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#260916 - 05/26/13 02:19 AM Signal Mirror Rescues in the Vietnam War
rafowell Offline
Member

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 195
Loc: Southern California
I'm researching the use of emergency signal mirrors in the Vietnam War.

Here are links to rescue accounts I've found online, with date of rescue and the name of the survivor.

Some accounts are long - you can search for "mirror" in each, to find the role of the mirror.

I expect the signal mirror was usually a laminated glass issue Mark 3 emergency signaling mirror with the retroreflective mesh aimer whose construction is described in US Patent 2,557,108, filed 12/4/1946. The Mark 3 has been issued to US forces from 1949 to the current day. They are issued in two sizes: 2"x3"("Type I") and 3"x5 ("Type II"). At the height of the Vietnam war, they would be manufactured to MilSpec MIL-M-18371, version D or E. Doug Ritter has posted the MilSpec here: MilSpec MIL-M-18371E, 17 Feb. 1969. Back in the day, they were usually manufactured by Revere Glass Company or Libby Owen Ford. Here's a nice article with three artistic photos of a May 1967 Libby Owen Ford MIL-M-18371D mirror in a reenacted setting: (Mirror Back) ; (Mirror Front) ; (Mirror Box)

S. I. Howard Glass has been the primary manufacturer of the MIL-M-18371E for the last decade or so, and they are made available through distributors for civilian purchase online. Quality commercial equivalents are also sold by Coghlan's, Rescue Reflectors and Vector I.

Be wary of imitations whose grids don't form a proper aiming "fireball" - read Doug Ritter's article: WARNING: Phony Glass Signal Mirrors, which includes descriptions of the visible signs of mirrors Doug has found not to work, and the names of wholesalers selling them.

Without further ado: accounts of Vietnam rescues mentioning the use of signal mirrors:

1965 July 27: Tullo
1966 April 22: Arendale ; (Arendale (another account))
1966 July: Bishko and Moran
1966 Dec 17: PFC Bates and other wounded (used Silva compass mirror)
1967 Feb 15: Buzze ; (Buzze (another account))
1967 May: Hiep and two others ; ( 1967 Jun 4 per this alternate account)
1967 Nov 9: Six survivors ; (Young (one of the six))
1968 June 2: Fields ; (Fields (another account)) ; (Fields (3rd account))
1968 Nov 20: Conyers
1968 Nov 26; Harrison 6-man team
1969: Stroud and others
1969 Jan 18: Townsley
1969 Feb 2: Recon team
1969 Feb 20:Winters six man team?
1969 Oct 13: Andrews
1969 July 29: Ekrote 6-man team
1970 Feb 19: Hernandez ; (Hernandez (2nd account))
1970 July: Stahl
1970: Rasmussen
1971 July: Two pilots
1972 April 2: Martin
1972 June 12: One survivor
??: Goshen 1st incident
??: Goshen 2nd incident ; (Goshen incident #2, 2nd account)
1969-71?? Team Illinois:

Here are contemporary high-resolution online photos of US servicemen using the MIL-M-18371E:

2005: USAF serviceman with 3"x5" MIL-M-18371E mirror (photo has "mouseover" annotations, descriptions and links)
2001: US Marine using 2"x3" MIL-M-18371E (photo has "mouseover" annotations, descriptions and links)

2013 April 13: Orogrande, New Mexico. Tech. Sgt. Daniel Roman, 49th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) specialist, from Holloman Air Force Base, teaches soldiers how to use the MIL-M-18371E signal mirror to attract rescue forces.

A good reference on the survival equipment carried in Viet Nam is the book: United States Combat Aircrew Survival Equipment: World War II to the Present {1995-RAF}: A Reference Guide for Collectors, by Michael S. Breuninger, 1995, Schiffer Publishing, Limited.

Update: Thanks to the hint below, I located and purchased the 642-page book: Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue George Galdorisi, Thomas Phillips 2008, whose accounts of combat rescues include 11 cases mentioning signal mirrors, of which three were in the Vietnam war, which I have added above. This led in turn to this 469 page book on the USAF Pararescue forces in Vietnam: PJs in Vietnam: The Story of Airrescue in Vietnam as Seen Through the Eyes of Pararescuemen Robert L. LaPointe, 2001, which added one new incident, and fresh information on three others.




Edited by rafowell (05/26/13 09:47 PM)
Edit Reason: Fix URL
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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#260917 - 05/26/13 03:16 AM Re: Signal Mirror Rescues in the Vietnam War [Re: rafowell]
LesSnyder Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 1374
Loc: New Port Richey, Fla
you might try the archives of the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron... I think they were based out of Kadena, Okinawa, but had operating locations in RVN...it's been a long time.... we had reporting responsibility with them

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#260922 - 05/26/13 06:48 AM Re: Signal Mirror Rescues in the Vietnam War [Re: LesSnyder]
rafowell Offline
Member

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 195
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: LesSnyder
you might try the archives of the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron

Thanks for the tip!

Based on that clue, I found (and bought online as an ebook) a 642-page book on their exploits, as well as this online database: SEA SAR Database Project. (South-East Asia Search and Rescue Project).

I've updated my post above to include two new incidents and a second description of an incident I had found before.

I've also added information about the book, which is a 642 page account of combat search and rescue, as well as a photo from April of this year of US troops being instructed in the use of the MIL-M-18371E emergency signaling mirror.


Edited by rafowell (05/26/13 09:34 AM)
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

Top
#260939 - 05/26/13 10:24 PM Re: Signal Mirror Rescues in the Vietnam War [Re: rafowell]
BruceZed Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 287
Loc: Canada
Warning

Originally Posted By: rafowell
Howard Glass has been the primary manufacturer of the MIL-M-18371E for the last decade or so, and they are made available through distributors for civilian purchase online. Quality commercial equivalents are also sold by Coghlan's, Rescue Reflectors and Vector I.


Be careful, I normally have bought Coglan's Glass Signal Mirror, which is a decent mirror for use with my Survival Classes. Recently I found a number of examples from Coglan's where they have replaced the Glass Mirror with a Plastic Mirror and kept the packaging and the price the same.

Avoid none glass Signal mirrors and buy only good quality mirrors. Doug's Warning should not be taken lightly!
_________________________
Bruce Zawalsky
Chief Instructor
Boreal Wilderness Institute
boreal.net

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#260941 - 05/27/13 12:46 AM Re: Signal Mirror Rescues in the Vietnam War [Re: rafowell]
Quietly_Learning Offline
Member

Registered: 05/29/12
Posts: 154
Thanks Rafowell, the links make a great read. I followed some of the accounts to the end. Some brave people risked their lives to save their comrades.

Your links show having the right equipment AND the skills to use it are very important. Practice, practice, practice.

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#260943 - 05/27/13 02:23 AM Re: Signal Mirror Rescues in the Vietnam War [Re: BruceZed]
rafowell Offline
Member

Registered: 11/29/09
Posts: 195
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: BruceZed
Warning ...
Be careful, I normally have bought Coglan's Glass Signal Mirror, which is a decent mirror for use with my Survival Classes. Recently I found a number of examples from Coglan's where they have replaced the Glass Mirror with a Plastic Mirror and kept the packaging and the price the same ...

That's disturbing - I just checked the Coghlan's website for the Coghlan's #9902 - 2"x3" Signal Mirror, and not only does the web site listing specify glass, but the packaging (if you click on the photo at the site) says glass ("Highly Reflective 1/4" laminated glass mirror) - if they are giving you anything else, you should be able to insist they exchange it for the product you ordered (or get your money back).

I suppose there is some possibility of confusion with their similar 2"x3" product #0905 Sight-Grid Signal Mirror, a plastic-cased floatable mirror, but the packaging for that is quite different.

Please let us know what you find out - if they aren't making the glass ones anymore, that's a big problem. I'd only use a plastic signal mirror in an (don't laugh) emergency. [ To be fair: my EDC signal mirror is a plastic Rescue Flash, but I live in the city. The one in my glovebox is glass, as is the one I carry in the wilderness.] The Coghlan's contact info (phone number and email) is on their web site.

I could dig up any number of quotes from survival instructors in favor of glass signal mirrors if lobbying Coghlan's is called for.

Originally Posted By: BruceZed
... Coglan's Glass Signal Mirror, which is a decent mirror ...

Especially since, shortly before his untimely death, the designer (Wayne Tegeler of Vector I) updated the design to make it watertight, unlike the older design. (The newer design can be distinguished visibly by the lack of a metal eyelet in the lanyard hole.) I had a co-worker take a few down on several ocean dives, and while one got a corrosion spot next to the lanyard hole, the others came out okay.


Edited by rafowell (05/27/13 04:15 AM)
_________________________
A signal mirror should be backup for a 24 hr, all-weather radio distress signal, such as a 406 MHz PLB (ACR PLB)

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