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Sunday, 5 March 2017

Life on Station: part 2: Van Kiep: Vietnam notes & photos 1965 1975

Life on Station: part 2

We had been issued with two steel helmets and two Garand MI rifles. It is an admirable rifle and I used to take it regularly down to the rifle range, which was outside the other end of town. At five to eight hundred yards it is comparable to the British Lee Enfield, a rifle I had almost lived with since the age of thirteen when I joined the cadets. The Vietnamese army were equipped with it at this time. It wasn't perhaps the ideal weapon for jungle warfare though, and much too cumbersome for them. The US army had the M14 which I found better than the British FN which we had had issued towards the end of my army service. I still preferred the old Bren gun to the US M60 machine gun.

Most of us bought personal weapons on the black market. At that time I had a Smith and Wesson revolver and a Swedish K submachine gun. It was a fine weapon but perhaps too heavy and I later got an M2 carbine which was the universal arm of choice. One could get almost anything on the black market. Luckily I was in hospital when the Vietcong attacked the rifle range. They killed the guards and took a company of South Vietnamese prisoner.

Weapons discipline was very slack. A friend visiting another friend (both Decca) whilst the latter was still in bed picked up his pistol, a Colt .45, said "Is this your pistol?", and squeezed the trigger. The bullet hit the wall a few inches above the head of the fellow who was in bed. 

I was talking with a group of people. The fellow on my right asked if he could look at my revolver. I took the rounds out, put them on the table, handed it to him and went on talking to the person on my left. He handed it back to me, cocked, and asked how it fired. I pointed it in the air (habit) and squeezed the trigger. I shot a hole in the ceiling. The fool had reloaded it.

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