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RT Montana: Life Around Camp 1970
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MACV-SOG HALO Teams 1970 -1971

RT Montana 1969
RT Viper One-Zero 1971
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RT Maine 1970
RT Iowa 1969 - The Golfcourse

MACV-SOG Equipment:

Individual Equipment
Team Equipment
Personal Gear
Original MACV-SOG Gear

Australian SASR
Seal Team 1

SOG Veteran Comments - Ray Harris

Some comments from CCC Veteran Ray Harris, author of Break Contact, Continue Mission


We have been in contact with Ray Harris who has helped us in the past in regards to the Golf Course, he has provided some great insight that he has allowed us to share on the site.


I love that you honor MACV-SOG, and its history.  I've sent you some things about the Golf Course in the past, but normally I've tried to stay low key.  I was a hapenstance survivor, with no huge war stories to my name.  Skirmishes and heartpalping escapes were my order of the day, thank God.  Teams with wounded were overrun.  My novel, BREAK CONTACT, CONTINUE MISSION, was more their story than my own.

I recently joined a MACV-SOG history group and have added info, and as a side element, I started reexamining things on the web about SOG.  I know your outfit tries to be truthful, so I thought I'd comment on your listings of personal field equipment.  First of all, I am no expert.  SOG lasted seven years with three major launch sites and many small units within it.  Things changed, but as I reread these things, I ponder if I have brought up these inaccuracies before.

For example, during my time at CCC, Kontum, (March 1969-70), conducting missions in Laos or Cambodia were called, going "across the fence'.   Years later we found Vets. claiming SOG backgrounds, who used the term, "over the fence".  We figured they were frauds.  It was only at later reunions we learned that was the phrase folks at CCN used to describe cross border recon missions.  They thought WE were frauds too.

So, here's a commentary on your equipment list. 

I never knew anyone who carried a hammock.  Sling between trees?  How idiotic.  Kontum recon had a roll of black plastic sheeting in Snowden Hall, mounted on the wall: three feet across, heavy gauge, rolled like toilet paper on a dowel.  If old ground cloth got torn up, you went and got a six foot strip off that roll.  You had a light poncho liner for on top at night.  If it rained, you switched covers with the plastic on top.  Weight was everything.  A hammock was extra pounds of stupid and volume, but would have been wonderful to have for its weatherproofing.

I don't remember any Americans using an AK-47 during my time at Kontum (edit - Another thing is that I don't want people to think I'm saying NO Americans carried AK-47s.  I just don't REMEMBER any who did.  It's a minor point, but people get in uproars about the smallest points. Other than that, I'll stand by my comments).  A Montagnard point man might have one, necessitating 30 round Chi-Com ammunition holders.  AR-15, 30 round magazines were available to civilians, but not standard issue to even SOG.  I carried 20, 20 round mags and another 450 rounds in stripper clips. 

My point is who the hell is going to slip 20 round magazines into Chi-Com 30 round magazine pouches?  That doesn't make for quick access.  I know some folks used canteen covers to carry magazines, up to nine all jumbled up as I recall.  God forgive if the snaps broke open.  They all spilled out on the ground.  Try it.  BAR belts were preferred.  Most used Army issue 20 round holders.

I sold around 200 WW2 leggings in Kontum, and Howard Sugar found a second supply late in 1970.  I grew up in Rock Island Illinois and asked my dad to look for leggings for team Iowa.  World War 2 Army surplus stores were all over the place in  Rock Island, Moline and Davenport on the Mississippi.  He cleaned the places out and sent the leggings to me.  Leggings were the result of private enterprise, and not any kind of military supply chain.

Ben Baker made our ruck sacks as copies of NVA equipment.  As far as I could tell, the only difference was that NVA rucks had tie strings for their three outside pockets.  Ben's had straps and pull thru strapdowns with black metal tabs on the ends.  There was a slip pocket, like a 14 inch by 16 inch envelope, that rested against the wearer's back, open at the top.  I had a fellow ask if that was for maps.  

No recon man would put a map in something he might have to throw and run from.  Maps were kept in pockets.  I used that back of the ruck to store my sleeping plastic.  It kept sweat from seeping into the ruck, and my one clean shirt stored inside.  That shirt was standard and not some kind of knit.  It got cold enough some times that teams had to be pulled because of bronchitis.

Waterproof matches?  I never carried any, but they might have been useful on an E and E.  I had a zippo

Paul, I hope this helps.  You are putting out a history I share, so I hope you will confirm with others who can fault my comments or confirm them.  Either way, your site should not remain as it is.  Please let me know.  Either make these changes or allow a differing opinion to be heard in some section of your web site. 

What would you say if an American historian claimed that the battle of Briton was won because the Spitfire was a heavily armored aircraft made out of sheet steel, invulnerable to German fighters.  What a disservice to such beautiful wooden kites.
Wish you and your unit the best of luck.

Ray Harris



The thing with weapons is that as the war grew old, the early demands to carry sterile, or foreign weaponry began to relax.  Each year, each camp, had its own flavors and traditions.  Certainly AK-47s and grease guns and stens were carried by most members in 65-66-67.  But M-16s started getting added in at some point. 

I went in on two Bright Lights to a downed chopper on my 22nd birthday, Dec. 22, 1969.  The pilots came out on strings.  Bill Spurgeon and I rappelled in the first time and got out a wounded door gunner.  Couldn't find the second one, but the higher ups didn't like that, so they sent us in again.  That time we took two Montagnards with us.  We figured the poor kid was dead under the hot wreckage.  Never recovered the body.  My point here is that we were sure the site would be hot, with Charlie waiting for us.  Surprisingly, it wasn't, but I carried in an RPD and several hundred round drums.

I shouldn't have done that.  You want a weapon you know intimately.  Blindfolding your team and having them change out magazines was a real eye opener.  I know some guys bought 30 round mags for their M-16s.  I don't recall if that was common knowledge at the time, however.  I don't recall that many bought them.  Expensive as I remember.

There's also the question of tactics, and how a 30 round magazine might slow you up.  They may have cost the equivalent of $30-$40 each today, so I doubt Plaster or anyone else bought 15 to 20 of the things
Conventional wisdom was to drop the fierstempty magazine after a firefight started.  A 30 round magazine that cost a lot might have slowed the run.

Each team did it different, with some flamboyantly so: AKs, black uniforms, NVA pith helmets.  A little showy, but that was our choice as young men.  Photos of "Mad Dog" Schriver at CCS emphasize that point.   As it was the leggings made EVERYONE who saw us scratch their heads and wonder who we were.  Some thought we were Australians.

The point is that the one zero ran his team the way he wanted, and unless a team dressed in loin cloths and carried cross bows, the people in charge wouldn't dictate or interfere.  You never knew what you'd see when teams arrived at Dak To for launch.

I'm pretty sure the black plastic was used in construction, so your plastic is probably the right gauge.   Trend to thicker rather than thinner.  It folded up easily.  Also, it was smooth, not like a tie down tarp with fibers running through it.

Another item was the US Army poncho.  It was huge, even when rolled up.  Took up a lot of space, plus, when wet, the rubber sparkled like broken glass in the road.  Not good.  The Montagnards were issued thin nylon cloth ponchos that were water resistant, not water proof.  They leaked where you touched them, but they were compact.  I dropped mine in the road at Kontum, and got sun melted tar on it.  I went to the weapons cleaning station and washed it in the tubs of solvent we kept there.  THAT made it water proof.  Stunk of solvent, however.

That's about it for now.  I don't know about interviews and such.  Most of what I ever learned or saw happen came out in some form in my novel, "Break Contact, Continue Mission".  When I wrote it, I didn't want a protagonist as an experienced old timer running missions.  If I was going to explain that life, those missions, to someone totally unfamiliar with that life, I figured I had to do it from the standpoint of a young man being introduced to it, so the reader learns along with him.  Otherwise it's just a bunch of talking heads lecturing the reader.

My 14 missions lucked out for me.  Running recon was like flying in a commercial jet.  There was always a general sense of danger, but as long as you could move, you had hope.  If you hung up with wounded, you were like the airplane going down.  Air travel is very, very safe.  But if you're on the one that spirals in, your chances of survival are slim to none.  Such was recon.
Best of luck




I don't mind my comments being posted, as long as it's well broadcast that I am making these comments only in regard to myself and a small circle of friends at CCC in 1969-70.  Forgetfulness and mixed memories also play a part. Anyone who makes broad statements that encompass numbers of years and multiple FOBs, is doing SOG history a disservice.  I'm sure guys who ran in 1966 would not have agreed with, accepted or recognized many of the weapons and tactics used in 1971. 

SOG was a military unit, but it was an organic unit that evolved with political realities and target conditions of any given year.  Weaponry and equipment such as sensors, nightingale firecracker firefight simulators, personal extraction rigs, night vision goggles and such became more and more sophisticated as the realities of the missions were learned in the field and passed up the back channels.

The main thing is that the one-zero team leader was given full permission to dress and arm his team the way he wanted.  One aberration of this open policy that I cannot explain, is where some weapons came from.  I have seen pictures of WW II grease guns supposedly used in 1966-67.  I believe that was a nasty, inaccurate, stamped sheet metal, blow back operated weapon that fired pistol rounds, that was provided to tank crews as a last line of personal defense in case their tank got knocked out, and they had to E and E to friendly lines.  I would have had to have been ORDERED to carry such a thing. 

Also, I don't know where some well publicized mutilated US weaponry came from.  I don't think supply would hand out an M-79 grenade launcher, and welcome the soldier hacking off the sights, a foot of barrel and the bulk of the butt-stock, in order to make a pistol like weapon.  The same thing goes for cut down M-16s I've seen in some books.  They may have been weapons captured by the NVA that were later recaptured, and were officially off the books, listed as lost.

As I recall there was a terrible tradeoff between carrying an M-16 versus an AK-47.  Early M-16s were manufactured for civilian ammunition, which was much cleaner than the Matheson gunpowder used in military rounds.  They jammed a lot, until larger tolerances were finally incorporated into the weapon  to accept this reality.  Still, the later M-16s did not have the well earned reputation of rugged durability that the AK-47 had.  The trade off against this reputation was mostly hinged around the weight, which in recon, meant so very much. 

Your group must have both kinds of weapons and ammunition for comparisons.  My friend, John Grant said he once took every piece of equipment that he could recall carrying to the field, including uniform, boots and socks.  (No one I knew wore underwear.  Like Scotsmen, we were free and loose.)  John somehow found out the weights of everything, down to signal mirrors and pen flares, and he came up with a weight hovering around a hundred pounds.  This seems high to me, unless he included the PRC-25 team radio.  Then it would be spot on as far as I'm concerned.  If it's a hundred pounds without the radio, then I was in much better shape than I ever thought I was as a young man!

So here's a challenge.  Weigh out the M-16 and the AK-47.  Weigh out 20 loaded M-16 magazines and another 400 rounds in stripper clips.  Compare against 13 loaded, METAL, 30 round AK-47 magazines, and another 400 rounds in stripper clips.  I suspect the greater weight of the AK-47 system might alarm you.  To end up with the same amount of WEIGHT in both weapons systems, how many rounds of AK-47 ammunition would you have to leave back in camp?

My suspicion is that if you compare a team armed with AK-47s versus one armed with the same weight in M-16 weaponry, the team with AKs will be under armed by a noticable percentage.  No one did air drops to recon teams.  What you had is what you carried.  If you have opportunity to make such a weight comparison, I'd be interested in learning how many more rounds of ammunition the M-16 armed team of eight men might have at their disposal.  Right now I have no clue, but I can do some research myself and get back with you as well.

Obviously there were many routes to the same objective in how to arm your team.  Trade-offs and natural preferences abounded.  Following precise details of each route might be impossible after all these years.  That's why I make no claims beyond my own experiences.




I played around on the net and did some comparrisons.  They claim AKs are standardized weight wise now at around 9.5 pounds unloaded. In Vietnam they were just about all featured with wooden stocks of varying densities, no wire fold outs.  I did see a paratrooper model with a narrow butt stock made out of compressed board.  But I only saw one.  Here's what I get, but I have no way of knowing the reliability of the sources.

Weapon System Weight Comparision






Weight Unloaded



Weight of 13 unloaded 30 round magazines (as most SOG team members carried 20 rd mags and maybe extra rounds in stripper clips this is a guide)






Take the weapons, and add in 790 rounds in magazines and stripper clips, and you get an M-16 weapons system of 28.35 pounds compared to 38.76 pounds for the AK-47.  If you make the weight loads even for both sides, the AK-47 adherent would have to leave almost ten and a half pounds of ammo back in camp, which translates into 281 rounds.  On an eight man team that means 2,248 rounds left behind, or a loss of about 35.58% in firepower.

There was a strong impulse to at least have the point man carry an AK and wear NVA battle gear.  That might generate a pause of uncertainty if you stumbled head on into an element taking a break, or something like that.  Other than that instance, I could never see a compelling reason to sacrifice the benefits that the light weight M-16 system provided recon.

If the war had been conducted in the mid fifties, many more men would have died, because the M-14 weapons system was even heavier than the AK-47.  It was a pig in the jungle.  Designed, I believe, to reach out and touch someone on the Russian Steppes from half a mile away.  Shaving off weight was a paramount concern to everyone.