When I sent out a letter about the unit T-shirts for the UTT, I asked
for the history about the unit patches, here are a few of the responses I
received back, they tell a lot of the history of the UTT, the first Armed
Helicopter Company in Vietnam and the Army. In the next newsletter will be
a historical report on the first year of the 93 Trans/121st AHC in

Dear Jim: I don't know who designed the UTT patch. The Company was wearing
it when I arrived in June 1964. However, I designed the 197th patch. We
had a contest in the company and I won. I have an article from Stars &
Stripes with a photo of me receiving the prize (a Savings Bond) from our
C.O. Maj Jim Jaggers. I think my design was selected largely because we
were sick of name changes and ripping off one pocket patch and sewing on
another. As you know we were UTT, then 68th Armed Hel Co, then 197th, same
people, just bureaucratic Army B.S. on what we should be called. We knew
we were UTT! I could probably find the article if your interested. Send me
one XX-large shirt with the UTT patch. If it fits, I'll order a 197th
later or change the size. Keep up the good work Jim. I admire what you're
doing. Dave Price

Dear Mr. Bodkin, Just to keep the record straight, the UTT Helicopter
Company was organized at Hamby Army Airfield in Sukiran, Okinawa in early
1961. The first commander, and the man who commanded the unit during its
brief stint in Thailand and subsequent move to Tan Son Nhut, VN, was Major
Robert Runkle. Ivan Slavich who commanded the unit after Runkle, was
Runkles exec. throughout that time. Someone who was with the unit can
verify its arrival date in Vietnam but I believe it was about September
1962. I know they were already in place in December 1962 when I arrived in
VN from Okinawa.
I arrived as part of the 18th Aviation Operating Detachment, assigned
to the 93rd Trans (later the 121st) Helicopter Company at Soc Trang. I was
exec of the 18th ADD and took the unit to VN from Okinawa. At that time
the 93rd was assigned to the 45th Trans Bn which became, I guess, the
145th. Sincerely, Joseph J. O'Neill, LTC, Ret.

Dear James, With the data I have collected I am sending you some more
information on the old UTT.
I arrived on Okinawa SO 209, 28 July, 1961. The Company was located on
a high hill overlooking the China Sea. The area was known as Sukiran. The
airfield was located right next to the sea and known as Hamby Army
Airfield. I was originally assigned to the 25th Trans Det, the support
maintenance unit, but was assigned to the UTT on SO 208 11 Oct, 1961. I
was assigned to the 3rd platoon and SFC Francis "Smitty" Smith was my
Platoon Sgt. I believe we had 5 UH-lA models in our platoon. They were all
like new 1959 models. We had an old Papa-san who did nothing but walk the
line and wax them. They were beautiful. The finish was like glass. I was
made crew chief around Dec, 1961 and my ship no. was 59-1659. I named her
the "Virginia Creeper". The CO was Maj Robert L. Runkle. Capt. Ivan
Slavich was the Exec Off. Duty on Okinawa was good. We flew missions to
outlying islands and sometimes just tooled around the main island. As crew
chief I always flew co-pilot position. It was not unusual for the chiefs
to get in as much "stick time" as the pilots. Sometime near the end of
1962 an uneasy feeling came over me as our basic missions began to change.
I had heard little of Vietnam. We began altering and modifying the ships.
Suddenly looks didn't mean as much as they did before. Electricians were
all over us making up wiring harnesses and such. Then they brought on 30
cal machine guns. The old air cooled type I had used in the 50's in Korea.
These were mounted one on each skid. Then came the tubes for the 2.75
rockets. One on each side of the fuselage. By this time rumors were
flying. Then came a briefing and the rumors were confirmed. We were going
to Nam as the first attack helicopter formed in the Army. We trained a
trained. We lived on the firing range trying to get the bugs out. It was a
real home made set up. 30 cal ammo for the guns was laid out in rows on
the floor of the ship and hand fed through a chute through the floor to
the guns. It took 2 people, one on each side to accomplish this. Hence the
door gunner was born. He would assist the crew chief in his duties. This
ammo on the floor thing was terrible. Later on we

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devised a box to hold it. It had a divider in the center so each half fed
one gun. The ammo would still overfeed so we installed a weighted bar to
ride on top of it and help control the feed. Then problems with the guns
jamming. Once we lifted off, the weight was so that the skids rode too low
for us to reach the guns to clear. So we installed a long arm to the bolt
mech. Now we could reach out and unjam them. Trouble was, the static
electricity when we grabbed the handle was eating us up. So we taped foam
rubber to them and it worked. The rockets worked pretty well once we got
all the electrical bugs out. Only thing was, the pilot had to put a grease
pencil mark on the windshield in front of him for a cross hair. Whenever a
different pilot flew the ship he would have to re-locate the mark. In Sept
we loaded up, bag and baggage, onto Airforce C-123's and C130's at Kadena
airfield, and said goodby to our families not knowing when or if we would
see them again. A platoon had previously been sent to Thailand and would
join us at Tan Son Nhut. We set up in a tent city and squatted over slit
trenches. Our main mission was to support troop-carrying H-21's. My
platoon was soon sent to Soc Trang. In the mean-time the company had set
up in new Quarters with roofs and screened in walls. Tho we still had to
sleep with our mosquito nets to keep from being carried away. Right after
we first arrived our beautiful ships were flown over to a do it yourself
paint shop and everything was painted over except the tail number, with
drab rough texture OD paint. Capt Slavich made Maj and took over the
company on Nov 25,1962. He was a former Marine and a combat vet of Korea.
He acquired the nick-name "Drivin Ivan". He was hell when he was well and
he was never sick. Our first casualty was Johnie Lee. I don't remember his
rank. Spec 4 or 5 I believe SSGT. He was killed by a round that penetrated
the bottom of the ship. He was in operations but always wanted to fly. On
this particular day in the first part of November, Spec 5 Donald Bunner, a
crew chief, let Johnie take his flight. Don always felt bad about this
afterwards. The old A models were good but we were flying them into the
ground. The hours were adding up on them faster than we could count. We
encountered severe cracking and just plain not enough power. On the same
mission with Johnie Lee was a young Capt named Joel R. Steine. He was
flying pilot and took a round through the windshield, instrument panel and
hitting him in the chest just over his heart. His co-pilot a MAAG Lt Col
took the controls while Capt Steine removed a 30 cal round from the pocket
of his flak jacket. He was only bruised. In late Nov. 1962 we started
receiving the newer more powerful B models. They were fitted with factory
made rocket pods and quad 7.62 machine guns. I traded in my old A model
and received no 878. We took our second casualty around Jan 2, 1963. Sgt
William "Bill" Deal. His ship was shot down in a battle at Ap Bac near Tam
Hiep in the Delta area. Bill had been my door gunner until the B models
came in and he was given a ship of his own. He was a good friend. A buddy.
I'm sorry I never got to meet his family. He was from Mays Landing, N.J.
The location on the wall for Johnie Lee is 1 E 14. For Bill Deal it's
1 E 15. Tom Derosier went back to the States and to flight school. I next
saw him at the 7th Army Aviation Safety and Standardization Det. in
Germany. He was a 1st Lt but was promoted to Capt while there. I later
found he had returned as a pilot to Nam and was killed. E 23 27. He was a
real decent person. Very quiet and shy. The last I heard of Col. Slavich
he was living in Charlotte, N.C. I believe he was in real estate a
middle-management executive with McGuire Properties. He was a hell of a
Thanks for sending the T shirts. I think they came out real good. Any
chance they could be made up on a patch? Enclosed is a picture of me (the
one with the flight helmet on!) taken by Richard Tregaskis. From his book
"Vietnam Diary". The main thing about the picture is that the whole time
these were taken, and the time we spent in the ship bringing him in, he
had a frag grenade taped to the back of his leg! It wasn't found until
after we had turned him over for interrogation! They gave it to me but
Tregaskis asked me if he could have it so I gave it to him. I don't know
if he ever had it de-fused! Hope you'll be able to use this information
I'm sending. It has taken several days to get it all together. I seem to
have forgotten a lot of things that happened back then. I do remember our
movie house was named in honor of Johnie Lee. I remember a bronze plaque
being installed with his name on it. I wonder what ever happened to it? So
long for now. Al Compton