Landing Vehicle Tracked in Vietnam

This is written to help those not familiar with what an Amtrac is to see what they are and how they were used during Vietnam. I may not be entirely accurate with my descriptions but I am as accurate as my mind will allow me to be. The first trac that I am going to describe is the LVTP5A1. This is the one that was used by the Amtrac Platoon while serving its tour of duty in Vietnam.

LVTP5 in the Surf

Picture by Richard Lennon

This vehicle was used extensively in Vietnam for a number of different purposes. It had and overall length of 29ft. 8 in. It was 11ft. 8 1/2in wide. I am guessing that the height had to be around 10ft. It weighed in at a total of 72,460 lbs. The power for this monster came from a V12 Continental engine. It had a series of 12 fuel cells located in the deck for holding the 456 gals. of gasoline that it carried. It is easy to see why in Vietnam that most of the time riding on one of these machines was spent on top of the vehicle and not inside. It was not unheard of for these vehicles to burn for as long as 3 days after striking a mine. They were manned by a crew of 3. A Crewchief, Driver, and a Machinegunner. The top speed on land was around 30 miles an hour while the top speed in water was 6.6 miles. There range on land was 190 miles while the range in the water was 57 miles.

While in Vietnam this vehicle was used as an armored assault vehicle. It would travel with the Machinegun on top and with the infantry mounted on top. They were also sometimes outfitted with a 106 recoilless riffle. I have even heard of mortars being used on top of them but never actually saw any used that way. They would get on line and assault enemy positions with the grunts along side of them.

Amtracs were also used as medevac vehicles when helicopters or other forms of transportation were not available. The number of Marines saved because of Amtracs is not known but a number of Marines can attest to the value of the Amtrac when the fire was to hot for the medevac choppers to land.

Other uses that Amtracs varied from unit to unit. The Amtrac platoon hauled supplies to the grunts including beans, bullets, water, and most importantly mail. They were also used during Amphibious landings. The Amtrac platoon made roughly 20 such assaults while in Vietnam.

The Platoon was at full strength when it had 10 Tracs. Plus we also had a Command trac. It was the same as a P5 except it carried extra radios. It had enough radios to act as a command post for the whole Battalion Landing Team that we were in support of. On occasion it also participated in operations carrying grunts into battle.

Author alongside P5 he drove in 1970

Picture by Stanley Williams


LVTE1 Boom Raised Ready to Launch

Picture by Richard Lennon

The LVTE1 was and amtrac designed for mine sweeping. It was 39ft. 9 1/4 in length. It was 11ft. 8 1/2 in wide. It weighed in at 87,780 lbs. It also carried a crew of 3. It was equipped with a plow on the front for digging up mines. In the cargo hold were 2 line charges with 1750 lbs. of C4 used for blowing a path through a mine field or laying a charge down on Charlies Bunker lines. The trac had a big boom on top that was raised up and fired the line charges out with a missile for propulsion. A very impressive site to see. I remember one that we had on and operation with us that blew up with 7 Marines on top of it. We put what we could find of all 7 Marines in one body bag. It was believed that an electrical short had set off the line charges inside of the vehicle but no one will ever know for sure.


LVT With Blade Down

Picture by Richard Lennon



Picture by Richard Lennon

The LVTR1 was normally called the retriever. It was measured at 31ft. 9in and had the same height and width of all of the rest of the amtracs. It came with a boom on top and was used as a wrecker for hauling disabled amtracs. It had a machine shop on the inside of it and was used almost exclusively to help repair amtracs that were broken down. It was equipped with just about any tool needed to do everything from minor repairs to pulling the engines from the Tracs and replacing them when they were repaired. Almost a service station on tracks.


Heavy Firepower

Picture by Tom Williams

This is the last of the family of Vietnam Era Amtracs. You can see the heavy fire power of the 105mm Howitzer mounted in the tourit of this Amtrac. They were called How6's. They could be used either as a static artillery battery or as a direct fire weapon. Many times the How 6 would be called upon to shell a bunker complex with direct fire. They were very effective in fire support of the grunts who operated in there range.