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Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols...."Lurps"

Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols--LRRPs, invariably pronounced "Lurps"--were organized in response to the nature of the war in Vietnam. Confronted by an enemy adept at using terrain to mask movement, thereby leaving "friendly" forces blind to their intentions, it was only natural that the Americans should create a capability to monitor and disrupt deep within enemy-held territory. It was dangerous and exacting work, usually carried out by small, close-knit teams of five or six lightly equipped (but well-armed) volunteers, such as those (above), operating beyond artillery support in difficult country. Their tasks--to gather information, mount ambushes, and take the occasional prisoner--were vital if the Communists were to be denied the initiative.

Many combat units in Vietnam formed their own Lurps, but it was the Special Forces who controlled the most effective ones, using their own expertise and that of indigenous tribesmaen (who knew the ground) to produce a series of operations known collectively as the "Greek-Letter Projects." They began in May, 1964, with Project Delta, in which units were used throughout South Vietnam to gather intelligence and, as "Roadrunners," to monitor NVA or VC infiltration routes.

In August, 1966, Project Omega was set up at Ban Me Thuot to cover the border in IICTZ; Project Sigma had similar aims in IIICTZ. However, all were consolidated under MACV-SOG (Studies and Observation Group) control in November, 1967. At a more shadowy level was Project Gamma, involving intelligence operations over the border into Cambodia. Long-range reconnaissance continued to be used until the U.S. Special Forces were withdrawn in 1973. Left on their own, the ARVN never achieved this role with the same success.

Men of a Long Range Patrol Team of the U.S. 151st (Ranger) Infantry, as they engage the enemy, September 1969.