Initially US planners were leary about the use of armoured vehicles in Vietnam. Detractors argued that the country's terrain of jungle, hills and rice paddies made it unsuitable for armour. Fears that such units would be roadbound - as had happened to most French armour in the 1950s - were soon shown to be unfounded with the introduction of vehicles such as the Ml 13 armoured personnel carrier. Originally intended as little more than a battlefield taxi, the Ml 13 was first issued to ARVN units in 1963. Altered to a number of armed variants, the Ml 13 was, at ten and a half tons, a lightweight fighting platform equally suited to a number of tasks.
Nicknamed the 'Black Horse Regiment', the 11th Armored Cavalry came to Vietnam in September 1966 and was to become one of the Army's finest formations. The regiment's vehicles and their crews were often loaned out in squadron-sized elements to add their armoured firepower to other commands. The aggressive posture of the flak-vested cavalrymen ensured the 11 th ACR a combat reputation disproportionate to their size.
During 1968 the Army developed a flame resistant uniform for both aircrews and armoured vehicle crewmen. The latter were under constant risk from the effects of mines and rocket propelled grenades upon their vehicles. These Nomex uniforms were eventually accepted for use by aviation personnel but rejected by the Armor branch, who considered the garments too hot to be worn inside a vehicle. Standard tropical combat dress was worn by armoured crewmen throughout the course of the war. On the left sleeve of the tropical coat is the rearing stallion SSI of the 11th ACR - here a locally-made subdued example. The US-made twill rank insignia of a Specialist 4th Class are worn on both arms.
Because of the heat most crewmen chose to ride with their torsos out of the vehicle's hatches. Thus exposed to enemy fire the wearing of body armour became a necessity - either the M1952 or, as here, the M69. Personal protection in the form of a .45 auto pistol is carried in a black shoulder holster.
The Combat Vehicle Crewman Helmet was worn by those crew members who needed access to the vehicle's internal communications system. The example shown here is a later version with improved electronics and larger boom-type microphone. Constructed of laminated ballistic nylon, the CVC afforded protection to the head when riding inside a moving vehicle as well as a limited protection from fragments. An adjustable headband altered the size to fit and a series of foam pads were built in to absorb impact.
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