HISTORY OF THE
179TH ASSAULT SUPPORT HELICOPTER COMPANY
52D COMBAT AVIATION BATTALION
APO SAN FRANCISCO, 96318
Captain Robert D. Fetter
Major Henry E. Kelly
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Mission & Resources 1
II. Activities by month 5
III. Annual Summary 11
Awards and Decorations 12
Commanding Officers 12
The 179th Aviation Company (Mdm Hel) was organized as a medium cargo helicopter unit. The unit was activated 15 December 1965 at Fort Benning, Georgia and during calendar year 1966 deployed to the combat theater of Vietnam. Upon arrival in Vietnam the company was initially stationed at Dong Ba Thin and then moved to its present location at Camp Holloway, Pleiku, RVN. At this time the unit was assigned to the 52d Combat Aviation Battalion. The company has, since arrival at Camp Holloway, provided cargo helicopter support to as many as 5 separate locations simultaneously within the II Corps Tactical Zone.
The Assault Support Helicopter Company, as the Aviation Company (Mdm Hel) has been redesignated in a combat zone, is an organization tailored to fulfill a definite need. No other unit can so effectively resupply Infantry and Artillery units in the field, over terrain usually accessible only by rotary wing aircraft. No other unit can so effectively provide the mobility needed by the combat arms. In addition to these vital roles the 179th Support Helicopter Company has shown its versatility by successfully completing many medical evacuations, civil evacuations, and downed aircraft recoveries. The aviators and crews have provided direct combat support in almost every major and minor combat operation conducted in the II Corps Tactical Zone and in some cases combat operations in other Corps area.
The purpose of this unit history is to outline the events which occurred in the 179th Assault Support Helicopter Company from activation until 31 December 1966. It is intended to give an accurate portrayal of the company, its personnel and equipment, as well as a picture of the major combat operations in which the Company has participated. The information contained herein has been gathered from Quarterly Operational Reports and personal interviews.
Mission and Resources
The mission of the 179th Assault Support Helicopter Company is to provide direct aviation support within the II Corps Tactical Zone.
The 179th Assault Support Helicopter Company is organized under TO&E 1-258F. The personnel and equipment are authorized by Third United States Army General Order Number 389, dated 2 December 1965. The attached 402d Transportation Maintenance Detachment (Mdm Cgo Hel) is organized under TO&E 55-510T.
AREA AND FACILITIES
The 179th Assault Support Helicopter Company, assigned to the 52d Combat Aviation Bn, with its headquarters at Holloway Army Airfield, Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam, is a TO&E unit, providing direct Army Aviation support in the II Corps Tactical Zone.
The II Corps Tactical Zone consists of some 84,000 square kilometers, which represent about 45% of the total land mass of South Vietnam, and approximates in size and configuration the state of Florida. It is bounded on the north by I Corps, on the south by III Corps, on the west by Laos and Cambodia, and on the east by the South China Sea.
There are three principal types of terrain in the II Corps Area: the Lowlands, the plateaus, and the mountains. The coastal Plains or Lowlands area contains a series of delta areas separated from one another by mountain spurs. The soil is very fertile and the lowlands are a rich rice growing area.
Portions of the Chaine Annamitque Mountains, which extend into the II Corps area, form the mountain region. The mountains average 2,000 to 2,500 feet in height and generally are covered with dense jungle. The Plateau or Central Highlands is characterized by the broad rolling plains of Kontum, Pleiku and Dar Lac.
Population & Major Roads
The population of the II Corps Tactical Zone is approximately 2,800,000, some 20% of the total population of the country. Of this figure, approximately 520,000 are Montagnards. This represents about 50% of all Montagnards in Vietnam, most of whom live in Kontum, Pleiku, Dar Lac and Phu Bon Provinces.
Although surface transportation in the area is limited, roads to connect the principle cities. Route 1 runs the full length of the Corps in a North-South direction along the coast. Further inland, Route 14 runs North-South through the zone connecting Kontum, Pleiku and Ban Me Thuot, then shifts to an axis along the Cambodian border to Saigon. The major East-West axis, Route 19, connects the key cities of Qui Nhon, An Khe and Pleiku, and runs to the Cambodian border. Route 7 links Tuy Hoa with Cheo Reo and then joins Route 14. The other major East-West road is Route 21, which connects Ban Me Thuot to Ninh Hoa and thence along Route 1 to Nha Trang.
Weather is always a major factor in planning aircraft operations. The weather in II Corps area consists of two seasons: wet and dry. During the summer monsoon, which runs from June to September, the winds are from the Southwest and the Mountain and Plateau regions have low ceilings and a great deal of rain; whereas the Coastal Plains have dry and excellent flying weather.
The winter monsoon runs from November to April with reversed conditions. During this period the winds blow from the Northeast, causing low ceilings and rain in the coastal area while the Mountain Region enjoys favorable flying weather. The months of May and October are periods of weather transition and conditions both on the coast and in the plateaus are quite variable. This cycle brings frequent periods of low cloudiness, heavy rain showers and thunderstorms to most of the II Corps area. During this time air mobile operations are extremely difficult due to the unpredictable weather.
The varied terrain and weather found in the II Corps Tactical Zone make it necessary for RVN and US Forces to fight four distinct types of war in the dense rain forests of Binh Dinh and Kontum Provinces; the mountain type war in the interior highlands of Phu Bon and Binh Linh Provinces; and the more conventional type war in the plateau areas of Kontum, Pleiku and Dar Lac Provinces.
Significant Events and Operations
The 179th Aviation Company (Mdm Hel) was activated 15 December 1965 at Fort Benning, Georgia under Third U. S. Army General Order Number 389, dated 2 December 1965. The 402d Transportation Detachment was activated on the same order to provide direct maintenance support of the 179th Aviation Company (Mdm Hel). The unit's first Commanding Officer was Major Turner J. Trapp, 02002954, Infantry.
During the month of January 1966, the unit started transition training in the CH-47A Helicopter. All assigned aviators present for duty were sent to Fort Rucker, Alabama for ground school instruction on the CH-47A Aircraft. Transition training was subsequently conducted by the 177th Aviation Company (Mdm Hel.), Fort Benning, Georgia. A twelve (12) week training program on mandatory training subjects was initiated for all enlisted personnel. Crew and maintenance training for enlisted personnel was also scheduled through the 177th Aviation Company (Mdm Hel)
Individual aviator flight transition at Fort Benning and ground school instructions at Fort Rucker continued on a rotating basis during the month of February. Enlisted personnel continued individual training in POR Subjects. Officer and enlisted personnel fill was 80% completed and equipment fill reached approximately 50%.
All aviators completed ground school instruction and progressed into the transition program during the month of March. Approximately 3% of the unit personnel completed POR training. Approximately 40% of all enlisted personnel received AAMTAP training. Equipment fill slowed greatly and the unit was still approximately 40% - 45% short of its authorized equipment at the end of the month. The company began training during the latter part of the month.
All aviator fill was completed on 3 April 1966. During the month the unit moved to the field and participated in a three (3) day field problem near Eufaula, Alabama. Approximately 75% of the company was still undergoing individual training and make-up training at Fort Benning, Georgia. On 28 April 1966, the unit started to ferry all assigned aircraft to Sharpe Army Depot, Lathrop, California to prepare for overseas movement.
On 10 May 1966, the unit completed all individual and unit training and began POM leaves. On 13 May 1966, the last aircraft closed at Sharpe Army Deport. Processing of the aircraft for shipment overseas began immediately. 15 May 1966, all unit TO&E equipment was shipped to Savannah Port, Savannah, Georgia for overseas movement.
On 3 June 1966, a final POR check was conducted. All POM leaves were terminated. On 6 June 1966, the unit departed CONUS for the Republic of Vietnam and closed at Dong Ba Thin, RVN on 28 June 1966. The unit advance party departed Fort Benning, Georgia 13 June 1966, and closed a Dong Ba Thin 17 June 1966. On 22 June 1966 the unit aircraft and aircraft escorts departed CONUS enroute to the Republic of Vietnam.
During the month of July, while at Dong Ba Thin, all personnel qualified with their individual weapons. Unit aviators and crew personnel were given two (2) weeks field training with the 1st Air Cavalry Division. The experience gained during this training was invaluable and allowed the unit to become fully operational with a minimum of delay when the unit aircraft and equipment arrived. The majority of experience with the 1st Air Cavalry Division was gained during actual combat assault and combat support missions. These missions included all phases of operations involving the use of CH-47A aircraft; i.e., Infantry and Artillery moves, resupply missions (both internal and external), medical evacuations and aircraft recoveries. On 28 July 1966, all aircraft and aircraft escorts closed at Dong Ba Thin, RVN. The 179th Aviation Company (Mdm Hel) was also redesignated the 179th Assault Support Helicopter Company during this month. Unit aviators and crew members earned sixty (60) air medals during the month of July 1966.
On 1 August 1966, the units TO&E equipment arrived at the Port of Qui Nhon, RVN but due to overstorage problems part of the equipment had to be transshipped to Qui Nhon at a later date and then was transported, via Route 19, to Pleiku, RVN. The unit had been assigned to the 52d Combat Aviation Battalion located at Pleiku RVN during their temporary stay at Dong Ba Thin, and began to move to Pleiku, RVN on 8 August 1966. On 10 August 1966, the unit closed at Pleiku, RVN. The unit immediately established company operations and on 25 August 1966 started limited resupply and emergency missions. During the month of August unit aircraft carried 3351 passengers, 1288.4 tons of cargo, flew 667 missions consisting of 939 sorties, recovered four (4)
aircraft, and logged 473 hours and 35 minutes flying time. Unit aviators and crew members earned 82 Air Medals during the month of August 1966.
On 1 September 1966, the unit became fully operationally and immediately gave aviation support to elements of the 25th Infantry Division on Operation Paul Revere near Pleiku, RVN and to elements of the 101st Airborne Division on Operation Hastings at Tuy Hoa, RVN. In addition the unit conducted training, for all Artillery Batteries of the 4th Infantry Division soon after their arrival in country. The training was conducted during a 5 day period and included the proper loading and lashing of internal cargo, rigging, and hook-up of external loads, and orientation of personnel on safety and emergency procedures during unit moves. The training employed demonstrations and practical exercises involving the actual movement of personnel and equipment by CH-47A aircraft. On 3 September all TO&E equipment closed at Pleiku. On 10 September 1966 the first casualties of the unit were suffered by Major Herschel C. Jones and Captain David H. Edwards during Operation Hastings at Tuy Hoa, RVN. Both individuals received superficial shrapnel wounds when a bullet went through the cockpit plexiglass. During the month of September the unit carried 4711 passengers, 3084.4 tons of cargo, flew 1678 missions consisting of 364 sorties, recovered 15 aircraft, and logged 784 hours flying time. Unit aviators and crew members earned 90 Air Medals during the month of September and also two (2) Purple Hearts awarded during the month of September 1966.
During the month of October 1966, the unit continued to provide aviation support to Operation Hastings at Tuy Hoa, RVN and to Operations Paul Revere
near Pleiku, RVN. The unit also provided combat aviation training to approximately twenty (20) aviators of the 180th Assault Support Helicopter Company which had recently arrived in Vietnam. The Commanding Officer Major Turner J. Trapp was promoted to Lt Colonel effective 21 October 1966. During the month the unit carried 7553 passengers, 3969.4 tons of cargo, flew 751 missions consisting of 2769 sorties, recovered 8 aircraft, and logged 951 hours flying time. Unit aviators and crew members earned 119 Air Medals during the month of October 1966.
On 1 November 1966, Major Henry E. Kelley, 02002778, Infantry, assumed command of the 179th Assault Support Helicopter Company from Lt Colonel Turner J. Trapp, who has been reassigned to the 1st Aviation Brigade, Saigon, RVN. During the month the unit participated in an infusion program with the 180th Aviation Company (Mdm Hel). Approximately one third of each company's officers and enlisted personnel were exchanged. The exchange would ultimately allow normal rotation of personnel without decimating the unit. On 4 November 1966 the unit suffered its first combat loss in that Sp5 Joseph E. Ellison, RA 13 761 637, was seriously wounded and evacuated to Japan for further treatment. Sp5 Ellison's right arm was shattered below the elbow from any enemy round received while he was participating in a medical evacuation mission. The unit continued to support Operation Paul Revere in the vicinity of Pleiku, RVN and began support of Operation Geronimo near Tuy Hoa, RVN. During the month of November the unit carried 9,919 passengers, 4,612 tons of cargo, flew 982 missions consisting of 3,419 sorties, recovered ten (10) aircraft and logged 1,022 hours and 45 minutes flying time. This exceeded all previous months efforts and is an outstanding tribute to the aviators and crews of the units. At this time no other similar unit has achieved such an operational
record for one month. Unit aviators and crew members earned 162 Air Medals, 12 Distinguished Flying Crosses (Pending), 12 Bronze Stars, 4 Air Medals with "V" device, and 3 Purple Hearts during the month of November 1966.
During the month of December 1966, Operation Geronimo ended at Tuy Hoa, RVN and the unit discontinued aviation support in that area. Aviation support elements of the 101st Airborne Division were moved to the area near Kontum, RVN during Operation Pickett. The unit continued to support Operation Paul Revere in the area of Pleiku, RVN. Operational activity was light during the latter half of the month due to the Christmas and New Year truce. During December 1966 the unit carried 7,252 passengers, 2,971.5 tons of cargo, glew 855 missions consisting of 2,340 sorties, recovered seven (7) aircraft, and logged 834 hours and 45 minutes flying time. Unit Aviators and crew members earned 156 Air Medals and one (1) Purple Heart.
During the period 15 December 1965 to 31 December 1966, the unit was engaged in POR qualifications and training for 145 days; troop movements for 22 days; additional in-country training to include: (1) Individual weapons firing, (2) Initial in-country briefing for all personnel, (3) Tactical flight training for crew members, (4) Preparation of unit areas at Dong Ba Thin and Pleiku for 43 days; and was operational 127 days. During the period 25 Aug 1966, when the unit went on limited operational status, to 31 December 1966 the unit carried 32,786 passengers, 15,925.7 tons of cargo, flew 4,933 missions consisting of 11,831 sorties, recovered 44 aircraft and logged 4,031 hours and 5 minutes flying time. Unit aviators and crew members earned 669 Air Medals, 12 DFC's (Pending), 12 Bronze Stars, 4 Air Medals with "V" device, and 6 Purple Hearts. During the relatively short time the unit has been in-country it has established a reputation of professionalism. Every member of the 179th Assault Support Helicopter Company can be justly proud of its achievements in the past and can use these achievements as an incentive for the future.
TOTAL HOURS FLOWN 4,031
TOTAL MISSIONS 4,933
TOTAL SORTIES 11,831
TOTAL PASSENGERS 32,786
TOTAL CARGO (TONS) 15,925
NUMBER OF AIRCRAFT HIT BY ENEMY GROUND FIRE 13
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS 12 (pending)
BRONZE STAR 12
AIR MEDAL W/"V" DEVICE 4
AIR MEDAL 669
PURPLE HEART 6
LT COL TURNER J. TRAPP Activation - 1 November 1966
MAJOR HENRY E. KELLEY 1 November 1966 -
(page last revised 08/10/2003 09:03 AM -0400 )