PLAINFIELD – The power of an M16 rifle – one of the top weapons used in the Vietnam War – was demonstrated Monday at Plainfield Central High School.
Historical re-enactors Eric Percy and Erik Benson were at the school to teach students not only about the rifle, but also about other weapons, tools and belongings soldiers used during the controversial conflict.
Percy and Benson showed in an outdoor demonstration how an M16 rifle worked and what it sounded like, firing blank rounds.
The rifle was sold to the military during the war as one that never needed to be cleaned, but early combat advisers discovered quickly that the rifle did require cleaning when it jammed after many rounds, Percy said.
“Once they issued our guys cleaning kits. … This became one of the best rifles in the world,” he said.
In addition to the display outdoors, Plainfield Central students gathered in the auditorium, where Percy and Benson gave them a “crash course” on the war between 1968 and 1969. The two have taught history of past conflicts such as World War II to students by showing them artifacts from the time periods.
On Monday, they were clothed in uniforms soldiers wore at the time, which Percy described as meant for jungle warfare – but the uniforms were not durable.
Percy said the U.S. came close to winning the Vietnam War. The military was 18 miles into Cambodia and found the biggest weapons cache from the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong. The destruction of the cache could’ve crippled their forces, he said.
Steve Lamberti, the school’s social studies chairman, said teachers can read and teach about history to students, but a firsthand experience can also help.
“To get kids a firsthand experience – that’s the best kind of learning we can provide,” Lamberti said.