Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gun Trucks in Viet Nam and Iraq: Why Lessons Aren't Learned

Yesterday I went to a presentation at Franklin and Marshall College about Gun Trucks in Viet Nam and in Iraq.  I knew about the many variations of gun trucks assembled by soldiers in the Iraq War, especially before up-armor kits were available for Humvees and other vehicles.

But I had no idea of the extent of the Gun Truck culture during the Viet Nam War.  Nina Kollars, Assistant Professor of Government at F&M, talked for about 40 minutes about the origin of the gun trucks in Viet Nam and how they grew and spread among transport units until there were hundred of 5-ton and "Deuce-and-a-Half" trucks rolling on the roads in Viet Nam with various kinds of armor plate and heavy machine guns.


In Iraq, the chaos after Saddam was defeated left American soldiers vulnerable to IEDs and snipers--just like their brothers from the Viet Nam war 40 years earlier.  Like the Viet Nam soldiers, they welded armor on the vehicles they and mounted heavy machine guns.

One of my favorite images from the presentation was the truck above with a palletized gun platform made from a Conex box.  It has shade, armor and if the M1074 PLS truck breaks down, the gun platform can be dropped and picked up on another PLS.

One big difference between the two wars was that during Iraq, the Army centralized training and upgrading vehicles with armor.  In that way, the lessons learned in Iraq were not lost as in Viet Nam, but passed along to soldiers as they arrived.  I never got to see the Skunk Werks at Camp Anaconda, but I went through convoy training at Camp Udairi in Kuwait before going to Iraq.  By the time I went, the lessons learned had become a curriculum with classes and manuals and a lot of on-the-road training.

Nina will be presenting her research at a meeting of military historians in the UK in a couple of weeks.

One question that came up in the research was why the lessons learned in Viet Nam had to be re-learned in Iraq.  that question I had an answer for.  The U.S. Army was only too happy to turn its back on everything Viet Nam after that war ended.  We trained to fight the big war in Europe against the Soviets.  No more un-winnable wars for us!!

So when we got in another un-winnable war, we had to learn the up-armor lessons all over again.

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