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U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Personnel
Uniforms and Flight Gear
Vietnam 1964-1965

  • Utility or Field Uniforms: The issue sateen utility uniform was the basic daily wear for the Marine and Navy personnel of Marine Task Element, Vietnam in 1964. In May 1965, squadron personnel received the cotton/nylon "jungle fatigues" that the U.S. Air Force had been wearing months before it was issued to Marine and Army combat troops. The first person to get a set of these uniforms was, of course, our supply sergeant. This "jungle" utility uniform had more and bigger pockets than the sateen utilities previously worn by Marines, which just encouraged some to fill them with items not essential for combat in the field.
        The boots worn by squadron personnel, initially, were the regulation issue 8-inch combat boots or the over-the-ankle "boondockers". The boots that I had been issued at boot camp (1961) were still serviceable until I started wearing them in the mud of Vietnam. During the flood of November '64, they simply rotted off my feet. To replace them, I went into DaNang and had a Vietnamese shoemaker make a pair for me, almost an exact replica of my American-made boots but with smooth leather instead of the rough. They lasted exactly one mission. I jumped out of a helicopter and the boots split apart, insoles from the uppers.

    jungleboots     In 1965, along with the "jungle" utilities, we received the "jungle boots", a combination leather/nylon boot that permitted better circulation for the feet and ankles. I'm not certain whether the boots issued to us at that time had the protective sole which was designed to protect against penetration by punji stake booby traps.

    Both regulation issue and non-regulation non-issue field clothing were worn and tolerated within the command. First Sergeant Howard Force often wore his jungle green/desert brown reversible grenade jacket and trousers that was issued to him when he had served as a force reconnaissance Marine. Major Douglas T. Jacobsen, Intelligence Officer of the Marine Task Element, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor as a PFC on Iwo Jima, wore his faded herring-bone utilities.

    infantry helmet, brown-side outLikewise, headgear were pretty much left to the discretion of the individual Marine or sailor. Most wore their utility cover but a few wore the Australian Bush Hat. The headgear known as the "boondock or boonie hat" had not yet made its appearance on the Vietnam fashion scene. Combat headgear consisted of the issue flight helmet for the pilots, crewchiefs, and aerial machinegunners, while the Combat Recovery Team and all other personel involved in ground combat wore the regulation steel helmet and liner covered with a reversible green/brown camouflage patterned cover.

    Tailor made uniforms could be bought cheaply in DaNang and I took advantage of that situation by having a set of utilities made from fabric with a tree-pattern camouflage (later to known as "tiger stripe camouflage"). When out on Combat Recovery Team missions, I would bring along a non-insulated field jacket and a poncho. Even though the nights in Vietnam were very cold, that was the extent of the warm clothing available to us. If I knew that I was going to be spending nights away from the comforts of DaNang, I would wear athletic sweat pants under my utility trousers or flight suit, and a towel to wrap around my ears to keep the cold and mosquitos away.

    flackjacketBody armor consisted of nylon flak jackets and "diapers" that did not contain metal reinforcing shields. It should be pointed out that this armor did not not stop direct hits from small arms fire. Our first KIA received fatal wounds from .30 caliber projectiles that penetrated the front of his flak jacket. For more protection to the vital areas the flight crews often placed bags filled with rice or sand on the floor directly beneath their butts.

    The most colorful uniform to be seen around I Corps had to be the outfit worn by 1stLt Nick Werve. Werve, a helicopter pilot, wore his regulation flight suit, but over that he wore a multi-colored Mexican serape, a camouflage sombrero, a revolver slung gun-fighter low on his hip, and sported a handle-bar moustache that would have been the envy of Pancho Villa and his men.

    Corpsman Ned Creed, left, killed in action, 1966Flight Suits: All flight status personnel (pilots, flight crewmembers, and gunners) as well as members of the Combat Recovery Team, medical personnel on flight status, and the chaplain, were issued flight suits. The pattern was standard military - a one piece loose fitting jump suit with numerous big pockets. They came in a wide choice of solid colors and camouflage patterns. The solid colors were khaki, olive drab, and orange. The camouflage patterns were tree pattern (tiger stripes) and leopard spots. The curious thing about the latter pattern was that the colors were purple, pink, khaki, and dark green - colors that did not blend well with the surrounding foliage, like the one worn by Corpsman Ned Creed.

    L/Cpl John Williams on the right, killed in DaNang, 1965 The flight suit that were of the "tree pattern" camouflage was issued to the squadron while we were still in Okinawa and prior to our first deployment to Vietnam. The first time I saw this camouflage pattern was when it was worn by Vietnamese Marines who were attending NCO courses at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego, California, in 1961. I was then undergoing recruit training and the Vietnamese Marines (thuy quan luc-chien) were billeted in quonset huts next to my platoon. I had a feeling then that I would be seeing more of that uniform again, and, indeed, less than three years later, I was wearing a uniform in that camouflage pattern in combat. Later, that camo pattern was also worn by Army and Navy personnel and became popularly known by the more fierce sounding name - "tiger stripes camouflage".

  • Casual Clothing: Casual clothing were worn during liberty in DaNang. In 1964, all personnel, regardless of rank, wore civilian clothes on liberty. In 1965, only personnel below Staff NCO rank were privileged to wear the issue khaki uniforms while on liberty. All other personnel could elect to wear khakis or civilian clothes. Utilities were not to be worn in DaNang unless one was on official duty.

  • Other Equipment: The load-bearing gear that was used by the squadron were the standard items known as 782 Gear. It consisted of a pistol belt, single-magazine pouches for the M-14 rifle, pistol magazine pouches for the M1911A1 pistol, suspender straps, steel canteens, canteen covers, canteen cup, field dressing in a first aid pouch, 2-piece field transport pack, shelter half, tent pegs and guy-line, entrenching tool, entrenching tool cover, gas mask, gas mask pouch, and poncho.

Copyright © 2001
Enrique del Rosario