In the course of decades of research in various military and museum archives, Robert Bruce has acquired a treasure trove of photos of what might be considered “odd and unusual weapons.” Here is another follow-on to earlier oddities that have appeared in previous SADJ issues.
In this edition, we’ll take a look at some interesting developments as the massive might of the combined U.S. Armed Forces was brought to bear in Southeast Asia, not only against elusive Viet Cong guerrillas, but increasingly in pitched battles against well-trained and -equipped regulars of the North Vietnamese Army and their Communists Chinese and Russian “advisers.”
Now, with apologies for some of these rough-looking images—presented as they were found—let’s look at some very unusual weaponry from America’s quickly escalating involvement in South Vietnam’s fight against Communist guerrillas, backed by North Vietnam and China.
Escalation in Vietnam
While it was initially believed that the Viet Cong insurgency in the Republic of Vietnam would soon collapse when confronted by strong South Vietnamese forces being trained, armed and equipped by America, this proved sadly optimistic. Despite horrendous casualties, Communist VC guerrillas didn’t seem to falter and were increasingly well-armed and reinforced by PAVN (People’s Army of Vietnam) regulars from the north.
America’s political leadership was unwilling to cut and run (that would eventually change when Democrats took control of the money), so escalation was inevitable. By the high water mark in 1968, more than 536,000 U.S. Soldiers, Seamen, Airmen and Marines were in the fight, alongside Allied counterparts, notably 800,000 South Vietnamese and 50,000 South Koreans.
Desperate for some sort of victory that would put an end to the hemorrhage of American lives and treasure, the Army as an institution and its essential Ordnance Corps radically ramped up RDT&E (Research, Development, Test & Evaluation). This came in support of the ever-expanding war in Vietnam that was already spilling over to other countries in Southeast Asia. Results, as it’s said, were mixed, and it wasn’t rare for combat troops in the field to make their own modifications and innovations.
In the next installment of “Ordnance Oddities,” we’ll turn a jaundiced eye on some “Silliness in the 70s and 80s.” Like the funny 5.56mm Folded Ammunition/Weapon System from Frankford Arsenal and maybe even the remarkable Colt SCAMP.