The Flame Platoon was an experiment for use in Vietnam. In the standard Table of Organization and Equipment(TOE) for an Infantry Mechanized Battalion this platoon was designated as the Anti-tank Platoon and equipped with 106mm Recoilless Rifles as seen in the left picture.
With little threat of armor attack in Vietnam the platoon was re-equipped with the M 113 mounted flame thrower and became the "Zippo" troop. With armor that would not stop RPG penetration nor protect against land mines the flame tracks were not suited for most major operations to the far west.
In AO Orange their usefulness was limited. To the east, around Phantom Lake, they were very effective. And in the rolling hills to the west before the mountains started they were also effective. In other locations, where the threat from anti-tank mines and RPGs was greater and mobility was limited by the mountains and jungle they were of limited value. Like the Dusters, the flame throwing APCs were excellent weapons when in the right place at the right time. It just seemed this right time and place was rarely encountered.
The real tough guys were the ones that drove the M-116 refuelers, no armor and no protection for these cargo carriers. But for some reason, in one year's time every LT Flame Platoon Leader got wounded. Strange.
You can see what happens when an RPG hits a loaded flame track. This track was from the 9th Division, not from 1/61 and I have no idea what was the fate of the crew. Unless they were very lucky I doubt that they survived.
Below are close up pictures of the systems that make the ZIPPO zip.
The first 1/61 Flame Platoon Leader, Ted Nordin, has been in contact with me and has shared some recollections from his days in Vietnam. Rather than try to fit his words into the text of the web site I have, with his permission, put his remarks together in narrative form. They may be found in the appendix and are also linked to this page.
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