135th AHC Jan - Dec 1970
The 135th Assault Helicopter Company is probably the most unique Amry Aviation Unit in Vietnam and perpaphs the world. Flying and working with the normal U.S. Army crews you will find officers and airmen of the Royal Australian Navy. On 30 November 1967 when this consolidated working agreement was implemented, the 135th was considered a test unit, but the successful trials of combat soon dispelled that title. The company's area of operation is primarily that of the 7th Infantry Division (ARVN), but there are few places in Military Region IV that the men of the 135th Aviation Company have not been utilized to conduct tactical operations. The EMU"s, as they are called because of their original 'Experimental Military Unit' title, are considered one of the most professional and dedicated helicopter units supporting the Republic of Vietnam Forces in the Delta. Fred C Dunaway, Maj FA, Commanding, (7 Jan 71)
The beginning of the 135th Aviation Company, a CV-2B Caribou Unit in the 10th Air Transport Brigade, 11th Air Assault Division, Fort Benning, Ga, starts with GO #186, HQ, Third United States Army, which officially redesignated the 516th Transport Airplane Company as the 135th Aviation Company (Fixed Wing Airmobile) effective 1 July 1965. As the members of the 135th Aviation Company prepared to turn their facilities over to the 458th Troop Carrier Squadron at Dong Ba Thien and closed the records, 8,470 nautical miles away at Fort Hood, Texas the beginning of a new 135th was starting to take shape. On 1 December 1966, the 207th Aviation Company (Airmobile Light) was activated under MTOE 1-77G by General Order 302, HQ III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas, with a life of only two months, the 207th was deactivated but on 1 February 1967, the 135th Aviation Company (Airmobile Light) once again came into existance with the redesignation of the 207th Aviation Company. The 135th was again organized under MTOE 1-77G, as per III Corps, Ft Hood General Order 47, with, 2 lift aircraft platoons, each with 11 UH-1D's and one armed platoon with 8 UH-1C's, a service platoon with 1 UH-1D maintenance ship and a headquarters platoon. Two two detachments responsible for for the direct support maintenance were the 614th Transportation Detachment and the 68th Signal Detachment. The unit was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in early October 1967 and started operation in November in November 1967. In November 1968 the unit was reorganized under MTOE 01-77G PAC 2/68 thereby losing the 614th Transportation Detachment and the 68th Signal Detachment, who had given the unit outstanding support. Under the new MTOE the units organization included 2 lift aircraft platoons each with 11 UH-1D/H's and one armed platoon with 8 UH-1C's, a service platoon with 1 UH-1H maintenance ship and a headquarters platoon.
The beginning of the New Year 1970 saw the EMU's continuing to support the operations of ARVN Forces in the Delta. The following is a month by month descripton of their operation:
JANUARY: All operations were flown in support of the 7th ARVN Division, in Dinh Tuong, Kien Hoa, and Go Cong Provinces. The level of operational activity was high in anticipation of a possible VC "Tet" offensive. A night "Hunter - Killer" package operated regularly against VC infiltration routes in the northwest part of IV Corps. Major General Cal Frazer CBE MBE COMAFV (designate) visited the company this month.
FEBRUARY: Again the unit's area of operations remained unchanged. The expected "Tet" offensive did not materialize, but enemy activity, particularly in the Mo Cay area, underwent a marked increase and EMU aircraft received fire on many occassions. Unfortunely, on the 17th of February, Sp4 M. A. Jenewein was critically wounded in the neck during a combat assault, and died on the 22nd of February. On several occasions during the month, aircraft and crew availability became critical, and it was necessary to borrow both from other companies to meet mission requirements.
MARCH: All operations were flown in support of the 7th ARVN Division, primarily with the 10th Regiment in Kien Hoa. A month of increased enemy activity, which has seen a number of casualties. On the 6th of March, Leut. D. F. Gibson, RAN, received serious injuries when he landed his UH-1H on a 105mm booby trap. Two ARVN soldiers were killed, and the aircraft was completely destroyed. This incident occurred in a secure LZ, and the pilot was actually being manuevered to his landing position by an ARVN soldier. On the 28th of March, a routine training flight ended in disaster when a UH-1H crashed and burned just northwest of Bear Cat. WO1 D. Cook was killed, and the IP, WO1 W. Clemins received severe burns.
APRIL: The company role remained unchanged. The enemy offensive which commened on the 31st of March continued for the first week of April. The only real sucess enjoyed by the VC within our area of operations was the over running of FSB "Schroeder" north of Cai Be, on the night of March 31st. The company suffered its second major serious accident on 19 April, when a UH-1H crashed and burned. The IP escaped with light injuries, but the examinee, Warrant Officer R Stillions, died as a result of his injuries on the 21st of April. Company operations were hampared during this month by a severe shortage of personnel. Major Walter D Alexander replaced Major William A. Beasley as Commanding Officer on the 20th of April. On the 10th of April, Brig. General Putman, Commanding General of the 1st Avn Bde paid an informal visit to the Company.
MAY: The highlight of the year was the commencement of operations into Cambodia. On the 3rd of May, the Delta Aviation Group provided 60 UH-1H, 38 gunships, 8 Chinooks, 13 LOH's and 2 skycranes for assault operations. Due to goverment agreement, the Australian aircrews were not able to take part in this operation and this had an adverse effect on the company efficiency. Because of this situation, the 135th AHC was later employed in support operations in the Delta. On the 18th. a day of truce in honor of Buddha's birthday, the company was involved in a large operation in Binh Dai District. An RF/PF outpost was overrun and then heavily fortified by a VC main force Battalion. Three battalions of the 10th Regiment, 7th ARVN Division were inserted around the area in the face of heavy enemy fire, both small arms and .50 cal. and several aircraft were hit. Intelligence sources indicated that over 50 VC were killed. On Tuesday May 19th, a UH-1C was shot down by .50 cal machine gun fire 3 miles east of Cai Ba. The crew of 4, Captain J. Sprewell, 1Lt L.G. Ladouceur, Sp5 L. J. Stone and Sp4 M. Herrington were all killed instantly. A second gunship was hit and damaged seriously and was later retrograded.
JUNE: Although the company effort is mainly directed to support the 7th ARVN Division, two missions were flown in support of the 9th ARVN Division this month. The company had 27 aircraft hit this month, but fortunately only one pilot was slightly wounded. The 7th ARVN Division was particularly successful during June, the 10th Regiment alone, being credited with over 200 VC KIA. Signs of breakdown in enemy morale started to appear, with more returnee's surrendering under the "Open Arms" programss, and a definate tendency for VC units to disperse rather than fight has started to mainifest itself.
JULY: The 7th ARVN remains the major supported unit, with the 9th ARVN Division on having the use of EMU packages on 3 days. The end of the Cambodian operation has led to a drop in overall requirements for air assets in the Delta. A possible indication of the damage to the enemy both in material and morale, caused by the Cambodian operation, has been the greatly reduced number of aircraft hits this month, together with a rise in Viet Cong KIA. On the 21st of July, the company received notice that the long rumoured move to Dong Tam would take place by August 15th.
AUGUST: The first week was one of heavy enemy activity in the company Area of Operation with 35 KBA credited. We continue to suport mainly the 7th ARVN Division. Kien Hoc Province, which has been the center of much of our activity, was recently, on an assessment of the GVN pacification program, rated the least pacified of South Vietnam's 48 provinces. Two notable operations were flown in support of USN "Seals", are of which resulted in the destruction of a VC grenade factory. The intended move of the company to Dong Tam still remains at the planning stage, and as yet no firm date has been given.
SEPTEMBER: The company operational commitment remained substantially the same, but with 2 operations in support of the 21st ARVN Division. The highlighteds for the month were the move from Bear Cat to Dong Tam on the 6th of September, and the arrival of the first group of RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam 1970, to replace those of the previous detactment returning to Australia. LCDR W. P. James, RAN, succeeded LCDR D.D. Farthing, RAN, as Executive Officer of the 135th Aviation Company.
OCTOBER: With the deployment of the EMU's to Dong Tam, the company now operates all over the Delta, and regularly works as far south as Ca Mau in support of the 21st ARVN Division. Enemy activity was at a low level, but on the 11th of October, just north east of the U-Minh Forest contact was made with a suspected NVA Battalion and combat assault were carried out under heavy fire, with all aircraft receiving hits, with fortunately no casualties. Personnel have been busily employed improving facilites in the quarters at Dong Tam and the clubs, showers, and toilet facilites has had an excellent effect on the company morale.
NOVEMBER; Enemy activity in Military Region IV remained at a fairly low level. The onset of the wet season hampered company operations to an extent this month. The EMU's were engaged in a number of contacts during the month, perhaps the most notable being on the early morning of the 22nd, when the "Vampire" night reaction package was launched at 0230 hours to counter a landing by the VC of troops and supplies from a junk in the south eastern extremity of Kien Hoa Province. An incident on Phu Quoc Island on the 6th of November gave a stronge arqument against the vulnerability of helicopters to ground fire. An EMU ship was carrying out a loudspeaker "PSYOPS" mission and received a total of over two thousand rounds of enemy small arms fire during a two hour long period. The aircraft sustained two minor hits, and its mission was unaffected. The Aircraft Commander claimed later, however, that he was getting a little nervous towards the end of the mission. The company area was mortored four times during this month. On the third, 7 rounds of 82mm landed in the BOQ area, wounding five personnel, fortunate none seriously.
DECEMBER: Another month of generally low enemy activity, but one that provided for the EMU's some intensive action. Another "Vampire" package was launched to insert troops around an outpost under attack in Vinh Binh Province. A heavy and successful action in the U-Minh Forest on the 6th of December resulted in 8 VC KBA's , with considerable successes by the ground troops inserted. The flight received enemy fire all day, but only one aircraft was hit. Another action in the same area resulted in 10 KBA's. Again fire was received all day, and two slick were shot down, being hooked out later in the day. A Vampire package was launched in the afternoon of Christmas Eve for a highly secret mission to Ca Mau. On arrival, the EMU's learned that they had been chosen as a security force for Nguyen Van Thieu, the Present of the Republic of Vietnam, who spent the night in the field with forward elements of the ARVN 21st Division. The second last day of the year saw the EMU's involved in their heaviest contact for some time in the Vinh Binh Province. At 0945 hours, while coming out of an LZ the flight took heavy fire. Two aircraft were forced down by enemy fire, with crewchief and gunner of the lead aircraft being wounded, the gunner seriously. The area was worked over by several fire teams while the inserted troops were in heavy contact. On a later insertion into the same area, EMU lead again took fire, having his chin bubble shot out. VC losses to air strikes and ground troop operation were given as 50, with numberous weopons, pieces of equipment and documents captured.