118th Assault Helicopter Company

"Attention to Orders: Headquarters, United States Army, Pacific - General Orders 236...." and so it began five years ago on a hot dusty summer day in The Republic of Vietnam. The 118th Assault Helicopter Company was activated, thus becoming the first assault helicopter company in Vietnam. Rising from the recently deactivated 33rd Transportation Company (light helicopter) which had arrived in Vietnam in the autumn of 1962, the so named "Thunderbirds" utilized the CH-21 tandum rotor helicopter. With the adoption of the UH-1 "Iriquois" helicopter, the "Bandit" Armed Helicopter Platoon was formed and within one month was credited with 150 enemy kills. That record first set by the "Bandits" remained unsurpassed until some two years later when The Free World Forces started their major buildup. The long and colorful history of the "Thunderbirds" in Vietnam has remained an example for all other like units that were to follow.

Participating in every major battle and virtually every operation in then III Corps area, the "Thunderbirds" had distinguished" themselves in the battle of Dong Xoai, Operation Attleboro, Operation Cedar Falls, Operation Junction City; and more recently the Battle of Loc Ninh and the defense of Bien Hoa, Long Binh, and Saigon. The men who make up the heart of the "Thunderbirds" have built its reputation to what it is today, and they will be remembered throughout the history of Army Aviation for their contributions.
During the month of August, the 118th completed the final phase of their long anticipated move to the higher aircraft availability. The modern and larger aircraft hangers can handle up to six aircraft at one time, and the offices, parts section, and tool room are conveniently located inside. The modern and more complex revetments offer maximum protection against in-coming rocket and mortar rounds.
The "Thunderbirds" will have proud memories of past operations and missions that have won distinction for their unit. The battle of Loc Ninh, and Bu Dop, and the defense of Song Be and Bien Hoa will always be remembered as major operations in which the 118th Assault Helicopter Company demonstrated extraordinary valor. Individual acts of heroism were commonplace not only in these major battles but throughout the year. There was the helicopter door-gunner who jumped from his aircraft and ran after a retreating Viet Cong. He grabbed him with his left hand and carried him back to his ship, dodging heavy enemy fire all the way. As his helicopter climbed out of the area, the gunner managed to kill several Viet Cong with his suppressive fire. Just west of Chu Chi, another gunner jumped from his hovering aircraft into a river, where another helicopter had been shot down. He pulled the drowning aircraft commander to safety.

A company operation once pulled a group of CIDG personnel from a LZ that was so overgrown with elephant grass the helicopters were completely engulfed upon setdown.
Another operation at Minh Chon reeked havoc upon the enemy. Returning to Minh Chon from a refueling stop, the "Bandits" found that the compound had just come under heavy Viet Cong attack. Catching the guerrillas by complete surprise, they quickly repelled the attack.

To a "Thunderbird", a successful day is one in which the enemy has been destroyed in number, as evidence by the day when they killed 79 Viet Cong. Encountering a heavily entrenched enemy force north of Tan Uyen, the gunships went to work on he base camp area. After eight heliborne assaults, the Viet Cong were still firing back, but the "Thunderbirds" had already taken their toll.
When a ground commander puts out the call that his troops are in heavy contact and request immediate helicopter fire support to repel the enemy, "Thunderbird 6" replies, "IT SHALL BE DONE".