1965

Preface   This is the history of the 155th Avn Co (AML), a unit which is a compound product of modern aeronautical technology and the traditions of the United States Army. The company originated, at greatly reduced strength, at Fort Riley, Kansas, upon the reorganization of the 1st Infantry Division under the ROAD concept. The Company was then A Company, 1st Aviation Battalion, 1st Infantry Division. As such it took part in the Us Air Force INDIAN RIVER Exercises and in the US Strike Command Operation GOLDFIRE I. And as such, it prepared for and moved to the Republic of Viet Nam. It is during the preparation for this movement that this history begins.   This history is a contemporary account of events in the 155th Avn Co. It has been prepared from operations orders, after action reports, daily activity reports, witness accounts and internal personal interviews, all regarding this company. The recording of events is being done by calendar quarters to facilitate compilation and distribution to members of the company during their tour in Viet Nam. The recounting of events is as objective as possible with the observing, recording and chronicling being done by those who also are responsible for accomplishing the assigned missions. This history was organized and initiated by Captain John A. Geurin who joined this organization as a member of its advanced party in Ban Me Thuot.   It is my privilege to command this diverse organization of some three hundred officers and men, at the heart of which is the 155th Avn Co, at the time this is written. I salute those men - mechanics, cooks, clerks, security guards, communications, medics, air-crew men, for whom and about whom this is written.     JOSEPH L. PARLAS, JR Major, Infantry Commanding BAN ME THUOT, RVN 24 Feb 66         GENERAL   This quarter has been characterized by many significant events and operations. On 3 July Company A received its first Security Platoon; 28 August Major Deloach left the company, and the 5th of September brought about the rotation the shot gun platoon.   Major operations during the quarter in which Company A were involved included Duc Co, Quang Ni and Phuoc Vinh. The Phuoc Vinh operation included elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade being lifted into War Zone "D", an area north of Saigon which had long been a notorious Viet Cong stronghold.   EVENTS AND OPERATIONS   3 July saw the arrival of the 52nd Security Platoon. This platoon, one of the largest in the US Army, is headquartered at Pleiku and has elements attached to each airmobile company in the battalion for local security. With this platoon, every available means of defense is coordinated including bunkers, observation posts, roving patrols, mortars ground surveillance infrared searchlights, and sentry dogs.   A highlight of 1965 for Company A came in July when the Company was called upon to fly the Secretary of Defense and his party on an inspection visit to the Republic.   On July 1st, Company A was alerted for movement to Cheo Reo air-field (Coor. BQ235825) for an operation in support of the ARVN Airborne Brigade. A PAVN Regiment had been located in the mountain pass southwest of Cheo Reo. The mission involved supporting the ARVN Airborne Brigade with airlift of supplies and personnel. A second mission was given Company A, that of evacuation of a district headquarters near Cheo Reo which had been under attack by the Viet Cong for several days.   Because of the enemy situation, supplies and ammunition had not been sent to the village for several days. Prior to decision to evacuate the headquarters, a battalion of the ARVN airborne brigade attempted to gain access to the village by convoy. The convoy was ambushed in a defile four kilometers southwest of Cheo Reo with heavy casualties reported. Vehicles and artillery were burned while the unit was pinned down for 20 hours.   The evacuation was planned for 1500 hours the following day, and would be made by Company A, the 119th Avn Co, and the 52nd Airlift Platoon. Air Force A1E's and F-100's executed napalm and 20mm strikes around the village clearing the way for the helicopters. Company A lead the flight into the area, followed by the 119th Avn Co and 52nd Airlift Platoon. As Company A lifted off the LZ the Viet Cong began mortaring the district headquarters and the landing zone. The ll9th was unable to land in the area because of the intense mortar and ground fire in and around the LZ. The mission was aborted and all units returned to Cheo Reo airfield. Company A was able to extract nearly one hundred and sixty people from the village on the lift. Aircraft carried the maximum possible load with as many as fifteen passengers on some helicopters.   The ARVN Brigade again attempted a convoy to the headquarters after several days and nights of constant bombing by the Air Force. The convoy was successful and the headquarters was evacuated by road. The Viet Cong regiment, after days of intense bombing by the Air Force, withdrew into the mountains southwest of Cheo Reo ending the siege. Company A was released and returned to Ban Me Thuot,but several aircraft were left at Cheo Reo airfield for support of advisory team. During the night the Viet Cong mortared the airfield damaging several of the aircraft. One UH-ID was flown away during the attack by l/Lt Edward T. Pledger. Upon landing at Quin Nhon the crew counted eighty four fragment holes in the aircraft.   On 2 August Company A was alerted for movement to Pleiku. The United States Special Forces Camp of Due Co had been under siege for several weeks, when on 3 August operation Dan Thang 5 was conducted by the 52nd Avn Bn. The operation was in support of the 3rd and 8th Battalions, 1st ARVN Airborne Brigade. Elements of the 117th Avn Co. Company A, 119th Avn Co and the 52nd Airlift Platoon staged from Camp Holloway Army Airfield and lifted 1150 troops in six lifts to the landing zone at the Duo Co Airfield. Small arms and automatic weapons fire were received in the vicinity of the landing zone, resulting in one UH-1D and one UH-IB (A) being damaged with no casualties.   On 10 August, the units performed an air-landed assault mission in support of the 5th ARVN Airborne Battalion. The aircraft staged from Holloway Army Airfield and lifted 450 troops in three lifts to the A1E's. No hostile fire was received. The landing zone at Duc Co Airfield. During the last lift, casualties were extracted and 4000 lbs of supplies were carried to the ARVN Marine Task Force which had previously been lifted to the Duc Co Airfield. Close air support was provided by eight USAF F-l00's, four of which were utilized in the pre-strike, while the remaining four were used provide air cover. Small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire were received in the landing zone. Two UH-1D's received hits and one US door gunner of the 119th Avn Co was wounded.     During the Duc Co operation Company A provided aircraft each day to the 52nd Avn Bn for purpose of re-supply, medical evacuation, and small troop placements throughout the operational area. The siege was finally broken on 15 August with the withdrawal of the Viet Cong regiment into Cambodia. Company A was released and returned to Ban Me Thuot.   On 24 August elements of A Company, the 121st Avn Co, and the 501st Avn Co from Bien Hoa, performed an air-landed assault in support of the 23rd Inf Div for the purpose of clearing highway 21 from Ban Me Thuot to Nha Trang. Aircraft staged from Ban Me Thuot (East) Airfield, and lifted 1257 troops of the Marine Task Force (ARVN) in five lifts to a landing zone (coord DQ120165). During the last lift into the LZ, one UH-1D (A) of Company A experienced a low side governor failure and crashed into the trees in the vicinity of the LZ. The crew was evacuated by UH-ID back to Ban Me Thuot. The aircraft was piloted by WO Philip I. Pettit who was medically evacuated to the United States because of injuries. The aircraft sustained major damage.   Close air support during the operation was provided by four USAF A1E's. No hostile fire was received. The Marine Task Force was convoyed out of the operational area at the completion of the operation. During the entire operation, medical evacuation and re-supply aircraft were provided by Company A.   The 20th of August marked the re-assignment of Company A's Commanding Officer as Executive Officer of the 52nd Avn. Bn. In a brief change of command ceremony at Ban Me Thuot, Major Fred T. Yamagata took command of Company A. Major Yamagata had been the Executive Officer of the 52nd Avn Bn for the past six months.   On 5 September the first door gunner platoon completed its ninety day assignment and returned to the 25th Inf Div. They were relieved by 1st Lt Authur J. Ryan and his shotgun platoon. The new platoon consisted of 3 NCO'S and 24 EM, all were volunteers from troops A, B and C. 3rd Sqdn, 4th Cav, 25th Inf Div. The platoon was assigned TDY to Company A for a period of 3 months.   The 10th of September marked the beginning of a period of Company A's history in which the unit would be involved in major operations in all four Corps areas of Viet Nam, in one thirty day period.   On 8 September, the unit was alerted for movement to Quang Ngai. Combined with elements of the 119th Avn Co, Company A performed an air-landed assault and extraction mission in support of the 5th US Special Forces Group. Fifty USSF advisory personnel and 210 ARVN Airborne Rangers were lifted from the stage field at Quang Ngai to the landing zone (at coord BT137003) in one lift and later extracted in one lift from the same LZ. No hostile fire was received. Close air support provided by eight USAF A1E'S utilized for pre-strike and eight USAF B-57's were used for air cover. The mission was completed and Company A returned to Ban Me Thuot.   2 September found Company A preparing for movement to Saigon to work with the l45th Avn Bn. The operation involved lifting element of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Royal Australian Regiment into an area 5 kilometers north of Ben Cat. Six air mobile companies plus Air Force elements were involved in the operation. The operation consisted of making five lifts from Bien Hoa to an LZ North of Bien Cat. This area was known as "D" Zone and had long been a sanctuary for the Viet Cong.   After the first days operation, Company A returned to Saigon for the night with instructions to return to Phuoc Vinh by 150700 prepared to stay in the field the remainder of the operation in direct support of the ARVN Airborne Brigade. The Company remained at Phuoc Vinh through the 22nd of September when it was directed to return to Saigon. Although the Company was in direct support of the ARVN Airborne Brigade it was frequently recalled to III Corps control to participate in air landed assaults and extractions with the 145th Avn Bn. The Company also provided the 173rd Airborne Brigade with aircraft for re-supply medical evacuation, and small troop placements. The majority of Company A's aircraft were flying an average of 4 to 8 hours a day flying tine during this period. On 28 September the Company was released to return to Ban Me Thuot. This had proved to be a long three day mission.   Prior to this operation no friendly troops had been in the area for over fifteen years. During the operation a 200 bed hospital and supplies were found along with an ammunition factory and tons of ammunitions. Heavily fortified bunkers and miles of tunnels were also found in the area along with many tons of rice which was recovered or destroyed. This became the first in a series of major operations throughout this area involving US troops. A Company was to return to this area many times.     1 OCT 1965 - 31 DEC 1965     This quarter has been highlighted by the number of major operations in which Company A took part. During this quarter the company continued to operate not only in the II Corps area but also in the III and IV Corps areas. These operations were milestones in the struggle against the Viet Cong. Such operations were the "Iron Triangle" operation, the Plei Me Operation, the Tuy Hoa rice harvest operation, and, finally "Operation Bushwacker" invo1ving elements of the 1st Division and the 101st Airborne Brigade in the area around the Michelin rubber plantation northwest of Saigon.   Other events during this period wore the reassignment of two company commanders, the rotation of our last "Shotgun" platoon, and the re-designation of Company A, as the 155th Aviation Company (Airmobile light).     EVENTS AND OPERATIONS     On 6 October Company A was alerted for movement to Saigon, to be attached to the 145th Avn Battalion. The operation involved lifting elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade by means of five airmobile companies into two landing zones, in the infamous "Iron Triangle" thirty kilometers north of Saigon. The Iron Triangle had, for more than 15 years, been a well known communist sanctuary. The initial operation was conducted by making a troop lift into a secured landing zone to act as a blocking force for the mobile elements which were landed, in four lifts, in an LZ twelve kilometers to the west. The area had been pre-struck by Air Force D-52's six hours prior to the assault and F-l00's along with artillery of the 173rd Brigade were used to pre-strike the landing zone.   As the 173rd swept through the Iron Triangle they encountered few Viet Cong but found large stores of supplies, including enough rice to feed a VC regiment for four months. They also uncovered fresh evidence of the Communist's long famed trenching arts: tunnels up to 40 feet deep and several hundred yards long, with angled corridors and galleries to reduce blast effects, air vents and emergency exits. Weapons of all makes and caliber's were found along with an abundance of ammunition, mines and grenades Sufficient medical supplies to establish a field hospital were found and recovered by the ground troops.   Upon release from support of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the company moved even farther south to join with the 13th Avn Bn. At 1200 hours the 9th of October, Company A closed at Soc Trang, home of the 121st Ave Co and Company A of the 501st Avn Bn. This operation on the Delta involved lifting elements of the 9th and 27th ARVN Division from Vi Thanh (Coord WR550830) into two landing zones. A total of three lifts were made into the areas lifting approximately 1200 troops. Moderate ground fire was received in both LZ's but no aircraft were damaged. At 1200 hours 10 October the Company was released, and returned to Ban Me Thuot.   After arriving at Ban Me Thuot the Company settled down for a well earned rest. This period of rest was short lived however for at 22OO hours the evening of the 10th the company was alerted for movement to Tuy Hoa to support a rice harvest operation. With thirteen troop carriers and six armed helicopters, the company departed Ban Me Thuot and closed at Tuy Hoa at 1540 hours. Preparations were made for a three day stay at the Tuy Hoa North Airfield, The operation to secure the fail rice harvest in the Tuy Hoa valley involved a four lift movement of a maneuver force of the 47th Regiment (ARVN) in the morning and a two lift movement of a blocking force in the afternoon. During the morning lift one armed helicopter experienced a premature rocket explosion causing extensive structural damage to the aircraft and badly wounding PFC William Ables who was evacuated to Nha Trang and the United States. At 1130 hours this same day a "MAYDAY' call was received from an A-1E which had been flying air cover for the operation. The A1E had suffered elevator control failure on a strafing run and the pilot was forced to bail out at sea. A Stagecoach UH-1D crewed by Captain Leonard L. Boswell and CWO Charles Gibson rescued the pilot from an extremely rough sea. The following morning Company A performed two more lifts with the 47th Regiment and was released to return to Ban Me Thuot.   On 20 October Company A departed Ban Me Thuot enroute to Phu Cat for a ten day operation. Because of bad weather the company diverted to Pleiku for the night. Upon arrival the company was told to off load all field gear and stand by for a possible lift into the Special Forces camp at Plei Me. This marked the beginning of the largest attack ever launched by the Viet Cong and one of the most difficult support missions any airmobile company ever completed. For the first five days, A Company was the only airmobile company available for support.   The camp had been attacked by an estimated Viet Cong regiment during the night. Shortly after day break, it appeared that the V.C had broken contact and retired. Two medical evacuation helicopters of the 498th Medical Company with two armed escorts from the 119th Avn Co were launched to recover the dead and wounded from the camp. During the mission the aircraft received heavy automatic weapons fire up to caliber .50 size. One of the escort gun-ships was hit and crashed in flames just outside the southwest perimeter of the camp.   On the morning of 21 Oct, Company A was called on to lift 240 ARVN Airborne Rangers from Camp Holloway to an LZ four kilometers north of the besieged camp. During the reconnaissance of the LZ one UH-1B (armed) of Company A suffered mechanical failure which resulted in separation of the main rotor from the aircraft at 2000 feet absolute altitude. The helicopter crashed and exploded on impact. The aircraft was commanded by l/Lt Harold A. Preisendefer and piloted by WO Joseph S. Huwyler, crew chief and gunner were SP/5 William J. Johnson and PFC Michael E. Davis. This crew was the first lost by Company A in the Republic of Vietnam.   About mid-morning on the 22nd of October, four UH-1B's (armed) of Company A were dispatched to escort a VNAF CH-34 in a rescue attempt for a downed A1E pilot. The CH-34 did not attempt the pilot pickup, because of the ground fire in the area. l/Lt Edward T. Pledger of Company A salvaged the rockets from the armed helicopter he was flying and accomplished the pick-up. Later in the day a second rescue attempt was made for another downed Air Force pilot in the vicinity of Plei Me. This rescue attempt had to be aborted due to heavy automatic weapons ground fire and darkness. The rescue was effected the next morning when four UH-1Bs (armed) of Company A escorted an Air Force CH-34 into the crash site.   On 24 October the 52d Avn Bn was given the mission of deploying 400 ARVN soldiers of the 22nd Ranger Battalion along the route of an Armed Task Force enroute to relieve the besieged camp. The troops were to secure likely ambush sites along the intended route of the Task Force. During the lift one helicopter struck stumps in the LZ and was destroyed with no injuries. Monday, the 25th, found Company A and the 119th Avn Co, assisting the 1st Bde, 1st Air Cav Div, in a troop placement from Camp Holloway to areas around the Plei Me Special Forces Camp. On the 28th, elements of Company A and the 119th extracted the 42nd Airborne Ranger Company (ARVN) from Plei Me to the New Pleiku Airfield marking the end of one bloodiest battles of the war in Viet Nam. Post operation intelligence indicates that Plei Me was staged by the Viet Cong with a primary purpose of killing aircraft.   Following the siege of Plei Me the US First Cavalry Division relentlessly pursued the Viet Cong until in Ia Drang valley. "Charlie" stopped to do pitched battle. About this battle, Newsweek Magazine said, "In its bloodiest week to date, the fighting in Vietnam reached a pitch of savage intensity that US troops had not experienced since Korea. Among other horrors of war, Communist troops impaled captured South Vietnamese soldiers on stakes. Wounded US troops were shot down, their comrades, enraged, shot some north Vietnamese prisoners out of hand. The bitterest battle was in the shell scarred Ia Drang valley, near the Cambodian border, where US troops reported that they killed perhaps 1,500 communists during the entire engagement. In the same area, a battalion of the US First Cavalry Division, was ambushed, and one company virtually annihilated. Total estimated US killed in the Ia Drang fighting was 175." "At Plei Me and Ia Drang, the US Forces no longer fought Viet Cong Guerrillas in their black pajamas but rather faced the People Army of Vietnam in steel helmets and full battle gear."   On 18 November the 52d Avn Bn again joined forces with the 1st Air Cav Div, in operations in the Ia Drang valley. The largest single operation of the year. The 119th Avn Co, Company A, and elements of the lst Air Cav Div transported 2500 II Corps (ARVN) troops from Duc Co Airfield into the valley as a blocking force. The ARVN unit was lifted into an area which was located between the retreating Viet Cong and the Cambodian border. This final assault on 18 November was the last operation in which Company A was involved in the Plei Me, Ia Drang area. The Viet Cong retreated piece-meal across the Cambodian border the battle ended. In Saigon, General William C. Westmoreland proclaimed the Ia Drang action an unprecedented victory. US casualties were "heavier than in any previous engagement, but small by comparison with the enemy."   On 1-2 November, between major missions in the Plei Me, Ia Drang operation the 52nd Avn Bn supported operation Quyet Thang 172 at Tuy Hoa, Company A, the 119th Avn Co and the Marine Helicopter Company from Quin Nhon conducted an operation in support of the 22nd lnf Div (ARVN) in an operation to again secure the rice rich Tuy Hoa valley. A total of 720 troops were moved in three lifts, under low ceilings and with poor visibility. The USAF provided a forty five minute pre-strike on the landing zone. One UH-1B (Armed) was struck by ground fire but recovered to the stage field with no further incident.   On 7 November a second air landed assault was conducted. The operation involved air landed two battalions of the 47th Inf Regt, and two battalions of the Airborne Task Force. This was a four lift operation delayed for more than an hour between the second and third lifts because of weather. From Tuy Hoa, the 52nd Avn Bn moved to Duc My in support of the ARVN artillery school in a combined arms demonstration. Company A provided thirteen UH-1D's and six UH-1B's (Armed). The 119th provided twelve UH-1D's (transport helicopters) and six UH-IB's (armed) for the demonstration. All air movements, Air Force and artillery fires were pre-planned and coordinated by the Duo My Training Center Advisory Team. As part of the demonstration, a total of 546 troops were lifted on an air landed assault into multiple LZs. The demonstration ran smoothly and was a great success. Attending the demonstration were two hundred high ranking observers headed by General William C. Westmoreland.   On 15 November, Major Fred T. Yamagata was evacuated to the United States because of illness. Captain James Napier, who had been Company Executive Officer, assumed command of Company A. Thanksgiving Day found Company A in Ban Me Thuot, celebrating the holiday with an air-landed assault and a large turkey dinner. Three hundred and forty CIDG troops were air lifted from Buon Ea Yang Special Forces Camp to an LZ five kilometers to the west. Following the assault, the company hosted 12 members of the local missionary group at a turkey dinner.   On 25 November Company A received official notice that it was being re-designated, Headquarters USARV, General Order No. 1677, dated 20 November, directed that Company A would become the 155th Aviation Company (AML) and that Company A 1st Aviation Battalion would return to the 1st Inf Div which had recently arrived in the Repub1ic of Vietnam. The former 155th Avn Co. was assigned to the 1st Inf Div as Company A, 1st Avn Bn upon arrival from Korea.   The 30th of November saw the departure of l/Lt Arthur Ryan and six members of the shot gun platoon. The unit had been notified earlier in the month that it would be the last unit to be assigned on a TDY basis. Nineteen members of the platoon chose to remain as members of the 155th Aviation Company (AML) when they were given the option of extending their 90 day TDY to a full year assignment.   On 29 November the 155th was placed on a four hour alert for movement with twelve troop carriers and five armed helicopters to Bien Hoa to report to the 115th Avn Co for approximately ten days. Because of bad weather between Ban Me Thuot and Bien Hoa the Company was unable to depart until 1100 hours on the 30th. Upon arrival at Bien Hoa, Captain Napier was informed that the 155th would be working under the operational control of the 1st Avn Bn. After refueling, a troop lift of three hundred and sixty men was made by the company from Bien Hoa to Tay Ninh. Upon completion of the troop lift, the company recovered to Bien Hoa, and was directed by III Corps, through the 1st Avn Bn, to move to Phu Loi where the 1st Avn Bn was to provide mess and billeting facilities. Through 16 December, working on a day to day basis, Stagecoach supported, variously, the 10th Inf Div (ARVN), Special Forces Camps, 1st Inf Div, 101st AB Brigade and III Corps Headquarters. The majority of effort expended during this period was in support of operations Bushwacker I and II in the same area in which the company had operated two months earlier. These current operations were partially as a result of elements of the 7th Inf Regt (ARVN) being overrun near the abandoned Michelin Rubber Plantation near Tuy Ninh.   There was fighting in plenty, around the huge abandoned Michelin Rubber Plantation near Dau Tieng, some 40 miles northwest of Saigon, when two battalions hit all four sides of a government encampment on Date Palm Hill. The South Vietnamese defenders hurled them back in vicious hand to hand combat, taking a heavy toll in communist lives. But the Viet Cong were hardly crushed. When the men of South Viet Nam's 7th Regiment lined up abreast for a sweep through the plantation, the reds attacked through the trees in human waves. "We're folding up" radioed the senior US Advisor as the communists engulfed his position. Soon he was dead, along with much of the rest of the regiment in the most savage communist attack of the war. "But the South Vietnamese had fought to the last bullet", is how the Time Magazine described the initial contact.   On 15 December, the 155th was directed by S-3, 1st Avn Bn to move to Bien Tre. The unit closed at Bien Tre with ten troop carriers, and four armed helicopters. This unit operated with the 13th Avn Bn in support of the 7th Inf Div (ARVN) lifting two battalions in a combat assault. Two additional battalions were then moved on a troop placement mission and the original two battalions were extracted to their staging areas in a busy day which saw the equivalent of six battalions moved. The unit was released by the 13th Avn Bn at 1730 hours and returned to Phu Loi where it was released by the 1st Avn Bn. The company closed at Ban Me Thuot on 17 December for a brief respite.   Whi1e at Phu Loi, Major Joseph L. Parlas, Jr. became commanding officer of the 155th Avn Co. Major Parlas had just completed eighteen months ground with the 1st Cav Div. Major James W. Napier, III, became S-4 , 52nd Avn Bn. Between 17 and 31 December the 155th reverted to its role in support of the 23rd Inf Div (ARVN). During this period seven combat assault missions were flown in support of the 23rd Inf Div and local CIDG units.   Christmas Day found the 155th taking a well deserved rest at Ban Me Thuot. The good old fashioned Christmas spirit was interrupted for only a brief period on Christmas Eve when a sighting on the perimeter fence sent all personnel scrambling for their bunkers.   To round out the year, elements of the 155th and the 119th Avn Co's utilized 21 troop carriers and twelve armed helicopters to airlift 465 CIDG troops from Buon Ea Yang, US Special Forces camp, in an effort to destroy a VC Training Camp. The operation was conducted in three lifts and enemy ground fire was received. There were no hits or casualties in either unit during the operation.   The end of the year brought to a close a period of time for which members of the 155Th and attachments can be proud. A period during which all four corps areas of Vietnam were supported by the Stagecoach in a highly professional manner.