11 Nov 1967 thru 8 Dec 1967
The 335th Assault Helicopter Company, prior to being transferred out of
the 145th CAB, was assigned the mission of supporting the 173rd Airborne
Brigade, they conducted airmobile assaults with the 2/503d on 11 November
1967 in the area south-west of Dak To. The landing zone was to be hewn out
of the dense jungle and bamboo by B-52 strikes and numerous other
airstrikes. Close examination of the intended landing zone by the command
and control party revealed an area sufficient for only one aircraft at a
time. The first troops on the ground immediately initiated clearing
operations to enlarge the landing zone, while additional troops were being
inserted. This landing zone soon became Fire Support Base 16. At
Approximately 1200 hours, 11 November 1967, the 1/503d made strong contact
with an estimated battalion sized force.
The 335th AHC was called upon to reinforce the beleaguered unit with C
4/503d. The nearest landing zone to the area would accommodate only one
aircraft at a time. During this operation enemy fire was received going into
and coming out of the landing zone. The armed helicopters immediately placed
suppressive fires on the enemy, however, this did not deter the enemy from
firing at all of the helicopters. Fortunately no aircraft were hit on this
part of the operation. The armed helicopters demonstrated remarkable skill
according to the commander of the ground forces. They placed rocket and
machine gun fire scant meters from the friendly lines, and escorting the
troop carrying helicopters into the landing zone.
During the time this action was in progress, a single ship was
resupplying C 1/503d with badly needed ammunition. In order to complete the
mission the pilot had to fly dangerously near the enemy position. On each
trip into the area he experienced heavy enemy rifle and automatic weapons
fire. Realizing he had received numerous hits, the pilot landed to inspect
the aircraft and found it no longer airworthy. He immediately procured
another aircraft and continued the mission. Again he received numerous hits
and was barely able to return to a secure area before being forced to land.
The timely arrival of reinforcements and ammunition turned the tide of
battle and most assuredly saved C 1/503d from being overrun and annihilated.
The 335th AHC provided general support to the 173rd Airborne Brigade
with resupply missions and insertion of Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols
Many times the only mean for landing a LRRP was by using a rope dropped
from the hovering helicopter allowing the team members to repel to the
ground. The pilots demonstrated outstanding airmanship, and courage while
hovering in one spot, above 100 foot trees, under enemy fire, to place the
team in the correct location.
Numerous times the team would make contact with a superior enemy force,
necessitating immediate extraction. Without hesitation the pilots of the
335th AHC came to their rescue, again hovering above the trees, offering a
perfect target for the enemy.
On 19 November 1967 the 2/503d started to move up the northern slope of
Hill 875. As they neared the crest of the hill they met with extremely heavy
resistance, resulting in heavy casualties. The 335th AHC was again called
upon to deliver critical supplies. The landing zone was not large enough to
accommodate even one helicopter, so it was necessary to employ the kick-out
method. The enemy controlled the crest of the hill, which provided unlimited
fields of fire at aircraft approaching to points below the crest. Also, pin
point accuracy in dropping the supplies was an absolute must, for to miss
the target area by even a few meters on the side of the hill increased the
difficulty in retrieving them by one hundred fold. To obtain this accuracy
an extremely low airspeed was required, making the helicopters a virtual
"sitting duck" for enemy gunners.
On each sortie into this area, the helicopters met extremely heavy
fire. Realizing the urgency of their mission, the crews never faltered in
providing the ground unit with the life sustaining supplies. Although
numerous aircraft were hit and aircrew members wounded, the men of the 335th
AHC could not be deterred and continued their mission, even though their
very lives were at stake. One aircraft attempted a sling load delivery of a
landing zone clearing kit. He encountered murderous fire and was forced to
jettison the load, returning to a secure area where inspection of the
aircraft revealed sufficient damage to preclude further flight. Without
immediate assistance the 2/503d could not hope to hold their position. Three
companies of the 4/503d were dispatched to reinforce. The 4/503d also
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met with sharp resistance, sustaining heavy casualties. When the 4/503d join
up with the 2/503d there remained approximately one hundred effective
fighting men. These two units were able to fight their way to a position
approximately one hundred meters down the slope where a landing zone
clearing kit was successfully dropped. After a landing zone was cut out of
the jungle, the 335th AHC aircraft again braved the intense enemy fire in
order to evacuate two hundred twenty-two wounded to distant medical
facilities. Without this timely evacuation, many of these wounded would have
surely died.
On 22 November 1967, the 335th AHC assisted by elements of the 52nd
Combat Aviation Battalion conducted an airmobile operation with the 1/12th
Infantry, 4th US Inf. Div. southeast of Hill 875.
On 23 November 1967 the remnants of the 2d and 4th Battalions, 503d
Inf., mounted an attack on the crest of Hill 875. The attack commenced at
1100 hours and the hill was secured at 1120 hours. The enemy had retreated,
leaving their dead, numerous large bunkers with up to twenty feet of
overhead cover, and numerous items of equipment. During the battle the 335th
AHC participated in all phases, experiencing the most hazardous of combat
The 335th AHC had ten wounded in action, while the 173d Abn Bde had 118
killed in action, 271 wounded in action and three missing in action. The NVA
losses were 298 by body count. Nine of the 335th AHC helicopters received
extensive combat damage. Three were evacuated by CH-47, four were repaired
for a one time flight to home station, and two continued to fly. The support
provided to the 173d Abn Bde by the 335th AHC during this operation was
truly outstanding and on repeated occasions necessitated the air crews
performing above and beyond the call of duty. Without their efforts, the
tide of battle would have most probably been turned in favor of the enemy.
Part of the 334th A.H.C. was transferred to Thailand the 24th of
November 1967 on temporary duty to fly escort duty over the Ho Chi Minh
Trail. They were to fly gunship cover for troops placing and picking up
listening devices all along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Their refuel point was to
be Khe Sanh which went under seize shortly there after, the mission was
called off the 3rd of March 1968.
LTC Robert M Deets assumed command of the 145th Combat Aviation
Battalion on 1 December 1967. LTC Deets started his military career as a
Navy Seabee in 1943. He was a member of an underwater demolition team and
earned the Bronze Star for Valor. He began his career as an Army officer
through a direct commission in November of 1951. Prior to being assigned to
the 145th he was assigned to S-3 at 12th Group. Thanks to LTC Deets we have
this very fine detailed report on the Battalion's History.
On 7 December 1967 the 190th Assault Helicopter Company conducted
airmobile operations with the 4th Bn, 7th Regt, 5th Inf Div (ARVN). The unit
was to receive an ATT in conjunction with a search and destroy operation.
The landing zone was prepared for the assault by artillery and airstrikes
under the command of an aircraft from the 74th Reconnaissance Airplane
Company. The first assault went as planned with negative fire received. The
second assault into LZ#2 met with heavy automatic weapons fire from the
right front. Chalk 10 was shot down in the landing zone and chalk 9 made an
emergency landing eight hundred meters north of the LZ. This aircraft had
received sixteen hits. The troops in LZ #2 were pinned down under voluminous
enemy fire and without the planned, subsequent lift, were in danger of
annihilation. On the next lift into the LZ the lead aircraft was engulfed by
intense enemy fire that wounded or killed all of the ARVN troops on board.
Several other aircraft in flight were hit causing two to make forced
landings in the pickup zone and another at Cu Chi.
The FAC from the 74th Recon Airplane Company continued to direct
artillery and airstrikes on the entrenched enemy. To provide cover for the
remaining lifts, the smoke aircraft was employed. Braving the murderous
enemy fire, he repeatedly provided smoke cover for the remaining lifts. A
heavy fire team from the 334th Armed Helicopter Company was scrambled to
assist in the operation. They attacked the enemy fortifications with
determination and tenacity, disregarding their personal safety in order to
place their fires to the best advantage. The remaining aircraft were
utilized to airlift a reserve company into the area. The aircrews did not
hesitate in continuing their mission even in the face of devastating enemy
fire. The smoke ship was hit and forced to return to Bien Hoa for repairs.
Numerous medical evacuation flights were attempted; however, each time the
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aircraft met with murderous enemy fire. A second smoke ship was called out
to assist in the operation. After two passes through the area, providing a
smoke screen for medical evacuation flights, he too was hit and forced to
land in the landing zone. realizing the precarious position the crew of the
smoke ship was in, an armed helicopter from the 190th AHC braved the
intense, enemy, automatic weapons fire to land and extract them.
As nightfall approached, the ground troops ran low on ammunition. Again
a crew from the 190th AHC volunteered to deliver the desperately required
ammunition and at the same time extract the remaining wounded. Although the
enemy was literally filling the sky with bullets, the mission received light
to heavy combat damage. Three medical evacuation helicopters were damaged,
one making a forced landing five miles east of Cu Chi, another making a
forced landing just inside the perimeter at Cu Chi and the third taking
numerous hits and wounding the gunner.
Two smoke aircraft were hit, one making a forced landing in the landing
zone and the other being grounded after returning to the station. Of the
aircraft that received the combat damage six required evacuation by CH-47,
four were repaired and released for a one time flight to home station, two
were repaired and returned to the flight, and seven were hit but continued
to fly.
On 8 December 1967 the 68th Assault Helicopter Company supported the
30th and 38th Ranger Battalions in combat assaults for search and destroy
operations southeast of Phu Cong. The initial phases of the operation
progressed as planned with negative resistance. Prior to the combat assault
into LZ #3 the armed helicopters discovered occupied enemy bunkers on the
north side. Although the area was hit by artillery, a decision was made to
disregard LZ #3 and insert the troops into LZ 12.
The element moving west encountered steady resistance after moving
about four hundred meters west along the small north-south stream line.
Additional forces were inserted into LZ #4. The flight reported enemy fire
on takeoff. The ground unit moved south and immediately made contact. Two
medical evacuation missions were requested for eleven wounded in action and
one killed in action. The two aircraft attempted to land at the position by
flying low level but the enemy fire was so heavy that they had to abort the
mission. Both aircraft were hit and one crew chief owes his life to his
chest protector. While providing cover for medical evacuation, the armed
helicopter fire team were taken under heavy fire. One armed helicopter was
hit, necessitating his return to home station for repairs.
An aerial observer from the 74th Reconnaissance Airplane Company
directed numerous artillery and airstrikes upon the enemy positions. While
the artillery concentration distracted the enemy, a medical evacuation was
successfully completed. However, on his second trip in for wounded he came
under heavy enemy fire and received numerous hits. Another call for medical
evacuation was received. Since no other aircraft were immediately available,
the 68th AHC command and control aircraft accepted the mission. Although
enemy fire laced the area, three wounded in action and one killed in action
were successfully evacuated. Again the requirement for a medical evacuation
came forth and again the mission was completed in spite of the extremely
heavy automatic weapons fire.
Artillery, tactical air and armed helicopters continued to strike the
area. An AH-1G Cobra light fire team from the 334th Armed Helicopter Company
arrived and joined in the attempt to neutralize the enemy automatic weapons
positions. On one rocket pass the sky seemed to be filled with enemy fire,
hitting one armed helicopter and seriously wounding the pilot. Although an
extraction had been planned, the tactical situation and approaching darkness
necessitated implementation of the alternate plan which called for
withdrawal by boat. The 68th AHC sustained two wounded in action, while the
ground units had three killed in action and twenty-two wounded in action.
Enemy losses were not known. Six helicopters were hit, one requiring
evacuation by CH-47, two repaired for a one time flight to home station and
three continued to fly.