U.S. 1st Cavalry Division Officers in Vietnam. | Armorama™

I love the Masterbox car figure set. It's dramatic and the sculpt is great. Also, the fact that the box art is slightly different from the actual product is adorable! This time I used the Vietnam Patrol set. He is a cavalry platoon leader, second lieutenant, and a veteran sergeant.

This is partial text from the full article (usually with photos) at https://armorama.com/list/u-s--1st-cavalry-division-officers-in-vietnam

Wow! That is an outstanding job on those figures. Beautiful paint job


I agree…terrific paint job…so detailed and smooth.

Note: the photo on this thread doesn’t appear.

Well done, nicely painted, good job. May I offer one small comment, the SSG’s chevrons are far too high on his arm, and the 1st Cav patch on both is too small. (Often in the field, no rank or unit patches were worn). Small detail, otherwise, well done.
(1/7 Cav, 1st Cavalry Division, 1970)


Thank you SFCJJC :smile:
Thanks for the advice.
I did not have detailed information on the rank insignia and patches of US soldiers during the Vietnam War.
I did some research on the internet, but couldn’t find a clear answer. Many photographs of soldiers without insignia were also found. How did they differentiate between non-commissioned officers and platoon leaders?
Models sometimes lie to make things easier to understand.
They needed an unmistakable mark to easily identify them as officers and veterans.
Your advice will be helpful in my future model building. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ll try to be brief…first of all, again, my compliments on an excellent vignette, the uniforms, web gear, and weapons were spot on. And your modeling skills are excellent. Uniforms worn in the field evolved during the Vietnam war, in 1965, some troops still had the standard army issue fatigues used all over the world with full color rank/unit patches. The “jungle fatigues” soon became the standard with subdued (black/OD) patches, rank would later go to subdued “pin on” collar insignia. In the field, we would often go through uniforms due to wear and tear, so it would be impractical to sew on insignia, hence, many photos do show troops w/o any. Also, it was not a good idea to advertise your rank in combat as obvious NCO’s/officers drew fire (as did RTO’s). In a small unit, you knew who your sergeants and officers were, so insignia wasn’t critical. I’ve only scratched the surface on this subject, elsewhere on this forum, there is a modeler who does excellent Vietnam figures, and the discussion threads (often by guys who were there) touch base on many of the subtle differences in uniform/insignia use by different units. If you scroll through the posts, you’ll find him. Sorry my “brief” wasn’t very, but your model was great and I hope this will encourage you to continue.


Personally I love the coloured unit patches worn by the 1st CAV and 101st Airborne during and throughout to the end of the war even when the subdued patches were implemented. Some units refused to wear the subdued patches. I personally like them on my figures as it adds a bit of detail with colour to figures.

One thing I’ve learned over many years about uniforms is “never say never”, that said, while serving in the 1st Cavalry in RVN in 1970, I didn’t see anyone in a field unit wearing a yellow patch. (The photo of the troops arriving by boat is from 1965, some other photos of operations in late ‘65 still show stateside uniforms worn in the field). So would it be wrong to depict a Cav trooper w/colored patch later in war? No, just unusual. When I arrived in country, I still had a field jacket issued in Germany, yellow/black US Army, yellow stripes, full color 3rd AD patch. I only wore it on “cold” nights when we were on bunker line back at base camp, never dragged it out in the bush. So to model such a uniform in RVN wouldn’t be wrong, just unusual. Might make for a spirited discussion with a judge at a model show. I also had a 30 round mag for my M-16 (have photo from August 1970) that also would precipitate a comment or two at a show.

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Excellent job on the painting of the figures, but there are some things that I see that you may want to improve upon if you make and paint more figures of US personnel in Vietnam. SFCJJC already brought out some of those points. Basically, when depicting Soldiers in a war that lasted as long as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan had, there are going to be changes and an evolution of uniforms, equipment, and weapons throughout the course of the conflict, so when modeling such subjects, one needs to determine what time period, what unit, the location the unit was at during the chosen time period, and many other factors when choosing a subject.

In regards to uniforms, there were several that were worn by US forces throughout the span of the war ranging from the heavy cotton fatigue uniforms worn by US Personnel worldwide to the four versions of the tropical combat uniform (or jungle fatigues) that were in OG-107 as well as the ERDL camouflage pattern. While there were uniform regulations that dictated the wear of insignia and patches, local commands sometimes had to adjust uniform policies based on the environment and the supply situation. In regards to unit patches, early in the war color patches were common until subdued versions were made available. Ideally, the subdued versions would be used, but supplies of the subdued patches were limited at first, so it was not unusual to see a mixture of color and subdued unit patches among the Soldiers of any given squad, platoon, company, etc. For example, my father served in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam from December 1966 though November 1967 during his first tour. He had some uniforms that had subdued 9th ID patches and others that had color 9th ID patches. It just depended what was available at the time. And for those in field units like the Infantry units, they may depart on an operation wearing patches, but over the course of the operation they would get resupplied with new or laundered uniforms without any patches or insignia and like SFCJJC said, within your own unit, you know who the NCOs and Officers are so advertising it with patches and insignia that the enemy could use to determine who to shoot first wasn’t absolutely necessary. But, it rank insignia and patches were worn, there is a specific way that they would be placed on the uniform. Depending on the time period and the unit, one may see rank insignia sewn onto the sleeves for enlisted personnel or metal pin on rank on the collars, or during the transition period, you may see some Soldiers wearing their rank on their sleeves while other had pin on collar rank. In regards to officers, the insignia had a specific orientation on the collars. Your LT bars are oriented wrong. I will look for a photo of how officer insignia would be set up and post it for you for future reference.
Another thing I noticed about your figures are that the ammo pouches are placed too low on the belt. They actually ride higher than that. It is something that I see many modelers do with US field equipment and I think it may be because reference books usually show only the front of the pouches and not how they are actually attached to the belt. I will post some photos of that, too.
Something to keep in mind about US uniforms and equipment is that they are produced to certain specifications so each item will be of a uniform or constant size and shape. All pouches of a certain type will be the exact same size and shape. In regards to uniforms, the size and length of the uniform may vary because not everyone is the same size, but certain things like the size, shape, and location of the pockets will be the same no matter the size or length. If you look at my thread about Vietnam Figure Conversion you will see this illustrated by how I ensure that the pockets of all of my figures, and anything else that is of a standard size, shape, and location are all the same among all of my figures.
You are on the right track and your painting skills are pretty darn good, so once you have attained the knowledge of uniforms and equipment, I think you will be doing quite well. If you ever have any questions about anything related to this, you can ask me or some of the others on these forums who are knowledgeable about these matters. The good thing about this site is that people are willing to share knowledge to help everyone become better modelers.
Keep up the great work.

Here are some photos of how US M1956 Load Bearing Equipment and M1967 Modernized Load Carrying Equipment are mounted to the belt.

First thing though, is that over the course of the war, the ammunition pouch evolved. From left to right you will see the 1st Pattern Universal Small Arms Ammo Pouch which had a plastic stiffener to keep it’s shape and this pouch could be see throughout the war. Next is the 2d Pattern Universal Small Arms Pouch with was the most common type encountered. In the middle is a pouch that was designed specifically for the XM16E1 and M16A1 rifle’s 20 round magazines. These could be seen issued in limited numbers starting in late 1967. The first nylon ammunition pouch is next which was first issued in 1968 in limited numbers. The last pouch is for 30 round M16 magazines and was not available until 1970, and even then, they were hard to come by. All of them have a stabilizing strap that attached to the suspenders.

Here is an example of a set of M1956 LBE from both the front and back so you can see how the pouches are attached and how they “ride” in respect to the belt. Note how high the tops of the ammo pouches are compared to the belt and that they are not even with the top of the belt.

Here are some photos of the M1967 Modernized Load Carrying Equipment which was developed in nylon to help reduce the amount of weight that equipment absorbed as water weight when the older canvas equipment got wet. Something to keep in mind if depicting items of this equipment system is that it was rare for a Soldier to get issued a complete set of this gear. Most of the time a Soldier may receive a few nylon items that would be mixed with canvas items. Before depicting a Soldier wearing any of this equipment, it would help to know what unit is being depicted and if that unit was issued this type of equipment. Different units had different priorities in the supply chain, so just because the items may be available in the system, a unit may not be authorized the item or the unit may be required to exhaust their supply of canvas equipment before they can start issuing the nylon equipment.

Something that may be helpful to modelers who have never handled grenades, especially with the M1956 and M1967 equipment, is the method of how the grenades are secured to the sides of the pouches. Over the years I have seen many modelers of all scales just glue grenades onto figures without regard to how those grenades are attached. So now, for those who did not know, this is how it is done. The spoon of the grenade is placed into the webbing on the side of the pouch. The strap is wrapped around the grenade in a manner that secures the pull pin and the fuse. Some people would place a piece of tape to secure the pin, but the overall method would still be the same.

And here is an example of how the holster is attached.

I hope these photos will be helpful for those who were unsure as to how US equipment is attached to the belt.


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In regards to the orientation of rank and branch insignia for officers, the officer in this photo, then 1LT John Gross who was the commander of C Company, 2d Battalion, 47th Infantry (Mechanized), 9th Infantry Division is wearing subdued patches and insignia with the exception of his Ranger tab. This photo was taken late 1967 / early 1968. Note how the 1LT bar is is in line with the lower edge of the collar as is the branch insignia.

This next photo shows Soldiers of track C-13 wearing subdued 9th ID patches and rank insignia on their sleeves as well as one Soldier wearing the heavy cotton fatigues with color patches. This photo was also taken late 1967 or early 1967.

Also at this time, locally made pin on rank insignia was worn on the collar of some Soldiers in the unit. In 1968, US made pin on rank insignia started to be implemented into the supply system, but rank sewn onto the sleeve could still be seen into the 1970s in some units. For enlisted personnel, rank insignia was either sewn onto the sleeve approximately midway between the elbow and shoulder seam on both sleeves or if pin on insignia was worn, it was worn on both collars. For officers, rank was on the right collar and branch insignia was on the left collar of the officer wearing the uniform.

This subject could be more in depth, but I think what I showed and explained should be sufficient for the average modeler new to modeling Vietnam subjects.


Ryogugu, just an fyi, ReconTL6 is the forum contributor I was alluding to in my previous post…he’s very knowledgeable about Vietnam era uniforms. Also, attached is photo taken in August 1970 of my 30 round magazine. It was not an issue item, a buddy going home gave it to me. But it does prove they existed.

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Wow! You had one of those kind of 30 round magazines! When you said that you had a 30 round magazine in 1970 I thought you meant just a regular 30 round magazine. I had no idea that you had one of the modified AK magazines. I had seen photos of them before and my dad had mentioned that he had seen them used, but I never knew of anyone that actually used one. How well did it work? Did you have any problems with it or did it work smoothly. I know there were some issues with the initial issued 30 round magazines.

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It did work, but not on a “you bet your life” level. As I mentioned, this photo was taken sitting on the bunker line, when outside the wire I used an issue 20 rounder. 30 rd mag would misfeed occasionally, not critical during “free fire” from a bunker, but not acceptable in a meeting engagement. It was more of a novelty than a useful magazine, but I love to fish out the photo when someone says “there were no 30 rd mags in RVN”. I believe there were some issue or field test mags in use, but I’m not an expert on that. I gave the magazine to a buddy when I DEROS’d. I know you have an eagle eye for detail, not sure if you caught the case for a Starlight Scope on the edge of the photo under my helmet, an interesting add for someone doing a Vietnam diorama. Take care.

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That’s wild! This is the first time I’ve seen or heard of a modified AK mag used with an M-16.

Who argues that there weren’t 30 round mags in Vietnam? It’s not hard to pull photos of them. One of my favorite photos of a friend and mentor in 1971-1972 shows his entire CP with 30 round magazines.

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Over the years, I’ve encountered “experts” who maintain 30 round mags were a post RVN development. And it really annoyed me when that misconception was used to undermine a young kid trying to build an RVN era diorama. My mag was (of course) not issue, but official ones existed.

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I did see the case and thought it might have been a starlight scope case, but wasn’t sure because only part of it was visible. Yes, that would be an interesting addition for someone doing a Vietnam diorama of a bunker line.

I know what you mean about not wanting to bet your life on that magazine. When I was in Afghanistan, my unit received some of the Surefire 60 round magazines to test out. Basically it had the part that is inserted into the magazine well normal double stack size, but below that it broadened out to being four rounds thick. It was designed so at a point the rounds would merge to feed into the double stack area. Most of them worked rather well, but the one I got did not run smoothly and would cause feeding problems. When I contacted Surefire about the problem, they told me some things to do to get it to work properly as they found some needed to be broken in before being reliable. I did the things they told me (I don’t quite remember what they were but it involved taking the magazine apart, adjusting one of the internal parts, and then putting it back together) and it worked well after that, but it was not something I would bet my life on just like your 30 rounder. I still have the magazine, but I haven’t used it since Afghanistan.

I’ve spoken to ReconTL before about the accuracy of kits. I share his frustrations with the slapdash, pop culture approach to Vietnam models in which cues are taken based on movies or such “experts”. This is in contrast with WWII models in which the greatest care is made to get minute details correct. I am not a 'Nam vet, but that has always been my primary modeling focus. Like Recon, I regard it as a personal challenge to “get it right”, regardless of the difficulty involved in fixing kits based on movies and pop culture.

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To those with more knowledge on the subject in regards to these figures, the green neoprene tri fold e-tool carrier… when did those appear? I have an ALICE nylon canvas carrier for the tri fold e-tool that I am pretty sure was first issued along with the nylon pistol belt, H-harness suspenders with hooks for a sleeping bag carrier, and canteen & magazine pouches around 1968 or so. When did the replacement green neoprene e-tool carriers first show up?

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The nylon E-Tool cover was part of the M1967 MLCE system that started being issued in 1968. I did not include it as well as the buttpack from that system in the photo of the front and back of a harness set up for use during living history and Soldier training events I participate in, but the nylon cover would be the correct one for late war depictions. The green rubbery plastic E-Tool covers came out in the late 1970s or early 1980s, so the ones that come on the equipment sprues of several of Masterbox’s Vietnam kits is incorrect. I had brought this up to my friend who is the owner of Masterbox, but they had already made the mold for the equipment accessories and they were already in production by the time I had gotten my sample kit, so it was too late to make the correction to the kit.

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