118th Assault Helicopter Company

Collectively the Thunderbirds

1st Red Scorpions
2nd: Choppers
3rd (Guns): Bandits

TIME PERIOD OF THIS PAGE: June 1968 - December 1968

Attention to Orders
Headquarters, United States Army, Pacific General Orders 236..."

So it began on a hot dusty day in The Republic of Vietnam in 1963. The 118th Assault Helicopter Company was activated, thus becoming the first assault helicopter company in Vietnam. Rising from the recently de-activated 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 had been credited with 150 enemy kills. That record was first set by the "Bandits" and had 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 units that were to follow.

The Thunderbirds participated in every major battle and virtually every operation in the III Corps area.    The "Thunderbirds" had distinguished themselves in the Battle of Dong Xoai, Operation Attleboro, Operation Cedar Falls, Operation Junction City; and during the 1968 "Tet Offensive" -- 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" will be remembered in the history of Army Aviation for their contributions.

The 118th AHC had a heliport for their company's helicopters called the "Birdcage" They had moved into this area in August of 1967. The area had been a great asset in helping maintain higher aircraft availability. The modern and larger aircraft hangers could handle up to six aircraft at one time, and the offices, parts section, and the tool room were conveniently located inside the hanger. The modern and more complex revetments with packed sandbags offered maximum protection against in-coming rocket and morter rounds.

The "Thunderbirds" were proud of their past operations and missions that won distinction for their unit. The battles of Loc Ninh, and Bu Dop, and the defense of Song Be and Bie Hoa well be remembered as major operations in which the 118th AHC demonstrated extrordinary valor. Individual acts of heroism were commonplace 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 and grabbed him with his left hand and carried him back to his ship, dodgin heavy enemy fire all the way. As the 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 and where upon he pulled a 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 guerillas 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 evidenced 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 the base camp area. After eight heliborne assaults, the V.C. were wtill 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".

A majority of the above history was taken from an album that the unit put out every year. In the album was a history of all of the units of the 145th Combat Assault Battalion.