The Hill Fights: Photo Analysis

There was a good mix of gear used in the Hill Fights. We see mostly textbook Marine 782 gear but also other items being added. The main non-782 gear item is the M1956 suspenders. Almost all of the marines have either acquired them or been issued them during this period. As well the the older style OG-107 uniform is still seen in use alongside the ubiquitous jungle uniform. Another distinctive element from later battles is the lack of flak jackets. Hardly anyone has one on whereas later on it would be the reverse. It must have been hot that week as the vast majority of the marines have their sleeve rolled up. Unfortunately finding high resolution photos of these battle is difficult so it is a little hard to make things out but even so there is still a fair amount to be seen. I didn’t label everything so make sure to look close and see what else you can spot.

US Marines Retrieving Equipment | Location: Hill 861, South Vietnam.

In this first photo we have one of the few shots of a flak jackets and it’s a good shot of a 1st pattern M1955 with no pockets and rope ridge on only the right shoulder. I also spot a couple sets of M1956 suspenders but the rest of the web gear is pretty standard marine affair. The canteens and jungle first aid kits all look to be set up in a standard configuration of the first id kit in the middle and canteen on either side. There is an ARVN rucksack hiding in the pile of gear too. You can tell by the frame.

(Original Caption) 4/29/1967-Hill 861, South Vietnam- Picture shows US Marines walking along Hill 861 in a line formation. Three Marines in the foreground are holding rocket launchers in front of them.

In this second photo we have another ARVN Rucksack and a good shot of the M1961 web belt (ID’d but the multiple snaps). They all seem to have the older M1910 pattern canteen carriers in the photos. You can spot them but the way they sit below the belt. The M1956 patter would show the belt passing under the middle of it. The foreground marine also has the OG-107 Sateen uniform on. The right hand marine has his bayonet and grenade pouch hung from his M1961 magazine pouches. He is also using a packboard to carry the extra bazooka rounds.

Here we can see the mix of regular OG-107 and Jungle uniforms. As well as the helmet band variation. Some have none, some have the inner tube and some have a type I haven’t seen before. It’s thick, looks almost like a rubber belt from some kind of engine pulley. The center man still has his M1941 suspenders as well whereas everyone else with visible suspenders have the M1956. A much better choice, the WWII vintage M1941s have a nickname of “backbreakers for their hard narrow straps lack of comfort. There are two grenade pouches in use as well.

Looks like almost everyone has their canteens and first aid kit set up the same way.

I used the same photo twice due to the low resolution and different crops. Here you can just make out the M1943 shovels and folded ponchos under the pack straps. A lot of the gear set ups are very reminiscent of WWII.

Looks like he has a custom short sleeve shirt. May be an M1C liner as well but it’s not clear enough to be sure. There also appears to be a grenade pouch peeking over his left leg.

More folded ponchos on these guys, and what I’m pretty certain is an M7 bayonet.

Now for all the various helmet bands that are in the photos this is the only marines I’ve seen that actually has anything tucked into it. Look like a bottle of insect repellant.

Looks like like guy bucked the folded trend and rolled up his poncho in the top bed roll strap.

Here we have a demolition satchel and possible grenade pouch. Those grenade pouches were quite popular it seems. Although since the M1961 gear set lacks any way to hold grenades unlike the M1956 it would make sense. One thing to note is that the majority of marines have their chin strap buckled. They may be loose but they are buckled.

30 Apr 1967, Vietnam — 4/30/1967-Vietnam- US Marines are shown after an 11-day battle with the Viet Cong. They are preparing to head to a nearby helicopter that is waiting to evacuate them from the area. They are shown on top of hill 881, looking over a vast landscape. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Here you can spot the only poncho liner in the group it seems over to the right. Also an M1942 pattern first aid kit or sometimes labeled as first aid/compass pouch starting in the 1950s. If you go back and carefully look at the canteen caps in their pouches you will see that a mix of the older aluminum and newer plastic in use. Gun wise take a look and the butt of the XM16E1 the marine in the foreground is holding. Trapdoors were not adopted yet, and the Army would be the first to get those anyways most likely since the M16 development was being lead by them. So these rifles would be XM16E1s and not M16A1s (M16s had the same stock but were mostly in use with the USAF so the E1 is most common/likely). That is a whole other can of worms which I wont get into but if you want to yourself I recommend poking around the Retro Black Rifle site.

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