A Troop, 3/17th Air Cav
Troop History - 1970
Updated: 20 May 2015
From 1 Jan 70 the Troop was deployed in Soc Trang in Military Region IV, and returned to the squadron at Di An (pronounced "Zee-On") the first week of April. While in Soc Trang, the troop encountered numerous losses in aircraft -- particularly to the Scout platoon -- with some casualties (fortunately, no KIAs) while inflicting great losses on enemy forces. I was told not long after the Spurs departed Soc Trang that base was attacked in-force by enemy forces and the mess-hall we had dined and the outdoor and makeshift "movie theater" next to it (where we had watched, "2001 - A Space Odyssey") had both been destroyed with loss of U.S. personnel at those two locations and also on the flight line.
In late April '70 some elements of the Troop were working out of Quan Loi (aka "Firebase Andy") while primary troop maintenance remained in Di An. Quan Loi was another vast rubber-tree plantation. With A Troop's deployment to Quan Loi, the troop fell under OPCON of the 1st Cavalry Division and the troop would participate in the 1970 Cambodia Incursion which officially went "over the fence" on 2May70. It was also during this time period our Australian friends from the 161 Recce Sqn. - call-sign Possums - were attached and flying with the Spurs.
In the first days of the incursion the troop would work in the "Fish Hook" area where "The City" was discovered under "Taskforce Shoemaker." (In the record books the 1/9th was given credit for the discovery, but if memory serves it was a Spur LOH with Danny "Boston" Sheehan as the observer who first spotted this vast complex which housed over 11,000 bunkers! Not to mention a huge cache of weapons, food, underground medical facilities, a Mercedez Benz and pool! The Fish Hook area had long been suspected to have been the area where COSVN was located after the NVA had moved its headquarters from near Tay Ninh -- following the '68 Tet -- to the relative sanctuary of Cambodia when the 1st Cav moved south to III Corps).
I would only learn of late, the Fish Hook area held American POWs which were moved deeper into Cambodia near Kratie as a result of this same 1970 U.S. Cambodian Incursion. Unfortunately, the vast amount of NVA troops had departed "The City" days, if not weeks, before the U.S. forces discovered this massive enemy complex. What's new?
Around 9May70, some elements of the Spurs would shortly return to work in AO's around Di An while others remained at Quan Loi to support the months-long ARVN thrust into Cambodia in the "Parrot's Beak" area. This was a very hectic time for the entire troop and our maintenance personnel who were shuttling back and forth between Quan Loi and Di An keeping the ships flying. To make matters worse, the Spurs would shortly be forced to change its ten Scout helicopters from the reliable OH-6A "Cayuse" to the less agile and underpowered but slightly faster OH-58 "Kiowa" which -- in my opinion -- was a very poor decision. Not only would the OH-58 require more maintenance but aero-scout tactics would need to be revised.
In late June '70 - after U.S. forces withdrew from Cambodia - the Troop returned in-full to Di An. On 17Jun70, Major Rafferty took over the reins of the Silver Spurs from Major Dervaes. The Spurs and other 3/17th troops received the U.S. Army's Valorous Unit Award for their action inside of Cambodia. Later in the same year - perhaps late August or early September - the Troop once again returned to Quan Loi after all elements of the 1st Cavalry Division had departed this important base and the Spurs would continue vital recon missions in this AO near Hwy 13 and the Cambodian border. It is important to point out that ARVN troops worked inside Cambodia both prior to, and well after, the '70 Cambodian incursion. (See: Cambodian Incursions).
No later than Nov '70, the 3/17th Squadron became OPCON to the 1/9th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cav Division as units were being consolidated due to reduction of U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam. The 334th AHC also became part of the 3/17th known as E Troop at least by 2Nov70 and perhaps sooner. In late November, "yours truly" departed the Republic of South Vietnam but never quit thinking about those who remained with the Spurs.
The Spurs would remain at Quan Loi well into 1971, and would again "cross the fence" in support of a major ARVN thrust towards Snoul (also spelled "Snuol") in a futile attempt to reinforce encircled ARVN units under heavy attack by the NVA at Snoul, Cambodia. (See 1971 Spur History).
As a point of history, in earlier years Quan Loi had also served as the headquarters of the 1st Cav's 3rd Brigade and the 11th ACR which was OPCON to the 1st Cav in '69. Quan Loi was also the home of MACV-SOG Command and Control South Mobile Launch Site whose teams ran classified special unconventional warfare missions inside South Vietnam and Cambodia. II Field Force Artillery's 6th Battalion, 27 Artillery and USAF FAC's were stationed there also. Quan Loi was a major base which helped block enemy infiltration from Cambodia into Military Region III along Highway 13. The base's position had long been a thorn in the side of enemy forces. Like the infamous Marine base at Khe Sanh which had hampered enemy infiltration from Laos into Military Region I (until that base was abandoned by U.S. forces), Quan Loi had been the object of heavy enemy attacks in-force on several occasions and would remain so from time to time. [Ref: Vietnam Magazine, Aug '99 edition, "NVA Attack at Quan Loi"]. The basically rectangular shape of the base (approx. 2 miles long and 1 mile wide) made it vulnerable to attack and the outer perimeter was protected by 82 bunkers with three or four rows of wire forming the first line of defense. Highway 13 would later play a significant role in history when mechanized NVA forces would cross the border in 1975 and quickly crush Loc Ninh (just north of Quan Loi along Hwy 13) and successfully and quickly drive and capture Saigon (after a desperate and intense defensive battle at the provincial capital of An Loc by ARVN forces, just five miles southwest of Quan Loi on Hwy. 13) in April, 1975 marking the end of the long war in Vietnam.
However, the war was far from over for the Spurs as I was back in "the World" and 1971 rapidly approached.
I. -- Unit Commanders:
b. WITCHER, ROBERT A.; 091539; Major, Armor
c. JENKS, JOHN D.; 05307356; Major, Armor
d. ZIMMERMAN, RICHARD K.; 052085595; Major, Armor
e. SANDERS, BURNETT R. II; 073190; Major, Armor
f. SMITH, HAROLD L: 073190; Major, Armor
g. DERVAES, ARTHUR S. III; xxx-xx-xxxx; Major, Armor
h. RAFFERTY, JAMES; xxx-xx-xxxx; Major, Armor
i. RUSSELL, DAVID; 097759; Major, Armor
II. -- Major Subordinate Units:
ADDITONAL DOCUMENTS WITH 1970 UNIT HISTORY
March 1970 - REDHORSE REVIEW - Page 9 SILVER SPURS NEWS -- "Two Spurs fly by ammo doors"
SILVER SPURS NEWS -- "Two Spurs fly by ammo doors"
The FM radio chattered harshly, "scramble the second team, a LOH is down". Out in a paddy west of Soc Trang , WO1 Bill Smith from Pittsburgh, Pa. and his observer, Sergeant Marion Hill from Mtn. Home AFB, Idaho, leaped out of the burning wreckage of their now destroyed LOH. No sooner had they cleared the flaming aircraft than the lead cobra commanded by Cpt. Donald Duncan from Columbus, Ohio, landed to extract the crew. While they hustled aboard the cobra's ammo bay doors , tail cobra air commander CW2 Terry Shulze from Tacoma, Washington, pounded the woodline that had been the source of hostile fire directed against the LOH. Starting with his mini-gun, then rockets, and covering his breaks with mini-gun fire, CW2 Shulze raked the area until Cpt. Duncan could lift off and proceed to Soc Trang with the crew precariously hanging on to the cobra's ammo doors.
WO1 Smith reflected upon the incident later that day, "All I could think about was to get my observer and myself away from the ship, because the min-gun ammo and grenades were starting to cook off and Charles was shooting at us. " WO1 Smith commenting upon the cobra ride said, "The finest sight I've ever seen was that cobra on its final approach coming in to pick us up. We were soaked from the rice paddy and the ride back was windy and cold, but it just didn't matter. The main thing was that we were heading for home."
Luckily, neither the pilot nor the observer was injured, but, needless to say, both will remember the events of the day, particularly that wild ride on the cobra.
ADDITIONAL REDHORSE REVIEWS FOUND!
June '70 A Troop Transcripts - Redhorse Reviews is AWOL!
----------------- END OF THESE DOCUMENTS ----------------
DFCs and SILVER STARS AWARDED TO SILVER SPURS
ELKIN, JAMES F. - CWO (more information when available)
PIXTON, CHRISTOPHER C. - CPT -- GO 4585, Dtd 3 June 1970
REYNOLDS, WILLIAM M. - CPT -- GO 7100, Dtd 21 July 1970
DISTINGUISED FLYING CROSS:
BRETSCHNEIDER, ROBERT S. - Sp/4 - (DD-214 on file, 24 Jun 11) Dtd 23 February 1970 - General Order 1125 - For heroism - Copy of DFC citation on file.
BRYANT, FRANKLIN D. - CPT - GO 2587. Dtd 22 April 1970 for action on 17 Feb 1970 for "exceptional valorous actions as Air Mission Commander of an aerial reconnaissance team of helicopters near Ca Mau..."
DIBBERN, ROBERT L. - WO1 - GO 7140, Dtd 21 July 1970 for action on 13 March 1970 (Soc Trang).
GARRISON, JOHN S. - Sp/4 - GO 10819 dtd 2 Mar 70 (1)
MOSS, J.C. - CPT - GO 7140, Dtd 21 July 1970 for action on 13 March 1970 (Soc Trang).
REYNOLDS, WILLIAM M. - CPT - 4th OLC, GO 2418, Dtd 16 April 1970 for action on 13 MAR 1970.
PIXTON, CHRISTOPHER C. - CPT - GO 4898, Dtd 10 June 1970 for action on 24 FEB 1970 (Soc Trang).
PIXTON, CHRISTOPHER C. - CPT - GO 7140, Dtd 21 July 1970 (First Oak Leaf Cluster) for action on 13 March 1970 (Soc Trang).
REYNOLDS, WILLIAM M. - CPT - 5th OLC, Dtd 4 June 1970 for action on 20 April 1970.
TELA, DAVID F. WO1 - GO 7140, Dtd 21 July 1970 (First Oak Leaf Cluster) for action on 13 March 1970 (Soc Trang).
WALLACE, WILLIAM T. WO1 - Dtd 1 September 1970 (Awarded Posthumously) - Photo on file
BINDER, CALVIN WILLIAM II
ELKIN, JAMES FREEMAN
YOUNT, WILLIAM HENRY Jr.
SPENCE, JOSEPH C. Jr.
Do You Remember?.....Reconstructed History
To: Bill Reynolds, Bill Smith, Tom White, Ed Marzola & Dan Murphy:
Gentlemen. I received the following from Tom Runkle who was with our Lift Platoon from July '69 to July '70. I thought perhaps you might be of some help? I do remember an OH-6A being downed in the middle of a river or canal where the pilot was badly wounded and unconcious and the wounded Oscar was able to pull him to the friendly side. But I believe that incident was in Cambodia? At any rate, in the incident I'm speaking of, it was rumored the Oscar was put in initially for a MOH but was later downgraded. Unfortunately I cannot remember the pilot or Oscar's name. If any of you have any information, please feel free to share.
Subj: Re: Do you remember...
Date: 98-04-24 18:04:38 EDT
I remember the incident pretty well. Pilot was hit pretty bad (can't remember his name)...I think that it was in early May...we just went into Cambodia. The Oscar pulled him to safety although injured. As far as I know, both survived.
Concerning the KIAs in 1970, Bill Wallace was a scout and I believe that Jerry Gillette ["Moose"] was his Oscar. We had just transitioned into -58s. They were doing a VR when they took fire. Bill hit a tree with his blades at very low altitude...flipped over and hit the ground updside down. Both died instantly. I was coming up the road to relieve him on station when the call came in that he had crashed....6 told me to be careful because there were a lot of bad guys in the AO...he was right. I took a lot of fire while the ARPs secured the aircraft, which eventually blew in place. I do remember that the Cobras nailed the place pretty good before we broke station.
Cal Binder and Jim Elkins died when their Cobra suffered a servo hardover. Jim (the AC) almost got it down into a clearing. Went through some trees and the blade went through the cockpit.
As for Tom Barnett, he was in the front seat of Cobra that was engaging a .51 cal position outside of Quan Loi. Dave Toms was the AC and did a fantastic job getting the aircraft down after it had been hit several times and a few times in the ammo bay. They crash landed in a clearing and Louie Chadar (sp?) became a real hero when he landed his -58 and got both of them out of the burning aircraft. If I recall, a slick landed with ARPs and an E-6 rushed over to help Louie get the guys out. [This is correct, just cannot remember the Blue's PSGT's name - R.Young] Tom was hurt pretty bad, as was Dave. They got them back to Quan Loi and a SF medic, who was the A Team there with the mercs, tried his best to save Tom, but he died. He did get Dave stabilized and he made it to fight another day (literally).
I was the scout the night that Bill Yount and Joe Spence were shot down at or about 0200 hrs on 24 Dec 70. We were doing a Chicken Hawk mission, which we had accomplished successfully a couple of nights before. I was just a few clicks north of Quan Loi hovering around test firing our guns when I heard Bill say that he was inbound. I told him that I was only test firing and not in contact. We found them the next morning. We believe that he hit the ground doing better than 170 kts and there were a number of bullet holes in the wreckage.
Toms and Barnett Shootdown: a Pilot's Perspective by R.D. Toms, Jr. - May 2015
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ed Marzola)
I do remember a scout pilot being shot down and landing in a river, and I am pretty sure it happened in Cambodia. I believe the pilot's name was WO Pate. Cpt Pixton was the lead gun and I was flying his wing when the incident happened. Cpt Pixton landed his cobra and tried to get the the crew, but was unable to get close. If I remember correctly, Maj Dervaes went in to pick him up. I believe WO Pate survived [he did] and I think I saw his name listed in the VHPA directory. However, I have lost mine so I can't confirm this. If anybody has a directory they might be able to look him up.
From: email@example.com [Gary Swartz]
Just was looking at the 1970 History. Noticed a story about WO Pate and an unknown Observer. That was Spec 4 Lester Larson. They were the ones we and Maj. Dervaes went to Long Bien Hospital to see.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Charles Womble)
I was just told of the web site and was glad to see the A trp, 3/17th was listed.
I joined the Silver Spurs Jan 19, 1970 and served with them until Jan 1971. I was assigned to the lift platoon and became the platoon leader a few months later. I served in that position until around late November or early December when I became the laison for the Spurs to the Vietnamise Army. I remember a lot of what happened but dates and names escape me (to much time has passed).
I do have a copy of the orders for the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry awarded in 1970. Here is the basic information that are on those orders:
These men recieved the 'Gallantry Cross with bronze star' for actions During Operation CL/21/04 conducted on 6 March 1970 to 4 April 1970 in Chuong Thien, Kien Giang interprovincial.
If anyone needs a copy of these orders I will be glad to send them a copy.
I remember the incident when Dave Toms took the .51 cal in the Cobra he was flying. I led the flight of three lift ships into his crashed position to extract him and Tom. Dave did an excellant job of getting the ship down in one piece as he could not see as the cockpit had filled with smoke. The landing was hard and the gun sight crushed into Tom Barnett's [chest] causing his major injuries. The ship was burning as we left the area and the other Cobras on station finished the destruction of it.
Thanks for the Memories. . .
Subj: Quan Loi, '70
Date: 98-12-20 21:28:02 EST
Bear [Roger Young]
Ended up at your page after a circuitious journey from the Jolly Greens. Reading blissfully along, taking in the Washington state info (I'm from Everett), saw that you were at Quan Loi for the Cambodia field trip. Over the years haven't come across many souls that had even heard of Quan Loi.
Quan Loi Plantation
Photo Courtesy of Larry "Chance" Hughes -- 19 TASS (Tactical Air Support Squadron), Rash FAC
Being ex-USAF I don't have many of my own to commiserate with, as less than 50 of us ever bunked there. I earned my paycheck with the OV-10 Broncos at the North end of the runway as a RASH Fac.
OV-10 USAF Bronco -- Quan Loi 1970
Photo Courtesy of Larry "Chance" Hughes -- 19 TASS, Rash Fac
We were attached, also, to the 3rd Brigade of the Cav, also served the needs of the 5 Gp (SIGMA) as Pretzel and Ringo FACS. Our hootch was next to the plantation house, with a wonderful view of the open area vacated by the 11 Armored Cav that Charlie like to use for his on base excursions. As the Army required we be armed the Charlie Med guys on the opposite side of the field were plagued by feelings of insecurity during any ground action at the North End. Fortunately, the CO of our next door neighbors, a Capt with the Signal Co, was adamant that we not shoot the Grunts that were protecting us and as far as I know we never did any real harm.
After Cambodia and the Cav (3rd Brigade) stand own, some of us AF types stuck around to support the SIGMA mission and the place got very lonely. Also, since the Cav had fed and cared for us and the AF kind of forgot we were there, chow became a real problem. The 5 Gp guys appreciated our support and all, but they didn't exactly have an open door policy into their compound. Beer also got in very short supply as there were no Cav Supply troopers to give plane rides to in exchange for a pallet of beer. The food we could do without, but the lack of beer was downright serious.
Always figured the Army had positioned the tracked 155's behind our revetments to insure our safety. You must remember the importance of our mission. We were the ones that got the F-100's to put on the fly-bys. I am not belittling the joy of watching the Snakes and Loaches doing their hammerheads (I loved it), it just that the afterburners added that special something. Anyway when the Cav left they took their (our) 155's with them and we were left pretty much defenseless. So Charlie ran our butts out. My last night at Quan Loi was spent for The most part grovelling in one of the 1/2 culverts between our revetments and the north end road. Charlie got into the Green Beanie compound and caused major havoc, but for the most part left us alone. The AF came in at first light and pulled us out (things were still pretty dicey) and the Cav once again welcomed us back into the fold at Phuoc Vinh.
I, also, am very proud of my service with the Cav, and the Army in general. During Cambodia, with Task Force Shoemaker, we AFers felt a real sense of accomplishment, and honored to be involved with such an outstanding group of men. I put in 5 tours in SEA, and one of my most memorable highlights is directing the close air support to get the last guys of Shoemaker out of Cambodia before dark. Ironically, I was in an OV-10 Bronco, and the Hooks and Hueys were pulling the troops and equipment out of FSB Bronco. We got them out.
Because of crowding, Spur Loaches were located across the runway
from the FAC revetments during the Cambodia Incursion
Photo Courtesy of Larry "Chance" Hughes -- 19 TASS, Rash Fac
When my affiliation with the Cav ended (AF sent me to the Delta) they presented an Honorary Sky Trooper certificate signed by Major General George Putnam, along with a large format book, THE 1ST AIR CAVALRY DIVISION, VIETNAM, Aug 65 to Dec 69. I still have both.
You might get a kick out of the attachment. I'm sure you remember the congestion and chaos at Quan Loi during Cambodia. Well, this is what it looked like a couple of months later. Shortly after this pic was take, we 12 AFers were also gone. I believe the Green Beanies stayed on for a short time, the ARVN's were supposed to take over, but their major ops center became An Loc.
Courtesy of Larry "Chance" Hughes -- 19 TASS, Rash Fac
Thanks for bringing back memories of trying times with Honorable Men.
Webslave's Note: At the end of June, 1970, A Troop departed Quan Loi only to return later where the Troop would remain stationed until approx. mid 1971. As Larry indicates above, the base became "very lonely" and its outer perimeter (Green Line) was guarded only by ARVN troops. Base security became interesting! See the '71 Troop History for more related details!
1970: Kent State killings.
Protesting President Richard Nixon's decision to invade Cambodia, students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, staged a noontime rally on May 4. The National Guard was called out to control the protest but fired into the crowd of 1,000, killing four students and wounding 11 others. Coupled with the killings of two African American students at Jackson State College in Mississippi on May 14, the Kent State shootings set off campus demonstrations throughout the country. More than 450 colleges closed down because of student strikes, and more than 80 percent of the nation's campuses experienced protests of some kind.
Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia
Facts from the book Incursion, by J.D. Coleman,
Allies -- 976 (338 U.S.)
Missing or Captured:
Allies--48 (13 U.S.)
Crew-served weapons: 2,509
Small-arms ammunition: 16,762,167 rounds
Antiaircraft ammunition: 199,552 rounds
Mortar ammunition: 68,593 rounds
Rockets, B-40 and B-41: 43,160
Recoiless rifle ammo: 29,185 rounds
Hand grenades: 62,022
Explosives: 83,000 pounds
Rockets, 107-mm and 122-mm: 2,123
Vehicles, all types: 435
Pharamaceutical products: 110,800 pounds
Rice: 14,046,000 pounds
Quote from the book Incursion,
"For it's accomplishments in Cambodia, the division [1st Cav and all attached] was recommended for its second Presidential Unit Citation. The first award was for the historic Pleiku Campaign. That the division received the first award was due as much to untiring lobbying efforts in the Pentagon by the division's former commander, Lieutenant General Harry Kinnard, and some of his close associates, as it was the division's combat record. Sadly, with Casey's death, there was no champion for the division this time around.
"It is problematical though, whether the division would have been recognized had Casey lived. The mood in Melvin Laird's Pentagon, while it didn't reflect American society in general, was nonetheless decidedly unreceptive to making a big deal out of an operation that was so controversial. The division instead settled for quietly accepting a Valorous Unit Citation--not too shabby an award, since it represented a unit equivalent of the Silver Star.
"Casey went to his death [he perished in a helicopter accident] convinced the 1st Cav's operations had bought the Allies valuable time. That, perhaps, was the greatest value of the incursion--it bought some time. Kissinger said the invasion bought fifteen months. Sir Robert Thompson, who defeated a communist insurgency in Malaysia and who had been very critical of the American command's conduct of the war, said his analysis of the Cambodian incursion persuaded him that the allies had set the NVA Offensive timetable back 'at least a year, probably eighteen months and possibly two years.'
"On April 1, 1972, three North Vietnamese divisions staging out of their rebuilt bases in Cambodia made an all-out assault on the northern Binh Long Province town of Loc Ninh, quickly overrunning it. Nearly all the Americans had gone home by then and the defense of III Corps was up to the ARVN. The Cambodian incursion had bought the Thieu government twenty-three months.
"That time was squandered, and how, is another story entirely." ...... J. D. Coleman
Department of the Army
Headquarters, 1st Aviation Brigade
APO San Francisco 96384
2 March 1970
AWARD OF THE DISTRINGUISHED FLYING CROSS
TC 439. The following AWARD is announced.
GARRISON, JOHN S. SSAN: xxx-xx-xxxx SPECIALIST FOUR United States Army Troop A, 3rd Armored Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry, APO 96289
Awarded: Distinguished Flying Cross
Dates of service: 16 January 1970
Theater: Republic of Vietnam
Authority: By direction of the President under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 2 July 1926, AR 672-5-1 and USARV Reg 672-1 dated 1 July 1969.
FOR THE COMMANDER:
John Garrison and daughter Patricia
Washington D.C. - Veterans Day 2000
This marks the end of this portion of Silver Spur history.
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