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"Night Jungle Operations" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2020 3:01 p.m. PST

Of possible interest?

PDF link


Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2020 7:42 p.m. PST


Legion 431 Oct 2020 8:53 a.m. PST

Good PDF !

Been there … done that … in the Panamanian Jungles. Doing things in the dark makes it about 10x more difficult. It would get so dark, we'd go into an ambush position/NBP just before EENT/sunset. And wouldn't move. The only things moving out there were the critters and maybe a wayward Panamanian patrol.

But stateside, Germany and the ROK we did a lot of night ops. Certainly gives you an advantage if your unit is well trained and experienced.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP31 Oct 2020 11:38 a.m. PST

Happy you like it boys! (smile)


Blutarski01 Nov 2020 6:39 p.m. PST

My understanding from reading various accounts of VN night operations is that even sense of smell became important under such blackout conditions.

Aftershave and body odor could be deadly giveaways.


Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Nov 2020 7:52 p.m. PST

Oh!… you can sense the smell of fear…


Legion 402 Nov 2020 9:06 a.m. PST

You are correct B … Nothing that can be picked up by smell. Like the things you would use for hygiene, etc., in daily life when not in the field.

Wolfhag02 Nov 2020 11:49 a.m. PST

In VN you could sometimes smell the NVA/VC cooking. Fermenting fish sauce aroma can carry a long way. Force Recon units operating in the enemy backyard could often hear conversations and working crews because they felt safe.

No matter what you do to cover it up your body is going to give off some type of aroma and sweat no matter how hard you try to cover it up (at least that's what my wife tells me). I think it also has something to do with your diet. If close enough you could smell their breath too.

Recon Teams would often eat just C-Rat peanut butter and crackers before going on a patrol so they didn't have to take a dump and try to cover up the smell. Flatulence can get you killed.

Particles that carry scent will fall to the ground or on vegetation. Sniffing leaves could sometimes detect an aroma. The reason hound dogs have long droopy ears and snout is that when sniffing around over the ground their ears disturb the scent on the ground lifting it back into the air to be detected by their nose.

I always preferred night patrols.


Skarper03 Nov 2020 1:56 a.m. PST

There's some quite interesting stuff in 'About Face' on night operations.

One of Hackworth's units were able to become competent at night patrols. It just takes time, training, experience and a certain willingness to accept losses while you learn.

At night, the main US advantages were harder to employ, making it a natural tactic the NLF/PAVN would choose.

According to Daniel Ellsberg's experiences, the ARVN just faked their night patrols.

Legion 403 Nov 2020 9:13 a.m. PST

I had heard the same Wolf, and we were aware to be careful heating up C-Rats, w/heat tabs, etc. Not to mention tobacco products. You can smell both a good distance away. Even the C-Rat Beans & Weenies were labelled not for inflight consumption. Because of the reaction the body has to most beans !

I always preferred night patrols.
Yes, I agree. In the rain at 03:00 you could "stealthfully" walk up to a unit in that situation. Before they knew it. Been there … done that. I even favored a dismounted night attack if tactically feasible. Light & noise discipline were one of the first things we learned.

units were able to become competent at night patrols. It just takes time, training, experience
Very true, but I always mention how important training and experience is. After little while both my Rifle Plt and later my Mech Co, became pretty good at night ops, etc. I trained my Mech Co., to do a lot of dismounted movements and night ops.

My Mech Co. had a number of Ranger qualified and Recon trained troops. As well as Sniper or Pathfinder qualified. I even had one LT that was not only a Ranger qualified but was a Navy SEAL. Before he joined the Army. Another LT I had was a former USN Hard Hat Salvage Diver.

Because of my training and experience, being with the 101, deployed to Panama 3 times, cross trained with the USMC and USAF, 2 tours on the DMZ in the ROK. As Mech Cdr, my Co. was always selected by the Bn Cdr & S3 to do, certain special ops. E.g. night river crossings, cross-attached to a Tank Bn, etc., etc.

So like I said, training and experience is pretty much everything. When it comes to unit capabilities and effectiveness. Along with capable leadership at all levels.

At night, the main US advantages were harder to employ, making it a natural tactic the NLF/PAVN would choose.
That is why from the very beginning of when we were trained right after Vietnam, i.e. in my case 1975. With many of our instructors and troops were Vietnam Vets. We were trained and learned from some of the best. To do the job of an Infantryman. We became pretty good at all types of patrolling and Night ops. Use those lessons learned against whoever we may face including the USSR/WP.

the ARVN just faked their night patrols.
That would be no surprise, IMO. And sadly some US units did that as well. As the war went on, when the ranks of US units consisted of more draftees and fewer professionals and volunteers. But let there be no doubt, no matter what. Most in the US Military did their job … and well … Costing the VC and NVA heavy of losses, etc.

Skarper03 Nov 2020 9:36 a.m. PST

Combat avoidance was the term I think.

How common it was is hard or impossible to quantify. I doubt there were official figures kept at the time and anecdotal evidence is unreliable.

I'm curious to what extent the NLF/PAVN avoided combat with certain units too. I've inferred it was policy post 1969 not to engage US units in the same manner as previously and to try to maximise material losses, especially aircraft.

I also strongly suspect the NLF/PAVN saw little gain in targeting the ANZAC or ROK contingents even before 1968. They were not soft targets [unlike many ARVN units] and Korean or Australian/NZ casualties were not going to lead to a US withdrawal.

It's unlikely there will ever emerge any evidence of this, but it seems a possible explanation for how events unfolded on the ground.

Wolfhag03 Nov 2020 10:13 a.m. PST

A friend of mine was the enlisted G2 for Army Tropic Lightning unit in I Corps with the Marines. One day his CO comes into the office all pissed and cussing. My friend inquired and the CO said they just finished interrogating some NVA POW's who claimed they avoided Marine units because they'd immediately open fire and counterattack while the Army units would go defensive and wait for artillery support and they could be gone before the rounds arrived.

It was not unusual for the Army or Marines to send a platoon out on a patrol as bait as the NVA/VC would likely avoid a company sized unit unless they had a regiment to engage them. That's one you might want to slack off on.

Night ambushes could work very well (as any ambush could). Pop a claymore, fire off a mag and then run back to the firebase.

My recruiter claimed one night he was on a mountainside in the DMZ observing a valley the NVA were supposed be be infiltrating supplies. He had a heavy cruiser offshore with 8" guns on call. He spotted a unit coming through and then along came a convoy of elephants carrying supplies. He called in the naval gunfire and spent the night elephant hunting with an 8" rifle. It sounds a litlle far fetched to me but he was with a Force Recon unit there.


Skarper03 Nov 2020 10:34 a.m. PST

There are a lot of far-fetched sounding stories about the wars in South East Asia. I wouldn't swallow them all whole, but neither would I reject them out of hand either.

Elephants were definitely were used to transport supplies. And of course 8" cruisers provided fire supported regularly.

They probably wouldn't have the range [30km max] to reach an area where elephants would be likely to be doing this task though. If it happened it would probably have been 8" howitzers from a firebase. Even 16" guns likely could not reach far enough. [36km range].

I know recruiters are never any less than scrupulously honest, so …. I don't know what the truth could be.

Legion 404 Nov 2020 12:25 p.m. PST

Army Tropic Lightning
25th Infantry Div.

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