56 years ago today, January 26th 1966, Operation Masher kicked off. There actually seems to be some debate as to the start of the operation, sources citing the 24th, 26th and 28th as the true beginning. Lasting until March 6th, it was a large scale search and destroy mission involving the US 1st Cavalry Division, ARVN 22nd Division and ROK Capital Division. The operation was launched in conjunction with Operation Double Eagle to the north. Masher was intended to be the main thrust while Double Eagle drew forces away or kept them occupied, ideally catching the NVA in a pincer.
The choice of the 1st Cavalry and ARVN 22nd seems almost odd as both were understrength from recent fighting. The 1st Cavalry in particular as having just been through the famous Battle of Ia Drang only two months prior. The battle itself was mostly a series “Hammer and Anvil” operations where units would drop into two different landing zones and push towards each other. The troopers met fairly stiff resistance during the battles, often against large NVA and VC units. This repeated through four different areas until March 6th when they were no longer able to find much if any NVA units. The second phase of the operation was called White Wing and began on February 6th but was really just a continuation of Masher.
Now let’s Get Geared Up
We’ll start with the uniforms; there seems to have been a bit of a mixed bag of uniform pieces. From what I can gather in the photos there are first and second pattern tropical combat/jungle uniforms and some of the older utility uniforms. The second pattern tropical uniforms seem to be the most common as I don’t see buttons or button holes on a lot of the jackets (but they still have the epaulets). Since I don’t have a first or second pattern jacket bear with me and use you imagination. I can’t find a definitive photo of the boots. I see some Vibram soles so I assume they are wearing 2nd or 3rd pattern jungle boots.
The web gear is pretty bog standard M1956 gear, with a few twists on some of the troopers. Shovels seem to be less common, although when they are seen they are on the right hip. As far as web gear goes the most noteworthy point I see is the use of the sleeping bag carrier/spaghetti straps by a fair number of soldiers.
The helmets stand out to me the most for Operation Masher. At least half have either some kind of scrim or foliage on them. It stands out from the typically bare helmets of the era. The chin straps are almost universally up, either tucked under the helmet band or around the back. In the few that have the chin straps down I can make out the A yokes of the M1-C or P64 Parachutist liner.
Unfortunately the photos I’ve found don’t have specific dates on them but I get the impression that as the operation went on the troopers stripped down their gear, losing the butt pack and spaghetti straps and anything extra.
The only sites I found with any sizable info outside of Wikipedia