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"The M42A1 Dusterís Crucial Role in the Vietnam War" Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2021 8:17 p.m. PST

"U.S. Army First Lieutenant Bruce Geiger participated in the protracted siege of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War. For 77 days, the United States 26th Marine Regiment withstood the assault of three North Vietnamese Army divisions. During the famous siege, Geiger commanded A Battery from the 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery (1/44th), a U.S. Army air defense artillery battalion attached to the 3rd Marine Division, the parent unit of the 26th Marine Regiment.

A pair of M42A1 Dusters proved to be valuable components in the defense of the combat base's airstrip. Positioned at either end of the airstrip with a company of entrenched Marines between them, the Dusters were greatly admired for the heavy firepower furnished by their twin-mounted 40mm Bofors guns. Geiger's battery was augmented by four truck-mounted .50-calibre machine guns known as Quad-50s…."
More here
link


Armand

Oddball22 Nov 2021 5:10 a.m. PST

I suspect anything from War Thunder for accuracy.

Used to play, but when a Whirblewind took out my brand new T-34 from the front with 20mm cannons in one burst, I knew that "accuracy" was not what they were looking for.

I remember a funny story about a M-24 Duster in the Vietnam War. 3 veteran (short) grunts were coming back into the FSB and noticed a Duster put in the defense line. Not having seen one before they asked the crew if that puts out a lot of lead.

"No lie, GI" was the reply and cleared for a demonstration of the twin 40mm guns power.

After watching the jungle and hillside get ripped up, the crew asked the Grunts what they thought.

"We're going far away from you. That is going to draw a lot of fire if we get hit".

Veteran infantry see what really matters.

Oddball22 Nov 2021 5:21 a.m. PST

There is also another account in a Keith Nolan book (don't remember which one, ALL are great) of 3 M-42 getting sent into a road ambush without infantry support by a Lt.

The gomers swarmed over them in a minute and killed every one of the crewmen.

Inspired leadership.

Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2021 6:08 a.m. PST

Oddball brings up good points. It is pretty obvious that the weapons that draw fire from an enemy are the lethal ones that the enemy needs to eliminate. Just like WWIII with the mhine gun in a German infantry squad. That was what you needed to eliminate. If anything, drawing fire is a confirmation of the effectiveness of the M42.

Being overrun by infantry is not surprising if they had no infantry support of their own. An ambush is a good way to do it.

One can say the same thing about a battery of 105mm howitzers. And it is true. One can also say the same thing about a tank. Again it is true.

I have over 300 books on the war in Vietnam. With few exceptions they are "down in the weeds" or "grunt level" books. From all of my reading the dusters were terribly effective weapons against enemy troops. But like artillery and tanks, they have their vulnerabilities.

Tom

oldnorthstate22 Nov 2021 7:42 a.m. PST

For anyone interested in the experience of the Duster in combat I'd recommend "Black-Horse Riders" by Phillip Keith. He details the unfortunately overlooked rescue of a trapped American infantry company that had stumbled into an NVA bunker complex by Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored in March, 1970 along with an attached infantry company. When they arrived at the bunker complex they lined up the Dusters and let loose with canister rounds, which completely denuded the jungle, exposing the bunkers.

For some reason this action was all but forgotten until the units were finally recognized 2009 with unit citations. What I found somewhat surprising is that it was only in 1970 that apparently the army decided to pair armor units with infantry units so they could train cooperatively…the units involved in the rescue were part of that training exercise.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP22 Nov 2021 2:17 p.m. PST

Many thanks!


Armand

skippy000123 Nov 2021 1:03 p.m. PST

I read somewhere that Dusters did 'rude things' to PT76's.

Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2021 8:19 a.m. PST

A pea-shooter could do "rude things" to a PT76. The Duster could deafen you and/or knock you out of your hammock if it was firing within 100 feet, which could probably be called "rude things" to friendly forces.

LT

Wolfhag24 Nov 2021 9:14 a.m. PST

brass1,
M72 LAW's bounced off PT-76's many times at Lang Vei.

Others formed anti-tank squads using the LAWs to try and destroy the NVA PT-76 armor. Unfortunately, the LAWs often malfunctioned or misfired. Even direct hits on the Soviet-made tanks merely bounced off the armor without detonating, but at least one additional tank was destroyed through their efforts.

Wolfhag

Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2021 1:35 p.m. PST

That's because the LAW was a piece of junk that would bounce of a turtle. I have never heard anyone who though it was worth the energy to pick it up and the Pentagon claim that one could pierce 13 inches armor would cause either laughter or swearing.

Now, hit the tank commander in the eye with a projectile from a pea-shooter could cause damage, even more if it is was attached to another projectile from a 106mm recoilless rifle.

LT

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP24 Nov 2021 2:10 p.m. PST

(smile)


Armand

Wolfhag24 Nov 2021 3:26 p.m. PST

If you look at the frontal profile of a PT-76 it's not surprising that any round would not bounce off. Although a low velocity spitball may stick and leave a rust mark. Since the PT-76 has a two-man turret the commander needs to be buttoned-up when firing so he's safe.

The 106's at Lang Vei probably fired point detonating HE rounds to knock out the tanks. I think one PT-76 was claimed by a LAW. A Duster would have done well against them with HE too.

The early LAW's were a POS against armor but did well against bunkers. I fired them a number of times on the range in the early 1970's and didn't see any malfunctions. Probably A1 and A2 models. Although, the early ones did have a problem with the warhead going off mid-flight and sometimes falling out of the tube. Just like any new weapon, it had its teething problems. However, the design has been improved and is still in use today.

Wolfhag

42flanker25 Nov 2021 11:50 a.m. PST

"66"LAWs were handy for taking out Argentinian trenches and sangars in 1982.

Personal logo brass1 Supporting Member of TMP25 Nov 2021 11:52 a.m. PST

Do they still penetrate 13 inches of armor?

I saw a bunch of scared ARVN grunts running down QL1 as fast as they could during the Easter Offensive and if one stopped to see if we had water he would he would gripe that they were told that the NVA didn't have tanks (this was US intelligence which was stupidly wrong. The tanks were spotted by a reporter from UPI who was hitching a ride on a LOACH and reported to Corps)

The LAWS were among the first weapons the ARVNs threw away because they were heavy and they bounced on the enemy tanks.
One of the few ARVNs who said anything in English said "Rockets all s*** You don't want get kill throw in paddy and run with us."

LT

Blutarski26 Nov 2021 2:27 p.m. PST

From what I have read of LAWs in Vietnam, the principal problem with them seem to have been the failure of the Army to tropicalize both the weapon and its storage packaging.

The WW2 lessons learned in the tropical environs of the PTO were apparently forgotten over the course of twenty short years.

- Ė -

What has also long puzzled me is why the US never swallowed its pride and copied/adapted the inexpensive, man-portable, easily handled RPG-7 multi-purpose weapon system. It seems to me to have been a lot handier and less bulky than the 3.5-in bazooka.

B

Wolfhag27 Nov 2021 6:53 a.m. PST

brass1,
If you look at the technical progression of the M72 you'll see it's a different weapon than the first model developed with 1950's technology. Regarding using it against tanks in 1968, I'd probably throw it away too. They had the same ricochet problem with the first warhead design and fusing on the 2.36" bazooka. It was brought back to use in an urban environment, not against tanks and it was useful in VN against bunkers. The 3.5" Bazooka could take care of the tanks.

Blutarski,
When the M72 came out we already had the 3.5" Bazooka developed at the end of WWII. I think the idea of the M72 was a way for every soldier to carry one or two disposable shots and it replaced rifle grenades. The US was also deploying the M79 grenade launcher too. I've carried a 3.5 and it's not easy to set up and shoot, the RPG is easier. It breaks down into two pieces but can be assembled easily. It did pretty well in Korea. The RPG would be much easier and more stealthy to use.

An advantage of the M72 is that you could salvo fire it as each member of a squad could be carrying one or two.

The RPG was normally a crew served weapon with a gunner and ammo carrier.

The Russians must have thought that the M72 was a good ideas as they copied it in the 1980's with the RPG 18, 22 and 26.

As to why NATO never adopted an RPG type weapon I'm not sure.

Wolfhag

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP28 Nov 2021 2:37 p.m. PST

Thanks!.

Armand

Legion 429 Nov 2021 4:15 p.m. PST

Yes, I had read the US Army ADA M42s & quad .50s performed very well at Khe Sahn. Were good anti-Infantry weapons. The French at DBP also a few quad .50s too.

As Wolf posted … The first M72s had the problem with the warhead falling off the rocket in flight. We were trained to read the data painted on the tube. IIRC if it didn't say M72A2 w/coupler. Don't use it. The later version of the M72 had the coupler added to it during it's production. At the factory back home. And solved the warhead falling off …

Being overrun by infantry is not surprising if they had no infantry support of their own.
Yes without Infantry support in closed terrain it is generally easy to overwhelm AFVs. The M42 was designed primarily for AA. The open turret was not a problem when not in the "frontline" per se. However, it is particularly at a disadvantage with the open turret. If it was deployed alone, too close to the "front". As we see …

As a Infantryman/Officer '79-'90, we and our troops were trained to go tank hunting, perform AT Ambushes etc. If AFVs rolled thru a wooded road or MOUT, etc. Without Infantry support. They could be quickly KO'd.

My M113 Mech Co. was frequently attached to a Tank Bn. Our primary function was to work closely with/support the M60s & M1IPs MBTs. And vis versa. Using combined arms doctrine, etc.

At night at times we were sent to a nearby village, etc. to find & kill the OPFORs' MBTs/AFVs. We did a successful night AT Raid on a OPFOR Canuck Co. of Leos. During REFORGER '88. They had no Infantry support, laagered in an NDP in a little German village.

Wolfhag29 Nov 2021 6:54 p.m. PST

Regarding the open turret. It's my understanding all AA guns needed an open turret to observe and keep gases from building up inside an enclosed turret and choking the crew.

Wolfhag

Legion 430 Nov 2021 9:39 a.m. PST

Yes, that is the way and what it was designed for – ADA … Open turret was for crew observability and the gun's ability to raise at high angles of fire to engage aircraft.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2021 12:59 a.m. PST

ZSU 23 4 managed a closed turret, but much smaller calibre weapons of course. Must agree that, for AA work the open top has huge advantages.

Wolfhag01 Dec 2021 6:46 a.m. PST

deadhead,
You are right about the Shilka. It needed to be enclosed for NBC protection. Open top is not needed if you have a radar controlled gun. Also, the bulges on the front shoulders of the turret are cooling/ventilation shrouds. Their effectiveness would most likely depend on the volume of fire.

The ZSU-57-2 was open top.

Wolfhag

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2021 9:24 a.m. PST

Open top is not needed if you have a radar controlled gun……

Now that is genius. Begs the Q "Why didn't I think of that?"

Legion 403 Dec 2021 9:01 a.m. PST

ZSU 23 4 managed a closed turret, but much smaller calibre weapons of course. Must agree that, for AA work the open top has huge advantages.
IIRC the ZSU 23 4 was designed after the M42 ? Yes, as I mentioned in many cases an open turret for AA is an advantage in most situations.

The ZSU-57-2 was open top.
Yes, again date of design and requirements, etc. is always a factor.

E.g. US TDs in WWII were all opened top. Because of the tech at the time. Later after WWII some M36s had an armored top deck added to the turret like most other AFVs.

Open top is not needed if you have a radar controlled gun……
Yes but as we know not all AA had that option until later dates of design, etc. The best they had was the Mk.1 Eyeball 👁

BigNickR05 Dec 2021 8:51 p.m. PST

harder to NBC seal an open-topped vehicle

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