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HISTORY OF THE 187TH ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY
11TH COMBAT AVIATION BATTALION
1ST AVIATION BRIGADE
1 FEBRUARY 1971 - 30 APRIL 1971
Prepared by: 1 LT Ronald L. Noble
Approved by: Wilfred H. Wittekind, LTC. INFANTRY
TAY NINH, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM APO 96289
The "Crusaders" flew into 1971 in typical fashion: under intense pressure and heavy strain on both personnel and equipment, Vietnamization was in full swing and the word was -- "Stand Down", And around Viet Nam American units were sending their colors home. If a soldier had 60 days or less to DEPOS, he went home with the colors, The dream of the two month "drop" was deep in every heart, It was no different in "'The Holy Land" of the 187th. Assault Helicopter Company. Situated deep in infamous War Zone "C", now entering their fourth year of front echelon action, the officers and men of the 187th Assault Helicopter Company hoped for the best and expected the worst. They got what they expected The Crusaders would stay on.
Because of the decreasing presence of US forces in RVN, replacement personnel were more and more scarce. Everywhere American units faced the same dilemma, More work and fewer men to do it, Equipment shortages created the need to economize at every level. lack of replacement aircraft and parts brought an end the practice of flying unlimited hours for supported units, But even with rationed blade time the pace showed little sign of slacking If anything the pace increased.
The enemy had been carrying the war to the Cambodians during past few months, in an attempt to regain the lost sanctuaries and depot areas of pre 1970, Our own Air Force was providing the much needed air power to support the allied effort against the enemy in Cambodia, But because the enemy hid himself too near to innocent villagers, the big bombs and napalm of the Air Force couldn't get close enough. A more surgical method of destruction was called for, it was decided to fill. the gap with Cobra gun-ships.
Chosen for the job was the Cobra Gun Platoon of the 187th: "'The Rat Pack" and "Stand Down" soon became a bad joke in "The Holy Land", in spite of the disappointing indications that the "Crusaders" would be among the last to leave the country, the "Rats" answered the call with typical professionalism and efficiency. With light fire teams consisting of two Cobra Gun-ships led by one Huey Command and Control ship, the "Crusaders" once more carried the flight "over the fence".
All through the month of February, they flew around the clock. By day they responded to scramble missions in which they attacked and destroyed confirmed enemy targets. At night they provided essential gun cover for the US medical evacuation helicopters that extracted wounded ARVN soldiers from the Cambodian battlefield, It 27 days, the gun platoon of the 187th flew 306 sorties logged 261 blade hours destroyed over 375 caches, bunkers and fighting positions, and killed over 400 of the enemy In that period, the "Crusaders suffered their first casualties One pilot and one crew-chief were killed in action.
As February drew to a close, so did the mission. Although they still. escorted and defended the medical evacuation helicopters at night, tile Rat Pack returned to the daily routine of covering the combat assaults Of the "Crusaders" lift Platoons .
During March the 187th found itself going over the fence again this time carrying ARVN soldiers into Cambodia to search out and destroy the enemy. In more than one such operation, the Crusaders found themselves flying alternating lifts with VNAF helicopter squadrons in, spite of the language barrier these joint operations were termed generally successful,
By the time April arrived, aviator strength in the "Holy Land" was critically low. Moral showed signs of ebbing Every pilot flying his maximum allowable time and no one was getting much rest.- All the old guys were going home and there weren't any "new guys to take their places and lighten the load. At one point the first lift platoon could provided only one aircraft and crew per day Then in mid-April, the word: came down that there would soon be eight new guys joining the Crusaders. Finally there would be enough pilots to carry the load. The fact that they were VNAF pilots just graduated from flight school back in the States, surprised everyone at first but soon the Crusaders were looking forward to their coming. Here was a new challenge. Teaching a now pilot the the techniques of keeping aircraft and crew together and in one piece is always a difficult and time consuming thing. To do so when the recipient has but the minimal level of English comprehension presents problems heretofore unimagined. The month of May promised to be very interesting.
January saw the slicks flying 4090 sorties, logging 1171 hours of blade time, and carrying 7376 pax and 79 tons of supplies. The guns flew 287 sorties and logged 163 blade hours.
( This is all that is contained in the supplement for Jan 71)
In February the Crusaders lift platoon flew 1790 sorties logged 1109 blade hours and carried 5466 passengers and 54 tons of supplies. The Rats flew 306 sorties and logged 251 hours of blade time.
12 Feb. 71 - Aircraft #297 (AH-1G) lost its tail rotor while on a special mission in Cambodia and the pilot AC/ 1LT. Rodney Woods performed a near perfect autorotation. The only damage to the aircraft was a broken left skid. After the aircraft came to rest very near to the enemy positions, the front seat pilot/gunner (Cpt. James Garland Siddons) jumped from the aircraft and ran for the C&C ship. Cpt. Siddons was struck by the rotor blade and killed instantly. The crew chief of the C&C ship (SP5 William John Johnson) in an effort to retrieve the body of Cpt. Siddons was also hit by the still spinning rotor blade and was also killed. The downed Cobra was later recovered.
From Official Report: Siddons, James Garland. Class 70-14, Cause: Ground Casualty. How Died: Shot down. Received ground fire after autorotation. Siddons ran upsloap to suppress enemy fire with pistol, hit by rotor blade.
MARCH - 71
In March 1,126 sorties and 1,277 hours were logged by the lift platoons while carrying 5,898 passengers and 49 tons of supplies. 470 sorties in 303 blades hours was the Rat Pack's total for the month.
04 Mar 71 - Aircraft #446 (UH-1H) on a single ship DCS mission received 6 hits vicinity XT7035, was forced down and later recovered. The gunner was wounded in the leg,
Aircraft #135 (UH-1H) received intense automatic weapons fire vicinity XT6629 , was hit once but was able to continue the mission,
Aircraft #534 (UH-1H) received intense 30 Cal fire Vicinity XT6629 was hit 7 times and was forced to land with a damaged fuel system, and was later recovered.
Aircraft ,#305 (UH-1H) received two 30 Cal hits while on climb out from a PZ at XT6629, and was able to continue the mission.
17 Mar 71 - St, Patrick's Day. a major lift involving US and VNAF aviation elements lifting ARVN forces into an LZ vicinity XU4845. Some of the pilots who had been here for the 1970 Cambodian operation said this LZ was the hottest they had ever seen. There were up to two NVA regiments in the area, Nothing happened until the second lift went in. Before the ARVN's could get off the ground, 95% of them were killed by small arms, automatic weapons fire and mortars. The Crusaders sustained no injuries, but 6 aircraft were hit and two were downed. Later recovered but retrograded as a result of major damage.
24 Mar 71 - Aircraft #279 (UH-1H) received small arms fire vicinity XS3876, but was damaged only slightly and continued the mission.
Aircraft #370 (UH-1H) sustained minor damage and no injuries when it received small arms fire while on short final to an LZ Vicinity XS3876.
APRIL - 71
The slick platoons lightened up a bit, in April flying only 935 sorties and 1391 hours, carrying 6194 passengers and 59 tons of supplies. The Rat Pack flew 350 sorties and logged 275 hours
09 APR 71 - Aircraft #022 (AH-1G) received three small arms hits while breaking from of a low gun run. No damage and no injuries
14 APR 71 - Aircraft #135 (UH-1H) received one hit of unknown caliber while In a left hand C&C orbit at 2500 ft. The round pierced the main rotor blade.
18 APR 71 - Aircraft #357 (UH-1H) was able to return to Tay Ninh Base Camp after receiving a B-40 round explosion near the right front of the aircraft vicinity XT7235.
In May the Maggots and Mungs flew 5,277 sorties, logged 1,890.9 blade hours, carried 7,795 passengers and 38 tons of supplies. The Rat Pack logged 309.9 blade hours.
June - 71
Another long month, the Maggots and Mungs flew 5,298 sorties, logged 1,757.5 blade hours, carried 8,337 passengers and 39 tons of supplies. The Rat Pack logged 288.8 blade hours.
July - 71
July saw the Hueys flying 3,454 sorties, logged 1,529.2 blade hours, carried 7,047 passengers and 28 tons of supplies. The "Snakes" logged 303.9 blade hours.
19 Jul 71- Aircraft # 305 and 415 took multiple hits at vic. XT615272 causing major damage to both aircraft. 305 went down into the LZ while 415 returned to the PZ.
23 Jul 71 - VC Sappers penetrated our defenses and at approximately 0230 hours set off a number of satchel charges, damaging the maintenance shack and causing major damage to one aircraft and minor to another.
Aircraft's #137 UH-1H and #370 UH-1H were coming off the last PZ of the day took when they took fire causing minor damage to one aircraft.
27 Jul 71 - Aircraft #674 was forced to make a cautionary landing because of tail rotor chip detector light coming on.
August - 19
In August the Maggots and Mungs flew 958 sorties, logged 1,563.7 blade hours, carried 7,070 passengers and 18 tons of supplies. The Rat Pack logged 257.7 blade hours.
6 Aug 71 - While hovering aircraft #652 from the revetment area to the maintenance area the aircraft yawed to the right causing the pilot to make a go around. The aircraft then experienced full left and right pedal settings and feedback in both pedals. The pilot made a successful running landing on the active in Di An.
13 Aug 71 - Aircraft #467 experienced five severe compressor stalls with the EGT reaching 950 degrees C and the engine failing on the fifth stall. The AC made a successful autorotation into a rice paddy at vic. XT995170.
16 Aug 71 - Aircraft #757 "Wingless Warrior" received three shrapnel holes in the tail boom mid-section when an ARVN soldier fired his M-79 after departing the aircraft in the LZ. AC was Paul D. Barcelo.
September - 71
During September our slicks flew 2,871 sorties logged 2,029.7 blade hours carried 9,642 passengers and 1O tons of supplies The guns logged 423.8 blade hours
18 Sep 71 - Aircraft #133 while landing to Lai Khe active started losing its hydraulics. The AC executed a precautionary landing
20 Sep 71 - Aircraft #328 and 790 received shrapnel damage from 122mm rockets when Tay Ninh came under enemy rocket and mortar attack.
26 Sep 71 - Aircraft #577, while shutdown on the VIP pad at Thien Ngon, came under enemy 82mm mortar attack and sustained damage to the main rotor blades. The crew chief was wounded in the upper log from fragments.
27 Sep 71 - Aircraft # 67-17371, UH-1H. Tragedy struck the "Holy Land" on this day. On the return trip from Song Be to Di An a flight of 8 Crusader ships ran into dense IFR weather. Aircraft 67-17371 went inadvertent IFR and crashed into the ground killing all aboard. The crew consisted of:
WO1 Steven D. Karnehm,
CPT John J. Kintaro,
SP4 Luis H. Campos
SGT. Edwin A. Kudlacek.
28 Sep 71 - Aircraft #527 on a DCS mission took small arms fire near Thien Ngon. One round passed through a door window and went through the windshield. The co-pilot received shrapnel in an eye.
30 Sep 71 - While on final to the last LZ of the day, a flight of ten slicks came under intense enemy ground fire. Six aircraft took hits and one crew chief was wounded in the upper leg.
October - 71
The Crusaders lift platoons flew 2,485 sorties logged 1,782.5 hours, carried 4,919 passengers and 7 tons of supplies in October. The Snakes logged 312.6 hours si blade time
2 Oct 71 - Aircraft #130 (AH-1G) while covering a four ship flight, received 1 or 2 hits in his minigun fairing.
3 Oct 71 - Aircraft #328 received small arms fire while on short final to Hung Dau. Two rounds penetrated the instrument panel wounding the AC Bill Gray in the leg and arm. The crew chief, Alan Good, was grazed on the neck by another bullet.
4 Oct 71- Aircraft #568, leaving an LZ at vic. WT 970725 took one hit in the tail rotor blade, The hit was not known until the post flight.
11 Oct 71 - Aircraft #705 took it mortar fragments in the electrical compartment and engine deck.
13 OCT 71 - Enemy sappers penetrated our defenses at approximately 0100 hours, Sappers were spotted on the flight line by the guards. Explosions throughout the night totally destroyed two aircraft and damaged three beyond repair.
23 Oct 71 - Aircraft's #577, 832, and 534 received small arms hits while lifting troops from a PZ at XT625301.
30 Oct 71 - Aircraft #046 (AH-1G) received two hits in the vertical fin while covering a four ship CA.
In November, 3.371 sorties and 1,751.3 hours were logged by the lift platoons while carrying 7,612 passengers and 11 tons of supplies. The Rat Pack logged 201.9 blade hours.
4 Nov 71 - Aircraft # 568 while leaving an LZ at vic. WT 970725 took one hit in the tail rotor blade. The hit was not known until the post flight.
15 Nov 71 - Tragedy again struck the "Holy Land". The Crusaders were working an eight ship mission in Cambodia. C&C was being flown by Cpt. Skip Davis, (Rat Pack 36). Two of the slicks were released from the flight to refuel in Tay Ninh. On the way to Tay Ninh, flying in a close staggered right formation, the trail ship with Aircraft Commander Ken Bennet, Pilot Frank Kanauka, Sp5 Nettleton and PFC Callahan, impacted the main rotors of the lead ship. Post impact gyrations severed most of the trail ship's tail boom and tearing the rotor blades completely off the lead ship.
The lead ship crashed killing the entire crew which consisted of:
Aircraft Commander - WO1 Thomas Joe Puff
Pilot -WO1 Vincent Patrick Martin, Jr.
Sp4 John Andrew Charnaplosky
Sp4 Daniel Scanlon Brooker
Captain Davis was first on the ground and reports all that was left of the lead ship was a two foot high pile of molten metal.
The trail ship, with Aircraft Commander Ken Bennet, and without a tail boom, managed to hit the ground in a level attitude. Everyone aboard survived but suffered severe compression fractures from the impact.
Ken Bennet's (Crusader "94) account of the landing as told to Bill Gray (Crusader "11") at the hospital.
"I was flying straight and level at 1500 feet AGL and the next thing I knew I was looking directly at the ground and heading there rapidly. I had the cyclic embedded in my stomach to no avail and suddenly at about 100 feet the UH-1H flattened out and we had a very hard landing."
Bill Gray comments, "My observation is that this had to be divine intervention because a UH-1H will not flatten out with no tail boom and this bird had no tail boom. I saw it."
23 Nov 71 - Aircraft's #577, 832 and 534 received small arms hits while lifting troops from a PZ at vic. XT625301.
December - 71
The last month of the year found the Crusaders still driving onwards. The slicks flew 3,997 sorties, logged 1,816 blade hours and carried 8,565 pax and 4 tons of supplies· The Guns flew 744 sorties and logged 342 hours of blade time
10 Dec 71 - A near tragedy struck the "Holy Land"' on this day, Aircraft #503 was struck by intense .51 cal. and 31mm antiaircraft fire during an emergency re-supply and medical evacuation of a surrounded ARVN base camp. The aircraft burst into flames and autorotated into the jungle. After 13 long hours, the entire crew was rescued. Aircraft Commander Loren Green, Pilot Cpt. Zook.
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