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Inside the LRRPs: Rangers in Vietnam [Mass Market Paperback]

Col. Michael Lee Lanning
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Book Description

June 12 1988
Vietnam was a different kind of war, calling for a different kind of soldier. The LRRPs--Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols--were that new breed of fighting man. They operated in six-man teams deep within enemy territory, and were the eyes and ears of the units they served. This is their story--of perseverence under extreme hardship and uncommon bravery--and how they carried out the war's most hazardous missions.

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

All in a Day's Work

Vietnam was a different kind of war from America's previous conflicts, one that required different tactics and a different kind of soldier. One of the most successful innovations of the war was the formation of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols--LRRPs, pronounced {Lurps," which were redesignated Rangers in 1969.

Operating for a week at a time in six-man teams deep within enemy territory, often beyond the range of friendly artillery fire or other support, they were the eyes and ears of the units they served. While best known for the timely intelligence provided by their reconnaissance, their enemy body count often rivaled or exceeded combat units of far greater numbers. When a live prisoner was needed for interrogation, it was the LRRPs who were assigned this most difficult, hazardous mission. To state it quite simply, the LRRPs may very well have been the most effective use of manpower in the war.

Although their designation changed several times, only thirteen LRRP units saw action in Southeast Asia. Each of the recon units was similarly manned and equipped, and each followed the same basic tactical procedures. However, there was no centralized command or control of the total LRRP force. Each LRRP unit operated independently of the others, answering only to the command to which it was assigned.

This command relationship, combined with the vastly different areas of operation--which varied from river deltas and lowland rice paddies to mountain jungles--made each LRRP unit unique. The only constant was the men who volunteered for this exceptional duty--the valorous thread of humanity that bound all LRRP units together as brothers of the same cloth.

LRRP missions were characterized by extreme hardship, extraordinary attention to detail, absolute professionalism, and uncommon bravery. The following three stories are typical of the accomplishments of the recon men in Vietnam.


Thomas P. Dineen, Jr., from Annapolis, Maryland, was a Specialist 4 in E Company, 50th Infantry (LRP) of the 9th Infantry Division, working out of Tan An in the Delta in 1968. Dineen recalls, "Early one morning at the company base camp in September, the team leader called us together to issue his warning order for the next mission. He included a detailed schedule of what we would do in preparation and told each of us exactly what weapons and equipment we should pack. He concluded that the assistant team leader would conduct an inspection as soon as we were ready to ensure we had followed his orders.

"Returning to the team hooch, I gathered my pistol belt, web-carrying harness, first-aid pouch, knife, strobe light, six frag grenades, three smoke grenades, two white phosphorous grenades, two Claymore mines, compass, canteens, map, thirty loaded magazines, and my M-16 rifle. I then carefully assembled the gear and taped all parts that might reflect light, or rattle, with flat, black tape. Disassembling my rifle, I cleaned and lubricated each part as I put it back together. After again oiling the bolt, I placed a magazine of rounds into the weapon and manually pumped the cartridges through the breech. It worked properly, so I reloaded the magazine and taped it end-to-end with another magazine so I could reload quickly if things got hot.

"When I was satisfied that everything was in order, I emptied my pockets of all mission nonessential items, put on all the gear, and with weapon in hand jumped up and down to be sure I didn't make any noise. After adding a little more tape to items that rubbed together, I took a camouflage stick and covered all exposed skin with the black and green greasepaint.

"The assistant team leader soon arrived to inspect me and the other three LRRPs. Afterwards we met the team leader at the operations bunker where a sergeant from the division intelligence section briefed us on the upcoming mission. He explained that an infantry battalion had been sweeping an area about twelve kilometers to our west for several days with scattered resistance--the enemy was in the area, but the large infantry unit could not get them to stand and fight. Our mission was to go in with the helicopters that pulled them out and conduct a 'stay behind' ambush. We were all aware that the VC and NVA frequently checked LZs after Americans were extracted to recover any lost or discarded food or supplies they might find useful. The intel briefers also gave us a complete run-down on the number and identification of enemy units in the area. They even had pictures of several of the local VC leaders that we might encounter.

"We spent the remainder of the afternoon under control of our team leader rehearsing our insertion and extraction plans, procedures during movement, and the various ambush formations we might use. The team leader and his assistant repeatedly asked the rest of us questions about our duties and radio call signs and frequencies. A final inspection of our equipment was followed by a test firing of our weapons, after which we headed to the helipad for pickup.

"We were soon airborne and joined up with the seven other choppers that were going in to pick up the infantry unit. The LZ was a large, open area of rice paddies surrounded by tree lines. We offloaded while those on the ground climbed aboard. There were several more lifts in-bound to pick up the remaining grunts, so we had ample time to mingle with them and disappear into the tree line. By the time the last birds lifted off, we had our Claymores out and were well camouflaged in the edge of a canal overlooking a trail that snaked from the woods to the LZ. All there was left to do was wait.

"Less than an hour later, as the sun began to set, we heard a single rifle shot about a half-kilometer away. It was quickly followed by another shot from about the same location. By the sounds of the rifles, I knew they were AK-47s. The enemy frequently used such shots as a means of communications so elements could link up.

"A short time later we could hear the dinks noisily moving down the trail toward us. They must have thought all Americans had pulled out on the choppers as they were making little effort to keep quiet. We had picked our position well, as twelver VC and NVA were soon in our kill zone.

"The nearest man was only three feet away from our hidden positions when the team leader sprung the ambush by blowing the Claymores. We poured M-16 rounds and hand grenades into the screaming mass of dying men. In less than a minute the fight was over--twelve dead bodies lay before us. They had not been able to fire a single shot in return.

"As several of us gathered up the weapons and searched for documents, the radio operator called for an extraction chopper. We moved back onto the LZ and within minutes were airborne on our way back to the base. It had been a textbook mission--a perfect ambush--one where all the shots had been one-sided.

"I spent a total of two years with the LRRPs, but the events, impressions, and emotions of that stay-behind ambush on the LZ are as vivid today as they were then. You see, that was my first mission as a LRRP. There would be many more, but that first one is the most memorable."

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars INSIDE THE LRRPS/RANGERS IN THE NAM Jan. 6 2000
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have read this book, and allthough it is not the best that I have read, I still enjoyed it very much. I don't know if Michael had a personnal expierence with the LRRP/RANGERS, but he still did an excellent job of depicting the things that many of our young RANGER boys went through. Roadrunner6 out
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5.0 out of 5 stars My soapbox review Nov. 23 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is an older book, but the info is timeless and very good compared on what is available today.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INSIDE THE LRRPS/RANGERS IN THE NAM Jan. 6 2000
By "roadrunner6" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have read this book, and allthough it is not the best that I have read, I still enjoyed it very much. I don't know if Michael had a personnal expierence with the LRRP/RANGERS, but he still did an excellent job of depicting the things that many of our young RANGER boys went through. Roadrunner6 out
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning by Lanning May 29 2012
By Writetrak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
To Michael Lee Lanning's credit he wrote one of the first detailed books on LRRP/Ranger operations in Vietnam and how they formally and informally fit into the overall U.S. Army Ranger concept. More so, he helped set the foundation for the many books that followed by adding some of the personal accounts of the LRRPs and Rangers and a number of their missions that brought their service to attention of the general public. Those of us who served as LRRP/Rangers during the war owe him a debt of gratitude. Thank you, sir and folks, to better understand any of the other LRRP/Ranger books start with this one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important Contribution to the LRRP Story Jan. 1 2011
By Mike Cunha - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Inside the LRRPs: Rangers in Vietnam" should really be named "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about LRRPs." Author Michael Lee Lanning has done a tremendous amount of work in compiling this operational and background history of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol units that fought in the Vietnam War.

"Inside the LRRPs" covers every known detail that went into forming, training and operating these units during the Vietnam War years. The reading can be dry at points--the evolution of US Army Field Manual 31-18 over the years won't raise your heartbeat--but the author can only be commended for covering his subject thoroughly and providing every detail he possibly could.

Inevitably what would have revved up this book, and what's largely missing, are recollections from actual LRRPs themselves. To be clear, there are several stories throughout the book and a few vignettes at the beginning, but simply not enough to warrant the title of "Inside the LRRPs." Soldiers' tales told at the beginning of each chapter would have done much more to excite the reader, since that is what he/she was no doubt looking for when he picked up this book.

Lanning's book stands as an important contribution to the LRRP story and to the history of the Army Rangers of today, as it provides a structure of how these units were formed, how they trained and how they operated in Southeast Asia.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent piece of work Nov. 17 2008
By Vickie L. Kroll - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was lucky enough to find this used for less than a dollar. What a deal. The book is brief but crammed with details, less on the personal accounts as a LRRP (author was a LRRP platoon leader himself, briefly) and more on technical stuff and hard facts. Really a good read and worth adding to any Vietnam or special operations-related book collection.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good account of valuable past experiences Aug. 13 2012
By Jorge F. Duran - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Book Review

The book is a well written account on human intelligence with many details about the matter of the recon.

In my point of view one of the most important issues was about the organization of the recon patrol. The author gives us several foundations for their theory of six men patrol. The most important is his own experience. However I think in two four men teams and eight men patrols

Another interesting point is about logistics, basically how many days a patrol could survive with the load they could carry on his shoulders. I agree with the autonomy of six days in the jungle. In extreme cold weather could be less.

Colonel Lanning describes us the profile of the men's suitable to be trained as LRRP operator. He is very objective because he tells us about some special operations soldiers tendency to the bravado

One of the most controversial chapters is about the love hate relation between SpecOps units and the conventional army. This chapter confirms that Conventional Military Culture is, in most cases, against the special operations units

The appendix with SOP is outdated in many aspects and is boring to read.

As a conclusion is a valuable book with many experiences of a 50 years old war, but valuable today, because the technology, weapons and other gadgetry could change, but the men who fought wars no
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