Not picking on MACVSOG per se but I read your good post about chromed bolts and carriers, good info. Thanks. One comment bothers me however, as it is an insult to every Infantryman who served in Vietnam in the early years and I see it repeated frequently on this board. I would like to see this dispelled:
"and requiring that soldiers learn how to clean their weapons".
This is a myth perpetrated to lay blame for the early development problems with the M-16 on the soldiers, essentialy use them as a scapegoat, and steer blame from the real problems.
It was convenient and easy for Colt, the military brass, the DoD, and Congressmen and Senators, and made good CYA material. Afterall, none of the above wanted to stand up and let out a hint to Mothers and Fathers of dead soldiers that they the DoD had pushed a rifle upon the U.S. Army without accepting Army change recommendations, reorganized the Dept. of Army to do away with the Ordinance Corp responsible for such R&D, that the Generals and Officers in the Army had failed their country and not spoken up about problems with the rifle in the field, that Congress had failed in it's oversight role, including the Armed Services Committees.
The problems were several, we have all heard them many times; the powder issue, high cycle rate, non-chromed bore, etc. Some truth to all and when combined with certain rifles they all had an influence for sure. However, the one overriding problem was the non-chromed bore.
The primary problem was failure to extract. The extractor would shear the edge off the brass leaving it stuck in the chamber. Although all the aforementioned issues had SOME influence, the problem was essentially the non-chromed bore. This allowed for corrosion and pitting, but more than anything else it allowed for the chamber to just wear out. Combat in Vietnam in the jungle and mountain rain forests required heavy automatic firepower. The wear coupled with the corrosion and pitting gave the soldier in the field a weapon that would not fire. NO amount of cleaning would help, there was now a physical problem that could not be solved short of re-barrelling the rifle. In reality, possibly the guys that cleaned and cleaned the worn out and pitted chamber were just aggravating the loose clearance and cleaning the carbon out of the pits allowing them to hold gasses and create more of a suction on the walls of the brass case.
As always happens with a Democratic administration, the GI's in the field had a shortage of everything. XM-16E1's especially. If there were bad weapons there were NO replacements. It was just a challenge to arm the men in the field. I saw men held up in the rear because there were no rifles to give them so they could go join their company in the field.
The Ichord Commission was just a political show to the public and was diverted into a coverup to sweep it under the rug and pacify the people. Sort of reminds me of the Congressional investigations into the massacre of American citizens at Waco and the murder of members of the Randall Weaver family. I was a member of the 1st Air Cav in Vietnam at the time of the investigation and was interviewed by staffers of the Ichord Commission. I was selected from the field because I was from the state of Missouri. Ichord was a MO Congressman so this was pure politics.
To say that men went through Basic Training, then through Advanced Infantry Training, then through another two weeks of in-country training at the Division base camp at An Khe, and didn't know how to clean a rifle is just plain bullshit. Doesn't even make common sense to a thinking individual!
Remember, the NCO's in 1966-67 era were heavily Korean War veterans, many of the senior guys had been in WWII and Korea both! This wasn't the pussified Army of the Clinton era. We were up at 4:00am, ran a few miles, spit-shined our boots, went through the overhead bars on our way into the messhall for breakfast and fell out for inspection by the time the sun had come up.
We trained at "Tiger Land" at Ft. Polk with XM-16E1's in AIT. We had classroom training on the rifle, many hours on the range, and a ton of hours disassembling and cleaning the weapon, laying out the parts for inspection by some mean sob with a bunch of stripes on his sleeve, (veteran of places like Anzio, Omaha Beach and Korea). TO SAY THAT AN 11B DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO CLEAN A WEAPON IS JUST AN ABSOLUTE INSULT!!
I served with an airmobile infantry company in the field and I NEVER saw a man that didn't clean the living shit out of his weapon!
The people that believe that probably think "poverty and dispair" caused Mohammad dirtbag to kill all those people in the DC area or would believe anything they read rather than think and use common sense and logic.
Yes, we had cleaning rods, chamber brushes, bore brushes, and quart cans of good ole GI bore cleaner. The rod and brush problem was from the ~ 1963 time when DoD was sending trial rifles to the mostly advisor guys in VN and the problem had been rectified for years before the SHTF with the rifles in mid '67.
For those who want to blame the GI's, why did the problem suddenly go away with the issue of the M-16A1's in Oct-67? Did we suddenly learn how to clean a rifle? Bullshit. The new M-16A1's had a chrome bore and they were not some POS that had had a zillion rounds through it and had the chamber worn out and pitted. With the chrome chamber the chamber did not wear nor did it pit. It also left a nice smooth surface and even if somewhat worn would still function fine.
I saw the M-16 segment on the History of the Gun series on TV. One guy who was I believe was a Colt engineer said essentially what I said above, that although there were development problems with the rifle, the one overwheming problem in Vietnam was the failure to chrome the chamber as the Army had requested.
He didn't elaborate but the political repercussions of this are very obvious. It was easy and politically expedient to blaim the infantryman in the field.
Again, nothing personal meant to MACVSOG, this myth is bigger than he and I both. It just pisses me off to no end every time I see it in all the books and public discussion.
C Co, 5/7 Cav
1st Cav Div (AM)
Wow, very nice post. That cleared up a lot of things for me. Nice to see veterans wandering these boards. I had no idea that a chrome lined bore/barrel eliminated so many problems.
The US Army had chrome plated the chambers of all rifles starting in 1957. The Springfield Armory recommended early in the M-16 development program that the chamber be chromed. I have read that DoD overruled the Army request based upon Eugene Stoner's position that the chamber did not need to be chromed.
Who knows, but the Sec of Def, Robert McNamara found his tit in the wringer politically when all the problems later developed in Vietnam. He and his liberal "whiz kids" from Harvard had circumvented the whole Army development and procurement process, now they had a BIG problem and it was right in McNamara's and the Johnson administration's lap. Soldiers were writing to their Congressmen, the Army IG, and to their parents with stories of people dying because of malfunctioning XM-16E1's. I know, I saw it. Now you can't trust a Democrat in general but McNamara was lower than a snake. Of course the whole Johnson administration and the Democrats in Congress, and the liberal press were going to cover his ass.
Nice and easy to tell everyone it was the fault of the troops. Just another Vietnam myth. If you believe that we didn't know how to clean an M-16 you probably believe we all smoked opium out of the barrel of a shotgun like that the press tried to imply with that infamous photo.
Very intresting thread. Early material released by Colt did brag about the idea that it required much less cleaning than other weapons. This can be found over on the Springfield Armory site. I wasn't aware Stoner had an objection to chrome plating. My impression was that McNamara vetoed it BECAUSE Stoner didn't specify it, so he simply assumed it wasn't needed.
Mr. Stoner was a supporter of chrone interior parts. That's the reason early bolts and carriers were chromed. I think the mis-understanding here is that Gene was also investigating other, i.e., ppotentialy better forms of finish (such as "nitrites" I think)during that period. The chrome requirement for the bore was deleted by the Army logistics side to save a few bucks. Years ago I met the worm who received a cash insentive award for making the money saving suggestion at Rock Island Arsenal.
This was the same mentality that cheapened the quality of material, finish, and heat treatment associated with M60 machine gun replacemmment parts during the 1970'3, which led to the demise of a weapon that "in the Nam in the 60's", performed well.
I absolutely agree thatbwe were all trained (probably over trained) on the importance of cleaning the M16. I can still remember the NCO who gave us our first class, his "attention gainer", delivered with a heavy latino accent was "if you guys do not pay attention to this class, you will surely die in the Viet Nam".
ColdBlue sends...(3rd Plt, I Co., 3rd Bn. 1st Marines, 1970, north of Da Nang)
Yes, this is very true.
I have seen what I think is the first issue operator's manual, and it illustrated using the little plastic container of M14 130-A rifle grease on the XM16E1. (probably the worst lube on the planet for the 16 except for the cam pin tract) Later of course, LSA (lube, semi-auto weapons) was fielded specifically for the 16.
There was also no reference to the special champer brush or the two-ended tooth brush in those instructions. If anyone from Ft. Benning is listening, all this stuff used to be in the library at the Infantry School and/or at the Infantry Board because that's where I read them doing research in 1974-75 when I attended the Infantry Officer's Advance Course. You might also look up my Staff Study from 1974-75? done for the Board on how the "Infantryman Carries His Basic Load of Ammunition", as it recommended the development and fielding of the vest system you have today, and was partially based on the methods my platoon and I used in the Nam.
Back to the cleaning issue, there was also the dope that passed the word the 16 was "self cleaning". This "urban ledgend" is even mis-translated in several foreign books I think, as I have helped re-train soldiers in Poland and Holland on the 16, and this "self-cleaning" myth seems to pop up its ugly head every now and again.
Cold Blue sends...
I laugh everytime I hear the "self-cleaning" one. I have read that in reality Colt was promoting that the rifle required less cleaning because the AR did not have a gas piston and somehow it got spread around as self-cleaning. Who knows the truth, that was so long ago.
As far as the grease goes I never saw that in Vietnam regardless of what the manuals said. Those books and such are for the "uninitiated" and rear-echelon MF'ers anyway. A good infantryman depending upon his weapon for his life didn't need to read some funky comicbook on cleaning weapons. That was strickly for PR. We had light gun oil in bulk cans and put it in plastic mosquito repellant bottles. That worked great. I have seen numerous photos of VN guys with those in the elastic band of their steel pot camo cover. The truth is so far from all these myths. The GI carrying his gun oil in his helmet band was a typical guy who was consciencous enough of keeping his weapon cleaned and oiled that he wore his oil on his helmet where it was always with him.
In my time in the Army in the '60's I never saw an infantryman who didn't know how to clean a weapon or fail to do so. When we were on a firebase we would always get ahold of some JP helicopter fuel (kerosene) and using the good old steel pot totally strip down our weapons and clean the living hell out of them. Wiping down the furniture and the rubber buttpad with the kerosene even made them "prudy" :)
Yes, we used diesel as well in half 50 gal. drums, also used it to burn the sh.ters as well.
By the time I got to Nam, we were issued small bottles of LSA (lubricant, semi-fluid, auto weapons). Never had to use bug juice bottles for oil, but we did carry bug juice that way if we had the helmet camo bands.
Also, in all our pre-viet nam training with M14's, we were required to clean the hell out of them as well, in order to pass Saturday's Inspection and get a Liberty Chit. SO I feel that those habits had to carry over to some degree.
However, when I took over my Platoon, the Company Commander said it was the worst plt in the Nam, having just relieved the former Lt. and Plt Sgt. In fact, he was debating breaking up 3dr plt and dividing the men between the other plt's because we so short of people. I talked him into giving me a chance.
Well, to say this plt had some problems is an understatement, like no zero's on weapons (and here we are living in the bush), very poor cleaning practices, dried mud in magazines from an operation on Mother's Ridge" a month earlier, and so on. Well a young E5 sergeant as the new plt sgt (Sgt. Carr) and I turned this all around in about 2 weeks, and for the next six months 3rd Herd could stand toe to toe with the best.