1966 Historical Supplement
25th Aviation Battalion
25th Infantry Division
APO Us Forces 96225
1 January to 31 December 1966
Table Of Contents
I. LINEAGE AND HONORS:
The 25th Aviation Battalion was constituted in the Regular Army and activated 1 February 1957 in Hawaii as the 25th Aviation Company, an element of the 25th Infantry Division.
The unit was reorganized and redesignated as the 25th Aviation Battalion on 12 August 1963 at Schofield Barracks Hawaii.
Prior to 1966 the 25th Aviation Battalion had no campaign participation to its credit and had received no decorations.
A. TO&E: The 25th Aviation Battalion is currently organized under TOE 1-75E, 1-76E, 1-77E, and 1-78E dated 15 July 1963, and as amended by General Order Number 4,Headquarters, United States Army Pacific, dated 6 January 1966. A modification TOE to the E Series was submitted for approval to Headquarters, United States Army Vietnam for approval in July 1966, but was subsequently returned with instructions to await receipt of the new G Series TOE being published for units in the Infantry division. This Headquarters received the G Series TOE in October 1966, and after careful study, an MTOE to the G Series TOE was submitted for approval to Hq, USARV on 19 January 1967.
B. Command and Staff: The following is a summary of personnel occupying Command and Staff positions during 1966:
1. Commanding Officer, 25th Avn Bn:
a. LTC Samuel P. Kalagian, 1 Jan 66 - 10 April 66
b. Maj. George J. Young, 11 April 66 - 17 April 66
c. LTC Edward P. Davis, 18 April 66 - 31 Dec 66
2. Commanding Officer, HHD, 25th Avn Bn:
a. Capt. Emmett F. Johnson, 1 Jan 66 - 30 April 66
b. Capt. Daniel R. Leonard, April 66 - 27 June 66
c. Maj. Robert T. Curry, 28 June 66 - 10 Sept 66
d Maj. Charles C. Pursley, 11 Sept. 66 - 16 Dec 66
e. Maj. David N. Hall, 17 Dec 66 - 31 Dec 66
3. Commanding Officer, Co. A, 25th Avn Bn:
a. Maj. Robert F. McKinney Jr., 1 Jan 66 - 4 May 66
b. Maj. Ernest C. Elliot, 5 May 66 - 4 July 66
c. Maj. Hughey L. Weston, 5 July 66 - 31 Dec 66
4. Commanding Officer, Company B, 25th Avn Bn
a. Maj. James R. Vance, 1 Jan 66 - 21 Aug 66
b. Maj. Robert F. Huntington, 22 Aug 66 - 31 Dec 66
5. Battalion Staff:
a. Executive Officer:
1. Maj. Eugene F. Tanner, 1 Jan 66 - 1 May 66
2. Maj. George J. Young, 28 June 66 - 31 Dec 66
1. Capt. James T. Bushong, 1 Jan 66 - 1 May 66
2. Capt. Duane F. Kockx, 2 May 66 - 31 Dec 66
1. Capt. Fred Smith, 1 Jan 66 - 28 Feb. 66
2. Maj. Joseph H. Kastner, 1 Mar 66 - 31 Aug 66
3. Maj. Donald L. Winters, 1 Sept. 66 - 31 Dec 66
1. Maj. Robert E. Oulette, 1 Jan 66 - 28 Feb 66
2. Maj. Charles R. Sandridge Jr., 1 Mar 66 - 31 Dec 66
e. S-4: Capt. Jay K. Hornbuckle, 1 Jan 66 - 31 Dec 66
f. Airfield Commander: Maj. James E. Miller, 1 July 66 - 31 Dec 66
g. Assistant Division Aviation Officers:
1. Maj. Edward Bookman Jr., 1 Jan 66 - 5 mar 66
2. Maj. George J. Young, 5 Mar 66 - 27 June 66
3. Maj Leslie A. Layne, 28 June 66 - 31 Dec 66
h. Maintenance Officer:
1. Capt. Allen R. Jenks, 1 Jan 66 - 28 Feb 66
2. Maj. Robert T. Curry, 1 Mar 66 - 27 June 66
3. Maj. Benjamin D. Roberts, 1 July 66 - 31 Dec 66
i. Motor Officer: CWO 3 Charles Lowther, 1 Jan 66 - 31 Dec 66
j. Property Book Officer:
CWO 2 James H. Yamane, 1 Jan 66 - 31 Dec 66
k. Safety Officer: Maj. Thomas D. Seay, 15 May - 31 Dec
l. Signal Officer: Capt John R. Gantt, 15 June 66 - 31 Dec 66
m. Surgeon: Capt. Bruce W. Hutchinson, 1 Jan 66 - 31 Dec 66
n. Sgt Major: SGM Carrol Laudenklos, 1 Jan 66 - 31 Dec 66
C. Strength of the 25th Avn Bn as of 31 Dec 66:
III. AREA OF OPERATIONS:
In support of 25th Infantry Division Operations, the 25th Aviation Bn. Has operated in an area Northwest of the Capital Military District of Saigon, the area being bounded on the North and West by the Cambodian border and on the East by the Saigon River. This large area encompasses all or part of provinces of Hau Nghai, Binh Duong, Long An and Tay Ninh.
The terrain of the area of operation can best be described as variable since it is a transition between the rice paddies and swampy regions of the Mekong Delta to the Southwest and the tropical rain forest to the Northeast. The transition is readily apparent to the observer while flying from the 25th Infantry Division Base Camp at Cu Chi to that of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade at Tay Ninh.
IV. THE YEAR IN REVIEW
JANUARY: After having received the warning order for deployment to the Republic of Vietnam, the 25th Aviation Battalion undertook an extensive training program to complete necessary POR qualification on all personnel deploying with the unit.
FEBRUARY: With the completion of the majority of the POR qualification, the month of February was devoted to the preparation and packing of equipment for shipment to Vietnam. The Bn was advised that all organic aircraft with the exception of the OH-23D's would be turned in and the Bn would receive new UH-1D's and UH-1C's as authorized by the TOE after arriving in country. On 27 February the Aviation Battalion received a complement of nine officers formerly with
The 176th, 281st and the 282nd Aviation Companies (Airmobile Light) at Ft. Benning Georgia. These officers would provide the nucleus for the reorganized staff for the Avn. Bn. Several command positions in Company B, 25th Avn Bn were also filled by the incoming officers. Since the new arrivals from Ft. Benning had been undertaking training for deployment for Vietnam, they were qualified in the UH-1 series aircraft; however operational training of all aircrews remained to be accomplished when the unit arrived in country.
MARCH: The first two weeks of March saw the Avn Bn hurriedly completing packing of equipment in an effort to meet the 16 March loading date. Final preparations were accomplished and loading of all equipment aboard the USS Gordon and the Victory Ship East Hills was completed on 16 March. Officers and men of the Avn Bn embarked on the USS Gordon during the evening on 16 March and the long journey got underway in the early hours of the 17th. As much training as possible was conducted on board the USS Gordon, however cramped quarters and insufficient training space available for the many units embarked, limited training to only the most vital subjects. The USS Gordon arrived in Vietnam waters on 31 March; however due to the tactical situation existing in the area of Vung Tau, disembarking was not to take place until the morning of 2 April. The Advance party immediately moved to the Base Camp of the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi and began preparations to receive the main body. They also began the task of construction of the operational complex and living quarters.
APRIL: On the morning of 2 April the main body of troops of the 25th Avn. Bn. debarked the USS Gordon and came ashore at Vung Tau to the strains of the martial music provided by the U.S. Navy Band. Troops were immediately loaded on 2 1/2-ton trucks and transported to the air strip at Vung Tau where Air Force C-130 aircraft were waiting to shuttle them to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, further transportation to the Cu Chi Base Camp was provided by CH-47 (Chinook) helicopters. The main body closed at Cu Chi in the late afternoon on 2 April.
The first several nights at Cu Chi were spent in pup tents, however tent kits and tent kits general purpose, medium, were available and construction of what was to become the permanent Avn Bn living area was seen in progress.
The 175th Aviation Company (Airmobile Light), which was destined, to be redesignated Co. A 25th Avn Bn arrived at the port of Vung Tau on 9 April. Through prior coordination with the 12th Aviation Group, arrangements were made for aviators of the 175th Avn Co to proceed to various host units in country to receive orientation and training. Crewmembers of the 175th proceeded directly to the host units from Vung Tau while remainder of the unit was airlifted to Cu Chi. Maintenance personnel of the Avn Bn and Co B teamed up with the maintenance personnel of the 175th Avn Co. to begin the methodical depreservation fop the 27 UH-1D's and 6 UH-1C's (armed helicopters) belonging to the Avn Bn which had also arrived at Vung Tau. Armament kits were installed, the aircraft test flown and weapons test fired prior to delivery to the Bn at Cu Chi.
Several aircrews of Co. B also commenced in-country training with the gun platoons of the 68th Aviation Company at Vung Tau on 3 April. The remainder of the armed helicopter crews reported to Soc Trang and Vinh Long on 16 April for in-country training with the 114th, A/101st, 121st, and A/502nd Aviation Companies. All crewmembers received their baptism of fire participating in several operational combat assaults from Song Be in the Central Highlands to Vi Thanh in the Mekong Delta.
On 26 April all aircrews returned to Cu Chi Base Camp and began unit training for future operations that were already in the planning stage at 25th Infantry Division Headquarters. Although the training period was designed to start at company level and progress in stages to the Bn size operations, the aircrews were soon committed to both command and control and resupply missions. 29 April saw all elements of the Avn Bn participating in their first troop lift, an administrative mission from Cu Chi to a secure airstrip near Duc Hoa (Sugar Mill) on the Oriental (Vam Co Dong) River.
The Avn Bn closed out the month of April having flown 1,053 hours on its aircraft, lifting 3,509 passengers and carrying 88 tons of cargo.
By the end of April living quarters were near completion in all unit areas, and mess halls had been erected and were operational. Headquarters complex, although operational was still under construction. Several enterprising individuals had either constructed or were preparing shower facilities using 55 gal. Drums and aircraft wing tanks, with water drawn from two wells dug in the area by the 65th Eng Bn.
MAY: The month of May marked another milestone for the Avn. Bn Although preplanned unit training had not been completed, the Aviation Battalion was ready to perform combat operations. The first combat assault was conducted on 2 May with a lift of Co A, 1st Bn, 27th Inf from Cu Chi to a landing zone in the vicinity of Bao Trai. The 175th Avn Co (Air Mobile Light) was redesignated Co A 25th Avn Bn on 5 May 1966, adopting as their nickname “Little Bears”.
During the first half of the month, the support rendered the division consisted mainly of command and control, resupply, and medical evacuation missions in support of operations MAILI, AKRON, LIHUE, and ASHVILLE. On 16 May the Aviation Battalion received its first taste of heavy combat with the 25th Infantry Division. On that date, both A Co and B Co of the Battalion participated in the initial air assaults launching Operation WAHIAWA into the heart of the Viet Cong controlled area of the Filhol Plantation and the Hobo Woods. The airmobile portion of the operation was controlled by the 145th Aviation Battalion and involved three airmobile companies of the 145th: A/501st, 68th and 118th Aviation Companies. Intense small arms and automatic weapons fire was received by all flight elements in each of the landing zones. 5 UH1-D's from Company A, and 1UH-1C from Company B received hits from hostile ground fire during the operation.
The next large scale airmobile operation in support of WAHAIWA took place on the morning of 18 May. On this occasion the 25th Aviation Battalion was the controlling headquarters of a combat assault using three aviation companies: A/25th, 116th, and the 118th, to lift combat elements of the 4th Bn, 9th Inf (Manchu) into a landing zone just inside of the Hobo Woods Northwest of the Trung Lap ARVN Ranger Training Camp. Although this airlift was completed without serious incident, all flight elements again received intense automatic weapons and small arms fire, with two aircraft from Co. A receiving hits. The aircrew's of the Aviation Battalion were rapidly becoming combat seasoned.
The final large airmobile assault in connection with WAHAIWA occurred on 20 May, a day that will long be remembered in the 25th Aviation Battalion. The first action of the day occurred when 5 UH!-D's from A. Co. were called upon to make an extraction of barrier material and other essential items of the 2nd Bn 14th Inf prior to the units being repositioned. The supply extraction was to take place from a small confined pickup zone near the hamlet of Pa Thien on the Northeast side of the Filhol Plantation at first light. However, low ceilings caused a delay in the flight being able to locate the exact pickup zone. By flying at tree top level, the flight leader was able to locate the unit, and the flight immediately came under heavy hostile ground fire. The pilot of one aircraft, Cpt Garret Easley, was hit in the elbow of his left arm during the approach to the area and the uninjured pilot 1st Lt Robert Moore took the controls and aborted the mission to return to Cu Chi Dustoff pad with the injured pilot. The remaining four aircraft continued into the pickup zone under a withering hail of enemy fire. The material was hastily loaded and the flight departed with minimum delay. Upon arrival at the Cu Chi Airfield the flight requested and received permission to land and discharge their cargo; however, on base leg of the approach the lead Little Bear, sustained tail rotor drive shaft failure, apparently caused by an empty plastic water jug falling from the aircraft and striking the tail rotor. The resultant loss of control caused the tail boom to separate and the aircraft and crashed on the Cu Chi Airfield. Major William F. Winters and PFC George H. Stahl were killed in the accident. Both were awarded the Bronze Star Medal posthumously. Major James Evans and Specialist Four Lonnie E. Chavis both survived the crash although injured seriously and were later evacuated to CONUS as was Captain Easley.
In the above action, the intensity and accuracy of the enemy ground fire was evidenced by the fact that two of the five UH-1D's and one of the two escorting gunships from Co. B sustained hits.
Plans then called for the 145th Aviation Battalion with four airmobile
companies and one armed helicopter company to extract the 2nd Bn, 14th Inf from the same pickup zone as the early morning supply extraction, and reposition them to a landing zone near the hamlet of Ba Phouc on the northern edge of the Ho Bo Woods. In addition to both A and B Companies of the Avn Battalion, participating units were the 68th, 118th, A/501st and 197th Avn Companies. The 145th Aviation Battalion demonstrated the skill, which has gained them fame in directing an intricate and extremely hazardous airmobile operation. The repositioning of the 2nd Bn, 14th Inf was carried out on schedule despite intense ground fire directed at all flight elements. Of the 59 participating aircraft 20 received hits and two aircraft members were wounded. The fact that all ground troops were landed safely and no aircraft were lost to enemy fire is a tribute to the proficiency and dedication with which Army Aviation is doing the job throughout Vietnam.
Operation WAHAIWA terminated on 27 May with the 25th Aviation Battalion extracting elements of the 1st and 2nd Bns, 27th Inf from two pickup zones Northeast of Trang Bang and returning them to the Division Base Camp at Cu Chi. No hostile ground fire was received during the extraction.
As the month of May closed, there was no doubt that the Aviation Battalion had been combat tested and had passed with flying colors. In two short months, the Battalion had organized, equipped, trained for, and had achieved the goal of providing effective aviation support to the Division. Proud of their accomplishments yet saddened by their losses, the men of the Aviation Battalion prepared with grim determination for the months ahead.
JUNE: June was characterized by the 25th Aviation Battalion's participation in many operations conducted by units of the Division. The majority of these operations were staged out of the Cu Chi Base Camp, and were directed toward driving the Viet Cong from the agricultural areas of Hau Nghai Province and reestablishment of governmental control. Joint operations involving airmobile assaults with ARVN troops were conducted for the first time. This was also the Division's first venture into the mission of Pacification, a mission that was again ably supported by the Aviation Battalion.
Within the Aviation Battalion, June marked the establishment of an effective flight following facility, and aircrews of the Battalion and supporting aviation companies soon came to rely on the familiar voices of “Clipper Control”.
June also saw an increased operational capability with the equipping of a UH-1D aircraft of B. Co with a searchlight and 50 Cal. Machine gun for the purpose of performing night interdiction missions on Viet Cong controlled waterways and highways.
A Pathfinder Detachment was organized to assist the Aviation Battalion to stage both troop lifts, troop extractions, and resupply operations at the Base Camp and field locations. Volunteer airborne qualified and combat experienced infantrymen from ground units of the Division manned the Detachment.
After a short training period with established Pathfinder Detachments in-country, they wasted little time improving their effectiveness by increasing the battalion's ability to stage any type of airmobile operation day or night.
The Aviation Battalion also realized a night airlift capability during the month of June. Progressive training to achieve this capability began on 20 May with individual crew proficiency training. Subsequent training developed night formation techniques to be used while enroute, approach to, and departure from landing zones. The actual positioning of local ambush patrols during twilight periods practiced these techniques.
The first night combat assault was conducted on 21 June with lift of Co A, 2nd Bn 27th Inf into a landing zone near Bao Trai. Pathfinder assistance was provided both in the staging area at Cu Chi and in the form of terminal guidance in the landing zone. Pathfinders remained with the ground unit throughout the night and organized the pickup zone for the extraction on the following day.
The Aviation Battalion in support of Division operations MAKIKI, FORT SMITH, FRESNO, FARGO, and SANTE FE controlled a total of 18 day and one night combat assaults. The month saw a decrease in the amount of hostile ground fire received as the number of incidents dropped from 68 to 30, and the number of aircraft receiving hits from 21 to 9. This decrease was primarily a result of the area into which the operations were conducted. The area was mainly agricultural, whereas during the month of May operations were directed at Viet Cong controlled base areas ion the Filhol Plantation, Ho Bo and Boi Loi Woods.
JULY: July again was a month of change. The Division entered a new area of operations as well as continuing pacification efforts in the area near the Base Camp at Cu Chi. New tactics in the form of “Eagle Flights” to react to Viet Cong movement away from initial assault landings were conducted for the first time by the Wolfhounds of the 27th Inf. The trend toward smaller or company size airmobile operations is indicated by the decrease in Battalion controlled operations to 11 while Co A conducted a total of 33 combat assaults, extractions and troop repositioning.
Operations supported by the Aviation Battalion included UNIONTOWN, KAHANA I and II, EWA, MOKULEIA and KOKO HEAD.
Operation EWA was characterized by the first large-scale lift of both artillery and infantry units controlled by the Aviation Battalion. This operation, which took place west of the Oriental River, was entirely dependent on Army Aviation. The initial assault to include the lift of a security force to an artillery base followed by an artillery battery, as well as the combat assault by the 1st Bn, 27th Infantry demonstrated the effectiveness with which a well-coordinated operation could be conducted. All resupply and the eventual extraction was accomplished by air.
Operation MOKULEIA, which began 14 July and which saw the insertion of “Eagle Flights” within the Division, was marked by a notable increase in hostile anti-aircraft fire.
The operation was highlighted on 19 July when Co A supported by gunships of Co B lifted elements of Co A, 1st Bn, 27th Inf into two LZ's near the southwest edge of the Boi Loi Woods. Immediate contact was made with a well disciplined, hard core, uniformed Viet Cong Force; and it was soon evident that an extraction of the two platoon sized units would have to be effected. While supporting artillery fire and air strikes by Air Force aircraft were being controlled from the command and control aircraft, seven of the Little Bears commenced the extraction of the Infantry unit that was now pinned down and under assault by superior enemy forces. The flight came under extremely heavy fire as they landed in the rice paddy area and as crewmembers tried to urge the small pinned down groups of men and their wounded to board the helicopters. One aircraft piloted by Capt Howard D. Dean and Warrant Officer Thomas C. Hutchis was disabled by enemy fire, and was abandoned in the pickup zone. Cpt Dean suffered a serious foot wound and his crewchief Specialist 5 Easterling a head injury as they evacuated the downed aircraft and were picked up by another Little Bear.
Miraculously the remaining six Little Bears, some overloaded and all with numerous hits, safely departed the pickup zone and returned to Cu Chi. All were grounded for battle damage after being shut down and inspected. A total of five A Co crewmembers suffered wounds during the engagement.
Six helicopters of the 118th Aviation Company (Thunderbirds) were formed into a second flight element to complete the extraction. Again a withering hail of enemy fire greeted the flight as they to attempted to extract the scattered Infantrymen. All of the Thunderbirds departed the pickup zone but one had to make an emergency landing at the Trung Lap airstrip. Two ships were grounded for damage after landing at Cu Chi, five of the six involved taking hits. The company commander of the 118th Aviation Company, Maj Robert Sauer suffered a severe shoulder wound during the extraction.
The final heroic act of the day's encounter was performed by an armed CH-47 (Chinook), which was supporting the operation. Gunships of the 116th Aviation Company while surveying the evacuated pickup zone for enemy targets discovered three more wounded soldiers waving a white shirt. The crew of the
Chinook elected to take the pickup covered by the armed helicopters of Company B risking their lives and their aircraft, the crew made a daring recovery of two of the wounded; however the third who was now dead, had to be left on the ground. When the aircraft returned to Cu Chi Dust Off pad and the wounded unloaded, a total of sixteen hits were found on the CH-47.
On 26 and 27 July the 25th Infantry Division Base Camp at Cu Chi came under mortar and recoilless rifle attack from several Viet Cong positions north and east of the Base Camp. Crater analysis later indicated that 80 percent of all the rounds landed within the Aviation Battalion area, however casualties and equipment damage was light.
As a result of the numerous “Eagle Flights”, resupply and medical evacuation missions into known areas of hostile ground fire, the number of ground fire incidents climbed to 109, with 33 of these incidents resulting in hit damage to aircraft.
July proved to be a trying month for the Aviation Battalion, as maintenance personnel struggled to keep an acceptable number of aircraft flying to meet mission requirements. A combination of battle damage and an accumulation of inspection requirements taxed the maintenance capability to the limit, however as the month closed, the Battalion was still providing effective support to the Division.
AUGUST: August was ushered in with a large combat assault controlled by the 25th Aviation Battalion in support of operation KOKO HEAD. On 1 August, the 2nd Bn, 27th inf was lifted into a landing zone east of Trung Lap on the southern edge of the Ho Bo Woods to exploit an early morning B-52 strike. Companies A and B of the Aviation Battalion were joined by the 68th, 116th and A/501st Aviation Companies for another assault of a heavily fortified Viet Cong Base Area.
A low cloud ceiling caused all flight elements to have to proceed to their landing zone at low altitude, and the expected heavy enemy ground fire was received. Although all ground troops were landed safely, the departing flight elements came under intense and extremely accurate fire. Flight routes were varied on succeeding lifts and the ground fire remained intense. Of the 50 aircraft involved in the operation 23 received hits, two of the aircraft being forced to land near Ba Troi in the Iron Triangle where they again came under ground fire. One crewmember from the 68th Avn Co was killed during the operation and a total of eight from all participating units were wounded.
During the operation, low ceilings forced the Battalion Command and Control helicopter flown by LTC Edward P. Davis, Bn CO, and Maj Charles R. Sandridge Jr., Bn S-3 to fly at dangerously low altitudes to direct the operation. Their aircraft also received hit damage and during the approach to the Cu Chi Airfield at the termination of the mission, tail rotor control failure was experienced. LTC Davis succeeded in landing the aircraft with no further damage.
After repeated friendly operations in the Filhol Plantation and the Ho Bo Woods, Viet Cong anti-aircraft fire continued to be a serious threat to helicopter employment, in that area.
The remainder of the month was devoted to providing support to the division on operations OAHU,LAHANIA and AIEA. On operation OAHU, the 1st Brigade Task Force entered a new area of operations by securing and defending the location for the new base camp for the 196th Light Infantry Brigade which was soon to arrive in country. Operation LAHANIA and AIEA involved the 2nd Bn, 27th Inf and 1st Bn, 27th Inf respectively in operations designed to further clear Viet Cong forces from the Hau Nghai Province. The Aviation Battalion again provided daily support in the form of combat assaults, aerial resupply and the medical evacuation of wounded.
Operations in areas undergoing varying degrees of pacification, was again reflected ion the number of aircraft receiving ground fire. Ground fire incidents dropped to 57 of which only 9 resulted in hits. These statistics also reflect the relative ineffectiveness of anti-aircraft fire delivered by local guerilla forces as compared to the hard core main force units encountered during previous months.
SEPTEMBER: Statistics indicate that September was one of the most active months in 1966 as far as aviation was concerned. The Aviation Battalion flew a total of 2,440 hours on its aircraft while providing support to several brigade size operations. However, the number of Battalion controlled airmobile operations decreased while those company size increased considerably.
September marked a change in that Brigade size units were deployed in areas a considerable distance from the Base Camp at Cu Chi which resulted in increased aviation requirements. This was especially true in the areas of administrative and resupply. A record total of 801 tons of cargo were transported during the month. The concept of placing airmobile companies in direct support of infantry battalions actively involved in combat operations became more prevalent.
There were no airmobile operations during the month that resulted in significant contact with enemy forces, however 25th Infantry Division Operation SUNSET BEACH, which was another of a series of search and destroy operations in Hau Nghai Province requiring daily aviation support, was highly successful.
On 26 September one of the Little Bear's finest, Maj Robert Grundman, was killed when his aircraft received intense hostile ground fire in the vicinity of Xom Hanh while on a direct combat support mission from Cu Chi to Phu Loi. Maj Grundman, a charter member of the 175th Aviation Company while at Ft. Benning, and later of the newly designated Co A, was the unit's standardization pilot. He will always be remembered by his fierce dedication toward turning out safe and proficient Little Bears. The skill and precision that the Little Bears have demonstrated during the formative months at Cu Chi are a tribute to the thoroughness with which Maj Grundman accomplished his job.
September soon faded into October as the Aviation Battalion continued to provide the 25th Infantry Division with the support essential to sustained and wide spread combat operations.
OCTOBER: Requirements for aviation support continued to increase in October as the division expanded its area of operation. At one time or another during the month, the Battalion supported Operations LANAKAI, (Ben Luc area),ATTLEBORO, (Tay Ninh and Dau Tieng areas) and SUNSET BEACH,KALIHI, and KAILUA in Hau Nghai and Bin Duong Provinces near Cu Chi.
Again airmobile operations conducted in support of the above operations did not result in significant contact with Viet Cong forces. However during the course of the month 44 Battalion aircraft received fire with 8 receiving hits.
The most serious damage caused by enemy ground fire occurred to an armed helicopter flown by 1st Lt Joel Price and CWO Paul Shaw. On 23 October their aircraft was in a flight of two armed helicopters of Co B covering the extraction of four UH-1D's of the 116th and 118th Aviation Companies downed during the engagement the preceding day near the Saigon River east of Cu Chi. While on a firing pass during the extraction of the downed helicopters, their aircraft took an enemy round in one of the main rotor push pull tubes. Although the round merely creased the tube, it set up a severe, almost uncontrollable vibration. The vibration decreased as collective pitch was lowered and the crew elected to return to a secure area. As they approached the landing area and applied power to land the vibration returned and the affected push pull tube broke. An immediate landing was made and although the aircraft suffered moderate damage, the crew escaped without injury.
CWO Robert Iwamasa and 1st Lt Benjamin Crabtree both executed successful autorotations during the month after experiencing engine failure. CWO Iwamasa accomplishing a functional test flight of a UH1-D when his engine failure occurred. The situation was further aggravated when the tail rotor drive shaft failed just prior to touchdown, however the landing was completed without damage in a rice paddy south of the town of Cu Chi.
1st Lt Crabtree experienced an engine failure minutes after takeoff from Bien Hoa and immediately autorotated back into the Birdcage without damage to the aircraft. Both of the above incidents are indicative of the professional competence displayed by aircrews of the Battalion.
Increased support of the Division during the month, resulted in the Aviation Battalion flying a total of 2,573 hours, second highest in 1966.
NOVEMBER: November witnessed the Division plunging into Operation ATTLEBORO when it became evident that Viet Cong forces were finally going to stand and fight to protect important supply and logistics bases. As always, the Aviation Battalion was in the thick of the operation since the location of the contact with enemy forces dictated that all troop movement, resupply, and medical evacuation be accomplished by air. Large amounts of captured rice and other items of value were recovered from enemy caches by helicopter.
Ironically the most outstanding aviation action for the month did not occur in support of Operation ATTLEBORO. On the night of 21 November, after the crews of Co A had already flown many long hours and had returned to Cu Chi; they were called north again to assist a Civil Irregular Defensive Group Company who had been surrounded by an estimated two companies of Viet Cong since early afternoon. The CIDG Company had suffered many casualties and was now requesting medical evacuation and reinforcement. The Little Bears, known for their proficiency in night operations were called upon to perform the mission. Prior to their arrival in the Ben Sui area, LTC Davis, Avn Bn CO, assisted by members of the Pathfinder Detachment, had effected the necessary coordination, and was airborne in a Command and Control helicopter to direct the operation.
Without hesitation and with their usual professional competence, the Little Bear flight quickly completed the troop lift and medical evacuation into an unknown and unlighted landing zone without incident. Although enemy fire was received none of the aircraft were hit.
For the first time since arrival in country the Aviation Battalion was required to establish a Forward Command Post to support the extension of Operation ATTLEBORO into the Viet Cong stronghold of War Zone C. Troop lift and combat assaults were controlled by the 145th Aviation Battalion, while the complex task of coordinating aerial resupply to all of the tactical units engaged in the pursuit phases of ATTLEBORO was given to the 25th Aviation Battalion. Through the outstanding efforts of Maj Charles R. Sandridge, Bn S-3, Maj James Watts, Asst S-3, and Capt John R. Gantt, Communications Officer, aerial resupply, amounting to tons of cargo, was provided daily to the units scattered throughout War Zone C.
The men comprising the Forward Command Post element of the Aviation Battalion enjoyed their Thanksgiving Dinner under the sunny skies of Tay Ninh.
Aircraft of the Battalion flew a total of 2,673 hours during the month of November, the high for the year, while Viet Cong fire dropped to a low of 17 incidents with only two aircraft receiving hits.
DECEMBER: December 1966 closed out the first ten months of combat for the Aviation Battalion. Operations returned to a more normal pattern of combat support as the Division again returned to conduct operations in Hau Nghai Province near the Cu Chi Base Camp, and also in Long An Province southwest of Saigon. There were several large-scale airmobile operations that were controlled by the Aviation Battalion for the 4th Bn, 9th Inf (Manchu) in the Binh Chanh area. Extensive planning had to be conducted with U.S. Troops in that area. On several occasions in the past, U.S. helicopter companies carrying ARVN Troops had received intense ground fire, resulting in extensive equipment damage and casualties in this same area. However, all operations conducted during the month in the Binh Chanh area were successful and very little fire was encountered.
One of the most significant operations accomplished during the month of December was a night lift of Co C, 2nd Bn, 27th Inf into a landing zone north of Bao Trai between 0148 and 0255 hours on the morning of the 19th. All flight elements of Co A escorted by Co B received fire as they made two lifts into the landing zone and subsequent feints into two false landing zones. Again no hits were taken as Viet Cong gunners seem to have difficulty with accuracy after dark.
The members of the Aviation Battalion celebrated an enjoyable Christmas Holiday as operational requirements during the 48-hour truce were reduced to a minimum.
The month closed with the Aviation Battalion engaged in providing aviation support to Operations LANIKAI, FITCHBURG, FORT NASQUALLY, FAIRFAX and ALA MOANA, which were continuing into 1967.
The 25th Aviation Battalion compiled an enviable safety record during the first year of operations in the Republic of Vietnam. During the period 15 April 1966 to 31 December 1966 only one major accident, one minor accident, six incidents and five precautionary landings were recorded in the Battalion. The personnel injuries resulting occurred in the one major accident where two individuals sustained fatal injuries and the two survivors, serious injuries.
The cumulative accident rate for the Aviation Battalion amounted to 5.3 accidents per 100,000 hours of flying time. This figure compares favorably with the 35.3 average compiled by all USARV rotary wing aircraft for 1966.
The safety record achieved by the Aviation Battalion, although attributable in some degree to the high experience level of the aviators initially assigned, culminated a year of dedicated effort by the individual unit safety and standardization personnel. As a result of this continuing program, newly assigned aviators of low experience level received the benefit of many hours of orientation and training by flying combat missions with the more experienced aviators. Command emphasis was also a major factor in the fine safety record of the Battalion.
VI. HOSTILE GROUND FIRE AND PERSONNEL CASUALTY SUMMARY
A. Ground Fire Experience
B. Combat Casualties Sustained During Aerial Flight:
VII. DECORATIONS FOR HEROISM AWARDED MEMBERS OF THE 25TH AVIATION BATTALION DURING 1966
Distinguished Service Cross
SSG Vincent Napier, Co A
Sp4 Author D. Miller, Co A
Sp4 John J. Monette, Co A
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star for Heroism
PFC Tommy Perkins, Co A
Air Medal For Heroism
Army Commendation Medal For Heroism
The 25th Aviation Batalion has completed its first year of successful combat operations in support of the 25th Infantry Division in the Republic of Vietnam. The year was marked by hard work, long hours, brief periods of enjoyment and relaxation, and by joy and sorrow alike. The men who served with the 25th Aviation Battalion during 1966 can feel justly proud of the effort they contributed in order for the Battalion to accomplish its mission. The motto of the 25th Aviation Battalion “Lele Mahou No Na Puali” meaning “We Fly The Troops” has been upheld in the finest traditions of the United States Army, to the men who will follow, we leave the challenge to uphold and to improve upon this proud motto.