THE LIVING HELL - Vietnam War.
The Vietnam war saw many upgrades in the weapons used in combat than they did in WWII. WWII weapons were good for their time, but were still difficult to manage and were sometime heavy an inaccurate in firing, like Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) light machine gun. It was very useful and reliable but had a heavy recoil, long length, and heavy weight but it was so powerful because it shot the heavy hitting .30-06mm bullet. But eventually, in times of desperate situations, difficult to manage weapons like the Thompson and BAR were made obsolete and needed rapid replacements for a continually growing power, the U.S.
First to be mentioned is the submachine gun (SMG). This weapon fired a very light cartridge like the 9mm round (often used with many pistols). SMG's have very rapid fire and can often fire 900-1000 bullets per minute, but this rapid fire was difficult to control in long ranges firing fully auto and the weak bullet wouldn't have enough steam to reach too far, hence they were used in clandestine situations. SMGs like the (Vietnam era) Carl Gustav submachine gun were popular because of it's rapid fire, the more bullets you fire, the less chance you have of dying.
During WWII, there wasn't much effective armor because it would be just too heavy and wouldn't suit comfortably with present equipment. However, because of an increase in the use of improved body armor in Vietnam, such weapons were gaining less and less appeal to the soldiers. It was because of this, caused the push for more powerful and higher penetration ammunition and weapon. However the SMG's fate is not sealed; special forces and anti-terrorism units preferred the SMG because of it's light-weight, portability, and effectiveness in cramp and even clandestine situations where an assault rifle would just be too big to be managed or conceal.
Second, there are machine guns. Machine guns (MG) can vary from being an SMG as stated, to being an LMG (light machine gun), MMG (mediem machine gun), or a HMG (heavy machine gun). These guns were not given their titles based on their weights, but how the size of the bullet it fired, for example, the M60 fired a lighter 7.62x51mm bullet, where the as the M1919 fired the medium .30-30mm round, while the M2HB "Ma Deuce" fired the Ferocious .50 caliber BMG. These guns were also fully auto but had ten time the range and power of the little 9mm SMG, though they were slower in firing; something like 700-900 rounds per minute. But there ability to sustain fire was an unbelievably valuable resource.
The Light Machine Gun was an infantry's best friend because of it's ability to sustain fire without frequent reloading. It was used for anti-personal primarily, and the LMG bearer would be the first in the line of infantry and often lay down suppressing fire giving chance to his fellow men to ambush and fight back the enemy. These intense weapons along with it's ammunition were heavy often too for one man to hold alone, so the Support Squad (the LMG Bearer and two other team members) would share the flak. The Gunner would hold the gun along with (depending on his strength and stamina) 200-1000 rounds of ammunition; the Assistant Gunner (AG) would carry extra ammo, a spare barrel, and would reload the gun when the gunner ran out; and the last member was the Ammo Bearer who held even more ammo and the bi-pod for the gun, and would help in feeding the gun if it didn't feed from a box magazine. (One Example of many box magazines is the C-Drum Beta which holds 100 rounds)
The Medium Machine Gun (MMG) was a more powerful weapon that often wasn't moved from one locations. There is a general military rule that states if "....if a machine gun is deployed with a bipod it is a light machine gun; if deployed on a tripod it is a medium machine gun - unless it has a caliber of about 10mm or larger, making it a heavy machine gun. .", meaning that an LMG only really needs a bi-pod, where as both MMG's and HMG's require something with more support to with stand the gun's intense firepower and retain accuracy.
The Heavy Machine Gun is by far a very deadly anti-personal and anti-vehicle weapon. The most common HMG bullet is the deadly .50 caliber "Browning Machine Gun" (BMG). The biggest bullet in this picture is said bullet.
This monstrosity of a bullet can penetrate virtually all types of body armor and light vehicles which helped our soldiers in Vietnam because each bullet just tore through tree and brush like a knife through butter. So it's great for softening up a terrain of possible ambushes and booby traps before engaging in battle through that hostile field. The most popular of all .50 cal MG's is the M2HB "Ma Deuce"as shown below.
Thirdly is man's best friend, the pistol (handgun). Pistols are by far the weakest weapon in a soldiers arsenal, but because of it's amazingly small size, it take almost no space on a soldiers' person. It was always good to have some sort of back-up weapon when a soldier had no time to reload his primary. Pistol were pathetically weak compared to rifles or other two-handed, but in the own niche, there are powerhouses, workhorses, and civilian pistols. 9mm was (and still is) the standard for every pistol on the market but there are stronger and weaker calibers. The stronger a caliber often meant that the guns' magazine could carry less ammo, and less ammo is bad. The .45 caliber is a famous caliber often associated with the famous gun, the Colt M1911A1. Compare this gun to the 9mm Browning Hi Power; the Hi Power has a 13-round magazine, where as the M1911A1 only had a 7-round magazine magazine (not including a chambered round). If a soldier could ONLY carry 7 magazines, then look at how much ammunition he'd have, with the M1911A1 he'd only have 49 bullets in total, where as the Hi Power he'd have 91 bullets in total! That's an intense 42 bullet difference, and that extra ammo could mean the difference between life or death. Also here will be mentioned briefly a few other caliber meant for the pistol (in no particular order); .40S&W (Smith and Wesson), .50 AE (Action Express), .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .22 LR (Long Rifle), .38 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol), and 10mm, just to name a few.
The pistol was a dying weapon on the battlefield because it could barely penetrate body armor, and it the target would barely be slowed down. Handguns were horribly weak in terms of the bullets they fired to an assault rifle, and wouldn't kill the target unless enough shots were fired or a vital was hit. In addition, a pistol had a very short range of fire, averaged to about 50m, hence it was not nearly as reliable to soldier as say his rifle. But because a pistol is indeed very small, it took little space on a soldiers person; and in an emergency, you'd rather have a pistol, than no gun at all. But its small was very important, so development was made. It's weak bullets led to the creation of the Modern Day Five-seveN (spelled the way its shown). This pistol of the future was designed with high penetrating bullets retaining key factors: light weight, high capacity, accuracy, simplicity, and the ability to put on some attachments like a laser sight, suppressor (silencer) or a flashlight. Years of pistol development has impacted firearms massively creating this wondrous pistol that is in use with many SWAT teams.
Fourth, it should never be forgotten fore without it, a soldier is incomplete; the Assault Rifle. The Assault Rifle is the center of it all, its below a machine gun but above SMGs and handguns. It's rapid fire, moderate length, moderate-high firepower, moderate range, it is the perfect weapon because it can be used in so many different situations. The American rifle that is at the top of the food chain is the M-16. Eugene Stoner had made the almost perfect rifle when this was born, it was fast and very light weight (<-- very important feature), and it fired a smaller round then the standard 7.62x39 that the Russian AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikov) would fire. Instead it fired the 5.56x45mm round; yes it is weaker the weapons then the AK-47, but the bullets were lighter which meant a soldier could carry more bullets w/o straining himself. Besides, the bullets are weaker, but their still, more deadly than most other weapons. The M16's one big flaw about it is that it is incredibly delicate, if so much as even a little dirt got into the receiver, the gun could jam as opposed to the AK-47 where it was nearly indestructible, the firing bolt could've been rusted, and soaked for years in muddy water, AND it STILL fire like new!
The coup de grace of any soldier is his rifle, particularly the assault rifle. Every soldier loved his or her rifle because it was effective and kept them alive. This type rifle was nearly perfect in all aspects; firepower, rate of fire, accuracy, length, weight, ability, and much more. In order to show you how important a rifle is to a soldier, here is the beautiful rifleman's creed of the USMC (United States Marine Corp.),
"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...
My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...
My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will ever guard it against the ravages of weather and damage as I will ever guard my legs, my arms, my eyes and my heart against damage. I will keep my rifle clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...
Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but peace!" This shows that every soldier needed to maintain his or her rifle in order to keep it in tip top condition. As it is said above, together the rifle and the soldier would work as one save to save his own life, as well as save his comrades. And that they did. What is probably the most famous assault rifle is the ArmaLite Model 15 (AR-15) formally known as the M16. Designed by Eugene Stoner in the 1950's, it was a solidly built rifle which fired the lighter, high velocity ammuntion, the 5.56x45.5 NATO bullet. Because it was smaller than the popular 7.62x39, it wasn't as heavy and took less space on a soldiers person, the soldier could carry more ammo. The 5.56 bullet is the smallest bullet shown, the middle bullet is a .30-06 used mainly for deer hunting, and the biggest bullet is the 7.62.
However, even though the Ar-15 was fantastic, the horrible conditions soldiers faced in Vietnam took a heavy toll on the weapon. The AR-15 was delicate, and any dirt or grime that entered the gun would cause it to jam, and with all the heat, humidity, and muck in Vietnam, any soldiers' gun could jam at one point or another and on more than one occasion and often did. Mr. Cullen told me about how his friend who was like a brother to him who was drafted into the army, and he would tell him all kinds of stories. He told Cullen about how his M16 (Ar-15) would jam all the time. What happens when a gun jams is that there is not enough energy is generated from the explosion to completly pull back the slide (or bolt) to eject the empty cartridge and it'll get stuck between those moving parts, as this .45 caliber round got stuck between the slide and chamber.
This frequent jamming was troublesome yet it was still a good rifle none the less, but it started to show age after 20 years of service and the call for upgrade arose. This gave birth to M16A2. Although it wasn't used in the Vietnam War, much of the issues have been ironed out, and now it has become the new standard assault rifle for the U.S. military. Although many manufacturers tried their hardest, no other assault rifle could match the M16A2 completely. Development didn't stop there however, for the M16 was constantly being developed, and new models were released. Models such as the M16A3 which was built with fully-auto capabilities when people found the the 3-round burst only mode on the A2 model was a little troublesome (though the A3 wasn't widely used anyway), the M16A4 which was built with accessory modification capabilities in mind, then comes the brother of the M16; the M4 Carbine, which was developed from the M16 base. With a need for an assault rifle, yet the maneuverability and lighter weight of a submachine gun came to call, the M4 answered that call. It retained the M16's firepower and modular capabilities, but was significantly smaller then all other M16 models. The top rifle is the M16A4, and the bottom Rifle is the M4A1.
Then there was napalm. Napalm could be a stream of pure fire or a bomb.
Napalm was a gelatinous compound that when ignited burned for a long time.
The word "napalm" is derived form the words Naphthenic and Palmitic acids. This dangerous weapon was feared by many Vietnamese because of it violent temperatures. Napalm would become as hot as 800-1200 degrees Celsius (427-649 Fahrenheit), and thus would cause severe burns. One famous case was that of Phan Thi Kim Phuc; her village was attacked with napalm by the South Vietnamese when she was 9 years old, she would have been burned to death if not for her quick thinking. She tore off her clothes because that kept the fire on her; she became famous because of a photo depicting her as a 9 year old running away from her burning village naked and crying with a few family members including cousins and brothers, she still had severe burns from the tragic incident.
Napalm was a great weapon for American soldiers, but the innocents who were on the receiving end of the fire were not so fortunate.
Napalm was a potential weapon indeed, because like the Ma Deuce, it could destroy booby trapped forest with ease. Napalm was deadly for a number of reasons, some of its affects were that the gel stuck to skin so it was virtually impossible to remove it from your skin, especially since it's still burning through your skin. Asphyxiation was also a huge risk because the massive flame would consume all the nearby oxygen, and release poisonous carbon dioxide, so who ever didn't choke from lack of oxygen, died from CO2 poisoning. In addition, the fire would spread out and eventually it would become this massive firestorm that consumed all in it's path. However, even being in a shelter couldn't help, even if it was undamaged. People would suffer from hypothermia from heat radiation. People would eventually dehydrate, and others would die of suffocation, smoke and more CO2. This hellish weapon could be used in two form, either as a flamethrower, or as a bomb. Firebombs would often be deployed by F4 phantoms when only a few bombs were needed, or from a B-52 Stratofortress when they needed to rain bombs down. However it is not illegal to use napalm in wartime, but it is illegal for civilians to use napalm weapons.
The Grenade launcher was also recognized too, like the M79.
This portable powerhouse great weapons for the open field. With more range than a hand grenade, yet more maneuverable than a mortar. Weapons like these had use for both domestic and foreign threats, because of the variety or ammunition it could fire. To quell riots, none lethal rounds were used like the CS tear gas, and for hostile threat like those faced in Vietnam, soldiers would use the 40mm HE High Explosive round, shotgun-like buckshot round.
Problems arose with this weapon however. Because of it's rather large bulk, whom ever had this in combat couldn't bring any other weapon except his pistol, so that one soldier was deemed grenadier and if he ran out of ammo, he would have nothing else but a knife and pistol to rely on. Also, another problem was that the weapon was single shot only, which meant it only fired one round before a reload was needed as shown below.
The fact that this gun only fires one shot was not a critical issue because all it realy it was slow down the rate of fire of this launcher to about 6 rounds per minute. Plus, because of the fact that the actual grenade launched needed to travel a distance of thirty feet before arming itself, it could be fired in a clandestine situation when a enemy got to close to the firer. But because of the fact that a soldier could only carry the M79 and a pistol, development was pushed for an improvement, and hence the M203 grenade launcher was birthed. This weapon could be used as a stand-alone (top), or as an
under-carriage (bottom) meant to be attached to an assault weapon like the M16.
This great new development revolutionized the the grenadier, because now he or she can function as a rifleman too. All these modifications helped saved someone's life at one point or another.
Since WWII, there have been advance technology is the U.S armed forces, but like all things, more resistance to those technology have been developed as a counter measure, which leads to more development to counter act the present countermeasure and the trend keeps on going. All it takes is one little push to start a a family, a lineage, a history of successful weapons, one better than the last.