Writing the history for any Army Aviation unit can be an arduous task. In particular, the various histories of the Assault Helicopter Companies that served in Vietnam, are extremely difficult to record. Each AHC had its own unique experiences based upon the following; the unit and personnel supported, the type of mission or support given, the time frame during the war in which the mission was conducted, the physical location and area of operation of the unit, and the procedures utilized in the conduct of the mission. Even members of the same unit had different experiences based on their assignment and duties within the organization.
The 92nd AHC arrived in Dong Ba Thin with 62 Officers and 156 Enlisted Men. The 617th TC Detachment had 1 Officer and 66 Enlisted Men. The 732nd Signal Detachment had 1 Officer and 6 Enlisted Men. All future references to the men assigned to the 92nd AHC include men of both detachments, who were attached to enhance the maintenance capability of the unit. They enabled the 92nd to maintain a high rate of aircraft availability, thus meeting or exceeding the number of aircraft required for each day's missions.
Initially, 15 Majors were assigned to the unit to expedite their movement overseas. 10 of them were quickly reassigned to other positions throughout Vietnam. In return, their vacancies were filled with more warrant officers to bring the unit to full strength.
After debarking from the ship (USNS General John Pope) which had brought them to Cam Rahn Bay from the States, unit personnel were loaded onto buses and trucks for the short ground trip to Dong Ba Thin. Upon arrival at the new company area, they viewed what was to be their base camp for most of the unit's existence. New, frame style buildings had been erected for housing and work areas. The pilot quarters were long buildings which were divided into 2-man rooms. The enlisted quarters were large open-bay rooms which held 24 or more men. Seperate latrines and showers had been built in each area. The first order of business was to fill sandbags to surround living quarters and build bunkers to protect against incoming mortar and rocket attacks. The next project was to provide a means of heating water for the showers. As part of the officer's shower system, a 300 gallon water tank had been placed on a small tower. Lt. Harry Broussard designed a heating system. A length of copper tubing was connected to the tank, coiled and placed in a 55-gallon drum, and then connected to the shower system. The drum was filled with water and then an immerson heater was placed inside. To enjoy a hot shower, the water in the drum was heated to boiling and as water from the tank flowed through the copper coil it was heated continuously. An endless supply of hot water was available as long as the tank was kept filled. The only drawback to this system was the lighting of the immersion heater. Many an eyebrow fell victim to this simply procedure!
Since Flander's Field had already been established and revetments had been constructed for the aicraft, the next order of business was to pick them up from Vung Tau and begin local area checkouts. Initially there was a shortage of aircraft commanders, so several pilots were selected to fly as copilots with the 117th AHC. The 92nd was slated to take over the 117th general support mission as they were being relocated to Phan Rang to provide direct support to the 1st Bde, 101st Abn Div for Operation Klamath Falls. Flying as copilot with them, gave these pilots experience on the actual missions that they would be responsible for. They would then teach the mission to the other pilots. This would make for a smooth transition for the supported units also. Those involved in the program gained an even greater appreciation for the 92nd's H-Model Hueys! The 117th still flew quite a few old wornout D-Models.
The unit was declared operational on December 12, 1967 and was placed in the general support role. Unit callsigns were changed from Broncos to Stallions (slicks) and Derby to Sidekick (gunships). During the 10th CAB displacement to Bao Loc on December 14-16, six UH-1H's and 4 UH-1C's were furnished to Operation Klamath Falls to reinforce the 117th who required a modified standdown because of lack of maintenance support. The first "Purple Heart" was earned by WO Jim Montgomery on December 23 when his ship was hit by 3 rounds from an AK-47, just southeast of Phan Rang AFB. Other missions flown were throughout the II Corps area. As 1967 drew to a close, the 117th was ordered to move to Bien Hoa on December 31. The 92nd closed in at Bao Loc on the same day and took over the direct support mission.
Enthusiasim and zeal turned to shock and dismay when the unit's first losses were suffered. Derby 6 and crew perished in a crash just west of Flander's Field on December 7. This was the first night mission for the gunships. It brought home the reality of the dangers that would be faced in the future.
The first week of January, the primary mission of the unit was Operation Klamath Falls. The unit manned a forward support base at Bao Loc. This enabled the unit to provide continuous and quick support to elements of the 1st Bde, 101st AB Div. Missions included combat assaults, LRRP team insertions and extractions, sniffer machines, and resupply. In addition, the unit provided aircraft in general support throughout II Corps. This included sending 5 Stallions to Ban Me Thuot to fly combat assaults with the 155th AHC. On January 8th, Operation Klamath Falls abruptly ended.
Statistics for Klamath Falls: Troops Carried 2,253 Cargo (tons) 88.7 Sorties 2,500
Hours flown 709.4
On January 13th, Stallion 504 was ambushed by enemy fire while returning from a mission to Saigon. War Story The co-pilot and doorgunner were wounded and both the crew chief and doorgunner were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for their actions. As the month rolled by, the Stallions found out how dangerous even the most secure mission can be. On the 23rd the 2nd Platoon Leader rolled his aircraft over while picking up to a hover to depart the MACV Recondo School at Nha Trang. He had been flying students on the Maguire Rig throughout the day. The "shock of war" hit home on the early morning of the 31st when Flander's Field was hit by a sapper attack. 3 unit aircraft were completely destroyed and 2 others were heavily damaged. This was the beginning of TET68.
With the advent of the TET Offensive, February became a very busy month. The Stallions were spread out all over the area providing support to 31 different activities and units. They flew missions from Dong Ba Thin south to Phan Thiet, southwest to Bao Loc, north to Qhi Nhon, and northwest to Cheo Reo. Much experience was gained by the "slick drivers" as they performed every imaginable type of mission. The Sidekicks were tasked to provide daily gun support to the Deputy senior Advisor, Tuyen Duc Province, in the beseiged city of Dalat. In a 2 week period the gunships flew 690 sorties, expending 160,500 rounds of 7.62mm, 2,650 rounds of 40mm, and 1,771 - 2.75 in. rockets resulting in 20 KBA confirmed, 142 KBA estimated, 53 structures damaged, and 44 structures destroyed. Thanks to their bravery and heroism, the enemy was successfully driven from Dalat. The members of the 92nd earned respect throughout II Corps.
In addition to the ongoing general support role, March brought more tasking in direct support of the 1st Brigade, 101st Abn Div in the vicinity of Phan Rang. At 2150 hours on March 4th, the enemy directed a mortar attack towards Flanders Field. Only 1 of approximately 21 rounds of 81mm landed within the perimeter and caused no injuries or damage. On the night of the 28th and into the next morning, the Sidekicks bagged 26 VC KBA and destroyed 12 structures in the Phan Rang area. 1- 30 cal. wheeled machine gun was also captured.
April became a rather routine month. General support was the norm with an increased amount of time spent at the Recondo School in Nha Trang. The excitement of the month occurred on the 24th. A recon team, from the school, requested an emergency extraction. As the aircraft hovered over the team, it came under hostile fire. The Maguire Rig became entangled in the trees and had to be cut. The aircraft took 6 hits and the gunner was credited with 1 KBA. The recon team successfully escaped and evaded and was extracted normally.
At the beginning of May the Sidekicks began flying convoy cover for elements of the 1st Cavalry Division along Highway 19, east of Pleiku. The Stallions continued their normal missions. On the 23rd, the unit received a "warning order" to relocate to the Pleiku - Kontum area to provide support to the 4th Infantry Division for "Operation Matthews". On the 24th, the 10th Combat Aviation Battalion Commander gave the command of execution displacing the operational and support elements of the unit to Camp Holloway at Pleiku. The main body traveled north via Highway 1 from Dong Ba Thin to Qhi Nhon and then west via Highway 19 thru An Khe and the Mang Yang Pass to Pleiku. The convoy closed on Camp Hollaway on the 26th, having completed the trip with no mechanical breakdowns or combat incidents. Photos The unit was housed north of the runway in a new area that was known as "The Christmas Tree". Virtually everyone was put to work filling sandbags. New billets had been constructed, but no personnel bunkers had been built. The aircraft were protected by revetments. The unit was declared operational that same day and missions were received through the 52nd CAB. For the flight crews, this was their first experience in the northwest II Corps area. They were now flying in areas such as Kontum and Dak To which had been hit hard during TET. For the next 12 days, the unit provided direct support to the 4th ID and was involved in several Combat Assaults northeast of Kontum and west of Dak To.
Suddenly, on June 7th, the unit was ordered to move from Camp Hollaway back to Dong Ba Thin. The move was executed on the 8th with the aircraft departing at 1100 hours and the main body departing at 1300 by convoy. The move was completed by nightfall on the 9th and the unit resumed the role of general support. Bao Loc, once again, became a forward operating area as direct support of 3/503rd Inf, 173rd Abn Bde began on the 23rd. Elements of the 173rd Abn Bde, 101st Abn Div, and ARVN forces joined together to form Task Force South. This would be the main force in the Bao Loc area for the next few months.
July was a continuation of direct support of Task Force South and general support throughout the region. The 92nd provided aircraft to many different commands and people. On a daily basis aircraft and crews flew combat assaults with other units, provided support to MACV outposts, resupplied Korean forces, and helped train troops at the Recondo School. No one was sure, from day to day, exactly who they would be flying for. On July 11th four ships were sent to support the 192nd AHC (Polecats & Tiger Sharks) conductng a combat assault north of Luong Song. 500 ARVN troops were inserted.
August brought more of the same. Aircraft not busy in the Bao Loc area were scattered throughout the rest of II Corps. However, on August 22nd tragedy struck the unit for the second time when another Sidekick crew was lost. On June 2nd, a Stallion aircraft was shot down while supporting 1/35th Inf. No one was injured and the aircraft was recovered. War Story & AAR October brought the loss of one Sidekick aircraft and one Stallion aircraft. On October 1st, UH-1C 66-15133 was destroyed as a result of a rollover accident during Instructor Pilot training. There were no fatalities or injuries. On October 27th, UH-1H 66-16504 was lost while flying a medivac mission out of Bao Loc. The entire crew perished. Christmas Day was a sad one due to the loss of a Stallion aircraft UH-1H 67-17460 and crew on December 24th.
Bao Loc and other II Corps misions continued throughout September.
All previous missions continued on in November.