Leaving an Old Friend Behind Throughout my boot camp training, I had became very familiar with the infantryman’s best friend, the M1 rifle. I had cleaned and polished it; assembled and disassembled it in the dark, and qualified with it on the rifle range. The legendary M1 had served Marines well in the Pacific campaigns of World War II and in Korea. I knew every part and function of that weapon, intimately. ITR would introduce me to a new “friend.” At Camp Geiger, we were issued the newest infantry rifle, the M14. In many ways, it was the perfect weapon for a Marine, and would soon prove its worth in the jungles of Vietnam. The M14 fired the NATO 7.62 MM round. It had a 20-round magazine, and could be fired in either a semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. It was slightly lighter than the M1, extremely accurate, and would continue to operate even when dirty and wet. The M14 was our standard combat rifle until 1970 when it was replaced by the M16. The M14 remains in service, with a variety of modifications, as a sniper rifle and special ops weapon. It is also used as the ceremonial weapon of many military and law enforcement groups, except for the Marine Corps Drill Team. They perform with the legendary M1. The M14 has gone through a long evolution over the last 50 years, with the latest iteration currently being used by our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. My friend from Missouri, Ernie W., who served with me in Vietnam, has a son who served with our troops in Afghanistan. SFC Josh W. sent me this photo of his supply sergeant shouldering one of a new shipment of M14 EBRs, or Enhanced Battle Rifles. He said his guys loved the new weapon and had been dinging a 14-inch square steel plate from 800 yards. The only thing I recognized as M14 was the barrel/flash suppressor and magazine. Another Legend Is Retired (with a Bang!) Since World War II, one out of every four men in a Marine rifle squad carried the Browning Automatic Rifle, or BAR (pronounced B, A, R). This relatively lightweight and maneuverable .30 caliber weapon provided great firepower, and was considered the most valuable weapon in a Marine rifle platoon. By 1962, the BAR was being replaced by the M60 machine gun. However, while at Camp Geiger, we got to familiarize ourselves with this legendary weapon. It was to be an eventful experience. Initial familiarization and training on the BAR, during World War II, was done on a 1000-inch range. That is right, a rifle range approximately 28 yards long. The targets were scaled down to approximate targets at 200 yards. On the 1000-inch range you would calibrate or zero-in your BAR. If you aligned your front site with the bottom of the target and your rounds hit the center of the target, your BAR was properly zeroed in. The weapons we were given were far past retirement. The bores were smooth and pitted. The rifling had been worn away by thousands of rounds fire through these WW II relics. Rather that punching a clean hole in the target, our rounds were tumbling out of the rifle and cutting slits in the paper. There were about 10 of us lined up in the prone position, trying to zero in weapons that were no longer accurate by any standard. My BAR clanked and shuttered as it was being fired; like some old steam engine about to burst. Suddenly, there was an explosion. A BAR had mis-chambered and exploded, about three positions to my right. Luckily, the shrapnel from the round and rifle parts blow out the ejection port at the top of the weapon and down through the magazine into the dirt. The Marine firing the BAR was not seriously injured except for some powder burns on his hand and face. No one else was injured. Needless to say, the exercise was ended, and that was the last time I ever handled or fired the Browning Automatic Rifle. Early Mainstay Weapon in Vietnam The M14 was intended to replace the .30 caliber light machine gun. It did not. When operated in full automatic, the M14 could not be aimed and held on target. The more powerful 7.62 MM NATO round was too much for the lightweight weapon and it just wasn’t controllable. The Pentagon needed something heavier to handle the more powerful NATO ammunition. Within short order, the M60 machine gun was developed. It did a much better job handling the heavier NATO round in both bipod and tripod configurations. The M60 used belt-fed ammunition (250 rounds per box) and had a quick-change barrel. The heavy barrier, with its perforated barrel jacket, kept the gun at operating temperatures under normal firing conditions. The M60 light machine gun was a versatile weapon, serving nicely as a door gun on helicopters. Mounted in a quad configuration on helicopters, it proved highly effective in close-air-support missions. When I arrived in Danang, South Vietnam in 1964, I was issued an M60 and was told that I was now a machine gunner. The M60, along with a tripod and 1000 rounds of ammunition were stowed under my bunk for easy access and quick action.
M14 Enhanced Battle Rifle, or EBR, displayed by Army supply sergeant in Afghanistan.
Browning Automatic Rifle, Cal. .30, M1918A2
Machine Gun, 7.62-mm, M60
Infantry Training Regiment Camp Lajeune, North Carolina USMC United States Marine Corps
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US Rifle, 7.62 MM, M14 
US Rifle, Caliber .30, M1
Now called the School of Infantry, in 1961 it was ITR, or the Infantry Training Regiment. It is here that Marines received training in advanced weapons and combat techniques, and in some cases like my own, attended their first school specific to their Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS. My primary MOS was 1371, Combat Engineer, and at ITR I was introduced to Mines, Demolitions, and Booby Traps. This was a school in which you never wanted to nod off. Missing one bit of information could mean a very short military career for you and those nearby.
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