM-546 Beehive Anti-Personnel cartridge contained an XM-380E2 beehive projectile, which contained 8,000 eight-grain flechettes (pointed steel projectiles). The projectile was far more lethal to personnel than the HE round. The ammunition was distributed to II Corps camps for evaluation. The Nightingale Device was a battle sound simulator, designed to create diversionary sounds, with the objective of deceiving the enemy as to the exact location, or strength, of friendly units. As of 15 May, no evaluation results had been received. From my book #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences in Vietnam Book 4”), of my four-book set of “SLURP SENDS!” Books #1 (“SLURP SENDS! On Becoming a Green Beret Book 1”), #2 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of an A-Team Green Beret Book 2”), #3 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of a Green Beret in Vietnam Book 3”), and #4 are available on Amazon, or from me.PHOTOS: Colt CAR-15 / XM-148 40mm Grenade Launcher on an M-16 (Internet photos)SLURP SENDS!

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