Indespensable to both Special Forces and conventional advisers was
helicopter. The first copters arrived on Dec. 11, 1961. The 380 pilots and
maintenance men of th 57th and 8th Transportation Companies (Light
Helocopter) were sent to airlift ARVN troops into combat.
"By sending the pilots and helicopters," wrote the authors of The
Vietnam Experience, "Washington had broken through the military assistance
limits imposed by the 1954 Geneva Accords. The Americans had raised the
Airmobile combat assaults - code-named Operation Chopper - were mounted
12 days later. By the fall of 1962, the first armed helicopter company -
Utility Tactical Transport Company (UTTC) - was in action and firing first.
Operation Morning Star involved the first gunship attack of the war.
To reinforce Army chopper units, the Marines dispatched the 362nd
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (450 men) to Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta
in April 1962. Dubbed Task Force "Shufly," the operation later moved to
Danang and rotated six other Vietnam prior to the big build-up.
An extremely successful helicopter battle tactic developed early on was
called the "Eagle Flight." Flights involving fourcopters loaded with 50
soldiers each, circled above contested terrain during combat operation,
ready to swoop down on escaping VC.
Beginning in the spring of 1963, provisional Army infantry units -
known variously as machine gun, aerial gunner, automatic rifle and door
gunner platoons - were formed in Hawaii from among 25th Infantry Division
personnel. They served 90 days temporary duty. Some 79 such platoons saw
service incountry before U.S. combat troops "officially" arrived.
In September 1963, the 145th Aviation Battalion was created from three
helicopter companies already there. Nicknamed "America's Foreign Legion,"
members proudly wore a patch emblazoned with "First in Vietnam." As 1965
dawned, three aviation battalions - 145th, 52nd, 13th, - comprising nine
helicopter companies ranged throughout the was zone.
Unit History 166th Transportation Corp Detachment by Lowell
The 166th TC Detachment was activated at Ft. Benning, Georgia by
General Order 44, Third US Army effective 19 March 1965. It was designated
as "Cargo Helicopter Field Maintenance" with an authorized strength of 1
officer, 1 warrant officer and 70 enlisted men. They departed Ft. Benning on
10 April 1965, traveled by ship, and arrived in Vietnam 1 May 1965. They
were assigned to the 1st Log Command and stationed at Vung Tau. The 166th
had the distinction of bringing the first UH-1D model helicopters "slicks"
to the Republic. An "in Country" pocket patch was designed, though not well
executed, denoting this. The patch said: 166th Transportation Detachment
Aircraft Maintenance, LPH-2, USS Iwo Jima. The local artisans could not make
a Huey, and spelling was not their strong suit either, but the members wore
the patch with pride. As they were stationed at Vung Tau, enjoyment of the
ocean at unit parties was almost a requirement; all new members were thrown
into the surf to show that they now belonged. Even after moving new members
would still be dunked into a trailer filled with water - usually after the
ice had melted! The unit next moved to Bien Hoa to support "A" Company of
the 82nd Airborne Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Separate. "D"
Company Maintenance supplied some personnel to the unit, also. The commander
of the 166th at this time was Captain Delmer McConell, an activated USAR
officer. The Captain was very well liked by his men as he saw that they
received the best that was available at the time. During the summer of 1966
the US Army started the "Zero Defects" program and the 166th did their
share, even when they were working day and night to support the actions
taking place. the ships were brought in after the comabat assaults, repaired
overnight, and were flying by six o'clock in the morning. Status reports
were delivered to the 145th HQ in downtown Bien Hoa by 0530 hours showing
available aircraft for that days missions. The 166th was also noted for
being built in the middle of a Vietnamese cemetery, having their "Playboy
Club" photographed for "Playboy Magazine", painting the first US Army
camouflage Hueys, and for the oldest, continuous duty B model in Vietnam,
21901, known as Horsethief. Horsethief appeared in "Modern Military Aircraft
HUEY" by Lou Drendel for its unique camouflage. In November 1965 Second
Lieutenant John Price of Company "B", 2nd Bn, 503rd Infantry made
arrangements for a unit "lifetime" subscription to "Playboy Magazine"; the
Playmate of the year came to visit in January 1966 using one of "A"
Companies "slicks" that the 166th had named the Playboy Special. Check out
the May 1966 issue of "Playboy" for details. Captain McConell rotated home
in early 1966, and was replaced by Captain Paul Lovgren, Major Donald
Pritchard and Major Robert Lawson before the unit to Dak to in February
1966. The unit left its concrete pads, wooden "hooches" and their access to
Bien Hoa Airbase with some trepidation, flying into Camp Holloway in Plekiu;
and freezing the first night at 70 degrees; then convoying to Dak to, Dragon
Mountain, 4th Division area. On arrival tents were set up for living and
work areas, and people had to get used to working out of shop trailers and
conex containers, and in mud. The move also increased distances that the men
had to travel for the basics; the mess hall was about two miles away and the
closest shower point about a mile, and the PX facilities were small. Gone
was the comfort of Bien Hoa, Long Binh and Cholon. Local rain suits and
ponchos also become the uniform of the day. This is as far as I can go I
left the unit in July 1967, by returning to Bien Hoa and the 335th area.
There was a small group left behind to watch over the buildings and to send
new people up north and us old timers home.
Born in combat in the Republics of Vietnam on 24 September 1963, the
145th Combat Aviation Battalion is truely "First in Vietnam". The 145th
Combat Aviation Battalion was formed on that date from the in-country assets
of t he 45th Transportation Battalion (Trans Acft) and initially consisted
of the 118th and 120th Aviation Companies who were then equipped with CH-21C
cargo helicopters. The first commanderof the newly formed battalion was LTC
Kenneth D Mertel who was replaced in December 1963, on his return to CONUS
by LTC Charles M. Granadelli.
During the final months of 1963, the 145th Comabat Aviation Battalion
conducted numerous "Eagle Flights" in Long An Province utilizing the 118th
Aviation Company and troops of the Vietnamese Airborne Brigade. Joint
heliborne operations were also conducted with CH-21's from the 120th
Aviation Company teamed with VNAF CH-34's escorted by UTT'S and T-28's,
staging out of Tan Hiep. Troops of the ARVN 7th Division were utilized in
numerous search and destroy operations.
In the early months of 1964 both the 118th 120th Aviation Companies
received UH-1B aircraft to replace their CH-21's. The 68th Aviation Company
(previously designated Utility Tactical Transport company and later to be
redisignated 197th Aviation Company) was assigned in March 1964 greatly
enhancing the capabilities of the battalion with their armed UH-1B's. On 30
March 1964 LTC Hughes took command of the battalion from LTC Buchanan who
became deputy commander.
During the summer of 1964 the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion continued
to support the ARVN III Corps and also sent elements to the mountains of II
Corps and the delta of IV Corps to execute combat assaults.
Shortly after midnight on 1 November the Viet Cong staged a mortar
attack on Bien Hoa Air Base. Four men were killed and 62 were wounded in the
enlisted compound. An estimated 30 rounds of 82mm mortar fire were received.
Troops of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion reacted with courage and
determination as standby fire teams were launched and defensive bunkers were
manned. One of the UH-1B's rescued a VNAF aviator whose A1-E had crashed in
flames during the attack, resulting in this battalion's first two Vietnamese
Flying Crosses with star.
In December of 1964, A Company 501st Aviation Battalion was assigned to
the battalion and became operational very quickly due to an infusion and
training program conducted by the 118th Aviation Company.
Early in 1965 both the 74th Aviation company (SAL) and A Company 82nd
Aviation Battalion were assigned to the battalion and quickly became combat
Possibly the finest hour, to date, of the 145th Combat Aviation
Battalion occured during the period 10 through 20 June 1965 near the village
of Dong Xoai. The US Special Forces Camp at Dong Xoai was attacked at 0100
hours on 10 June. The emergency stand-by light fire team from the 118th
Aviation Company was dispatched and remained on station until all ammunition
was expended. One pilot was wounded. It became apparent that the Special
Forces Compound must immmediately be reinforced, and a battalion airmobile
assault was planned for execution at first light. The first landing zone was
relatively quiet, however, it was surrounded by Viet Cong and the troops
were lifted in were soon annihilated. The second combat assault landed on
the air strip at the Thuan Loi rubber plantation. As the helicopters of the
118th Aviation Company landed, mortars, automatic weapons, small arms and
claymore mines were fired both at the helicopters and the airmobile force
troops. One 118th Aviation Company helicopter was hit by a mortar round,
rolled over and burned, killing the entire crew. Nearly all aircraft had to
return to Bien Hoa for emergency repairs prior to the next assault. The
company commander and the crews of three helicopters of the 118th Aviation
Company voluntarily returned to the Dong Xoai Special Forces Camp, which had
been overrun, to evacuate the survivors; under a hail of hostile fire. For
this gallant deed the volunteer crews received one Distinguished Service
Cross, five Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and four Air
Medals for valor. The battle of Dong Xoai continued for three more days with
the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion contributing greatly to the final Free
For it's participation in the action at Dong Xoai the 145th Combat
Aviation Battalion received the Presidential Unit Citation and the
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with palm, establishing this battle as one of
the high points of Army Aviation participation in the war in Vietnam.
On 24 June 1965 LTC Charles M. Honour Jr. assumed command of the
battalion at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.
At 2400 hours on 23 August 1965, the Bien Hoa Air Base came under a
Viet Cong mortar attack with a total of 14 rounds falling in 145th Combat
Aviation Battalion parking areas. The emergency standby crews scrambled
their helicopters under fire and shuttled aviators from their quarters to
the aircraft. The standby fire team immediately began searching for the
During the month of October 1965 the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion
supported the 173rd Airborne Brigade in numerous search and destroy
operations in the "Iron Triangle" and "War Zone D". The first combat
assaults in support of the 1st Infantry Division were also made during the
month of October. A Company 82nd Aviation Battalion was re-assigned to the
173rd Airborne Brigade on 18 October.
In the months of October 1965 the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion
participated ia an allied operation called "Operations Rice Bowl". The
object of the operation was to secure the rice fields in the valley North of
Vo Dat, and deny the Viet Cong use of the freshly harvested rice. Also
during this same period the battalion welcomed the 68th Aviation Company
which was initially stationed at Vung Tau.
On 18 February 1966 the battalion commander, LTC Charles M. Honour Jr.,
was killed in a helicopter accident. He was succeeded by LTC Horst K. Joost
who came to the battalion from the 173rd Airborne Brigade. During the month
of March the Battalion participated in Operation "Silver City" in War Zone D
in support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The 120th Aviation Company was
re-assigned to the 12th Aviation Group on 15 March 1966, with the 145th
Combat Aviation Battalion coming under 12th Aviation Group control on the
same date. During the month of March the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion
Headquarters moved from Tan Son Nhut to Bien Hoa City. On 30 March the
battalion began support of the 25th (US) Infantry Division Operation "Circle
Pines". The battalion also continued to support the III AVRN Corps, 173rd
Airborne Brigade and 1st Infantry Division on a daily basis.
On 26 June 1966 LTC Walter F. Jones took command of the battalion from
Colonel Horst K. Joost who was re-assigned to Combat Developement Command at
Fort Rucker, Alabama.
During the summer of 1966 the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion came
under the control of II Field Force Vietnam through 12th Combat Aviation
Group with a general support mission of all Free World Military Forces in
the III Corps Tactical Zone. An important additional mission of the
battalion during 1966 was the training and orientation of newly arrived
aviators from other units to include the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, US
Navy, select members of the Vietnamese Air Force, 11th Armored Cavalry and
199th Light Infantry Brigade.
Two special armed helicopter operations during 1966 scored heavily
against the Viet Cong sampan traffic in both III and IV Corps Tactical
Zones. The first, "Operation Seawolf" utilized Army UH-1B armed helicopters
flying from Navy LST's off the coast of III and IV Corps. These helicopters
and crews from the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion hit the Viet Cong hard
from April until September when Navy crews took over the mission.
The second special mission is operation "Firefly" flown by armed
helicopter of the 334th Armed Helicopter Company. Each night a light fire
team with a searchlight mounted in one of the armed helicopters and a .50
caliber machine gun helicopter search the III Corps Tactical Zone for
hostile were destroyed in a single night.
In September 1966 the 184th Reconnaissance Airplane Company joined the
battalion and was stationed side by side with the 74th Reconnaissance
Airplane Company, at Phu Loi.
On the first day of October both the 197th Armed Helicopter Company and
A Company 501st Aviation Battalion were redesignated. The 197th became the
334th Armed Helicopter Company and A/501st became the 71st Assault
During the month of November the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion
established a forward command post at Tay Ninh West Airfield in support of
Operation "ATTLEBORO". During this period the battalion controlled elements
of the 11th, 13th, 25th, and 52nd Aviation Battalions as well as its organic
At a change of command ceremony on 1 December 1966 LTC Howard M. Moore
assumed command of the battalion from LTC Walter F. Jones who was reassigned
to the USARV Aviation Section.
An example of the tremendous efforts expended in the accomplishment of
the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion's mission is reflected in a summation of
operations from 1 July 1965 to 30 November 1966: Battalion Size Combat
Assaults 435, Company Size Combat Assaults 1391, Flying Hours 180,021,
Combat Sorties 384,699, Passengers 347,632, Aircraft Hit by Hostile Fire
680, Aircraft Lost to Hostile Fire 26, Wounded in Action 223, Killed in
Action 40, Viet Cong Killed by Air 1,899, Structures Destroyed 2,531,
Sampans Destroyed 1,462.
The following awards were presented to members of the battalion from 1
January 1965 to 1 December 1966: Distinguished Service Cross 2, Silver Star
22, Legion of Merit 4, Distinguished Flying Cross 204, Soldiers Medal 14,
Bronze Star for Valor 35, Bronze Star 233, Air Medal Valor 413, Air Medal
19,556, Army Commendation Medal Valor 52, Army Commendation Medal 418,
Purple Heart 316.
The 145th Combat Aviation Battalion has received the Distinguished Unit
Citation (Presidential Unit Citation) and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry
with two palms, with the following citations:
By virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United
States and as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States I
have today awarded. The Distinguished Unit Citation For Extraordinary
Heroism to The 145th Aviation Battalion, United States Army and the Attached
Units: Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of the 145th Aviation
Battalion 74th Aviation Company, 118th Aviation Company (Airmobile Light),
120th Aviation Company (Airmobile Light), 197th Aviation Company (Airmobile
Light), Company A, 501st Aviation Battalion Company A, 82nd Aviation
Battalion Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion, 117th Aviation Company
(Airmobile Light) 57th Medical Detachment, 69th Signal Detachment, 573rd
Transportation Detachment, 93rd Medical Detachment, 198th Medical
Detachment, 98th Transportation Detachment, 129th Medical Detachment, 225th
Signal Detachment, 8th Signal Detachment, 151st Transportation Detachment,
94th Signal Detachment, 571st Transportation Detachment, 166th
Transportation Detachment, 234th Signal Detachment, 25th Medical Detachment,
63rd Transportation Detachment, 320th Signal Detachment.
The forgoing units serving with the 145th Aviation Battalion
distinguished themselves by extraordinary heroism in action against
insurgent forces in the Republic of Vietnam from 10 June to 13 June 1965.
When the beseiged defenders of Dong Xoai requested assistance in repelling a
vicious Viet Cong attack, the units participating with the 145th Aviation
Battalion responded rapidly with support. Upon learning that a group of
defenders of Dong Xoai were wounded, needed medical help, and were exposed
to the danger of being overrun by the Viet Cong because of a shortage of
ammunition, the crews of three helicopters volunteered to attempt a rescue.
Although the insurgents had all approaches covered by .50 caliber machine
guns and were flown through the withering fire and were directing heavy
automatic weapons fire into the compound, the helicopters were flown through
the withering fire and landed near the beseiged defenders. The helicopter
crews kept up a continuous stream of suppressive fire while ten Americans
and eight Vietnamese commanders who were loaded aboard the aircraft and
evacuated. The Vietnamese commanders who were evacuated gave valuable
information which led to the daring plan to save the village of Dong Xoai.
Helicopters of the battalion, standing by at a staging area, were loaded
with Vietnamese troops and took off for Dong Xoai. When the Viet Cong met
the flight with intense .30 and .50 caliber automatic weapons fire, one
helicopter was shot down, killing the entire American crew and ten
Vietnamese soldiers. As the fighting continued and three other aircraft were
hit, the armed helicopters saturated the Viet Cong positions with rockets
and machine gun fire. Although the Viet Cong were beaten slowly, the
helicopters form the 145th Aviation Battalion continued to provide fire
support and to perform combat assaults and medical evacuations. A total of
2700 sorties were flown and 3500 troops were airlifted or repositioned. The
determination, indomitable courage, and extraordinary heroism demonstrated
by these units participating with the 145th Aviation Battalion are in the
highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon
themselves and the Armed Forces of the United States. Republic of Vietnam,
Ministry of Defense, Republic of Vietnam, Armed Forces-High Command, General
Orders 612 Award of Cross of Gallantry With Palm to the 145th US Aviation
The 145th Aviation Battalion is cited for outstandiing performance of
duty and extraordinary heroism in action against the Viet Cong insurgents:
At Binh Gia, Phuoc Tuy on 29 and 30 December 1964 and on 9 February 1965, At
Song-Be, Phuoc Thanh on 11 May 1965, At Dong Xoai, Phuoc Long from 10 to 13
June 1965, At Boi Loi jungle area bordering the provinces of Tay Ninh and
Binh Duong on 4 November 1965.
In these large scale and decisive battles, the 145th US Aviation
Battalion, successfully under bold and outstanding command of Lt. Colonels
Robert K. Cunningham and Charles M. Honour Jr., had utilized armed
helicopters to destroy the enemy positions and transported thousands of
troops to reinforce and relieve attacked friendly units. Braving intense 30
caliber and 50 caliber antiaircraft fire which resulted in the loss and
damage of helicopters on each entry into the landing zones, the 145th
Aviation Battalion persistently and gallantly carried out its missions of
aerial fire support, battlefield surveillance, medical evacuation to combat
troops, thus enabling them to drive the enemy from their strongholds.
Always maintaining a high fighting spirit and a will to endure
hardship, the 145th US Aviation Battalion has rendered the enemy afraid of
its presence throughout all battlefields in South Vietnam and currently has
promoted the gallant and unsubmissive military tradition.
Through the above mentioned brilliant feats of arms, the 145th US
Aviaition Battalion deserves to be congratulated by the Government, People
and Armed Forces of the Republic of Vietnam.
THIS CITATION INCLUDES THE ATTRIBUTION OF THE CROSS OF GALLANTRY WITH
PALM FOR THE 145TH US AVIATION BATTALION AND FOR LT COLONELS ROBERT K.
CUNNINGHAM AND CHARLES M. HONOUR.
117th Aviation Company Constituted 7 June 1963 in the Regular Army as
the 117th Aviation Company Activated 25 June 1963 in Vietnam, Inactivated 15
December 1980 in Korea.
Campaign Participation Credit
Counteroffensive Phase II
Counteroffensive Phase III
Counteroffensive Phase IV
Counteroffensive Phase V
Counteroffensive Phase VI
Tet 69/Counteroffensive Summer-Fall 1960 Winter-Spring 1970
Counteroffensive Phase VII
Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered DONG XOAI
Valorous Unit Award, Streamer embroidered PLEI ME
Valorous Unit Award, Streamer embroidered TUY HOA VALLEY
Valorous Unit Award, Streamer embroidered DAK TO
Meritorious Unit Commendation, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1965-1966
Meritorious Unit Commendation, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1966-1967
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Streamer embroidered
Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Streamer embroidered
VIETNAM SEP-OCT 1971
Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class, Streamer
embroidered VIETNAM 1969-1970
Army Rescue Unit Aids Downed Pilots
With Army Support Command, Vietnam - "Aircraft down!! S.A.R. team
report to the operations center immediately!" With these words over the
loudspeaker system of the 117th Aviation Company at Qui Nhon, Vietnam, a
unique team of specially trained volunteers springs into action. S.A.R.
stands for search and rescue. Their jobs is to locate the downed aircraft,
get to it, and get there fast. How they do this is a story of risk, hard
training and real dedication.
Through extensive training, the members of this crack group, which
varies from 20 to 25 men, are capable of rescue recoveries from jungle,
mountain and sea. They are all trained in rappeling form helicopters and
setting up a defensive perimeter around downed aircraft. In addition they
learn first aid, operation of ground to air radios and the multitude of
other needs required for rescue of personnel and recovery of downed
Although seperate squads of six men each are trained specifically
according to terrain, all members of the team are thoroughly cross trained
and able to work in jungle, mountains or at sea.
The team is commanded by 1st Lt. Laurence H. Walker and works under the
control of Maj. Virgil McGuire, commanding officer of the 117th Avn. Co. The
117th is part of the U.S. Army Support Command , Vietnam, commanded by Maj.
Gen. Delk M. Oden.
Rappeling down a ropoe from a helicopter hovering 150 feet above the
ground is an essential part of the training, since most of the rescues are
made in areas where no landing zone is available even for helicopters.
A typical rescue for the SAR team will involve a rope slide into a
jungle area, setting up a perimeter defense around the downed craft and
rendering first aid to any injured personnel. Next they clear an area to
enable the rescue chopper to land and evacuate the injured. After this is
done, they stay to protect the downed aircraft until it can be repaired and
flown out or lifted out by a heavy maintenance CH-37 Mojave. Since many of
the rescues are made in areas heavily infested with communist Viet Cong,
each man must be constantly alert, regardless of his job.
The team is also responsible for training all new arrivals at the 117th
in the methods of escaping from an aircraft that goes down in the water.
In spite of the risk and arduous training involved, there is always a
waiting list of volunteers to fill slots vacated by departing team members.
The spirit of the team is exemplified by their motto, "Any time...any
One Killed And 20 Missing In VC Terroist Attack
The Viet Cong launched a series of attacks Wednesday night in the city
of Qui Nhon with the four-story U.S. enlisted billet and its 62 Americans
occupants as prime target.
U.S. spokesman said the VC bombing attack virtually were one U.S.
soldier killed, 21 wounded and 20 missing. The spokesman added that two
Vietnamese women and five children in the area were also killed.
In reconstruction of the attack the spokesman said apparent VC suicide
teams opened fire on guards protecting the hotel and rushed forward to throw
charges against the building foundation.
Two or three separate blasts swept the foundation from under the Viet
Coung Hotel and the four floors it supported crumbled into a heap of rubble
no more than 30 feet high.
The coordinated attacks began at 8:05 Wednesday night when the VC
brought the north end of a small airplane runway and an ARVN outpost about
one mile from Qui Nhon under small arms fire.
At the same time of the attacks around the city, bombing raids were
made against a national police station and a power police station.
During the attack, three of the Viet Cong terrorists were killed, two
of them by Army Specialist Five Robert K. Marshal who was in his third floor
room when the attack began.
"I was laying in my bunk reading a book when the attack began," said
"I heard a small arms fire, grabbed my weapon and rushed to the balcony
and outside my room," he continued.
The 21- year- old soldier recounted how he observed Viet cong across
the street from his hotel firing in his general direction. He returned their
fire with his M-14 rifle.
Marshall realized he was also receiving additional fire from his left
by sub machine guns. He engaged two VC nearest him and killed them both.
Having expended the 60 rounds he had with him, Marshall rushed back
into his room for more ammunition just when the terrorist bombs detonated.
It took Marshall two hours and 15 minutes to crawl out of the rubble
pile to safety.
The U.S. Military spokesman said a search for bodies of wounded in the
rubble has continued since the blast into the late hours of Thursday.
The spokesman praised Korean and New Zealand medical teams for their
rapid response to calls for help in intending the wounded Americans.
18th Aviation Company (for period 29 March 1966 - 30 June 1967)
Aviation Company (less 4th Platoon) (for period 29 March 1966 - 30 January
1967) 222d Aviation Company (for period 29 March - 30 June 1967)
The citation reads as follows:
For extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty in action
against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces in the Republic of
Vietnam, while attached to the First Marine Division (Reinforced), operating
in the northern provinces of Quang Nhai, Quang Tin, and Quang Nam, superbly
executed the threefold mission of seeking out and destroying the enemy,
defending key airfields and routes of communication, and conducting a
dynamic pacification and revolutionary developement program. Operating in
the defense of the Chu Lai area, which grew from 254 square miles in March
1966 to 1,531 square miles by October 1966, the First Marine Division and
its attached units extended protection and pacification to over one million
Vietnamese without loss of continuity in operations. In canopied jungles,
rugged mountains, and through swampy lowlands, the war was carried to the
enemy. During eighty-seven major operations conducted in conjuction with
158,000 patrols, the First Marine Division and attached units soundly
defeated the determined adversary. The major offensive operations, carried
out against entrenched and fortified forces, captured tons of rice and
emancipated complete villages of the Vietnamese, while defensive actions
resulted in a harvest of 7,620 tons of rice gathered by approximately 10,000
Vietnamese villagers, protected by Marine Forces. In March 1967 the division
deployed units to the Demilitarized zone while continuing to expand its
general offensive and maintain continuous pressure against the enemy. During
the entire period, combat operations were made meaningful by simultaneous
pacification and revolutionary development programs, which were
extraordinary in concept and brilliant in execution. The First Marine
Division's unrelenting combat spirit and initiative, undeterred by intensive
enemy fire, monsoon rains, and incessant heat, inflicted massive losses on
the enemy and denied him the political and military victories he sought to
achieve. By their effective teamwork, aggressive fighting spirit, and many
individual acts of personal heroism and daring, the personnel of the First
Marine Division and attached units forged an illustrious record of
sustained courage and professional competence, which reflected great credit
upon them and upon the Armed Forces of the United States.
VIETNAMESE CROSS OF GALLANTRY WITH PALM, 1. Paragraph 2, section III,
DA General Orders 21, 1969, pertaining to the award of the Vietnamese Cross
of Gallantry with Palm (Second Award) to the 1st Aviation Brigade and its
assigned and attached units, as reads "during the period 27 March 1967 to 1
May 1967", is ammended to read "during the period 27 March 1967 to 17 May
1968" for the following units: 145th Security Platoon (Provisional) 167th
2. Paragraph 3, section III, DA General Orders 21, 1969, pertaining to the
award of the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm (Second Award) to the
1st Aviation Brigade, its assigned and attached units, is amended to delete:
205th Aviation Company, 391st Transportation Detachment, 605th
3. Paragraph 3, DA General Orders 22, 1968, as amended by paragraph 3,
section IV, DA General orders 21, 1969, pertaining to the award of the
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm to the 1st Aviation Brigade, its
assigned and attached units, is amended to delete: "341st Aviation
4. Paragraph 2, section III, DA General Orders 21, 1969, pertaining to the
award of the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm to the 1st Aviation
Brigade its assigned and attached units, is amended to delete: 341st
5. Paragraph 3, DA General Orders 22, 1968, pertaining to the award of the
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm to the 1st Aviation Brigade, its
assigned and attached units, is amended to add: "128th Aviation Company (for
period 1 March 1966 through 21 February 1967)".
LOW - SLOW - RELIABLE 18TH AVIATION COMPANY (OTTER)
Fort Riley, Kansas was the home of the BIG RED ONE (1st Infantry
Division) when I was assigned there from Germany in late 1959. The first
year in Riley as a ground duty assignment with an Infantry training company,
which was a career necessity, and one which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Hungry to get back into a flying assignment, my request for transfer to
the 18th Otter Company was approved. Upon reporting, the Commanding Officer
advised of my pending assignment as a Flight Platoon Leader. A few weeks
later a summons to his office revealed a change in plans. I was to replace
his departing, school trained maintenance officer, ie, Service Platoon
Commander. Protesting that I was not maintenance qualified was to no avail.
While settling in and getting acquainted with the platoon members, and
in discussions with unit pilots and crews, a serious problem was brought to
my attention for resolution. In the previous 18 months a total of 12 unit
Otters had either been involved in emergency forced landings, or
precautionary landings due to total or partial loss of engine power.
Our platoon team, consisting of Platoon Sergeant Snyder, Flight Line
Chief Holly, Technical Inspector Helbing, and myself, were determined to
solve the problem. We began with in-depth reviews of aircraft maintenance
histories, precautionary and forced landing reports and more discussions
with crew members involved in the mishaps. Each incident was thoroughly
examined based on available documentation and recollections by crews.
Incidently, our Otter unit was blessed with a great group of remarkably
experienced aviators, many with Korea and WWII service. Those at the
controls at the time of the 12 potential disasters had saved all 12 without
damage, destruction, injury or loss of life. Some help was provided by the
lay of the terrain in the gernal area we flew, the relatively flat parts of
Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Our guys had been setting planes down in corn
or wheat fields and off the end of runways, when engine power was reduced or
As a result of our extensive, intensive priority research, our team
developed evidence of three potentially dangerous problems. First, in some
power losses, records revealed cracks between the spark plug holes in the
engine cylinders. Second, push-pull rods were bending beyond tolerances or
ball ends were failing. And third, cylinders were not factory stamped with
the numbered of hours they had accumulated at their previous overhauls.
Consquently, total cylinders hours could not be determined and cylinders,
aged beyond their design limits, were failing.
It was decided between our unit's staff and the staff of our third
echelon support company, the 339th, with the concurrence of the bayyalion
commander and staff, that we would tear down three Otter engines, those with
the most hours since rebuild. The 339th crews, supported by the Otter crew
chiefs, began day and night crew shifts to expedite the process of
determining the existing condition of our fleet of nineteen engines.
Within several weeks we had indisputable evidence that our research
findings were supported by the engine tear-down findings learned in the
339th shop. An average of 33% of cylinders and/or push-pull rods failed to
meet the criteria spelled out in the tech manual. This average remained
constant for all engines upon tear-down inspection.
During this time of inspection and searching, a new Commanding Officer
took over the 18th. He an I had a most memorable meeting when he walked into
my office wearing a very unpleasant expression. He let loose with a powerful
gnashing and lashing and wanted to know "what was wrong with our
maintenance." Fortunately, the informatin was opened up, spread sheet
fashion, on my desk. He calmed down when we advised him of our findings to
date and our efforts to correct the problems, and immediately became
supportive and remained so throughout our association.
It was then that I learned he had just come from the scene of "mishap
number 13" in which he was the primary participant. While doing some solo
touch-and-go flying flying as part of his local checkout, he had experienced
engine failure and had to make a deadstick landing.
As a result of our findings I recommended that all our Otters be
grounded. This was approved by the company and battalion CO's with the
knowledge of the 1st Infantry Division CG. A recommendation for world-wide
grounding of all Otters in the Army inventory was also approved and sent to
appropriate commands. Remember, you ole Otter crew members -- the year was
However, this world-wide grounding recommendation fueled a fued
between our command and the powers that be in the Aviation Material Command,
the DeHavilland people and the Pratt and Whitney experts. They didn't
believe us initially. But we were proved right in our assessment after many
heated meetings when our substantiated evidence was presented.
In short order, between the initiative of the 339th crews and the
backup support form the Army Depot at Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas, all or our
engines were rebuilt within a few months. In effect, we had the equivalent
of new Otter engines.
Our unit CO approved another recommendation to perform night
maintenance, once our aircraft were returned from engine from overhaul. By
performing the majority of maintenance at night, our aircraft availability
and daytime flying hours, we believed, should be significantly increased.
That's exactly what happened.
We were a Strategic Army Command (STRAC) unit, ready to be deployed
anywhere in the world on short notice. When the Pentagon staff saw our
aircraft availability rate had increased well above that of all other
existing Otter units, we had a visit from Major Ken Mertel. He was
apparently convinced with what he saw. We were not fudging. Shortly after he
returned to the Pentagon we were ordered to Southeast Asia, country
unspecified. It was 23 December 1961.
In early January 1962, we loaded with our aircraft at the Navy docks at
Oakland, Cal. on the USNS Core, a WWII vintage "jeep" carrier, accompanied
by our 339th support maintenance element.
All 18th Otter crew-members were thankful for the discoveries which led
to our rebuilt engines, especially when they saw the extensive mountainous
and jungle covered terrain we would be flying over, and the monsoon rains we
would be flying in throughout South Viet Nam. Our units, having experienced
13 forced or precautionary landings in the precious 18 months, had exactly
ZERO for our 12 month tour, (except for one from another cause, but that's
ECHOS FROM THE PAST
On July 1, 1965 at Fort Benning, Georgia, the 516th Transport Airplane
Company was re-designated as the 135th Aviation Company. Reorganization was
completed by the end of September. Major Marvin E. Childers assumed Command
of the 135th on 25 September 1965. The unit was selected to deploy to Viet
Nam and spent October, November and December in preparation.
The main body deployed by sea on the 8th of December with the advanced
party by air on the 15th. Both parties joined at Qui Nhon on 31 December
1965. The flight crews departed Fort Benning with 18 Caribou aircraft on the
3rd of January 1966 for the west coast and trans-Pacific flight to Viet Nam.
The aircraft arrived at Qui Nhon on the 23rd of January 1966 setting a
record for the longest flight by the largest number of army aircraft.
Five days later, on the 28th of January, the 135th flew its first
combat mission, a medevac, for the 1st Cav. from Bong Son. The 135th was
assigned to the 14th Aviation Bn. 12th Avn. Group in February 1966. On March
3rd the 135th moved from Qui Nhon to Dong Ba Tin and was assigned to the
10th Aviation Bn., 17th Avn. Group. They had their first major accident on
16 March 1966 while executing a LOLEX at Tuy Hoa (no particulars given).
On April 19, 1966 the 135th received word that the Caribou were to be
transferred to the U.S. Air Force. They continued normal combat operations
awaiting the transfer. The first two Air force Officers, LTC Albert P.
Mercogliano and Major Jacobs, signed in at the 135th on 15 August. LTC
Mercogliano would later assume command. The unit was transferred to the
223rd Aviation Bn on the 4th of september. Numerous Air Force personnel were
now arriving and being integrated into the unit.
The unit suffered a fatal accident 12 miles south east of Tuy Hoa on
November 20, 1966. captains John W. Clayton and Anthony F. Korpies, Sp5
Arnold C. Pearson, and TSGT Glendale D. Yates were killed.
On 31 December 1966, the Air Force officially assumed control of the
135th and the unit was designated the 458th TCS. All Army personnel were
transferred with the exception of Major Childers, Martin and Ferguson,
Captain Crowder, Johnston and Smith, CW2 James S. Dravis, and SFC James w.
Jordan. These personnel remained until January remained until January 5,
1966 to close out the records and complete transfer of property.
The flight from Fort Benning, Georgia, to Qui Nhon, Viet Nam took 20
days covering 9,750 NM and was accomplished in 70 hours and 54 minutes
flying time. The 135th flew 13,888 combat hours in 20,031 sorties carrying
133,170 passengers and 11.74 tons of cargo while under Army control in Viet