Lynne M.Black Jr on the right with CAR-15/XM148 combo
We have been speaking to another veteran this time Lynne M. Black Jr of RT Alabama and RT Idaho.
Modern Forces: What made you join Special Forces and then apply for SOG, did you know what it was before you joined?
Lynne M Black Jr: LOL … I had no idea what SOG was when I reenlisted as it was classified Top Secret. I volunteered for a second enlistment as long as I could take the Special Forces examination first. Once I passed the test I signed up for another three years and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where I waited for the next Special Warfare School class to begin. Why did I reenlist? My first tour of duty in Vietnam was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate). We arrived in Saigon harbor on the U.S.S. Mann May 12, 1965. I got out of the Army June 15, 1966 after three years of service. During that tour of duty one of my younger brothers was almost killed during an enemy mortar attack. I can’t say that I once saw the face of the enemy during that first tour of duty. That faceless enemy had critically wounded my brother. Why did I join Special Forces? I had a personal need to get right in the enemies face; to exact on them what they had done to my brother.
Lynne M. Black Jr on the right
Modern Forces: What kept you and the other team members going over the fence knowing the odds were so stacked against the teams?
Lynne M Black Jr: That first mission, October 5, 1968, was to settle a score. Shortly after that came the Bright Lights, which stirred the same feelings for my comrades that I had for my brothers and family? My friend Patrick (Mandolin) Watkins says we were all just bait to draw the enemy into the open so Covey’s could expend air power on them. Pat Watkins was a former One-Zero and Covey Rider. I think his bait comment is probably correct as far as Saigon MACV/SOG command was concerned. I don’t know about you, but when I was in my twenties I was immortal. That’s another way of saying I was to ignorant to understand I could get killed across the fence. Would I do it again? Hell yeah! Do you have any idea how much damage a small team of well armed, highly trained, communication connected men can do? It was almost as much fun as jumping into a pit of rattlesnakes.
Modern Forces: Were your indigenous team members Montagyard, Nung or Vietnamese?
Lynne M Black Jr: I ran with two Vietnamese teams, RT Alabama and RT Idaho.
Modern Forces: Did any of them make it out to the States and if so have you ever been in touch?
Lynne M Black Jr: Several made it to the U.S. with their families and we see each other in Las Vegas at the Special Operations Association (SOA), which is held yearly at the Orleans hotel.
Modern Forces: Did you have a weapon choice or preference?
Lynne M Black Jr: I always carried a Browning 9mm High Power, Marine K-Bar knife on every mission. One of the other tools that were always with me was a sawed-off M79 grenade launcher or one of the experimental versions that fit under the barrel of my CAR-15. If we were doing general recon I would carry a CAR-15 or a 9mm Swedish K submachine gun. Occasionally I would carry a M60 Machine Gun or a Russian RPD. The type of mission often determined the weapon for me. Of course the other view is that I just loved having access to all those weapons and wanted to give each of them a try.
Modern Forces: I see a sawn-off M79 in your pictures, did you carry this? If so how did you carry the weapon for easy access and how did you carry the grenades?
Lynne M Black Jr: When I carried the M79 it was attached to the upper part of my web gear using a snap link. The grenades were carried in canteen covers as was all ammunition. If you don’t know this, when fired the M79 requires 15 revolutions before the High Explosive rounds are armed. The full length of the barrel is 18 inches and provides a stabilizing quarter-turn for the round when exiting the barrel. That means it takes 6 feet for one full rotation of a round times 15, which equals 90 feet or 30 yards. Why am I telling you this? That means you can skip those rounds along the ground, ricocheting them off trees and rocks; kind of like playing a good billiards game. You could also fire them up through heavy foliage to have them provide air bursts when they made contact with the foliage on their way back down. We spent a lot of time training with these tools.
Modern Forces: Did you or your team ever carry any foreign weapons, AK47 or RPD? And if so how were magazines/drums/belts carried?
Lynne M Black Jr: Yes, we carried all the weapons the enemy carried. The point man often carried an AK47 which would temporarily confuse the enemy during contact. The sound of an AK is significantly different than a CAR, M60, or other American weapons. Also carrying enemy weapons afforded you a battlefield supply that often couldn’t be delivered for our American weapons … just things we considered as we went through mission planning.
Modern Forces: Did you have a standard equipment set-up in your team?
Lynne M Black Jr: I think most teams were pretty much the same when it came to equipment. The best description of what we used is in John L. Plaster’s book, which is titled: SOG – A Photo History of the Secret Wars. Chapter Eight in Plaster’s book is titled: Recon Equipment and Weapons.
Modern Forces: Did your team have any unique traditions or quirks in its equipment set-up?
Lynne M Black Jr: In addition to the standard stuff everyone carried I made sure every man was packing at least one block of C4, a minimum of 8 feet of detonation cord, a blasting cap and a hand generator. When the seismic ground probes were issued, and then modified by Captain Mike O’Byrne, we could use them to remotely set off C4 and Claymores.
Modern Forces: Empty mags...after emptying a mag during contact did you guys swap it back into a pouch or shove the empties down the front of your shirt? When training we favor the latter when re-enacting and its what the British Army tend to do?
Lynne M Black Jr: My team did neither of those things. The empties were left on the ground where they fell while reloading. Once empty they are of no use. Our lives were more important than a useless empty ammo magazine. When firing our weapons during contact we were “automatically” reducing our load so as to move quicker and easier. Remember, we were carrying between 60 and 80 pounds of gear. Most of that weight was the ammo and magazines. Of course when we were training in-country we stuffed the mags in our shirts to be reloaded for missions.
Modern Forces: Did you carry a side arm and if so how was is carried, you often see them in books but can’t seem to see any holsters (hip or shoulder) in the pictures I have?
Lynne M Black Jr: I carried a Browning 9mm High Power and four extra magazines. The extra magazines were in my survival vest. The Browning was attached to a parachute cord that hung around my neck. That lanyard cord was long enough for me extend my right hand full length when firing the gun. The Browning was used only when I had run out of all other ammo and at very close range.
Modern Forces: When you say Survival vest do you mean what they call a 1-0 vest these days, like the one in this picture?
Lynne M Black Jr: The only one of these vest I ever saw was the one I wore. When I got to FOB-1 (Phu Bai) in July 1968 no one was wearing anything like this that I remember. When I entered country I had with me a fly fishing vest, two boxes of hand tied flies and a $300.00 Orvis split bamboo fly rod. The rod and flies were admired by a Vietnamese officer whose sister I wanted to date. We made a deal, he didn't want the vest. I used it to carry my extra Browning magazines, pen flare gun and extra flares, signal mirror, a high protein ration, Escape and Evasion map, current AO maps, compass, protractor, and some emergency medical supplies. The idea was that if I had to drop my gear and run I would have a basic E&E outfit on my back.
Several of the guys liked the vest and wanted to know where they could get one. I had several made up in Saigon out of truck canvas and gave them out as gifts. I heard that they were made up and issued to the guys going through One Zero School. I think that was after I left.
Modern Forces: It's well known that SOG used black spray paint to camouflage uniforms and equipment I have seen a picture of RT New York in Frank Greco’s second book that appears to show gear camo’d with green and black spray paint. Did you ever see this type of green/black spray paint in use?
Lynne M Black Jr: When General Creighton Abrams outlawed the use of Tiger fatigues and everyone went to the standard uniform we began to use the spray paint to simulate the Tiger fatigue pattern, or a pattern that fit the terrain we were about to operate in.
Modern Forces: I have read reports that SOG and 46th Special Forces Company used early forms of night vision equipment, did you ever use or see any use of night vision or other hi-tech devices in use?
Lynne M Black Jr: Yes, and in almost in every case abandoned it after its first use. Night Vision tools blind you and had a short battery life. Earlier I mentioned seismic probes, which came in sets of four with a receiver. Their intended use was for a team to install them around their RON as an early warning of approaching enemy. Each of the four probes had its own distinctive signal which would tell the listener which direction was being probed by the enemy. The problem with them was that moving grass, caused by wind, would set them off and make you believe you were surrounded. There were teams who in the middle of the night gave away their positions by firing at an unseen enemy because of those probes. We found other uses for them. The Gyrojet pistol was another exotic weapon that turned out to be useless. If fired at night the 50 caliber rocket round lit up your position like a flare. It was to light to accurately fire, and the rounds often misfired. Today those rounds are fired electronically and have a much approved delivery platform. There was also Instant Foxhole, which was a liquid explosive that was poured on the ground and ignited with a blasting cap. A teaspoon of it would dig a hole about 3 to 4 feet deep. It was ammonia based, a horrid smell, which hung in the air of humid jungles providing a trail for the enemy trackers.