Unit History of The

189th Aviation Company (AMBL)

 

Organization of the 189th

Constituted 23 September 1942 in the Army of the United States as the 2027th Quartermaster Truck Company, Aviation.

Activated 5 October 1942 at Lockbourne Army Air Base, Ohio.

Inactivated 20 February 1946 in the Philippine Islands.

Converted and redesignated 1 August 1946 as the 2027th Transportation Company (Aviation).

Redesignated 1 November 1966 as the 189th Aviation Company, allotted to the Regular Army, and activated at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Entered the Vietnam Conflict May 1967 and assigned to the 52d Combat Aviation Battalion at Camp Holloway (Pleiku, RVN).

The 189th was just one unit of the largest Aviation Battalions ever formed, the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB) "The Flying Dragons" was subordinate to the 17th Combat Aviation Group (CAG). The 17th CAG was subordinate to the 1st Aviation Brigade, the largest Army Aviation organization formed since World War II. The 1st Aviation Brigade was comprised of several Groups, each having several Battalions.

Inactivated 15 March 1971 in Vietnam.


Assigned 19 February 1986 to the 3d Armored Division and activated in Germany.

Inactivated 16 July 1987 in Germany.


 

189th Campaign Participation Credit

World War - AP

New Guinea

Leyte

Vietnam

Counteroffensive, Phase II

Counteroffensive, Phase III

Tet Counteroffensive

Counteroffensive, Phase IV

Counteroffensive, Phase V

Counteroffensive, Phase VI

Tet 69/Counteroffensive

Summer-Fall 1969

Winter-Spring 1970

Sanctuary Counteroffensive

Counteroffensive, Phase VII


Decorations

 

Philippine Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered 17 October 1944 to 4 July 1945.

Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1967-1968.

Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1970.


The 189th Aviation Company History

The 189th Aviation Company (AML) was activated by Department of the Army with Fifth Army General Order 236, dated 19 September 1966, to be organized on 1 November, 1966 at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Captain Victor Hamilton 05318188, Infantry commanded the unit, who proceeded in organizing the unit under TO&E 1-77E (Modified). Under his command the unit was open for the receipt of incoming personnel and equipment.

1 December 1966: Major Robert Bagley 04009745, Artillery assumed command. Under his guidance, request for additional equipment were submitted, a training program was established, the airfield operations element was established, and unit training begin.

9 December 1966, the 189th was reorganized under TO&E 1-77G (Modified) as directed by General Order 427, Fifth Infantry Division and Fort Carson, Colorado. Under the new TO&E, the 189th was authorized a Company Headquarters, two (2) Airlift Platoons, a Gun Platoon and a Service Platoon. The unit was provided additional support by the 604th Maintenance Detachment, the 519th Medical Detachment and the 6th Signal Detachment.

Under TO&E 1-77G, the 189th was to prepare for deployment on a date yet undisclosed.

As the unit was one of the first units to receive the UH-1H Huey all new aircraft were picked up from the factory in Ft. Worth, Texas and ferried to Fort Carson, CO.

12 December 1966: The 189th began its formal training on. Each day began with physical training capped with an increasing longer run around post. As this was winter in Colorado physical training was suspended on those mornings when the temperature dipped below 28 degree.

The first week dealt primarily with basic required subjects, such as Code of Conduct, Geneva Convention, etc.

17 December 1966: The Christmas Holidays began, and all formal training ceased for two weeks.

21 December 1966: Major John J. Webster 01881081, TC, assumed command of the Company. During the remainder of the of 1966 the unit was primarily involved with aircraft checkouts required for aviators in the UH-1C and UH-1H.

After the Christmas Holidays were over training became serious under ATP 1-77G and continued until April 1967.

1 January 1967, the key positions within the Company were filled by the following:

Commanding Officer: Major John Webster

Executive Officer: Major Robert T. Bagley

First Sergeant: 1SG Alfred

Operations Officer: Major Richard V. Coulter

Intelligence Officer: Major Jesse E. Stewart

First Airlift Platoon Commander: Captain Jack W. Blien

Second Airlift Platoon Commander: Major Albert H. Kraph

Gun Platoon Commander: Captain Pinckney C. Cochran

Service Platoon Commander: Captain Wilbur R. Mixier

The associated detachments and their initial commanders were:

604th Maintenance Detachment: Major Richard D. Caldwell

519th Medical Detachment: WO1 Daniel J. Bainey

6th Signal Detachment: 2d Lt. James R. Conley

3 January 1967, schedule training resumed. The first week of the new year was devoted to basic required subjects.

11 January 1967 formal flight training began at section and platoon levels and included such subjects as Navigation, Instrument Proficiency, Night Flying, Formation Flying with Loads, Gunship Tactics and Airmobile Operations.

20 January 1967: The first company-size Airmobile Operation was conducted on and was followed by three more prior to the Field Exercise (FTX) portion of unit training.

31 January 1967 - 6 February 1967: Gunnery training (7.62 systems) was conducted. During the period, all gunnery personnel was qualified in the XM-21 and XM-23 systems.

7-9 February 1967 found the unit in the field for the first time where emphasis was placed on Operation of a Tactical Landing Area, Security of the Area, Operational Reaction Time, Resupply, Aero-medical Evacuation, and Section and Platoon-size Airmobile operations with Armed Escort.

14-16 February 1967 the unit again operated from the field. Emphasis was placed as on the first operation for the purpose of reducing mission reaction time.

20 February found the 189th in the field; this time for a five day exercise. During that period, the company provided aviation support to the 2/11th Infantry in its Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) cycle. Emphasis was placed on Platoon and Company-sized operations, resuppy, aero-medical evacuation and a night move in preparation for the forth-coming Army Training Test (ATT) cycle. The unit was observed throughout the operation by ranking personnel who seemed pleased with the unit's progress.

During the same period, the Gun Platoon participated in firing of the 2.75 Rocket System and the M-5 (40mm)Grenade Launcher. With the completion of this training, the Company looked forward to the ATT.

1-3 March 1967. The ATT was conducted under conditions simulating combat. During the three day period, the unit and supporting Detachments were judged combat ready in all phases of the testing.

With the completion of the ATT, the 189th Aviation Company (AML) began preparations for it's overseas movement. The unit was notified of over-seas redeployment by Fifth Infantry Division and Fort Carson Movement Order #5.

With the issuance of Movement Order #5, the unit began processing all equipment for repair and final inspection.

16 March 1967, the Gun Platoon departed Fort Carson with eight (8) UH-1C's for Sharp Army Depot. The aircraft were to be processed for overseas shipment not later than 21 March 1967. On 17 March the Gun Platoon reported departing El Paso International, ETA Yuma, Arizona 2326Z. Gun Platoon departed Yuma the morning of the 18th, destination Sharp Army Depot, Stockton, California. The transfer of "C" Models was completed upon arrival, 181637 March 1967.

28 March 1967 additional movement instructions was received. All vehicles and conexed equipment were port called for NLT 12 April. To meet the 12 April port call, rail cars were loaded 6 April for movement on 7 April.

29 March, Requirements for the advance part were partially finalized on. The number in the party was limited to five and included:

Major Richard V. Coulter, Operations and OIC

Major Jesse E. Stewart, Training and Intelligence

Captain Ernest R. Bowling, Communications

Captain Phillip Ashbeg, Maintenance

Captain Darrell Waite, Supply

21 April, The advance party was alerted and departed Fort Carson at 0620 hours on 23 April 1967. The party arrived at and departed Travis Air force Base that same day for Cam Rhon Bay, Vietnam. Arrival time at Cam Rhon Bay was 0500 hours, 25 April. From there, the advance part was processed through 17th Aviation Group and finally arrived at its new station, Pleiku, Vietnam on 27 April 1967. The unit was assigned to the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion and was redesignated as the 189th Assault Helicopter Company, APO San Francisco 96318.

3 May 1967: The unit was broken into contingents and began departing via U.S. Air force C-141 Starlifter. While enroute to Pleiku AFB, Vietnam intermediate stops were made at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska and Yokoda, Japan. The sweltering heat of Pleiku was indeed a change from the cold mountain air of Colorado where it had snowed the day before.

5 May 1967, base camp was established at Camp Holloway and the main body began arriving. The unit was assigned a bare piece of ground alongside the runway as a permanent bivouac area. Seeing that the assigned area lay outside of the Battalion's perimeter, the first order of business was to extend the barbed wire to encompass the units new home. Tents were erected and sandbagged. Revetments for the slicks were then built of steel planking and filled with soil and sand.

The remainder of the body close the new location the 6th and 7th. Shortly thereafter, the TO&E equipment less Aircraft) arrived and the 189th neared an operational readiness goal.

22 May saw the arrival of the units helicopters at the Port of Vung Tau, a coastal city in III Corps and also an in country R&R site. Much excitement accompanied the crews fortunate to RON at the old French hotel, sample Bier 33 and consort for the first time with the local Vietnamese bar girls was a welcome respite from the heat and red dust of Pleiku.

The first ten (10) aircraft arrived, and the following day eleven more H models and six (6) UH-1C's arrived; to be followed by 2 more H models on the 24th. The remaining 2 UH-1C's were scheduled to arrive the 25th of May 1967.

With the arrival of equipment and personnel, the company was given an operational readiness date of 15 June 1967.

27 May 1967, UH-1H, 66-1065 crashed while on a courier and resupply mission. WO1 Herbert A. Ripka, W3250625, was the units first in-country fatality. Although he was initially reported missing in the over water accident, three days later, his body was washed ashore, and he was pronounced dead from drowning.

1 June 1967, the first deros took place in the 189th. As a result, new personnel assumed key positions as follows:

Intelligence Officer:.................Captain Michael Howe

1st Airlift Platoon Commander:........Captain Eugene Malcoff

2nd Airlift Platoon Commander:........Captain Darrell Waite

Gun Platoon Commander:................Captain Rupert Bowling

During the first part of June, the 189th Assault Helicopter Company was assigned radio call signs. The Airlift Platoon's call sign was "Ghostrider" and the call-sign "Avenger" was given to the Gun Platoon. The 189th AHC operations was "Ghostrider Control".

15 June 1967, the 189th AHC became operational. The combat training was completed and the company assumed its place as a combat ready unit in the 52nd Battalion. The 189th was placed in direct support of the 4th Infantry Division. Missions assigned consisted of C&C, resupply, and combat assaults.

The first series of operations that the 189th participated in was support of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division based in the school house of the abandoned hamlet of LeThan, better know to the Americans as Jackson's Hole. Jackson's Hole lay west of the Catecka Tea Plantation and was very near the Cambodian border. Single ship hover hole LZ's (landing zones) were encountered for the first time. LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) insertions and extractions, medical evacuations and occasional hostile fire, all provided necessary learning situations for the still unseasoned 189th

1 July 1967 Major Bobby Sanders assumed command of the 189th.

7 July 1967: The first aircraft hit by hostile fire was Ghostrider 174 while on a combat assault in support of the 1st Cav Division northeast of Kontun. One small arms round hit the aircraft in its tail section.

13 July 1967 while in support of the 4th Infantry Division, in the vicinity of Duc Co, Avengers 691 and 693 claimed the first enemy kills of the company. One NVA KIA was confirmed and an estimated thirty NVA KIA's were unconfirmed. Captain Lynn Hooper was submitted for the DFC for his part in the action.

31 July 1967 while in support of the 4th Infantry Division Ghostrider 529 crashed and burned approximately ten miles south west of Camp Holloway. Killed in the accident were WO Arnold O. Nakkerud (AC), WO Glen Shropshire (P), and SP4 Donald W. Hart (G). The crew chief PFC Robert E. Keyes was seriously injured and was evacuated to the 18th Surgical Hospital.

10 August 1967 Ghostrider 169 was completely destroyed by fire on. There were no injuries as all crew members were out of the of the aircraft at the time. 169 was shut down while being loaded with CS grenades. The grenades were dropped causing several to ignite catching the aircraft on fire.

5 September, 1967, Captain Lynn Hooper was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for action he was involved in the night 0f 31 August - 1 September. It was presented by Major General George P. Seneff.

15 September 1967.

The company sustained its first casualties from hostile ground fire on. While investigating suspected enemy tunnels and foxholes on the daily visual reconnaissance, Ghostrider 166 received automatic weapons fire from four individuals who were attempting to hide in the trees. Ghostrider 166 received approximately 10 hits wounding WO Egekial Williams (AC) in the thigh and WO Albert Whaley (P) in the lower leg. The observer Sgt. Lawrence Crippen received facial injuries from shrapnel. Sp4 Samuel Kravchak, the gunner returned fire on the enemy location and claimed one enemy. All wounds with the exception of WO Whaley's were superficial and after treatment at the 18th Surgical Hospital the individuals were released. WO Whaley was eventually evacuated to the United States.

The 189th AHC was reassigned from direct support of the 4th Infantry Division to general support of the Central Highlands. These missions included the support of II Corps, 5th Special Forces Group and the 52nd Artillery Battalion. Operation Omega and Prairie Fire were also included.

21 September, 1967 the unit was notified at 2230 hours that Ghostrider 166 was missing on a flight from Mang Buk Special Forces Camp to Kontum. An air search was initiated on 22 September and the missing aircraft was located approximately twenty kilometers south of Mang Buk. All crew members survived with minor injuries although the aircraft was completely destroyed.

1 October 1967.

This day marked the start of a classified mission for the 189th with the 5th Special Forces out of FOB-2 at Kontun. This mission required all the skill, techniques, and proficiency the pilots and crews ever had. Charlie was not to be laughed at.

The following points out how much of a target the 189th was during many of the insertions and extractions.

6 October 1967: On a FOB-2 mission aircraft 6R-171 received several rounds. Pilot, Captain Shiver Eustice received wounds in leg and arm and was evacuated to the 18th Surgical Hospital. The aircraft was left at Dak To and arrangements were made for return by CH47. Avenger 694 received small arms fire, but in retaliation the avengers were given credit for 27 confirmed NVA kills.

13 October 1967: Company was notified that WO Nelson had been shot in the back while participating in a operation for FOB-2 while flying Avenger 693. He was evacuated to the 18th Surgical Hospital and later to Cam Rhon Bay. No damages were sustained to the aircraft.

14 October 1967: SP4 Duffin sustained a slight bullet wound to the foot. He was taken to the 18th Surgical Hospital. His recovery was quickly returning to the job in a few days.

7 November 1967: Aircraft 6R-160 caught fire in maintenance and received major damages. Aircraft commitment increased at FOB-2 to 11 slicks and 5 guns.

26 November 1967: 1Lt Gray (AC) received multiple wounds along with WO1 Climes (P) GR-628 received heavy battle damage. Lt Gray was removed to Japan and then to the states. WO1 Climes retuned to duty.

13 December 1967: Dak To came under motor attack causing extensive damage to GR-156. No injuries, however, the aircraft could not be flown.

20 December 1967:

The 189th received a call from WO1 Meister that Avenger 697 had been involved in an accident at Polei Kleng. Aircraft had meshed blades with another ship. Avenger 697 was totally destroyed. AC of 697 was WO Ginac, Pilot was WO1 Engle, crew chief was Sp4 Tipton, and gunner was PFC Nelson. The only injuries sustained by crew was head lacerations received by Sp4 Tipton.

At 1530 hours GR-154 crashed and burned while on resupply mission for 3/8th Infantry. Suspect tail rotor struck jungle canopy. WO1 Baker (AC) suffered severe cut lip. WO1 McGarry (P) and PFC Antol (CE) were missing. Sp4 Kornes (G) was evacuated with a broken leg. A search was made of the area, but to no avail.

January 1968, ushered in a new life-style as only weeks before the Officer's and men had left the barely hospital tents, with their rain barrel bathtubs for wooden hootches and real showers in the center of Camp Holloway. The local VC were not kindly disposed to letting the Company enjoy their new quarters. With the move came nightly mortar attacks, which made it inadvisable sleeping above ground. At times, as many as 150 rounds a night were thrown at the camp. In an effort to stop the nightly barrage, half of the gun teams were kept on alert at night after putting in busy days in hopes of silencing the tube.

Enemy activity at area firebases and troop concentrations in outlying areas fell to almost nothing as TET approached. In a nationwide coordinated attack, Charlie struck every town and Provincial capital as the Vietnamese New Year arrived. The Avengers flew all night long responding to request for fire support in the Pleiku and Kontum areas. As a result of one mission near the Kontum airfield, they were credited with killing 165 NVA regulars. The Ghostriders were kept just as busy defending the Camp Holloway perimeter with door guns stripped from the slicks. They successfully repelled a sapper attack that followed one of the all to frequent mortar barrages. The spirit of the unit, as a whole was evidenced by the fact that every person not employed elsewhere spent the night on the perimeter reinforcing the normal contingent of guards. It was through the efforts of these men and men of other units that Camp Holloway was able to survive the 1968 TET offensive with relatively damage.


Avengers in An Ahe
During the summer of 1969 the Average Gun Platoon moved a fire team to Camp Radcliff at An Ahe. The fire team consisted of two gunship, four pilots, four crew chief/gunners, armorer and 604th maintenance support. The mission of the Avenger fire team was to provide aerial cover and fire support for vehicle convoys between the An Ahe Pass, east of An Ahe, to the Mang Yang Pass, west of An Ahe, along highway QL19. Highway QL19 was the ground re-supply route from Qui Nhon on the coast to Pleiku in the central highlands.  Highway QL19 was defoliated for a distance of 500 meters either side of the highway initially using Rome Plows and then maintained by using Agent Orange.   In order to cover the highway with artillery two fire support bases, LZ Schueller and LZ Action, were established and each LZ had one battery of 105 mm howitzer and 81 mm mortars. Camp Radcliff also gave artillery and mortars support for the highway. Camp Radcliff was an unusual military camp due to the fact that right in the middle of the camp was a hill with VC/NVA dug into that hill so Camp Radcliff had an outside perimeter and an inside perimeter around the hill in the center of the camp. It was not unusual for the VC/NVA to start a fire fight within the outside perimeter shooting down from the hill to the inside perimeter.


The daily Avenger mission was aerial cover for the morning and afternoon road convoys. The fire team would fly one or two kilometers in front of the convoy and then flying the length of the convoy always keeping in touch with the convoy commander. The convoys were attacked numerous times per week especially near the Mang Yang Pass. The Mang Yang Pass was a very steep grade going from 500 feet to over 1100 feet in just several kilometers causing the heavy load truck to move at a snails pace and a prime target for the VC/NVA. The Mang Yang Pass is infamous for the being of the downfall of the French when the Viet Minh defeated the French armored unit Group Mobile 100 on June 24, 1954.
Dave Speer, Avenger #10

 

Crash of UH-1H 67-17316

 

9/14/69, afternoon, UH-1H 67-17316 was returning to Camp Holloway after completing its daily mission of supporting the II Corp Commander.  The normal daily mission for 67-17316 was to fly the II Corp Commander and/or his staff.  The aircraft had completed its mission and was flying from north to south on the west end of Pleiku Air Force Base low level below the Air Force traffic.  This was at the time a very normal and routine transit for all helicopters passing Pleiku Air Force base going to Camp Holloway.  The aircraft flipped while flying low and fast and all onboard were killed. 

 

Lost were:  WO1 Larry Marsh (AC), WO1 Gary Mason (P), SP-5 Gale Pritchard (CC) and SP-4 Thomas Champagne (G).

 

A witness and rescue specialist that responded to the crash contacted me in late 2003 and gave me the following account.  SSGT. Jack Harris was a rescue specialist assigned to the 38th Air Force Rescue, Detachment 9 and was a crewmember on an Air Force HH-43 Rescue Helicopter stationed a Pleiku Air Force base.  Jack was on duty when 67-17316 crashed and they immediately launched when the Pleiku Air Force Base tower witness the helicopter flipped.  Jack was the nozzle man on the fire suppression equipment when the HH-43 arrived at the crash site.  I talked to Jack about 30 minutes after the crash, when I arrived on the scene, and Jack said it was a total loss when they arrived in two & one half minutes.  I do not doubt Jack’s account because Jack was a good friend of the 189th Avenger Gun Platoon and had flown as a door gunner with me several months before. 

 

Aircraft accident investigations are not like they are today but the report I received in 189th Operations before I left Vietnam stated that the cause of the crash was a malfunction in the rotor blade swash plate assembly.

 

 Dave Speer Ghostrider Three/Operations Officer

 



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