Saturday, March 07, 2015

When Pigs Fly: An 850 Round Burst From An M60 - The Firearm Blog

It's late at night in the jungle.

A column of patriots walk single-file down a jungle trail toward a known enemy position; this is war.

Usually led by a traitor who is familiar with the local jungle pathways, the follow each branch of the trail toward their objective: a South Vietnamese position which guards a strategic permanent encampment.

Their mission: to destroy the military position, the  Soldiers who occupy that position, and also the wives and children who live there with the husbands and fathers.  All must die, to make the point that there is NO safe place in Viet Nam.  There is no mercy; given the time, they will rape the women and slaughter the leaders of the South Vietnamese inhabitants, because Terror is their most influential weapon in this, their war on civilization.

Suddenly, there are a series of explosions .. claymore mines pour 700 rounds each of .32 caliber pellets at their cadre at the head of the line, killing the commander and the traitor who leads them as well as their most politically devote members.

And then comes the most fearsome treat: the Rat-a-tat-tat of the fearsome M60 machine gun which lays down a fearsome volume of fire which is so devestating, so profound, that there is no defense except to return a second or two of AK-47 return fire by the few survivors of the Point element .. followed by a complete route of the entire company.

For if you are not killed or mortally wounded by the initial directed-mine blast, you will surely scourged by the unfailing, if short-lived, machine gun burst.  The worst of it is that the ambushers will then pick up their machine guns and walk them through the kill zone, slaughtering all that linger there .. and then they will follow you into the night, for they are the devil incarnate and they have Hell at their fingertips.

When Pigs Fly: An 850 Round Burst From An M60 - The Firearm Blog:
Despite having been replaced in US service by the less ambitious M240 design, the M60 still soldiers on; and indeed has achieved further success recently with the Danish adoption of the improved M60E6 variant. Since the Vietnam-era Pig is still in production, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the end of its service life any time soon; and with a demonstration like that video above, it’s easy to see why.
I was introduced to the M60 in 1968 when I was drafted.  It was awesome ... a machine gun that could be man-carried and available for immediate action during a Meeting Encounter!.  What's more, it fired "A Real Cartridge", the 7.62mm.

Remember the saying: "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was!"   This was the utility of the M60. 

 Easy to break when abused (fired too long, the gunner MUST replace the barrel ... and the asbestos gloves which were supposedly issued to replace the barrel .. along with the replacement barrel ... were never issued in vietnam), I still placed the M60 in the front half of any column movement through the jungle.

Why?  Because it fired a real bullet, and it allowed a small unit to lay down a truly impressive volume of fire on demand .. every time, all the time.  Remember that Viet Nam was usually a jungle environment, and most of us were carrying M16-A1 carbines.  My point men had M14's, because they use the same cartridge as did the M60 ... something that would penetrate jungle foliage.

The go-to game plan was, in case of a Meeting Engagement, the M14s in  an Immediate Action situation would lay down a quick, short volume of fire, long enough for the M60 to move up the column.  (The  machine guns were always employed in the middle of the column, because I never knew whether they might need to deploy to the right or left of the column, and they had to retain the option of moving to flank an ambush position.)

The military action was ALWAYS assumed to be a either (a) a response to our unit being ambushed on the trail, or (b) the primary source of fire when our unit ambushed an enemy force moving toward our fixed positions; be that fixed position a 'night ambush' or a semi-permanent installation such as a NDP.

The primary purposes of our missions were to either to interrupt an enemy attack, or to search and destroy enemy force concentrations when moving toward their attack launch point.  We never (in the Big Red One) intended to find, fix and destroy the enemy.  We were "The Ambushers".  We were "The Spoilers".

If we EVER encountered a major enemy force, either in movement or in a temporary position, we expected to exfiltrate and call it in for artillery, air strike, or other major force.  Our firepower was our radios.  The M60 was our "Get Out Of Hell" card.

We were truly Light Infantry.  We carried two days bread and water, and i never knew anyone to carry more than one pair of extra socks.  Hell, we couldn't even get clean dry socks, and our uniforms were the most ragged thread-bare OD's in the Army.  We didn't even wear underwear, because we were wet all the time anyway .. ether through slogging through marshland or because we sweat through every pore in our body all day long.

My platoon had four squads, two MG, and we rarely operated as a full platoon.  I was the Platoon Sergeant; I took two squads, my platoon leader took two squads, and the machine gunners were split between us.

When we had to split into squad-size units (four units, 10-15 mean in each) it was a struggle to decide which groups would take the M60's.  usually, if there were static positions to be occupied (as in a "hammer and anvil" operation, the anvil position took the 60's.  The other group would attempt to drive the enemy into the fixed position .. so the MGs could fire on them from a concealed position, and hopefully take out the bulk of the 'attack' force from a cunningly designed ambush where they least suspected us to be.

The preferred plan, though, was to find a well-used trail, move in under the cover of darkness, set up claymore mines and use the MG as a force multiplier when it developed that the enemy attempted to exfiltrate the ambush in such disarray that just blowing the Claymore mines wouldn't take out the bulk of their personnel.

In the best situation, the Claymores would take out the command element, the M60 would break up the bulk of the force (and kill or wound the majority of the attacking force), and the rest of the unit would assault across the kill zone and in doing so disperse the enemy force in multiple directions.

Using this plan, the M60 was not called up on to fire multiple hundreds of rounds in a single burst.  There was one long burst ... probably more than 60 rounds, rarely more than a 1 minute burst (600 rounds) and then a long pause while we assaulted across the kill ground and wiped up.  The M60 stood 'over-watch' during this phase of the operation, and all that time the barrel was cooling.  The assistant gunner had time to link a new belt (or two) onto the gun, in case of a counter-attack.  The gunner could conceivably replace the barrel, but that never happened;  if you break up an attack, it's like watching geese fly off a quiet October lake when someone starts ground-sluicing lake: everyone flies away in a different direction, and there's not profit in trying to follow one or two of them in the dark.  The kill zone is active for 15 seconds, then a few minutes while you sweet the area, and then it's empty except for the shooters and the dead.

And then the shooters go to the ground, because they are every much as frightened by the violence as are the little yellow men running as hard as they can, and who leave uncharacteristically heavy HO CHI MINH sandal impressions in the hard-packed clay soil.

The look for wounded .. and they kill them.  Then they look for less-wounded, and they take them for prisoners.  Those prisoners will be interrogated mercilessly by your South Vietmamese contemporaries.

in the end, you are left with nothing more rewarding than the fact that most, even all of your men are not only still alive, but probably even unscathed.

The introduction of the M60 Machine gun adds a new element of terror to the battlefield.  it clearly establishes the overwhelming firepower of the defender in an unexpected place (outside of a known fixed position .. which is also known as "external security".

The thing about the M60 is not that that it will eventually fail; the thing is, it will dominate any short-term battlefield by laying down a STRONG defense to the attackers (ambushers) using a round which will penetrate any known jungle foliage .. and given a few seconds, while enfilading a battlefield, may even tear down a temporary defensive position which consists of nothing more than a rotting log, or a few shovels-ful of dirt while your erstwhile attacker digs a hasty foxhole and throws up a berm of loose dirt in the direction from which your fire originates.

There have been many, many articles which excoriate the M60 for its sole weaknesses:  it is generally assumed to be unable to maintain a sustained rate of fire without jamming.  This is usually because the barrel approaches 'red heat', and even to 'white heat', and then the rounds begin to cook off.  And then it jams, if the barrell is not replaced immediately .. usually, we hear, during a battle.

Yes, the M60 may fail during a prolonged battle.

It wasn't designed for prolonged battle.  it was designed for the "Short Victorious Way" battle, when all you need to do is to put as many high-penetration rounds downrange as you can for the first 30 seconds or so.

Any other benefit you get from the M60 is Bonus Points!

It wasn't designed to be a Fixed Defensive Weapon.  If you have a fixed position to defend, put a bunch of Ma Deuce on the perimeter.  That's THEIR job.

But if you want to carry a fully-automatic weapon on patrol (or ambush) and want it to be capable of penetrating most foliage barriers?  The M60 is your girl!

And by the way .. please quit badmouthing my girl!

She saved my life more than once, and I owe her.

If you have never cowered under the defensive firepower of the M60 in a 10-second poop-your-pants moment, then you, probably, don't know what the heck you're talking about..  

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