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139 Posts
The Saga of the M16 in
Vietnam (part 1)

by Dick Culver

The following story is one that I tell with some trepidation, since my experience(s) with the "Matty Mattel Mouse Guns" were not pleasant ones. In this time and place far separated from the grim reality of kill or be killed, the bitter memories of the "little black rifle that wouldn鈥檛 shoot" have started blending into the mists of long forgotten firefights. Some of the bitterness of those days of long ago will no doubt color the story somewhat, but in order for the reader to understand the story from the perspective of those of us who experienced the frustration, this is probably unavoidable. There seemed to be a callous disregard for the lives and well being of those individuals who willingly fought and often died using a seriously flawed rifle. This is their story then, for those who went in harm's way with the XM16E1, and most of all, for those who didn鈥檛 come back. May their sacrifices never be forgotten.

Want more????? Here`s the real truth written by the above author. Find out who really tested this POS. LTS

139 Posts
Part 2 of (1)

Like most things, the reality of being armed with an ineffective weapon was of little import to those who were not risking their lives on a daily basis. By the time the problem was finally fixed, many friends and comrades had been awarded "the white cross", or in the verbiage of the time, had "bought the farm". Many lives could have been saved if a few individuals in decision making billets had possessed the intestinal fortitude to correct the problem. ...And the problem was "correctable" 鈥 all that was necessary was the application of a bit of guts and common sense. Aircraft that are suspected of being flawed are immediately grounded until a problem has been corrected, or a fix has been found. And so it was with the Marines鈥 CH-46 Helicopter during the same time frame. The tail pylons started rather abruptly separating themselves from the bird with catastrophic results. The CH-46 was was quite rightly grounded and sent back to Okinawa until the problem was isolated and fixed. For some unexplained reason the same rationale was not applied to a rifle that was costing lives on a daily basis. Perhaps the "Wingies Union" was stronger than the "Grunt鈥檚 Union" 鈥 whatever the reason, dead is dead, and the Grunts were not amused! Unfortunately, doing the "right thing" would have cost individuals in positions of authority considerable embarrassment 鈥 something that no one was willing to risk. The "air types" could blame Boeing, but many of the decisions concerning the M16 were made within the "military industrial complex", making it more difficult to pin Colt to the wall. Individuals within the Military who had given their "yea verily" to the project would have found themselves looking for another job.

Rather than bore you with cold statistics and hard facts to start, I will tell the story as it happened and as I remember it. Making allowances for the dimming of the memory after 32 years, the entire saga still stands in my consciousness as if it happened only yesterday 鈥 things like that are hard to forget.

Our outfit, the Second Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, was selected to assume the duty as one of the two Battalions filling the job as the "Special Landing Force". This evolution consisted of a quick trip out of Vietnam to the peacetime home of the 3rd Marine Division (Okinawa), for a refurbishment of web gear, worn out equipment, and the fleshing out of a casualty riddled Battalion with fresh replacements. This slight respite from the "free fire zone" afforded new replacements an opportunity to gain experience and training with their new organization. The SLF was in fact a BLT (Battalion Landing Team) with enough attachments to make it into a sort of "bobtailed Regiment". In addition to the standard four line (infantry) companies, and an H&S Company (Headquarters & Service), we also had attached: a Helicopter Squadron, an Artillery Battery, a Recon Platoon, an Engineer Platoon, Amtracs (Amphibious Tractors/Landing Vehicles) and various other supporting elements. At that time, an (unreinforced) Infantry Battalion (before being festooned with the above attachments) consisted of approximately 1100 men. 1/3 (1st Bn., 3rd Marine Regiment) was to be designated as SLF Alpha, and 2/3 was to make up SLF Bravo.

The SLF鈥檚 job was to act as a sort of "Super Sparrow-hawk" (calvary to the rescue stuff) to reinforce any organization actively engaged with the enemy who wound up in a "feces sandwich"... when the brass sent in the SLF, someone was already in big trouble! Knowing that you were headed into a "hot LZ" (landing zone) on a rather repeated basis made for a very exciting tour. The normal SLF tour of duty was usually scheduled for a duration of 6 weeks. The outgoing SLF Battalion was then returned to its parent Division (1st or 3rd), and a new Battalion took over the rather thrilling duty as "The I Corps鈥 Fire Brigade". It was an ingenious scheme, as it allowed the Marines to refurbish their battalions occasionally, and allowed time (albeit relatively short), to train new replacements out of the line of fire. Normally, the SLF tour was anticipated by the selected Battalions with some enthusiasm, as it was supposed to include one short R&R for the Battalion in Subic Bay, prior to the SLF鈥檚 reassignment to the RVN. Needless to say, no one in 2/3 ever saw Subic, except as a casualty. Murphy, always taking a hand in things, stirred the pot in such a way that the refurbishment and replacement of battalions on the SLF was curtailed after the vicious "Hill Fights" around Khe Sanh in April of 鈥67. 2/3 (and their sister battalion, 1/3) had taken on the best that the NVA could throw at them and whipped them hands down, but it was not without cost. Many a dead or dying Marine was found with a cleaning rod shoved down the bore of the little black rifle...

More if you wish.......LTS

139 Posts
Part 3 of (1)

The constant pressure on I Corps starting that Spring left 2/3 manning the ramparts as one of the two SLFs for a period of nine months (versus the normal 6 weeks)! When the smoke finally settled, 2/3 had taken over 800 casualties and those who survived walked away with a sigh of relief. By August of 鈥67, my company (Hotel, 2/3) had only 5 Marines without at least one Purple Heart, and I was not one of them.

Technically, the SLFs were supposed to return to the LPH (and other supporting shipping) after a battle, lick their wounds, get cleaned up, draw more ammunition and standby for the next mission.

By way of explanation to those who have not been in the Corps or associated with the Navy, "LPH" stands for "Landing Platform - Helicopter". The LPH is in fact nothing more than a small aircraft carrier, primarily designed to launch helicopters for a Marine (or perhaps Army) landing force. The supporting shipping usually consisted of an LSD, ("Landing Ship - Dock" designed to launch Amphibian Tractors for a seaborne surface assault), an LST ("Landing Ship - Tank", self explanatory) and an APA (assault transport to house additional troops). All together, they made up the seaborne vehicles for a rather formidable assault force.

Murphy again took a hand, and out of those fateful 9 months, we spent approximately 12 days aboard our assigned shipping. The rest of the time we got "chopped op-con" to one of the Infantry Regiments ashore (transferred to, and under their operational control) - after all, we were those "pogues" who lived aboard ship and had it easy, were we not? Everyone figured that we were well rested and ready to go. The Regiments ashore, of course, took full advantage of such obviously fresh troops, and threw us into the very "choicest" assignments, to allow their units a breather 鈥 we were eventually referred to as the "day on - stay on battalion", and brother, they weren鈥檛 kidding!

It was in the arena outlined above that I got my first introduction to the XM16E1. When 2/3 arrived on Okinawa to refit and train for their duties as SLF Bravo, they were already licking their wounds. The Battalion had been ambushed on a march between two hill masses, losing their Commanding Officer and Sergeant Major, along with numerous other individuals. While they were hardly demoralized, they possessed a particular affection for their CO and Sgt.Maj. and were chomping at the bit to return to the RVN to avenge the Battalion鈥檚 losses. Shortly after 2/3鈥檚 arrival on Okinawa, the Battalion learned that it was scheduled to draw a new "experimental rifle"... the XM16E1. 2/3 dutifully turned in their M14s to draw a curious little plastic thing that drew lots of snickers and comments from the old timers (we still had a few WWII vets in those days). The Battalion was given an orientation lecture in the Camp Schwab Base Theater by some ordnance folks, sent to the range to fire some sighting in rounds, and pronounced properly prepared for combat... little did they know!

The Battalion was told that they would now be able to carry 400 rounds ashore on each operation, and were now armed with an accurate, hard hitting rifle that would tear a man鈥檚 arm off if you hit him. The lecture was impressive. The interesting thing is that the Marines WANTED to like the little rifle 鈥 it was light, cute, and supposedly extremely effective! Marines are always in favor of a weapon that will dismember their enemy more efficiently and more effectively. The Marines of 2/3 left Okinawa READY to go try this "jack the giant killer" on the NVA or Cong (they didn鈥檛 care which, as long as it made a good fight!). However, there were several flies in the ointment. First, they only had one cleaning rod per rifle and no replacements 鈥 sounds reasonable, but events were to prove this assumption wrong. The second problem was that ordnance had only enough magazines to issue three (3) per rifle, and they were "twenty rounders". The thirty rounders in those days were only being used by the Special Forces 鈥 Robert "Strange" McNamara, (The Secretary of Defense), had decreed that the 20 round magazines were more cost effective than the 30 round magazines (this from the guy who was responsible for marketing the Edsel!)! We were now armed with the latest in weaponry, and able to carry 400 rounds ashore. Our confidence level would probably have been considerably higher if we had been issued more than three 20 round Magazines per gun. We were promised more of course, and as it turned out, it became true, but only because we were able to pick up those left behind by the casualties. The long and the short of this lesson, however, was that they were trying to get the M16 into action well before adequate supplies were available to support the weapon, even if it had been functioning properly. Politics is indeed a strange game!

Ammunition was issued in "white" or "brown" twenty (20) round boxes. Bandoleers with "clipped ammunition" in ten round "strippers" had not yet made their way to South East Asia. While this would have been a handicap under normal circumstances, it turned out to be a "non-problem"... A full 50% of the rifles wouldn鈥檛 shoot semi-automatically! The unfortunate individuals armed with the malfunctioning rifles couldn鈥檛 shoot enough rounds to need more than the initial three magazines at any rate! Three hundred and forty rounds in 20 round cardboard boxes were stowed in our packs, with the idea that during a firefight, a man who had run dry, could roll over to his buddy and take ammunition out of his pack and his buddy could do the same. As it turned out, this rarely figured into the equation.

The first clue (for 2/3) that something was wrong came during the battle of Hill 881 North... but all the Hill Fights at Khe Sanh in April 鈥67 came up the same 鈥 dead Marines with cleaning rods stuck down the barrel of their M16s to punch out cartridge cases that refused to extract. At first, we considered that the experiences encountered during the Hill Fights might have constituted an isolated incident, but as experience was to prove, alas, 鈥榯was not so! The regulations of the time required that all such malfunctions were to be documented, and reported to Ordnance Maintenance/Division Ordnance. The 2nd Battalion, 3rd Regiment of Marines must have filled a 6X6 truck with malfunction reports attempting to stay within the administrative guidelines. We submitted the required reports and waited 鈥 we wanted the problem FIXED 鈥 NOW, and we were willing to play the ordnance paperwork game if that was what it took to correct the situation!

1,071 Posts
Just read a military news letter, troops in Afghanistan having problems with M4 carbine. Shorter barrel lower muzzle velocity
less effective bullet. We have heard this before, lacks penetration
and does less damage at long range, but boy does it look cool.

Will we never learn, also Berreta giving trouble, malfunctions and lack of knock down power.Read this in FYEO by James Dunnigan.

Armor Rules TC


I carried a SAW and never had any problems with it. I was a combat engineer and my worst fear, assignment wise, was going to A&O platoon (Assault and Obstacle) where the M-60 tanks and ACE vehicles live. Not only would I give up my fully auto SAW, I'd get a rickety vehicle in return.

Sure enough, my last year in, I was "demoted" to A&O as a mine clearing tank driver, and then further "demoted" to tank commander for the same. Of course, these weren't real demotions, but since I drew smaller and smaller weapons from the arms room, it sure felt like it. I went from a SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon, shoots 5.56 rounds with a bit more powder than standard rounds, but can take standards in a pinch) to an M-4 carbine, to a Berretta 9mm that did nothing but give me fits. I bloodied my palm on the range slapping the rear of the slide to get it to go forward after each shot, and yes it was lubed correctly.

Thankfully, I never saw combat, I was in from '96 to 2000. I had utmost confidence in the SAW, but figured the Berretta pistol was only good to put myself out of my misery if I got hit with a chem strike.

46 Posts
SEMPER FI to all the brothern of the CORPS
greetings from TALEGA area 64 Pendelton
these thoughts and stories from above is why the mighty M14 rules knock down remember one reason they went to the mouse
gun is lighter ammo=enable to carry more ammo=the begginning of spray and pray ONE SHOT ..........
!st Recon Bn.

:rapid: :usa: :2guns: :ar15:

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