During the war, a wide variety of equipment was used, far too much khổng lồ cover here. Instead, you will find a few of the more important weapons used during the war and a small mô tả tìm kiếm of each. Additionally, the guerilla nature of the Viet Cong troops and the non-uniformity of many North Vietnamese forces makes it difficult to lớn speak of their equipment in comparison lớn the United States. However, it is important lớn note that the North Vietnamese & Viet Cong did use advanced weapon systems during the war, even if these weapons were used in a limited way và alongside more traditional weapons. 


Though one gun rarely makes the difference in a battle, for the individual soldier it can often be a matter of life or death. The Vietnam giới War saw the deployment of two of the most famous and most produced rifles of all time: the AK-47 và the M16. These assault rifles have continued to play a major part in modern warfare today, decades after their introduction. Additionally, the M60 machine gun proved an incredibly useful weapon for many American troops during the war và offered soldiers heavier firepower than their standard rifles could provide

In 1947, Soviet weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov produced a new variant of an automatic assault rifle. The Automatic Kalashnikov, Mã Sản Phẩm year 1947, was readily adopted by the Soviet military và was quickly used by most members of the Warsaw Pact. The AK-47 fires a 7.62 mm cartridge, and has become one of the most widely proliferated weapons in the world, thanks khổng lồ its reliability under harsh conditions, cheap manufacturing cost, and the ease with which soldiers can be trained on its use. During the Vietphái mạnh War, both the Viet Cong & the People’s Army of Vietphái nam (the North Vietnamese Army) made heavy use of the weapon, thanks to lớn support from the Soviet Union and from the People’s Republic of Trung Quốc. 


The M16 would become the standard service rifle for U.S. troops during the 1960s, seeing widespread use in Vietnam giới và largely replacing the M14. The weapon was in many ways revolutionary, though not without problems. Firing a 5.56 milimet round và with automatic capabilities, the M16 was lighter than the M14 & more compact, which meant more ammunition could be carried by each soldier. Constructed from steel, plastics, và aluminum alloys, the M16 was a sharp visual change from the wood-based rifles which had defined warfare for centuries. The weapon developed a poor reputation for malfunctions amongst its early users, leading khổng lồ an updated M16A1 version.

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Introduced at the over of the 1950s, the M60 was a belt-fed light machine gun that fired a 7.62 milimet round. The M60’s operation was usually a team effort: while one solider carried the weapon, and one solider could operate as an assistant gunner, most other men in a rifle squad could carry ammunition for the M60. The gun was not without problems, though – the tropical climate of Vietphái nam took a toll on the weapon, và its bulky design proved troublesome for many soldiers. However, the M60 ultimately proved effective sầu, and was used in infantry units and as a mounted gun on helicopters, patrol boats, & vehicles throughout Vietphái nam.

Despite the often uncooperative & non-ideal terrain, the U.S. military deployed a significant number of tanks, armored personnel carriers (APCs), and other heavy vehicles during the war. APCs provided soldiers with protection, mobility, and increased firepower. Tanks were used in both urban and rural operations, and provided heavy support lớn many troops. Perhaps the two most common và most effective sầu armored vehicles lớn serve sầu in the American military during the war were the M-48 Patton tank and the M-113 Armored Personnel Carrier. The North Vietnamese also made use of Soviet manufactured armor, but their usage of tanks was heavily limited by overwhelming American airpower until the U.S. withdrew in 1973.

The Marines took a few M-48s ashore when they landed at Da Nang in March 1965, & throughout the course of the war, hundreds of Patton tanks would be deployed across South Vietphái nam. Though there were few tank-to-tank battles, the Pattons served well as infantry tư vấn vehicles. With a top speed of around 30 MPH, và a standard 90 mm gun (with some variant using a flamethrower), the Pattons proved capable in Army & Marine Corps service.


M-113s often worked alongside M-48s, & both were often found traveling in convoys down the roads of South Vietnam. The M-113 proved itself as a reliable workhorse, as upgraded variants of the vehicle remain in active sầu service with the U.S. military. The M-113s were fielded in an number of different variants, including service as anti-aircraft, flamethrower, mortar, medical vehicles. However, the APC’s primary role was to lớn move troops under protection from small-arms fire, with the capathành phố khổng lồ carry eleven passengers inside. 

The usage of armor by the North Vietnamese should not be overstated – tanks were used in a limited fashion during most of the war, và were often destroyed by American air power before having any real effect. However, the North Vietnamese did field Soviet produced tanks during the war, which became more powerful in 1973 when the U.S. left Vietnam. One of the most commonly used tanks was the Russian T-54 (or its Chinese variant, the Type 59). With a 100 milimet gun, and a top tốc độ of around 30 mph, the T-54 helped spearhead the final collapse of South Vietnam giới in 1975.

Part of the cultural legacy of the war, và a very real aspect of life for many soldiers, helicopters formed an essential part of the American war effort. Air mobility, the rapid transport và insertion of troops via aircraft, formed a central part of American strategy from 1965 onward. Serving as gunships, ambulances, and transports, helicopters were some of the most effective sầu vehicles in Vietnam. Iconic choppers lượt thích the Huey define the collective memory of the war, và helicopters like the Cobra gunship further add lớn the legacy of Vietnam’s air cavalry.

The most iconic helicopter of the Vietnam War, the Bell UH-1 Iroquois was originally designated the HU-1, giving rise khổng lồ its popular nickname “Huey.” Adopted by the U.S. Army in the early 1960s, the Huey was the aerial workhorse of the U.S. military, serving prominently with the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, và Air Force. The Huey formed an essential part of the "air cavalry". Thousands of Hueys were deployed during the war, và while many were shot down, the helicopter proved invaluable lớn the war effort.

The Bell AH-1 cobra attachồng helicopter would make its first flight in 1965, và would enter service in 1967. Built using many of the components from the UH-1 “Huey”, the Cobra would see use during the Tet Offensive sầu and through the over of the American mission in Vietnam giới. A highly-capable gunship, Cobra provided support for ground forces, worked in “hunter-killer” teams with scout helicopters, & guarded transports. Around 1,000 would serve sầu in Vietnam và would continue service with the Army until being replaced by the Apabít attaông chồng helicopter, while variants of the Cobra still serve sầu with the Marine Corps.

The air war over Vietphái nam did lead to a few dogfights but these were relatively few & far between: the skies were dominated by American warplanes, which gave sầu the U.S. a great advantage over the North Vietnamese. From fighters lớn heavy bombers, the United States wielded an array of aircraft that rained devastation, but also conducted reconnaissance, transport, medical evacuation, and supply operations. Although many warplanes served in Vietnam, the F-4 Phantom và B-52 Stratofortress remain two of the most prominent. While the North Vietnamese primarily built air defenses, planes lượt thích the MiG-21 occasionally struchồng at American airmen.

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The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II first flew in 1958, và would serve as the primary fighter aircraft during the Vietphái mạnh War. The two-seat, twin-engine supersonic Phantom played a large role in the war as both an interceptor & a fighter-bomber. The Navy used a carrier-borne version of the Phantom, & the Marine Corps & Air Force also adopted the aircraft. Phantoms engaged in air superiority battles with Soviet-built, Vietnamese operated MiGs, but more commonly flew ground-attachồng missions, reconnaissance, or “Wild Weasel” operations aimed at destroying enemy air defenses. 

A big, ugly, flying fortress, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was designed & introduced in the early 1950s. Powered by eight turbojet engines, during the war B-52s were capable of massive aerial bombardment, frequently carrying payloads in the tens of thousands of pounds. Operating out of Guam và Thailand, B-52 strikes were carried out as part of Operations Rolling ThunderArc Light, and Linebacker I/II. Airstrikes by B-52 bombers during Vietphái nam remain some of the most ferocious aerial bombardments in the history of warfare. The plane itself remains active in the U.S. Air Force today, one of the longest serving aircraft in the U.S. military.

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 was a supersonic fighter designed and produced in the Soviet Union that entered inkhổng lồ service by the start of the 1960s. The MiG-21 was the most modern fighter utilized by the North Vietnamese during the war, & its agility made it a threat to heavier American fighter-bombers. The Vietnam People’s Air Force (the air force of North Vietnam) never developed into lớn a serious threat during the war, và was constantly outgunned & outnumbered by the combined American air forces. Nonetheless, the North Vietnamese did make successful attacks on American warplanes throughout the war, using planes lượt thích the MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21, and their Chinese variants. 

It is hard to simplify the use of bombs during the Vietnam giới War. From grenades to lớn mines, lớn 500 pound bombs và 105 milimet shells, the word “bomb” can mean a number of things. It is important khổng lồ note a few types of ordinance, however, which left a lasting legacy on the war. The first, napalm, is another staple of the public memory of Vietnam. The second, cluster bombs, were heavily used during the war, particularly in Laos (where they still haunt that country today). The third is a broad category: booby traps, today"s improvised explosive sầu devices (IEDs).

Developed during the Second World War & used in attacks on nhật bản, napalm is a jellied gasoline mixture that is extremely effective as an incendiary weapon. Napalm burns at an extremely high temperature, and can kill through this burning or through asphyxiation. The U.S. made heavy use of the weapon during the war, và though effective sầu, the horrendous effects of napalm led many to protest its use. Napalm proved an effective sầu physical and psychological weapon during the war, though it was & remains controversial.

Cluster bombs are a type of explosive sầu that contain smaller bombs within, and saturate an area with these smaller munitions for increased effect. This type of explosive was heavily used by the U.S. during its aerial bombing campaigns during the war, especially in Laos. In total, the United States flew over 580,000 bombing missions over Laos during the war, dropping over 2.5 million tons of explosives on the country. Many of these smaller bombs did not explode immediately, và many remain a lethal threat within Laos today. Efforts lớn clear these explosives are still ongoing. 

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have made IEDs part of our common terminology, but improvised explosive sầu devices were just as comtháng in Vietphái nam. While the Vietnamese did make use of punji spikes and other primitive sầu (yet effective) traps, rigged explosives were incredibly comtháng và were frequent killers of American troops. Grenades, mines, artillery rounds – all could be adapted for use as a trap through simple tripwires or pressure plates. Frequently, unexploded American ordinance was used to build these traps. Booby traps were a serious danger for many U.S. soldiers, và wounded or killed thousands. 

Vietnam’s long coastline & navigable waterways gave sầu the U.S. Navy plenty of opportunities khổng lồ contribute to the war effort. The U.S. Navy operated a number of aircraft carriers offshore to lớn provide air support for troops in South Vietnam giới và to attaông chồng targets in the North. The heavy guns of cruisers and destroyers could provide sustained artillery fire near the shore, và in the Mekong Delta, Navy patrol craft provided security & engaged with Viet Cong forces. The U.S. Navy also provided helicopter support, medical assistance, logistical administration, and a number of other services during the war, but the role of carriers and patrol boats are worth exploring in greater detail. 

The U.S. Navy operated four classes of aircraft carrier during the Vietnam giới War: the WWII era Essex-class carriers, the post-war Midway-class, the Forrestal¬-class, & the Kitty Hawk-class. The three Kitty Hawks (plus the John F. Kennedy, itself a variant of the Forrestal-class) were commissioned between 1961 & 1968 and were the most modern carriers in the world. The three Kitty Hawk carriers, Kitty HawkConstellation, and America were conventionally powered, producing 280,000 shaft horsepower. At over 1,000 feet long and displacing over 80,000 tons of water when fully loaded, each could carry up to lớn 90 planes. The carriers of the Navy flew a variety of aircraft including A-4 Skyhawks, A-7, F-8 Crusaders, và many more.

The U.S. Navy operated a number of small craft on the rivers và waterways of the Mekong Delta. The most comtháng và most memorialized today were the Patrol Boat, River, or PBRs. These small boats served in Vietphái mạnh from around 1966 until the over of 1971 when U.S. forces were nearing the kết thúc of their mission. Patrolling the vast delta, PBR crews were involved in security & patrol operations in addition to broader coordination with l& units including the insertion and extraction of special forces. PBRs typically carried twin forward mounted .50 caliber machine guns, along with a 40 mm grenade launcher and additional machine guns in the rear or on the side. While crews usually numbered around four enlisted men, the boats were a key part of the “brown water navy” that patrolled Vietphái mạnh.

Deepen your understanding and enhance your knowledge by exploring the nearly 4,000 books, photographs, programs, & other Pritzker Military Museum & Library holdings on the Vietnam War. 

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