USA Vietnam war “Jungle Jacket” for NCO in 101st Airborne Division (1968-1969)
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Early 3rd pattern “Jungle Jacket” produced from cotton poplin (pre-ripstop) fabric, in the rare and desirable size of Large-Long. Internal manufacture tags and neck hanging loop are typical of 2nd pattern jackets, or early 3rd pattern jackets (pre-ripstop) produced in 1967. Cloth Insignia includes subdued on twill Staff Sergeant (SSG) NCO sleeve rank, non-subdued Parachutists badge (aka Airborne Wings), subdued Pathfinder badge, subdued theatre-made (possibly Vietnamese tailor made) name tapes, and original non-subdued (full colour) 1-piece 1960s era 101st Airborne Division shoulder patch.
Insignia configuration is typical for the period from 1968-1969, when NCO rank was still worn on the sleeves (typically full-colour rank was worn between 1965-1967, while subdued on twill NCO rank was worn from 1968-1969). The name tapes are worn “slanted” along the top of the pocket as became common in 1969 and later. After late 1969, NCO pin-on rank was worn on the collars instead of being sewn on the sleeves.
Looking inside the jacket behind the patches you see the proper “ghosting” and “puckering” indicating that the patches have been on the jacket for a long time. It appears there is strong “ghosting” for Sergeant (SGT) sleeve rank (3 stripes), suggesting that this NCO was promoted from SGT to SSG while serving in Vietnam.
The 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” is one of the most famous units in the U.S. Army and wore full-colour Division insignia throughout the Vietnam War, even after most of the U.S. Army adopted subdued patches after 1968. The 101st Airborne was also one of the longest serving units in Vietnam – the 1st Brigade of the Division arrived in South Vietnam in 1965, and the last units departed Vietnam by late 1971. By 1968 the Division had transformed into an “Airmobile” Division whose expertise was helicopter landing assaults into enemy-held regions. During the period from 1968-1969, the Division fought primarily in the A Shau valley near the Laotian border, and in May 1969 participated in the infamous “Battle of Hamburger Hill.”
In Vietnam pathfinders were used to select and establish landing and drop zones, and to provide ground-to-air communications to furnish Army aircraft with ground tactical information. Other jobs undertaken by pathfinders included rappelling in to clear landing zones, securing downed aircraft and rigging them for extraction, as well as guiding and co-ordinating helicopter and fixed-wing re-supply drops.