28 Rarely Seen Photos From the Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War was gritty and painful. These 28 photos from the U.S. National Archives provide another glimpse of what U.S. Marines and their South Vietnamese partners went through in that long war:

1. A U.S. Marine officer teaches a Vietnamese recruit to use a grenade launcher.

Marine Maj. Hubert Duncan
Marine Maj. Hubert G. Duncan, operations officer with the 4th Combined Action Group, instructs a Vietnamese Popular Force soldier in the use of the M-79 grenade launcher. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R. D. Lucas)

2. Vietnamese Rangers move across the landing zone as a Marine helicopter takes off.

helicopter Vietnam War
An ARVN Ranger and a CH-46D helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 are silhouetted against the early morning sky near An Hoa. The Rangers were participating in Operation Durham Peak. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bob Jordan)

3. Vietnamese armor soldiers try to get their gun into operation.

Quangi Nai
4th Army of the Republic of Vietnam armor at Quangi Nai in January 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Pavey)

4. A U.S. Marine and a Vietnamese Ranger search for enemy weapons.

Xuan Thiue
A Marine from the FLC’s Provisional Rifle Company and an ARVN Ranger probe for enemy weapons during a search of Xuan Thiue village near FLC on March 11, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. A. Wiegand)

5. American Marines enjoy food and mail during a short stayover in their base village.

Combined Action Program Marines in Vietnam
Combined Action Program Marines receive mail and an occasional hot meal upon returning to their base village. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R.F. Ruis)

6. Vietnamese rangers practice inserting into and exfiltrating from the jungle on special purpose ladders from a Marine helicopter.

Vietnam CH-46 helicopter
View of CH-46 helicopter passing over photographer as it carries nine ARVN Rangers hanging on an insertion ladder. The rangers are undergoing training in recon ladder insertion-extraction methods at first recon battalion area. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

7. Vietnamese and U.S. troops get ready for a night ambush.

Vietnam Night Ambush
American and Vietnamese Marines are assigned their positions before departing for their night ambush site in 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. R. F. Ruiz)

8. A Marine trainer assists a Vietnamese student.

Vietnam mobile training team
A Vietnamese Popular Force trainee is aided through a barbed wire entanglement on the infiltration course at Mobile Training Team-1 located just outside Tam Ky on July 28, 1968, by Sgt. William C. Gandy. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joe Collins)

9. A soldier shot by a sniper smokes a cigarette as another soldier looks at the carbine magazine that caught the incoming round, preventing further injury.

Vietnam Popular Force soldier
A Popular Force soldier from the village of Hoa Vang steadies himself against a hut after receiving an enemy sniper bullet in his ammunition belt. He received a minor burn as a result of the bullet, which lodged in a carbine magazine. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bartlett)

10. Marines conducting a joint operation with the Vietnamese catch a break on armored personnel carriers.

Vietnam amphibious personnel carriers
Marines on sweep with ARVNs on amphibious personnel carriers about 7 miles southwest of Danang on Jan. 8, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. R.D. Bell)

11. A joint force rushes to remove supplies from a U.S. helicopter.

Vietnam Joint Force supplies
April 16, 1964. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

12. A U.S.-Vietnamese patrol moves through sand dunes during a mission.

Vietnam Quang Xuyen
A patrol of Vietnamese Popular Forces and U.S. Marines of Combined Action Program, 3rd Marines, 3rd Regiment and 3rd Battalion, move out across dunes bordering Quang Xuyen village to the south of Danang on March 28, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. H.M. Smith)

13. A Vietnamese trainee practices ambushing North Vietnamese forces during a training activity with the U.S.

Vietnam ambush techniques
A Vietnamese Popular Force soldier and U.S. Marine Cpl. Gilbert J. Davis practice ambush techniques outside the compound of Mobile Training Team-1 near Tam Ky on July 28, 1968. The Vietnamese received two weeks of Marine training. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Joe Collins)

14. A Marine shows a Vietnamese soldier how to operate the M-60 machine gun during training.

Vietnam M60 machine gun
Lance Cpl. Larry W. Elen and an ARVN soldier prepare to fire the M-60 machine gun in mid-December 1969. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. G. J. Vojack)

15. American and Vietnamese troops rush into position as Viet Cong fighters attempt to escape.

Vietnam Chu Lai
A Popular Force automatic rifleman and his assistant provide cover while a U.S. Marine advances and a Popular Force riflemen leaps over a row of cactus to pursue fleeing Viet Cong. The action occurred during a joint search and sweep operation near Chu Lai on Aug. 24, 1966. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mincemoyer)

16. American and Vietnamese troops share the map during a clearing operation.

Vietnam Ky Tra
Elements of companies A and C of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, joined forces with the 72nd Regional Forces Recon Co., and the 196th Regional Forces co. in a three-day operation near Ky Tra, 40 miles south of Danang. The operation was designed to destroy Viet Cong base camps. Several camps were found along with numerous documents, food, and weapons. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

17. A U.S. Marine checks a local citizen’s identification.

Vietnam Williams Biller
Marine Sgt. Williams ‘Budda’ Biller of the Combat Action Program makes a routine check of a villager’s ID Card. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. H.M. Smith)

18. Troops patrol a village destroyed by the Viet Cong after the locals refused to give aid to the fighters.

Vietnam Phanh-Ban
During the night of June 10, 1970, Viet Cong terrorist units attacked the villages of Phanh-Ban and Phanh-My near Danang for two hours. More than half of the villages were totally destroyed by fire and explosives used by sapper attackers because the villagers were loyal to the Saigon government and refused to support local Viet Cong activities or give rice to Communists. The few Popular Force Troops were surprised by the attack and more than 150 villagers were killed. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Berkowits)

19. A U.S. Marine rests during operations.

Vietnam Russell Widdifield
Private First Class Russell R. Widdifield of 3rd Platoon, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, takes a break during a ground movement 25 miles north of An Hoa, North Vietnam. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

20. A U.S. Marine on patrol.

Vietnam Da Nang
Marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Cross an open field while on patrol 8 miles south of the city of Da Nang. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

21. A U.S. Marine teaches a Popular Force soldier to operate the PRC-25.

Vietnam PRC-25
Marine Cpl. J. R. Stien gives a Popular Force soldier an instruction on the operation of the PRC-25 in late-November 1969. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. G. J. Voljack).

22. A U.S. Marine NCO teaches a firefighter how to properly use his new gas mask.

Vietnam gas mask
Marine Sgt. Lawrence J. Marchlewski instructs Vietnamese fire fighters in the proper use of their gas mask. The device allows firemen to combat flames in heavy smoke. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. G.W. Heikkinen)

23. A Marine instructor helps a Vietnamese student after an underwater exercise.

Vietnam Divers
Marine Cpl. Harold Garrison assists as Nguyen Van Phu emerges from the water after a strenuous “harassment” exercise. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Al Wiegand)

24. Marines and Vietnamese troops offload rice confiscated from a Viet Cong cache.

Vietnam rice
American Marines assist two Vietnamese Popular Force soldiers unloading rice from a small sampan. The rice was confiscated from a Viet Cong cache in the walls of a hut in Phu Bai village on Oct. 23, 1966. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Highland)

25. Vietnamese Rangers load onto Marine helicopters for a multi-battalion air assault mission.

Vietnam ARVN Rangers
Army of the Republic of Vietnam Rangers board CH-46D helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263. The ARVN Rangers spearheaded a multi-battalion Allied helicopter assault. Operation Durham Peak got underway as the first rays of sunlight glinted from the whirling rotor blades. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bob Jordan)

26. Reconnaissance Marines ride to a new insertion point.

Vietnam Recon Marines
Marines of Company C, 1st Recon Battalion, ride in a CH-46 helicopter to their next insertion point in May 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. W. P. Barger)

27. A Marine checks out the home of local pigeons used by the Viet Cong to communicate without the Americans intercepting their messages.

Vietnam pigeon coop
Marine Cpl. Donald L. Carlson, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, examines a pigeon coop used by the Viet Cong for carrier pigeons on Oct. 24, 1965, in the 28-structure Viet Cong compound discovered during Operation Trailblazer. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Costello)

28. A Joint U.S.-Vietnamese flag raising ceremony.

Vietnam flag raising
Marines and Popular Forces of TANGO-1 Combined Unit Pacification Program perform a joint flag raising ceremony in Le Soa Village on Sep. 3, 1970. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. R. F. Rappel)

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