1966

  HISTORY OF THE155TH AVIATION COMPANY (AML) APO SAN FRANCISCO, 96297   1 JANUARY 1966 - 31 DECEMBER 1966     Prepared by Unit Historian and Assistant 1LT Willis J. Heydenberk WO1 Paul G. Coke   Approved by ROBERT V. ATKINSON Maj Inf 52ND COMBAT AVIATION BATTALION APO San Francisco, 96318 PREFACE   Since 10 August 1966,it has been my privilege to command the 155th Aviation Company (AML). However, before that time I had the opportunity to observe this company for a number of months while assigned to the Ban Me Thuot area. The flexibility of the aviation support operations and far ranging missions impressed me. I found it even more a challenge to command the unit with such an evident display of esprit de corps and team effort by officers and enlisted men of the company and detachments. During the period of my command,this company has supported ground and air elements of US and Republic of Viet Nam units in the Central Highlands.It has been my pleasure to be a part of this hard working combat assault helicopter company.   In the future I wish for the 155th the kind of year that it enjoyed so successfully in 1966. Company pilots, crews and aircraft flew a maximum number of combat hours with outstanding maintenance support behind them, and have produced one of the finest unit safety records in Viet Nam. The men of each supporting unit contributed to the overall flight record of the company, and made real history for the past year. Individually, they deserve special commendation for their participation in the full year's efforts of 1966.   It is a privilege to write this preface to the 155th's unit history for 1966. A unit history which began a good many flying hours and DEROS dates ago at Fort Riley, Kansas, and which is being made daily here in Viet Nam in the highest of US Army and aviation traditions.   ROBERT V. ATKINSON Major, Infantry Commanding     SIGNIFICANT EVENTS AND OPERATIONS   1 January - 31 December 1966   The beginning of January 1966 found the 155th engaged in operations in the Saigon area. They took part in a combat assault followed by supplying eight airlift helicopters and four armed escorts, to South Viet Nam Premier, Ngyen Cao KY and his party. It was then north to Phu Cat for operation Masher/White Wing. These missions were typical of those pulled by the young Company. One misfortune marred the fine combat record. Two members of the gun platoon departed their aircraft after landing near Bu Prang on 29 March 1965 and accidentally wandered into an old French minefield. Warrant Officer Raymond L. Ford and Warrant Officer Philip C. Smith became casualties when they detonated anti-personnel mines.   Initial days of April were spent in normal mission flight around the various supported sectors but later missions took the company farther away from home base. The 1st Air Cavalry Division initiated Operations Paul Revere in mid-April to search out and destroy the elusive enemy in the hazardous Chu Pong mountain range.   Tragedy struck the company on 27 May 66 during a troop lift south of Pleiku. WO Eugene W. Caswell was killed when his aircraft failed to clear tall trees in a take off from a confined area and crashed. Crew chief PFC Robert C. Luce and gunner, PFC Richard E Dabney, Jr., were severely burned. PFC Dabney subsequently died on 3 June while enroute to an Army hospital in San Antonio,Texas.   July 4, 1966 was passed at home base with Vietnamese representatives from the local Darlac Province gathering to celebrate the Declaration of Independence Day with the American servicemen at the Aviation compound. Province Finance chief Tri presented gifts to the command in behalf of his people for the continuing U.S. effort in opposing Viet Cong aggression in their area.   Successful 155 participation in the close ground combat of the 23rd from 6 to 10 July prompted Brig Gen. Nguyen Van Manh to present Vietnamese honors to three men of the company on 1 August. Major Parlas received the Vietnamese Gallantry cross with the silver star. Captain Frost received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for suppressive armed fire support which resulted in killing forty (40) Viet Cong.   Events proved to be pleasant on Thanksgiving and Christmas for the men of the 155th. Both days were holidays for the troops and both were enjoyed fittingly. On 24 November the compound swimming pool was officially opened by 17th Group Commander, Col John W. Marr,Inf, and 52nd Battalion Commander, LTC Foy Rice, in a ribbon cutting ceremony. On 4 December the new Battalion Commander, LTC Paul C Smithy, TC, assisted in dedicating the Crossbow Inn NCO club which contributed to the recreational offerings of the aviation compound at Ban Me Thuot. On 30 October, a UH1D commanded by WO Michael N. Coryell and piloted by WO Wilmer J. Willingham was shot down while on a re-supply mission for an element of the 25th Infantry near Plei Dyereng. Crashing to the ground in flames, there were no survivors. Camp Coryell the home of the 155 was named in his honor. Part II   SIGNIFICANT EVENTS AND OPERATIONS   1 Jan 1966 - 31 Mar 1966   General: Company operations of this quarter have been varied and widespread. From 7 January, when the 155th Aviation Company (AML) moved south to Tan Son Nhut, until 10 March, when it embarked on support missions of the 25th Infantry Division south of Pleiku, Stagecoaches and Falcons moved across the length and breadth of South Viet in air combat support missions.   Major operations during this quarter involving the 155th included a large air lift out of Bien Hoa, with other short support operations staged from Bong Son, Phu Cat and Tan Canh. Also used as staging areas several battalion missions in the local area, Ban Me Thuot Airfield.   Events and Operations: Company operations began for the year on 7 January, 1966, when the 155th for an operation in support of the 173d Airborne Brigade. Under the command of Joseph L. Parlas Jr.,the 155th participated in its largest operation to date. Involving 108 UH-1D aircraft, the massive airlift was staged out of Bien Hoa and consisted of six lifts, seven troops per air-craft, regulars from the newly formed Australian Royal Brigade constituted a large number of the troop movement. During the operation, four of the 155th aircraft were struck by ground fire, three severely enough to requiring precautionary landings. The responsiveness and preparedness of well trained wrecker crew was responsible for enabling three of the damaged aircraft to complete the mission and return with the company to Ban Me Thuot on 9 January.   General support of the 22nd Division ARVN was accomplished in an operation on 14 and 15 January, with the 52d Aviation Battalion in search and destroy missions near Bong Son. The company returned to the Bong Son area on 27 January to continue operations as part of the 52d Battalion. Remaining through 7 February in support of the ARVN airborne brigade,the 155th participated in Operation Masher/White Wing, jointly staged by the US Marines,1st Air Cavalry Division and the ARVN airborne brigade. Initial flights were made from the Army airfield at Phu Cat.   2 January and 3 February saw the company performing battalion combat assaults. On 4 February South Viet Nam Premier, Nguyen Cao Ky and his party were transported with eight airlift helicopters and four armed escorts on an aerial inspection of the operational area. Standby for reinforcement of the 1st Cavalry was the mission of 5 February, but poor weather conditions forced its cancellation. During the remainder of the operational support, the company was engaged in general missions involving re-supply and medical evacuation flights. Major problems during the period proved to be lack of supply of potable water and field for range burners. Rations and water were received from a unit of the 1st Cavalry DIV ARTY at this time.   From 15 through 20 February the 155th supported the 3d Brigade, 45th Battalion, 23rd Division ARVN, in a search and destroy operation north of Ban Me Thuot. During this time, the company continued its normal missions in support of the 23d Division and its Tactical Area (DTA). On both 15 and 16 February the company was scattered on multiple sector duties. One misfortune marred the fine combat record of the company during this period. Two members of the armed platoon departed their aircraft after landing near Bu Prang on 29 March and wandered into an old French minefield. Efforts to rescue the two pilots failed. WO1 Raymond L. Ford and WO Philip C. Smith became casualties when they accidentally detonated anti personnel mines. Period 1 Apr 1966 - 30 Jun 1966     General: Initial days of this quarter were spent by the 155th in normal mission flights around the various supported sectors, but later missions took the company further away from home base. The 1st Air Cavalry Division initiated Operations Paul Revere in mid-April to search out and destroy the elusive enemy in the hazardous Chu Pong mountain range. 155th support of ground units with the 52d Battalion in this operation continued for the rest of the year. Other quarterly events proved on the minus side as one company pilot and a young gunner lost their lives in the combat zone of Viet Nam.   Events and Operations: During the early part of April the company flew daily support missions for the various units around the sectors and in conjunction with the 23d Division operations near Ban Me Thuot. On 16 April the 155th departed Ban me Thuot to support the 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division on Operation Paul Revere.From 16 through 23 April the company staged missions from Tan Canh airfield. It was during this time that a combat assault on 20 April resulted in near casualties for two 155th pilots when a UH-1D was hit by enemy ground fire. Aircraft commander, Cpt.Raymond L. Hardy, Inf. and pilot Maj. Wilford C. Isner, Arty, were both wounded by a 50-caliber round that entered the cockpit,ricocheted off the armor-plated seats and exited out the other side. Both officers were evacuated to Army hospitals, and Cpt Hardy was later sent back to the states for additional recuperation. Major Isner returned to the unit after some convalescence at Qui Nhon Army hospital. During the above action of 20 April, an armed helicopter, commanded by Cpt Robert W. Frost, engaged an enemy 50 caliber position and scored a direct hit with four rockets. Cpt Frost was credited with one confirmed kill and with destroying the gun position.   Moving to Pleiku on 23 April, the 155th supported from there in support of elements of the 3d Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and the ARVN airborne brigade. Through the period 23 to 30 April, the company was also involved in support of the 23d Division during Operation Longfellow. Two aircraft daily, and one additionally during the regimental size operations, were supplied. Difficulty was encountered in meeting this dual requirement and also providing another aircraft for medical evacuation. The number of aircraft remaining at Ban Me Thuot was generally considered to be inadequate. On 30 April the company returned to Ban Me Thuot and operations returned to normal.   During the month of May, three aircraft were totally destroyed. An armed helicopter was shot down in a combat assault north of Duc Co. The ship burned, but no injuries were sustained by personne1 on board. Two airlift aircraft were lost during the last week of May as one crashed and burned due to a tree strike, killing two US infantrymen. Also lost were the lives of four CIDG personnel, while two others were badly burned. The second UH-1D was lost as a result of engine failure over rough terrain. No fatalities or injuries occurred in this accident. One UH-1D received three hits from enemy ground fire on a re-supply mission in May, but no serious damage or personal injury resulted from this hostile contact.   From 8 May through 30 June, the 155th operated from Camp Holloway, Pleiku, in general support of the 25th Infantry Division, with time out for battalion operations with the 22d Division ARVN on 19 May in the vicinity of Bang Son. Tragedy struck the company on 27 May during a troop lift south of Pleiku near fire base, Oasis. WO Eugene W. Caswell was killed when the aircraft he was flying failed to clear tall trees on the takeoff from a confined and crashed. Crew chief, PFC Robert C. Luce, and gunner, PFC Richard E. Dabney,Jr., were severely burned in the crash and required medical evacuation to Nha Trang. PFC Dabney subsequently died on 3 July while enroute to an Army hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Period 1 Jul - 30 Sep     General: During this quarter, company aircraft moved north daily from the Ban Me Thuot area until the company operations control was moved to a field location in support of Operation Paul Revere south of Pleiku. Nevertheless, the 155th aircraft continued to provide air support to the 23d Division in a number of important operations staged from Ban Me Thuot. Events followed a colorful line as company commander, Maj Parlas, received a Vietnamese award and members of his command were presented like recognition for their efforts in assisting the 23d Division in its battle against the common enemy. A change of command ceremony brought new leadership, as the company moved to full support of the 4th Infantry Division, newly arrived from the states.   Events and Operations: The first ten days of July were spent in the usual support missions within the local flying area. A daring late afternoon rescue of a downed USAF 0-1E pilot made by a UH-ID commanded by. CWO Wesley D. Page on 3 July added much optimism to future air-land rescues. Within 20 minutes from the time the rescue call was received in 155th Operations, CWO Page's aircraft was making the pick-up. Flight Surgeon Cpt James Paulk was on board to assist the downed pilot. A light team of "Falcon" gun ships were dispatched to provide air cover for the rescue.   Later that evening the company's aircraft were assembled at Ban Me Thuot to lift a quick reaction force to the scene of the downed 0-lE on a lonely stretch of road near the Cambodian border. However, poor weather conditions prevented the lift, and the plane was extracted the next day.   July Fourth was passed at home with Vietnamese representative from the local Darlac Province gathering to celebrate the Declaration Day with the American servicemen at the aviation compound. Province Finance Chief Tri presented gifts to the command in behalf of his people for tho continuing US effort in opposing Viet Gong aggression in their area. The morning of 5 July saw men and aircraft of the 155th returning to the Pleiku area to continue support of ground units there with the 52d Battalion.   During the period 6 to 10 July the company was once more in support of the 23d Division with the primary duty of lifting elements for the 145th Regiment in the Buon Ho area. During this operation, five troop lifts were accomplished. Two of the lifts, on 8 and 9 July, carried 700 regulars to ground contact with an estimated battalion size Viet Cong force in the vicinity of Buon Ho. Only brief contact was made the first day, but subsequent engagements followed the next day with mounting casualties on both sides. Approximately 140 reinforcements as well ammunition and supplies were flown in that afternoon. A body count of 100 Viet Cong was reported by American Advisors near the action,while friendly killed was termed light. Cover support provided by the 155th's armed "Falcon" platoon accounted for many of the enemy killed. Ground troops captured enemy rifles, radio equipment and Viet Cong documents. No 155th aircraft were reported downed or hit during the two-day engagement.   Successful 155th participation in the close ground combat of the 23d mission support prompted Brig Gen Nguyen Van Manh, 2nd Division Commanding General,to present Vietnamese honors to three men of the company on 1 August. 155th Commander, Major Parlas, received the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with the silver cross for his close cooperation with the ARVN Division staff and personnel since coming to Command in December 1965. To Cpt Frost and 1Lt William 0. Martin went the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for their part in supporting combat action during Operation Thang Long, 8 July to 12 July 1966. Cpt Frost was decorated for suppressive armed air support which resulted in killing forty Viet Cong. 1Lt Martin received his Vietnamese medal for evacuating 26 wounded from under enemy fire and returning them to medical facilities in Ban Me Thuot.   During the period 11 to 31 July, the company returned in force to coordinate with 52d Battalion operations in support of the 25th Infantry in the Pleiku area. Field base Catecka was utilized often during the month by 155th aircraft in staging troop lifts and resupply missions. The same type of mission support continued through August when the field base was moved to the Special Forces camp located at Plei Djereng, and later to the division's forward supply area south of there.   With the reassignment of two 155th pilots, Cpt Franklin E. Pierce and Cpt Gerald L. Ziegler, to the 2d Airlift Platoon, 282d Aviation Company on August, this unit relinquished further responsibility of administrative flights for the 33rd Senior Advisory teams. The 282d aircraft were assigned regularly to the VIP flight missions at Ban Me Thuot and utilized the parking and refueling facilities available at the aviation company base. On 10 August Major Parlas relinquished the command of the 155th as "Stagecoach 6" to Major Robert V. Atkinson, Inf. The 52d Battalion Commander, Lt Col Foy Rice, took part in the exchange of the company guideon. Afterwards, Major Parlas invited Lt Col Rice to join him in putting the remaining 15 minutes on UH-1D, number 64-13545, flying the aircraft into the compulsory 1200-hour engine change. This was the first for the company in engine endurance, and rarity in the Viet Nam combat zone.   Three armed "Falcon" aircraft were assigned the mission of visual reconnaissance and road clearing from 7 through 12 September in the Nha Trang area. This flight was characterized by daily contact with Viet Cong,resulting in the destruction of 50 structures and 30 enemy killed.   Throughout August and September, the 155th spent the majority of its operational time in the field under monsoon clouded skies. Operating in connection with the 119th and 170th Aviation Companies and a 1st Cavalry (CH-47A) airlift unit, 155th pilots proved extremely reliable during the quarter as no major aircraft accidents occurred and no lives were lost. It was during this period also that the company organized and completed a move from Ban Me Thuot to Catecka, with its own mess personnel and operations team intact. In the future, battalion mess and operations facilities were to switch frequently among the three companies in the Pleiku area. Period 1 Oct - 31 Dec 1966     General: Operations in support of the 25th Infantry and the 4th Infantry continued throughout this period, extending to the north as far as Kontum, and as far south as the enemy infested Chu Pong mountain range. Operations also extended as far west as the Cambodian border, with the 155th involved in a majority of the missions.   Events proved to be pleasant on Thanksgiving and Christmas for the men of the 155th. Both days were holidays for the troops and both were enjoyed fittingly. On 24 November the compound swimming pool was officially opened by the 17th Group Commander, Col John W. Marr, Inf, and 52d Battalion Commander, Lt Col Foy Rice, in a ribbon cutting ceremony. on 24 December the new Battalion Commander, Lt Col Paul C. Smithy, TC, assisted in dedicating the Cross Bow Inn NCO club which contributed to the relaxational offerings of the aviation compound at Ban Me Thuot.   Events and Operations: Operation Searchlight required two gunships in the Phan Thiet area from 7 through 12 October to test the suitability of using the Xenon infrared searchlight during night combat operations. Working in conjunction with elements of the 1st Cavalry, the "Falcons" hit hard at VC activity in keeping Route #6 open north of Phan Thiet and impairing enemy rice stealing raids.   Airlift platoons of the 155th were involved in the support of elements of the 25th Infantry and the newly arrived 4th Infantry. Personnel during this time were billeted in the transit quarters provided at Canp Holloway, Pleiku.   23 through 25 October the 155th operated in brief airlift support of the 23d Division in the Ban Me Thuot area of operations. During the last half of October, five airlift aircraft and two gun ships were assigned to US Special Forces unit located in the Kontum area. 155th aircraft acted in aviation support during the classified operation of long range reconnaissance patrol actions. This operation turned out to be one of the most interesting and challenging for the unit pilots and crew members alike.   On 30 October a UH-1D commanded by WO Michael N. Coryell and piloted by WO Wilmer J. Willingham was shot down while on a resupply mission for an element of the 25th Infantry near Plei Djereng. Crashing to the ground in flames, the aircraft had no survivors. Also perishing in the aircraft were the crew chief, PFC James Walker and the gunner,SP4 John W. Weed. While in support of operations near Kontum in late October, the 155th was involved in a rescue of an Air Force pilot shot down by intense enemy ground fire in hostile territory. 1Lt Richard Silva, Arty, and WO Stephen B. Birchall were dispatched in a UH-1D with two gunships in escort to make the dangerous pickup of the uninjured pilot in near darkness. The rescue story made the Pacific Stars and Stripes, and all participants were awarded distinguished combat aerial decorations.   Completing the Special Forces support mission at Kontum, the 155th dispatched one platoon of airlift ships and two gun ships to a similar mission, Operation Omega, at Ban Blech, 25 miles north of Ban Me Thuot. During that operation, aircraft were diverted from a patrol lift to a helicopter crash south of Ban Blech airstrip. Mechanical failure in a 155th UH-1D resulting in a forced landing in jungle terrain caused aircraft commander Cpt Freddie W. Williams and pilot WO Dennis M. Trux to be evacuated to the Army hospital at Nha Trang. Rapid reaction by other company aircraft dispatched from Ban Me Thuot made the rescue possible, even though it was dark. Cpt Williams was later evacuated to the states while the other crew members and three passengers aboard returned to the company from hospital recuperation.   On Thanksgiving Day the 155th, minus those personnel involved in Operation Omega, enjoyed a brief respite in mission activity at Ban Me Thuot. The day was observed with a fly-by, awards and-decorations ceremony, dedication of the new swimming pool and a short interdenominational service, followed by a well prepared meal for the men and guests in the enlisted mess. Meanwhile, Cpt Charles T. Peases, Inf, and WO James K. Frederickson utilized one UH-1D to fly Gen William C. Westmoreland and party into Special Forces camps located in the Ban Me Thuot area. They were escorted by two "Falcon" gun ships.   December was again characterized by the 155th in Pleiku area operations in support of the 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 52nd Battalion having taken full responsibility of those units air support. Mid-December saw the termination of Operation Omega at Ban Blech, and the 155th was looking forward to a well deserved rest and company reunion at home base over the two day Christmas truce.   Christmas Eve day saw the company in full strength at the compound in Ban Me Thuot. Vietnamese Province Sector Chief Col Thanh and Nguyen Van Can, president of the Provincial Committee, headed a delegation which presented a plaque to the 155th, and other gifts to all members present. Some 80 Montagnard orphans visited the compound later that morning and were greeted by WO Robert N. Johnson dressed as Santa Claus who gave them gifts of candy. On Christmas day the men enjoyed a feast preceded by a short religious service. From then until 2 January, 1967 the 155th relaxed and readied for the New Year.   Combat hours flown 21,142 Combat sorties 65,768 Total passengers 77,000 Total cargo 3,846 tons