MIGHTY HISTORY

12 rarely seen photos from the Vietnam War

It was one of America's longest-running wars. U.S. involvement began in 1954 with a few hundred troops advising national and then Democratic forces in a civil war. U.S. involvement grew and, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized a massive increase in troop deployments to the country. 58,000 Americans would die before the U.S. left the conflict in 1973 and South Vietnam fell in 1975.

Here are 12 photos from the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center that you won't see in most textbooks and history papers:


1. Rice paddies, marshlands, and other shallow water features were a daily problem for many troops on patrol. Other soldiers marched through jungles, hills, and mountainous terrain in search of communist forces.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

2. Soldiers fire rounds from their self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, probably an M42 Duster. ​The anti-aircraft weapons were not only valuable against planes. They could be turned against enemy personnel or against jungle areas that communist forces were using for cover.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

3. Soldiers watch as air-dropped supplies rain down near their position. Aerial resupply allowed the Army to keep beans and bullets flowing to outposts deep in the bush.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

4. Soldiers inspect a large pile of bicycles. Bicycles and similar vehicles were common tools of normal villagers, but they were also commonly used by communists to move supplies through the jungle or to allow couriers to travel more quickly. When legendary sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock achieved a 2,500-yard sniper kill with a M2 .50-caliber machine gun, his first shot hit the bicycle the Vietcong soldier was using to move weapons.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

5. Soldiers escort locals to a waiting Chinook during the war. While helicopters were used in Korea and, to a lesser degree in World War II, Vietnam was where modern air cavalry and other helicopter tactics were perfected.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

6. A soldier "humps the pig" through water in Vietnam. The Pig was the M60 machine gun; a crew-served weapon chambered for 7.62mm rounds that was well-liked by maneuver forces due to its rate of fire and ease of use. It weighed over 23 pounds, though, and its parts wore down quickly in the jungle conditions.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

7. UH-1 Iroquois take off after dropping off troops in the tall grass. The 1st Air Cavalry Division helped establish these air assault insertions. Troops could quickly build up combat power anywhere in the helicopters' range, but the first few waves on the ground could be hard-pressed if communist forces contested the landings.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

8. Mortarmen work their tubes in the brush. Mobile firepower was essential for fast-moving combat through the grass.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9. Air Cavalry soldiers cross through water. The M16 was introduced during the Vietnam War, but it faced serious maintenance and reliability problems for its first few years.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

10. UH-1 Iroquois fly in formation over Vietnam.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

11. Soldiers patrol through the grass and jungle. Troops were often isolated in the bush, relying more on each other and their own wits than any support from planes or artillery.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

12. A soldier crosses water with his rifle held up. Because of the humidity, clothes and gear that got wet would typically stay wet for hours or days. For soldiers who had to cross through water multiple times per day, this guaranteed that they were always in wet cloths.

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)