Interesting Facts About the Vietnam War

There are a number of little known, interesting facts about the Vietnam War. At the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL, visitors pass through a replica of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Vietnam Gallery.  As visitors enter the trail, they hear the all too familiar sound associated with this war – a helicopter flying amongst enemy fire.  Camouflaged in the jungle are both US soldiers and Vietnamese soldiers.  Display cases from the era show both American and Vietnamese memorabilia.   Vietnam was actually under Chinese rule for approximately 1,000 years – until 938 AD. From mid-19th century, until 1954, Vietnam was a French colony. Congress never formally declared war against Vietnam, making it technically the ‘Vietnam Conflict’ A total of 9,087,000 military personnel served active duty during the Vietnam Era, which spanned August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975.  2,709,918 of those were Americans in uniform. Close to 2/3 of the American men serving in the conflict were volunteers, not drafted.  In contrast, during World War II, 2/3 of the men were drafted. The Ho Chi Minh Trail (which extended from Laos/Cambodia to the Vietnam borders) was approximately 1,000 kilometers (just over 621 miles) and in some places up to 80 kilometers or 50 miles wide.  Dominated by jungle, the trail consisted of a number of parts which included thousands of trails as well as dummy routes, which were used for the sole purpose of confusing the Americans.  The Medal of Honor was awarded to 240 men during the Vietnam conflict. The Davis Station in Saigon is named after the first man killed in Vietnam –...

Today’s Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the World

This list of Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the world is subjective at best.  Unless you looked at specific aspects and judged based on that criteria alone, the list cannot be definitive.  One can look at a nation’s defense budget or the size of their enlisted members, or combine the two.  Another area for consideration is the amount of armor a nation has inventoried including tanks, helicopters, aircraft and ships.  This top ten took in a little of all of that, but it is still one perspective looking at the Armies around the world.  Input and educational pieces on other armies not listed here, or any additional information that may have been omitted, are welcomed.   Before listing the top ten, one country fell just short of making the list, but certainly deserves to be mentioned – North Korea.  They not only have one of the largest Special Forces in the world – 120,000 members – they have a very large inventory of armor.   10.  Pakistan Pakistan is known for their good upper leadership.  Founded in 1947, their three branches of service totals more than 600,000 people – all volunteers.  They have close ties to the militaries of the US and China.  Pakistan’s budget of over $5 billion is smaller than all the other top ten militaries, but it does exceed the overall defense budget of a number of other countries around the world.  While Pakistan has about the same number of naval craft as the United Kingdom (see below), they have more aircraft and helicopters and an incredible total of 9,000 tanks and armored vehicles.  They...

One of the Longest Surviving POWs – William Andrew Robinson

Many facts and stories from previous conflicts remain in the spotlight long after they have passed.  One that seems to elude many is the name of one of the longest surviving POWs – USAF Airman First Class William Andrew Robinson.  If asked, how many individuals would even be able to answer which conflict Bill was involved in?   Bill’s story begins on a typical mission day in Vietnam - September 20, 1965.  By the end of the day though, the mission would result in a life that was anything but typical.  And while most POWs have been interned for a number of years, Bill Robinson would endure 7 years and 5 months of captivity – the longest POW internment in US military history.   The mission of the Huskie Helicopter that Robinson and several others boarded that morning remains unclear.  The chopper was shot down, however, and Robinson and those aboard were all taken prisoner.   Robinson was transported to what was known as the “Hanoi Hilton Prison” by the North Vietnamese Army.  For the next seven years, Bill Robinson survived unthinkable conditions.  He was beaten, starved and often witnessed the death of his fellow prisoners.   Bill was finally released on February 12, 1973.  He accredits previous WWII, as well as Korean War, POWs for his survival.  He notes their experiences proved it was possible to survive the horrific day-to-day struggles of a POW.   Overview of Robinson’s Military Career Robinson’s military career started just after graduation from high school in 1961.  After his training, he served stateside in Oklahoma and North Dakota and eventually overseas in Korea...

United States M3 Submachine Gun

The M3 submachine gun was adopted into service by the US Army in December of 1942.  This .45cal submachine gun had a 30-round magazine and was considered superior to the its counterpart, the Thompson submachine gun. The M3 was not only cheaper to produce than the Thompson, it was also lighter and more accurate.  This submachine gun design was called the ‘Grease Gun’ or ‘the Greaser’ as it resembled the grease tool used by mechanics.   Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Here, reality awakens within, as you marvel at the weapons and experience a sense of their power.  A US M3 Submachine gun is a part of this extensive collection of authentic weapons from around the world which dates throughout history.  The oldest piece on display is a very rare bayonet from the Revolutionary War.   The M3 began replacing the Thompson in the front-line service from late 1944 to early 1945.  However, both the M3 and its variant (M3A1) saw very little combat during WWII due to production problems.   History The M3 design emerged when the US Army Ordnance Board began observing the effectiveness of submachine guns used in Western Europe.  They had a particular interest in the German 9mm MP40 and British Sten guns.  In October of 1942, they began looking into developing their own submachine gun based on the Sten.  They had the US Army – as well as their Infantry and Cavalry branches – submit requirements for an automatic or semi-automatic, shoulder-fire weapon with either a .45 ACP or .30 Carbine caliber.    The...

United States M16 Assault Rifle

The United States M16 assault rifle was designed in 1956, but production did not begin until 1963.  This rifle is considered one of the top rifles of the military.  The M16 first entered into service in the US Army during the Vietnam War as an effective weapon against jungle warfare - becoming standard issue by the US military by 1969.  After Vietnam, the variants of the M16 have remained the primary service rifles of the US armed forces.  This assault rifle is also used by a number of militaries throughout the world.  To date, more than 8 million M16s have been manufactured world-wide, making this assault rifle the most produced firearm of its caliber.   Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Feel the power insisde this extensive gallery of authentic weapons from around the world dating throughout history.  Included in this display is an M16 Assault Rifle.    About the M16 A lightweight, air-cooled assault rifle, the M16 is built using steel, an aluminum alloy, composite plastics and polymer.  This 5.56 x 45 mm NATO cartridge rifle is magazine fed, capable of 12 to 15 rounds per minute of sustained firing and 45 to 60 rounds per minute of semi-automatic firing.  Its muzzle velocity is 3,110 feet per second and the M16 has an effective range of 550 meters point target and 800 meters for an area target.  The barrel length on the M16 is 20 inches and it only weighs 7.18 lbs. (without ammo).   Originally, the rifle experienced a jamming problem known as ‘failure to extract’.  This occurs when the...

Thompson Submachine Gun

In 1919, John T. Thompson invented the American classic Thompson submachine gun.  His invention gained its notoriety during the Prohibition era and picked up nicknames such as ‘Tommy Gun’, ‘Trench Broom’, ‘Chicago Piano’ and ‘The Chopper’.  It wasn’t until 1938 that the US military began officially using this submachine gun.  The Thompson quickly became a favorite among the soldier due in part to its reliability coupled with its .45 ACP and its high volume of automatic fire.  The Thomson submachine gun has become a favorite among collectors due to its historical significance.   History of Development Gen. John T. Thompson’s vision began with a desire to develop a safely operated rifle with semi-automatic fire that could replace the current service rifles, which were bolt action.  In 1916 Thompson was able to secure finances (through Thomas Ryan) to begin the Auto-Ordnance company to develop his idea.  Thompson had three key developers on this project:  Theodore Eickhoff, Oscar Payne and George Goll.  With the information they had gathered throughout their work, the vision of a ‘hand-held machine gun’ using a .45 ACP developed – this project became known as ‘Annihilator I’.  Design flaws on the initial prototype were eventually corrected, but World War I had already come to an end before the first prototypes could be exported to Europe.   After the war, the weapon was renamed the ‘Thompson Submachine Gun’.  Though others were developing similar type weapons, Thompson’s gun was the first to actually be branded and promoted as a submachine gun.  The first production run (M1921) was marketed to civilians but few were purchased due to the high price...