What Really Were the Things They Carried?

by Lydia Baxter

Just as you can learn a lot about a person by examining what they keep in their car or on their bookshelf, the contents of a Vietnam War soldier’s pack give insight into his values and dreams. In addition to personal mementos such as photographs or letters from home, here are some of the standard items infantry soldiers (also called “grunts”) carried with them:

  • Two different types of grenades
  • One claymore mine (and associated wiring)
  • Helmet
  • Boots
  • Poncho and liner (which could be used as a groundsheet or makeshift tent)
  • Shovel (or another tool used to dig)
  • Over twenty pounds of ammunition
  • A rifle or machine gun
  • A machete
  • Empty sandbags
  • Three to four days’ worth of food rations
  • One and a half gallons of water in canteens
  • First aid supplies
  • Some carried trip flares for night-time defense/watch shifts
  • RTOs (Radio Telephone Operators) carried all the radio equipment on their backs

Did you know? The average weight American “grunts” in Vietnam carried is 85 pounds, which they would transport through muddy terrain, extreme heat, and stifling humidity.

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