Guns of the North! NVA and Viet Cong Small Arms during the Vietnam War

    Col. Greg Dillon sat down and talked with us about the small arms that himself and the men he was commanding were faced with during the course of his two tours in Vietnam during the conflict in the 1960s. Everything from AKs, B52s, and RPGs are lightly discussed in this informative episode. Although we don’t get into specifics, Dillion still has an excellent memory of his service days, and provides us with fascinating anecdotes from these wartime experiences.

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    Transcript ….

    Hey guys, thanks for tuning in to another episode of TFB TV.

    I’m glad all of you that watched our previous episode with the interview with Greg Dillon, last week.

    I’m glad you guys enjoyed it.

    I had a lot of fun making it.

    My friend Bresh had a lot of fun making it.

    I just wanted to thank the NFC and the guys over in the UK for really helping put that together.

    It wouldn’t have been possible.

    Most of all, I want to thank Colonel Dillon, himself.

    That was really an amazing opportunity to actually sit down and interview him.

    Which today, we’re gonna interview him some more.

    So, after the interview about the AK that he picked up, I was interested in learning more about some of the arms of the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong and what they used against U.S. forces in the Vietnam War.

    This is gonna be followed by another interview next week that is gonna be about what we used against them.

    Thank you very much guys.

    I really appreciate the viewership.

    I’d also like to thank Proxibid and Ventura Munitions.

    They really help us out with these kinds of videos.

    They help us produce the kinds of videos that we wanna continue to bring to you.

    Some hard hitting content and just some fun stuff anyway.

    Thank you very much and I hope you enjoy this video.

    Their mortars were 82’s.

    They could use our mortars.

    The 81s, right? – [Greg] That’s right.

    – [Greg] So we gotta be careful about lettin’ them get ahold of our mortar rounds.

    They just swing back on us.


    Real bad about sneaking up on ’em and turnin’ em around.

    Our, oh, they would do that.

    They would do that.

    So most of the time when we had claymores out, we had somebody with a starlight, (clicks) watching.


    And it makes an interesting impact.

    As he reaches for the thing, you detonate it.

    (Miles laughs) It ruins their whole day.

    (laughing) This is why I love Vietnam vets.

    (both laugh) Claymore is pretty effective.

    And then, cuz the troops ingenious They’d say, “well, we could come up “with something more deadly than a thing.” You take a great big bale of barbed wire, and you put it in front of a 40-pound shaped charge, and wire that up and watch.

    And then when you blow that shaped charge into that thing of barbed wire, It goes out for– All the barbs? – [Greg] Yeah, for a hundred yards or so.

    Yeah, so all the barbs would be flying…

    Ingenious do that.


    AK-S are good weapons.

    They’re not accurate, but they don’t require a lot of maintenance.


    They seem to fire away in the mud, in the rain, or whatever, but they’re not as accurate.

    What weapon do you think American troops feared most? What conventional weapon do you think American troops feared most and what conventional weapon do you think the North Vietnamese troops feared the most? From the other side? I think small arms people don’t wanna be shot by small arm.

    It’s sort of the indirect fire.

    It doesn’t have your name on it like a bullet does.


    You may get hit by one, but you’re not necessarily the target.

    I think the bad guys hated the B-52 strikes.

    Yeah, the bombers.

    Because you couldn’t hear anything, and all of a sudden, everything would just go up in explosion.


    When they would interview prisoners, the prisoners would talk about the B-52 strikes.

    (coughs) You can’t get very much useful information out of young soldiers that you capture.


    They don’t know, “where’s the regimental headquarters?” I don’t know where the regimental…

    They’re lucky they know where the platoon headquarters is.

    (laughs) Yeah.

    And some of the people we had interrogating these guys, they weren’t going after the stuff that was usable by the guy on the ground.

    I had one case where some brought back four guys that had been picked up near the Bo Bo Canal, which is near the Plain of Reeds, in that area, and ohhh…

    Anyway, one of the points that they come across.

    Anyway, they were askin’ them about the B-52 strikes on the trail.

    I said, “who cares about that? “I don’t.

    “What I wanna know is how many people were in your group? “Ask ’em.” So, the interpreter said 20.

    Did you know any of ’em? My brother or my cousin, but there were 20.

    See that guy over there? Yes.

    Was he in your group? (mumbles) No? Now, you know we got 40 guys out there.


    Two groups.

    What about that guy over there? Neither one of them.

    Now we got 60.

    I can call the battalion commander and say, “You got at least 60 guys out there “hidin’ in the Plain of Reeds trying to get through.” It’s actionable.

    That’s the kind of information the commander on the ground needs.

    He doesn’t need to know– – [Miles] The B-52 strikes.

    – [Greg] Osama bin Laden was here six months ago.

    (laughing) That doesn’t help very much.


    Sniper rifles.

    Yeah, so both our sides and? I don’t, they did not, though I didn’t see that many on their side.

    But there were designated– But they used SKS.

    – [Miles] Okay.

    They would tie guys in trees and they would have a SK.

    And they would look for who? Officers, staff NCOs, radio operators…

    Radio operators, first, I think.


    Then officers, cuz if you knock out the communications, then, you know…

    They had a heavy machine gun that was very effective.

    The Dushka, the 51 caliber? Yeah, yeah.

    – [Greg] They had some anti-aircraft ones.

    I never saw how effective they were against aircraft, but they would use them on a ground roll.

    Against American troops? Yeah, try to.

    I imagine they used anything they could get their hands on.


    If there were troops involved.

    What about light machine guns, such as RPKs, RPDs? I know the North Vietnamese used BARs and 1919s that were captured from.

    Well BAR was a great weapon.

    – [Greg] Their problem would’ve been getting ammunition.

    The logistics of it.


    What was the average engagement range with a small arms on small arms threat? Would it depend on terrain? What were– Terrain more than.

    In heavy brush, you’re talking about 20 yards, 25 yards.

    You just don’t get that.

    Down in the delta area, where it was so open, you could shoot at guys 100, 200 yards away.

    It might not hit ’em.

    They had machine guns, but they didn’t have that many.

    If you get an attack by 50 guys, and 49 of em have AK-S, you’re not so much worried about that one machine gun.

    They didn’t have artillery.


    They had RPGs and they would use them, sometimes, like artillery.

    They were firing those in the middle of the LZ.


    A lot of people said, “Oh, they’ve got mortars.” I don’t think they had the mortars.

    I think they were firing RPGs.

    Arching them as well.

    Yeah, just arching them up and lettin’ them fall…

    We didn’t have to face the Ms, M2…

    They dug holes through the mountains, and brought in the big heavy artillery, and they just pounded the poor French to death.

    Yeah, yeah, okay.

    Yeah, we didn’t have to worry about that.

    We had a distinct advantage in firepower and logistics.

    But I really don’t think our soldiers were much better than the front line MVA, as individual.


    These guys would charge across fields that were being hit with cofram.

    You know what cofram is? No. Artillery round goes off and fires pellets all over the place.

    You look out there and allst you’d see was just coming down, and these guys would still come.

    Just comin’ on. Yeah. Really.

    – [Greg] They had a lotta guts.


    Well, sir, I think– (Miles claps) Alright, wanna wind it up? Yeah, yeah.

    Well, thank you for coming by.

    Absolutely, sir.

    Thank you so much for conducting this with us.

    We really appreciate it.

    (battle march music)


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]