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Summary of Events-Calendar Year 1968
Posted: August 23rd, 2007 @ 11:12am
The 101st Aviation Battalion was reorganized during the period covered by this supplement. The mission statements applicable to both the period prior to and after this reorganization are listed below.
1. a. The mission of the 101st Aviation Battalion (Abn Div) as defined by TOE 1-550, is as follows.
1. To provide aviation support for division headquarters, division support command, and other divisional units without organic aircraft.
2. To provide General support and reinforcement to units possessing organic aircraft.
3. To provide an aviation special staff section for the division headquarters.
b. The mission of Headquarters and Headquarters company, as defined by TOE 1-560, is as follows:
1. To furnish command, control, administration, battalion level organizational maintenance, communications, and supply for the Aviation Battalion.
c. The mission of Company A (light airmobile) as defined by TOE 1-570, is as follows:
1. Provide tactical air movement of combat troops in airmobile operations.
2. Provide tactical air movement of combat supplies and equipment in airmobile operations.
d. The mission of Company B (General Support) as defined by TOE 1-580 is as follows:
1. Provide Aviation support for the division headquarters, division support command, and other units without organic aircraft.
2. Provide medium range aerial surveillance to acquire combat intelligence and target information required by the division.
3. Provide general support and reinforcement to units with organic aircraft.
4. Provide limited aerial escort for airmobile operations and limited supplemental aerial fire support to combat elements of the division.
2. a. After the reorganization of the Battalion under TOE 1-55T the mission is as follows:
1. To tactical mobility for combat troops, supplies, and equipment of the 101st Airborne Division during the conduct of airmobile operations.
b. The mission of Headquarters and Headquarters Company as defined by TOE 1-156T is as follows:
1. To furnish command, control, administration, battalion level organizational maintenance, communications, supply for the aviation battalion.
c. The mission of Companies A, B, C as defined by TOE 1-157T is a follows:
1. To provide tactical mobility for combat troops, supplies and equipment of the division during the conduct of airmobile operations .
d. The mission of Company D as defined by TOE 1-157T is as follows:
1. To provide security for airmobile forces, and to participate in offensive, defensive, and delaying actions as part of a highly mobile combined arms teams.
Summary of Events-Calendar Year 1968
The year 1968 began with the 101st Aviation Battalion located at Bein Hoa Army Base where it arrive from the United States in the last month of 1967. Although the Battalion had hardly become settled into its new home operations against the enemy commenced almost immediately. On the 2nd of January a combat assault was conducted by the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division in the vicinity of Phoe Vinh. Operations continued in this vicinity, with a routine of logistics, administrative, and fire support missions becoming quickly established. On 23 January the emphasis abruptly shifted to operations in the Song Be area. The pathfinder section from the headquarters company moved to take control of the rotary wind aircraft refueling area at Song Be, although the aircraft and crews remained based at Bien Hoa. As January drew to a close both Song Be and the battalions main base camp at Bien Hoa came under repeated mortar and rocket attacks.
The intelligence build up during the closing weeks of January had indicated the enemy’s intent to attack, among other locations throughout the country, the Saigon-Bien Hoa area during the TET holiday period with an eye toward inflicting maximum damage and casualties to allied forces, and causing irrepairable harm to the prestige of the Saigon government and of the powers of the free world who sought to assist them. As the ominous warning from G-2 channels became more strident, security measures increased. At 0145 hours on 31 January the battalion went on 100% alert, and when, at 0300, the first round from the enemy’s mortars landed on the base at Bien Hoa, the battalion had already deployed its forces to defend its own facilities within the base, and be ready to perform such missions as necessary to assist in the fight elsewhere.
As the situation developed, hostile forces broke through the outer perimiter of the base and strove for the main airfield. Others approached the helicopter pad of the 101st Aviation Battalion; both were halted by ground fire, and as they were pinned there, they were hammered from the air. Jet aircraft, still using the main strip, did not even bother to clear the traffic pattern before dropping their ordinance. The Black Angels of Company B contributed to the destruction of the enemy pocket with rockets and minigun fire.
The most remarkable accomplishment of the Battalion during the TET offensive was achieved not at Bien Hoa, but in the city of Saigon at the American Embassy. Communist forces had attacked the Embassy itself, and, in spite of heroic resistance by the Embassy guards, were in control of parts of the complex, including a section of the main building. The eyes of the world turned toward this bizarre battle, and the call went out to the 101st to reinforce the beleaguered garrison of MP’s and others who were attempting to drive the enemy from their grounds. The fastest way to move troops to the area was by the helicopter, but where to land? The grounds and buildings were partially overrun, and friendly and hostile forces were mixed with one another. The decision was made to land on the only available spot—the roof of the Embassy building itself. This operation was fraught with unusual characteristics. No preparatory fire were possible. The assaulted area was full of friendly troops as well as being composed of a highly critical complex of buildings whose political importance was enough to induce great caution, not to mention the records and equipment within the complex that were subject to damage as the battle increased in ferocity.
A rifle infantry platoon was carried by 5 UH-1H “slicks” to the Embassy. The lead ship was commanded by LTC John K. McGregor the battalion commander, who was also the air mission commander. Two attempts were made to land, but ground fire was too intense. The door gunners on the slicks could not respond, because of the proximity of friendly troops. As the third attempt was made, the MP’s on the Embassy grounds provided covering fire. Only one ship could land on the roof top at a time, and they came in and the troops dismounted from the aircraft, the pilots maneuvered their aircraft to shield the infantry as they moved across the exposed roof and down into the building.
The operation began with the request for aid at 0500, at 0834 the first ship landed and by 0845 the operation was complete. One casualty was suffered by the 101st Aviation Battalion when the door gunner on the lead ship was wounded. Once the insertions were completed, the battle at the Embassy continued to sputter on for a short time but what may be the most unique airmobile combat assault in the Viet-Nam was over.
During the period of the first and second months of 1969, the Battalion underwent a shuffling of personnel with other aviation units. This, known as the infusion program, was designed to provide a leveling of more experienced aviators and other personnel to obtain a more even level of experience between the units involved in the program. This program had another benefit, in that it meant that partial elimination of the “hump” or mass exodus that would occur on the anniversary of the battalion’s arrival in Vietnam as the members of the Battalion would, without this program, come up for rotation at the same time.
MOVE TO EAGLE
In February the Battalion began its move to Camp Eagle near the old imperial city of Hue. A small advance party went north on the 14th while the remainder of the fallen into a routine pattern as members of the battalion became “Old Hands” at the business of combat assaults and the other missions they were required to perform. From the 19th to the 22nd of February the battalion supported an operation by the 3rd Brigade in the vicinity of San Thuy. On the first day of this operation, 14 kills were credited to B Company’s “Black Angel” gunships. On the 28th of February, a C-130 transport was shot down by ground fire in the vicinity of Song Be. A “slick” sent out to recover the crew was fired on and hit. For the better part of the afternoon, gunships rained fire on the enemy near the downed aircraft while slicks brought troops in to secure the area and evacuate personnel and equipment.
From the 9th through the 12 th of March the bulk of the battalion was loaded aboard ship in the Saigon harbor. On the 14th this ship, the seatrain Main, departed for DaNang. On 13 March 40 personnel and two vehicles wee flown via C-130 Transport from Bien Hoa airbase to the Phu Bai airfield near Hue and Camp Eagle to join the advance party, and assist in the final preparation of the camp for the arrival of the main body. The Maine docked at DaNang on 14 March and on the same day the rear detachment from Bien Hoa arrived at DaNang. On the 29th all of the battalion had closed Camp Eagle with the exception of 5 aircraft and ten crews which remained behind to continue support for the Third Brigade in the Song Be/Bien Hoa area.
Even while a large portion of the battalion was still enroute to their new base at Camp Eagle, others had taken up the fight in the new area of operation. On the 23rd of March, the “Black Angels” were called to assist in a running battle north of Hue. An estimated NVA Battalion had been flushed, and as the gunships arrived over the battle area, a large number of enemy soldiers were caught in the open. In the brief skirmish that followed, the gunships of B/101 were credited with 63 enemy killed in action.
The first two days of April found the pathfinders of HHC 101St establishing aircraft control towers at Camp Eagle and Fire Base Bastogne. Operations were generally routine through April, even the commencement of operation Catentan II did not mean an extraordinary increase in activity for the battalion.
On the 6th day of May however, “Black Angel” gunships, of B Company under the command and leadership of Major Eugene T. Randall were credited with 57 NVA killed during operations in support of the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division.
In Mid-May operation Nevada Eagle commenced, which was to continue throughout the remainder of 1968 and well into 1969. The operation was subdivided into many smaller operations and the Battalion was called upon to conduct combat assaults, resupply missions, fire support missions, and extractions at an ever increasing tempo. Administrative activity grew in intensity also as the July 1st date for conversion of the 101st to an airmobile division approached. The 17th and 188th Assault Helicopter Companies which had been attached to the Division for some time, wee assigned to the Battalion.
New personnel arrived and were attached to the Battalion prior to the organization of the 160th Aviation Group headquarters.
In the midst of this activity the enemy chose to make a serious attempt at damaging Camp Eagle. On 21 May, covered by a heavy Rocket and mortar fire, a ground attack was pressed against parts of the camp’s perimeter. The sector occupied by the 101st Aviation Battalion was never severly pressed; however the shelling did some damage. The battalion mess hall received a direct hit from a 122mm rocket, and was nearly destroyed. Also three men were wounded on the bunker line by shell fragments. On May 23, LTC Paul B. Snyder assumed Command from LTC John E. McGregor, and on 27 May, the Battalion received it’s Annual General Inspection. In spite of the strain incurred by combat operations, the moves from the states and then from Bien Hoa, and the personnel turmoil of the infusion program, the Battalion had no difficulty in meeting the requirements to successfully pass the inspection.
On the 14th of June the 160 Aviation Group was formally organized. It was at this time that the Battalion bade farewell to its pathfinders, as they moved to become
part of the Group headquarters. On 15 July the formal reorganization of the 101st Aviation Battalion took place.
In a picturesque ceremony at Camp Eagle, the members of the 17th and 188th Assault Helicopter Companies removed their old insignia to reveal the 101st patch. The 17th became B Company, and the 188th became C Company. The “Black Angels” that were B Company plus the gun platoons of the slick companies became the “Hawks” of D Company.
In early August, the most significant portion of Nevada Eagle was undertaken. A force of two brigades, US and ARVN, was inserted into the infamous A Shau Valley in an attempt to disrupt the enemy’s supply channels and deny this critical route to his use. The operation was called Somerset Plain. The 101st Battalion bore the brunt of the effort of both the initial insertions and the resupply of the infantry units in the valley.
The initial lift was one of the most massive in the war. Every available transport in the Battalion was utilized along with numerous aircraft from supporting units. Near the end of August the campaign in the valley came to an end with the extraction of the allied forces.
With the beginning of September, the weather began to change. In the northern part of South Viet-Nam the onset of Autumn means the start of the rainy season. On the 4th of September typhoon Bess struck Camp Eagle. This storm accompanied by rains that were very heavy even for Viet-Nam, and winds up to 120 mph posed a severe threat to the Battalion. Although some damage, and considerable discomfort, resulted from the storms, no aircraft were lost or severly damaged, due largely to the efforts of their crews to secure them against possible harm. In spite of the bad weather, the 101st continued to conduct airmobile operations. In early September a series of operations commenced, that while continuing to pursue the general objective called for in Nevada Eagle of grinding down the enemy, denying him his supplies, and breaking up the infrastructure, took into account the effects of the weather and its limitations on operations. The Vin Loc operation commenced during this period, and at about the same time the battalion was called upon to support the withdrawal from the western part of the area of operations. Fire bases deep in the mountains such as Voghel, Eagle’s Nest and Bastogne were abandoned and the personnel, equipment, and everything of value was airlifted back to locations that would be accessible during the rainy season. On the 15th of September a combat assault was conducted near Vin Loc which brought the operations of the same name to an end, gunships of D company were credited with 10 confirmed kills when forces attempted to disrupt the maneuver.
In early October the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division began its move to the south. At the same time the 3rd Brigade of the 101st, the “Nomad” Brigade, returned to its parent unit. By 12 October the Brigade had occupied Camp Evans, the former base camp of the 1st Cavalry Division, which had departed for III Corps area shortly before.
An extensive training program began at once for the 3rd Brigade, and the 101st Aviation Battalion found itself flying mission after mission as operations were conducted over the flat ground in the northeastern portion of the area of operations by the Brigade as they became familiar with their new environment and the Division’s method of operating.
On the 20th of October, the Battalion was augmented by the attachment of four aircraft maintenance detachments. One was assigned to each. (The 499th TC Det to A Company, the 510th TC Det to B Company, the 516th TC Det to C Company, and the 527th TC Det to D Company.) These detachments provided direct support maintenance and supplemented the company’s organic capabilities.
The weather continued to deteriorate into November, and operations became more and more limited. A major problem that arose was in the the form of the DEROS hump mentioned above. In spite of the infusion program and tour extensions, the battalion lost 200 personnel over five week period. This meant a time of stress for those who were left behind as the new replacements had to be trained and indoctrinated in the procedures followed by the Division and the Conditions peculiar to the area of operations.
On 21 December, with a break in the weather, a massive operation was conducted as the 3rd Brigade and an equivalent force of ARVN troops were lifted into the mountains west of Camp Evans.
During the Christmas truce the Battalion had the distinction of being shot at by the enemy 18 minutes after the truce began. In addition to being possibly the first intended victim of a cease fire violation, other more pleasant activities included hearing Evangelist Billy Graham speak, and providing an airmobile taxi service for screen star Carolyn Devoe who toured fire bases in the 101st’s area.
As the year ended the 101st Aviation Battalion continued to develop. In the closing weeks of the year, the first of the Cobra gunships were delivered to replace the old UH-1C (Huey) aircraft that had served so well through the previous months. As the relative hush of the New Year’s truce settled over the area operation, the members of the Battalion looked back with pride on a year of struggle and accomplishment, and forward with confidence toward the future struggle.
COMPANY D 101ST AVIATION BATTALION 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION
The preceding pages have been retyped from copies of the actual Annual Supplement to the History of the 101st AVN BN and I have been very careful in my typing to reproduce them as exactly like the original as I can make them in this age of computerized word processing programs. At a future time I hope to be able to post a scanned version of the documents. I have tried to be very meticulous in my typing, and I encourage you to email me with any questions concerning the historical supplements of the 101st AVN BN. The email address is email@example.com or you may leave your comments in the guest book on this site at d101hawks.com.
The copies that I have were obtained from the U.S. Government and National Archives about 16 years ago when I first had a idea about a history for the Hawks of D Company of the 101 AVN BN of the 101 ABN DIV. The documents that I obtained cover 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1972 the Annual Supplement for 1971 could not be located. I have yet to find a written history of the Hawks, some information can be gathered from the Battalion history, but it still remains a history of the battalion. It is my hope that a history will now be written about the Hawks by the Hawks themselves, it is to that end that I started the website for the Hawks several years ago. The website idea started from a few simple emails to and from JP Conway of vhpamuseum.org and then made possible by the very hard work of Webmaster Donna Delor of bearmarketgifts.com and wife of Dan Delor of the Blue Ghosts and two very brave Hawks pilots, Hawk 13 and Hawk 21 and I say brave for two reasons. The first being that they are truly brave men for flying all those years for the Army, the second being that they were brave enough and very gracious in allowing their photos to be the first ones posted on the website.
Ray Pitts, D101Hawks.com.