I've been asked many times for more history on the UTT-68th-197th-334th Avn
Co so I though I would put together a little something to get the conversation
started. The info I have is from a few books like "Vietnam Order of Battle"
by Shelby L. Stanton, "Airmoble, The Helicopter War in Vietnam" by Jim Mesko,
"Returning Fire, in the beginning" by Col (Ret) James W "Pete" Booth, and
many letters and conversation at Reunions. Also let me say I was never assigned
to this unit and I'm putting this together from an outsiders point of view.
I'm hoping many of those assigned will point out any mistakes and additional
Vietnam Unit History
Utility Tactical Transportation
10/03/1962 - 08/15/1964
68th Armed Helicopter Company
08/16/1964 - 03/01/1965
197th Armed Helicopter Company
03/01/1965 - 09/01/1966
334th Armed Helicopter Company
334th Aerial Weapons Company
01/01/1969 - 03/01/1972 left VN
The UTT, 68th Armed Helicopter Company, 197th Armed Helicopter Company, 334th
Armed Helicopter, and the 334 Aerial Weapons Company are all the same unit.
The best way for me to explain it is to quote 1/Lt. Luther D Young, Playboy
17, in the beginning of the tape we sell, Songs of the UTT, Luthur says:
" Songs of the UTT, 68th and 197th Aviation Companies, they are really the
same. For no matter what name you give a company, the sprit of the officers
and men are what gives it entity. This sprit never changed.". The Company
changed names 5 times in Vietnam but still remained the same.
This next section reprinted from the book "AIRMOBILE"
During early helicopter operations the VC were unable to offer serious resistance
to the H-21s. And while small arms fire was encountered, the enemy did not
possess any sizeable quantities of anti-aircraft weapons. What ground fire
the helicopters received did some damage, so field commanders decided to
arm the H-21s in order to give them the ability to suppress fire encountered
during landing operations. A .30 caliber machine gun was mounted in the forward
door but had only a limited arc of fire. This made the gun relatively ineffective
in the suppression role. In addition, the size of the H-21 and its mediocre
maneuverability did not suit it to the fire suppression role.
In an effort to find a solution to this problem the Army looked at the possibilities
of arming the new Huey with a variety of machine guns and rockets. During
the spring and summer of 1962 various plans and tactics for arming and employing
the Hueys were investigated. Following this, a test unit of UH-lAs was organized
and deployed to Thailand for maneuvers and then deployed to Vietnam in September
This pioneer organization, designated the Utility Tactical Transport Helicopter
Company (UTTCO), was composed of fifteen UH-lAs armed with a weapons system
fabricated on Okinawa. This first weapons system consisted of two .30 caliber
machine guns and sixteen 2.75 inch rockets mounted on the Huey's landing
skids. Upon arrival in Vietnam the unit was assigned to Tan Son Nhut where
it supported the H-21s of the 33rd, 57th, and 93rd Helicopter Companies.
This first element of UTTCO soon received reinforcements when eleven UH-1B
model Hueys arrived in November. These differed from the A models in two
important ways. The B model had a more powerful engine which allowed it to
carry more armament, and it had a factory installed weapons pack of four
M-60 machine guns and a different set of mounts for the sixteen 2.75 inch
Under the direct control of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV),
this unit was to test the role of the helicopter as an 'escort' or 'gunship'
for troop-carrying helicopters*. The 'escort' role evolved into three distinct
segments: the 'en-route phase', the 'approach phase', and the 'landing zone
(LZ) phase'. During the en-route phase the helicopters flew at a relatively
safe altitude with little danger from ground fire. During the approach phase
the helicopters dropped down on the deck when they were several miles away
from the LZ. These phases required little from the armed Hueys unless a ship
went down due to mechanical failure or ground fire. Then one of the escorts
would be detached to cover and provide support for the crew during rescue
operations. However, it was during the LZ phase that the escort carried out
its most important role. Throughout this part of the operation the escorts
were constantly over the LZ providing support for the transport helicopters
(slicks). Initially the armed Hueys would go into the landing area ahead
of the slicks to find out if it was occupied by the enemy. If ground fire
was encountered it was considered a 'hot' LZ and the escorts tried to suppress
the enemy fire with their guns and rockets. Throughout the landing the armed
Hueys remained over the LZ to cover the vulnerable slicks. Thus they were
exposed for a long period of time to enemy fire, particularly if the landing
area was small and could only take a few troop carriers at a time.
Despite this exposure to enemy ground fire only one escort was shot down
between 16 October 1962 and 15 March 1963 during which the unit flew almost
1800 combat support hours. During this period eleven helicopters were hit
by ground fire but in return the armed Hueys killed an estimated 250 VC.
An indication of their effectiveness was seen in how unescorted helicopters
fared during the same period. The rate of hits for unescorted slicks more
than doubled, while the hit rate for escorted slicks dropped by 25 per cent.
An even better indication of their effectiveness was when Marine H-34 crews
at Da Nang began to request Army escort helicopters. During the latter stages
of the test a platoon of the armed Hueys had been moved up to I Corps to
see how they operated in the mountainous terrain. Though skeptical at first,
the Marines eventually were won over and became enthusiastic backers of the
armed escort. Despite the success of these armed Hueys, they were involved
in a battle which resulted in a major Viet Cong victory and showed how vulnerable
helicopters were to heavy ground fire. On 2 January 1963 ARVN troops carried
out a major assault on the village of AP Bac located about thirty-five miles
southwest of Saigon. Part of the plan called for helicopters to drop troops
north and west of the village sealing off the enemy's escape. The 93rd Helicopter
Company furnished ten H-21s for the operation and were supported by five
armed Hueys. Unfortunately, no air support was available and when the H-21s
moved in to land their troops the VC opened up with mortar, and heavy machine
gun fire. The fourth H-21 into the LZ was downed, and as another H-21 moved
in to rescue the crew, it too was shot down. The escort Hueys tried to surpress
the heavy ground fire but were unable to silence the enemy gunners who in
turn knocked down two more H-21s and an armed Huey. Finally, Vietnamese and
American fixed wing aircraft arrived on the scene, and after repeated attacks
with bombs, rockets, naplam, and machine gun fire they were able to surpress
the VC fire. However, by then it was too late, the communists had escaped
through gaps in the ARVN lines.
In a post mortem analysis of the battle a number of factors were cited which
contributed to the defeat. In particular the air force pointed out that armed
helicopters were not an adequate substitute for fixed wing escort, especially
against a determined, entrenched enemy. Air support might be done away with
against lightly defended targets, but if the enemy was in strength armed
helicopters alone would probably not be able to suppress heavy ground fire
without substantial losses.
During this period an experiment was conducted to further increase the ability
of helicopters to react to the fluid guerrilla war. Code named 'Eagle Flight',
it entailed a group of gunships and transport helicopters held back on a
standby basis or in the air searching for targets of opportunity. With usually
seven transport Hueys, five gunships, and one medivac, plus embarked ARVN
troops, this reserve formation was on call as the need arose. It allowed
greater flexibility for executing an airmobile mission since little planning
was needed which proved extremely valuable when time was of the essence.
After the initial success of the experiment, it quickly gained favor, and
by late 1964 every helicopter company had organized its own 'Eagle Flight'.
These early tests with the armed helicopters produced a good deal of information
for future operations. It was found that five to seven armed Hueys could
support twenty to twenty-five slicks. However, with the armament system,
the escorts were unable to carry troops. In addition to the forward firing
rockets and machine guns the gunships also had door gunners that provided
side coverage and helped clear jammed weapons if necessary. With all this
weight aboard, the UH-lB's speed dropped to approximately 80 knots and as
a result could not catch up with a formation if they were delayed at lift-off
or attacked a target along the way. The Army realized that the only way to
solve this was to upgrade the basic UH-1 engine or develop a completely new
gunship from scratch. The former was quickly done, but the latter took time
and eventually was caught in a web of conflicting requirements which almost
caused the demise of the entire project.
End of "AIRMOBILE" section
(Ed Note) One other big difference between the UH-1A and the other UH-1 aircraft
was the difference in the length of the mast, the UH-1A was much shorter.
Another big factor in the armed helicopter was the
battle between the Air Force and Army about the agreement that the Air Force
(before 1963) would have all the attack aircraft. The Army ground troops
finally won out in having their own close air support, UH-1 aircraft. The
first CH-21 flew without escort and called in Air Force fixed wing aircraft
if needed, the air speed was greatly different.
The group of Army Aviators and mechanics that first
armed a UH-1 aircraft did so mostly on their own and tested them at ranges
This part of the history is mostly taken from
many long conversations over many years.
The first few years of the UTT-334th history
the UTT was kind of given a green light to experiment with equipment and
tactics of armed helicopters. Many have said that the UTT operated on the
edge and sometimes crossed over. Many times ideas from other groups was sent
to the UTT to try to work the bugs out. They got the reputation of getting
the job done.
The name Utility Tactical Transport Helicopter Company
did not fit in with the Army Regimental system so they were assigned a number,
68th, as were unit like A Co / 501st Avn Bn (71st) and A Co / 82nd Avn Bn
(335th). Making it much easier to move aviation companies from one battalion
to another. This move was away from the true regimental system but all aviation
were at least in the same system, except for the Cav, but that's another
Along comes military politics as the conflict
grows larger. More higher ranking officers were assigned to units. Everybody
wanted a unit with good lineage and what better lineage could you get then
the (at the time) 68th Avn Co. So the 68th was redesignated the 197th and
the lineage was given to a unit forming up at Ft Benning, GA the 68th Air
Mobile Light Aviation Company. Without a doubt the officers and men of the
197th could build up another go lineage, and they did. Once again they were
victim of their own success, another redesignation to the 334th Armed Helicopter
Many of the members of the original UTT, that could
be spared from higher command duties, at the end of their tour, were able
to be assigned to Bell Helicopter Company at Ft Worth, TX to help develop
a new helicopter, AH-1 Cobra. Once the Cobra was ready to be sent to Vietnam
with the Cobra NETT team, these former members of the UTT wanted to take
them to their old unit, now called 334th AHC, around Nov 1967. The 334th
and Cobra NETT team used the cobra a few times in combat while working the
bugs out. During TET of 68 LTC Deets and some higher ups first cleared the
Cobras to be used in combat.
Now that the Cobra had replaced the UH-1C in the
334th it was time for another name change and another new pocket patch. It
was redesignated the 334th Aerial Weapons Company. Which they could keep
until they left Vietnam.
UTT-68th-197th-334th UNIT DECORATIONS
The Company performed with valor and distinction throughout its tenure in
Vietnam. Unit awards conferred were:
- Army Aviation Unit of the Year. AAAA Hughes Trophy Winner 1963
- Presidential Unit Citation, Battle of Due Hoa. GO 30. 30 Aug 1965.
(Pg1, GO 3 Dtd 27 Jan 66 amends GO 30 to read "PUC to Distinguished Unit
- Distinguished Unit Citation. Battle of Dong Xoai. CO- 43 Pg1,
Dtd 9 Nov 66 (Named unit with 145th Combat Aviation Battalion)
- Meritorious Unit Commendation. GO 40. Dtd 31 Oct 66, Pg4, May-No
- Valorous Unit Citation GO-17. 19 March 67
- Vietnamese Victorious Unit Citation GO-17. 23 March 68
- Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/Palm GO-22, 24 March 68. (Named unit
with 1st Avn Bde/145th Avn Bn)
- Meritorious Unit Citation GO-48, 13 Sept 68. (Named unit with 12th
- Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry w/Palm 2nd award GO-21 3 Apr 69. (Named
unit 1st Avn Bde)
- Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry w Palm 3rd award GO 54 1974
Along with developing the UH-1 gunship and the same people working on the
development of the AH-1 gunship. The UTT basically developed the tactics
used by all the gunship in Vietnam and beyond. One part of those tactics
was the 12 Cardinal Rules:
1 Do not fly in the dead man zone without a reason.
2 Always make a high reconnaissance first.
3 Never fly behind another aircraft.
4 Never fly parallel to any feature.
5 Never over-fly the target.
6 Always assume the area is hot.
7 Never fire until you have friendly force identified.
8 Avoid firing over the heads of friendly troops.
9 Fire only when you have a worthwhile target.
10 Always know the situation.
11 Brief your elements, to a man.
12 Take your time.
And for good measure Cpt Jerry Childers added one more.
13 Never leave anyone behind.
Lightning Bug, June 1965 DARPA sent the 197th a Rube Goldberg searchlight
made by assembling seven C-123 landing lights. The 197th standardize the
tactics and establish a SOP for a three ship "Lightning Bug " mission.
.50 Caliber Machine Gun side door mount. The 571st Direct Support Maintenance
Detachment fabricated for a .50 Cal machine gun to give the 197th a little
more punch on those Lightning bug missions.
Operation SeaWolf When the Navy decided to start using gunships landing
on boats on the rivers, the 197th was assign to teach them how to do it.
The UTT-197th was the first All Gunship Company and remained that way except
for a short time in 1965 when one platoon got slicked out for a short time.
With the arrival of the Cobras they needed a few UH-1s for lightning bug
and maintenance but remained mostly an All Cobra Gunship. From what
I hear the pilots really loved their first gun run in the new Cobras until
they landed and realized they had no crew chief and door gunner to rearm
I'm sure I left out a lot of UTT-68th-197th-334th history items, so if you
have any additions or correction please send them in. I'll add them to this
report and post them on our web page.
For a much more complete history of the unit please get a copy of the
book "RETURNING FIRE, in the beginning" by Col (Ret) James W. "Pete" Booth,
PO Box 235, Tennille, GA 31089. I want to send our condolences to Pete in
the passing of his wife Sue to cancer February 2016 and a speedy recovery
from his stroke.