189TH ASAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY

HISTORY

 

PREFACE

 

The history of the 189th Assault Helicopter Company for the years 1966  Through 1971 has been written so that the officers and enlisted men of the 189th can be recognized for their outstanding work, esprit de corps, and dedication to their country during their tour of duty in the Republic of Vietnam.

 

 

 PURPOSE

 The purpose of this history is to outline the events that occurred in the 189th Assault Helicopter Company during the calendar years 1966 through 1971.  It is intended to give as accurate and factual account as possible of the fine officers and enlisted men, its equipment, as well as a concise picture of the combat operations in-which the unit participated.  Many accounts were researched through the National Archives, Texas State University, the VHPA, and information collected from members of the unit. This history in not complete, it is a work in progress, but it as accurate as can be from the information gathered.  The more feedback we get the more accurate the history.  This history is a collection of actions that took place in the 189th Assault Helicopter Company both on and off the battlefield.

  

 COMMAND AND CONTROL

The unit history would be incomplete if the officers and men of the 189th Assault Helicopter Company failed to pay tribute to their commanders who played the major role in developing and maintaining the unit's high standard of professionalism, esprit de corps and noted combat effectiveness.

through their professional competence, thorough knowledge, exceptional leadership and loyalty to their men, they succeeded in building a foundation that formed one of the finest fighting units in the Republic of Vietnam and in the United States Army.

Even today the men of the 189th Assault Helicopter Company would like to express their appreciation for their outstanding leadership, personal concern and invaluable guidance they provided while serving as Company Commanders.

 

The following were Company Commanders of the GHOSTRIDERS and AVENGERS

 

Captain Victor Hamilton                                         1 Nov 66 - 1 Dec 66

Major Robert T Bagley                                            1 Dec 66 - 21 Dec 66

Major John J Webster                                             21 Dec 66 - 1 Jul 67

Major Bobby L Sanders                                          1 Jul 67 - 2 Jan 68

Major Neil I Leva                                                      2 Jan 68 - 15 Apr 68

Major William W Fraker                                           15 Apr 68 - 3 Oct 68

Major Robert N Morrison                                          3 Oct 68 - 22 Apr 69

Major Richard L Lincoln                                          22 Apr 69 - 28 Sep 69

Major John P Ratliff                                                 28 Sep 69 - 6 Mar 70

Major George A Morgan                                          6 Mar 70 - 11 Nov 70

 

 Respectfully

Brothers Forever

The GHOSTRIDERS and AVENGERS

 

 


Organization of the 189th AHC

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 re-designated 1 August 1946 as the 2027th Transportation Company (Aviation).

Re-designated 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, Vietnam.

The 189th was just one (1) 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

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.

Presidential Unit Citation, October 29, 1967 to 30 November 1967. DA GO 38 Dated 20 July 1971

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

 


The 189th Aviation Company History

1966 - 1967

1966

The 189th Aviation Company (AML) was activated by Department of the Army with Fifth Army General Order 236, dated 19 September 1966, to take effect on 1 November 1966 at Fort Carson, Colorado. Shortly before Thanksgiving, the U.S. Army began assembling a group of aviators at Ft. Carson, Colorado. The mountainous area around Ft. Carson, it was hoped, would give the aviators a certain degree of training in mountain flying before being deployed to its ultimate destination, the Central Highlands, Republic of Vietnam.

1 November 1966: Captain Victor Hamilton, Infantry, commanded and organized 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 assumed command. Under his guidance, request for additional equipment was submitted. A training program was established, the airfield operations elements were established, and unit training began.

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 604th Maintenance Detachment, the 519th Medical Detachment and the 6th Signal Detachment provided the unit additional support. Under TO&E 1-77G, the 189th was to prepare for deployment on a date yet undisclosed. Being one of the first Army units to receive the new UH-IH Huey, the area was also ideal for testing the new H Model at mountainous elevations. Sister companies, the 187th & 188th were also forming and receiving H models at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky during the same time period. 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. The first week dealt primarily with basic required subjects such as Code of Conduct, Geneva Convention, etc. The next few months or so were spent doing supply actions since the unit was to deploy with full organic equipment. Each day began with physical training capped with an increasingly longer run around post. When the morning Colorado temperature dropped below 28 degrees Fahrenheit, physical training was suspended.

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

The initial pilots of the 189th were an odd lot with seven fixed- & rotary- wing rated Majors assigned to the unit. Many of the Majors in the unit were primarily old fixed-wing drivers and were not particularly overjoyed with the idea of going to Vietnam with a helicopter outfit. The remaining aviators, both lieutenants and warrant officers, were fresh out of flight school. While lacking maturity and flight experience, they were an enthusiastic and gung-ho group. Only three personnel, two (2) Warrant Officers and a crew chief had seen prior service in Vietnam.

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

After the Christmas holidays, training became serious under ATP 1-77G and continued until April 1967.

 

1967 

1 January 1967: The following personnel filled the key positions within the Company:

Commanding Officer:                     Major John Webster

Executive Officer:                          Major Robert T. Bagley

First Sergeant:                                1SGT Kelly Alfred

Operations Officer:                        Major Richard V. Coulter

Intelligence Officer:                       Major Jesse E. Stewart

First Airlift Platoon Leader:          Captain Jack W. Blien

Second Airlift Platoon Leader:      Major Albert H. Kraph

Gun Platoon Leader:                      Captain Pinckney C. Cochran

Service Platoon Leader:                 Captain Wilbur R. Mixer

The associated detachments and their initial commanders were:

604th Maintenance Detachment:   Major Richard D. Caldwell

519th Medical Detachment:            WOI Daniel J. Bainey

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

 

3 January 1967: Scheduled training resumed and, in preparation for deployment, the unit began a series of field exercises the first week of 1967. Although the snow and ice posed many problems, the improved engines in the UH-IH performed magnificently. As part of the exercise, the gun platoon was conducting its weapons training and learning about the ways of war and survival. 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 encompassing such subjects as Navigation, Instrument Proficiency, Night and Formation Flying, Flying with Loads, Gunship Tactics and Air mobile Operations.

20 January 1967: The first company-sized Air Mobile Operation was conducted and three (3) more followed prior to the Field Training Exercise (FTX) portion of unit training.

31 January 1967 - 6 February 1967: During this time, the gun platoon conducted its weapons training, gunnery trained in 7.62 systems and all gunnery personnel were qualified in the XM-21 and XM-23 systems.

7-9 February 1967: The unit was in the field for the first time where emphasis on operation of a tactical landing area, security of the area, operational reaction time, resupply, medical evacuation, and section and platoon-sized Air Mobile Operations with armed escort took place.

14-16 February 1967: During these field operations, further emphasis was placed on last week's operation; however, reducing mission reaction time was stressed.

20 February 1967: The 189th was in the field for a five-(5) day exercise and provided aviation support to the 2/llth Infantry in its Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) cycle with emphasis on platoon and company-sized operations, resupply, medical evacuation and a night move all in preparation for the forthcoming Army Training Test (ATT) cycle. The unit was observed throughout the operation by ranking personnel who seemed pleased with the unit's progress, and, even though the unit was testing the new aircraft during Colorado's winter, they felt sure that the added power of the H model would perform just as effectively in the real test which lay ahead in the hot jungle of Vietnam.

During the same period, the Gun Platoon participated in the firing of the 2.75 Rocket Systems 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.

After completion of the ATT, the 189th Aviation Company (AML) began preparations for its overseas assignment. The unit was notified of over-seas redeployment by the 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.

The arduous task of loading several hundred CONEX containers was assigned to the troops with Major Albert Kraph and 1LT Stephen Schmidt supervising as Movements Officers. Every CONEX had to have specific markings and a manifest detailing its contents. This was complicated somewhat by the unit,s determination to circumvent regular supply channels and commandeer as much station property from Ft. Carson as possible. Who was to know what lie ahead? Vehicles were prepared and loaded aboard trains for shipment to the point of debarkation.

16 March 1967: The Gun Platoon departed Fort Carson with eight (8) UH-IC's and headed for Sharp Army Depot in Stockton CA. 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. On the morning of the 18th, they were flying low level skimming above the desert at about 50 feet when one of the AVENGERS looked up and saw a small camper trailer parked in the middle of nowhere. It was determined that they all would fly by to check it out. As the flight approached the trailer, a person could be seen sleeping on the roof in a lounge chair. Suddenly, eight (8) helicopters flew over him at about 50 feet with the last copter reporting him on the ground heading toward a huge cactus with brown spots in his shorts. Many fun things took place on the trip, but this was the highlight. The transfer of the C Models was completed upon arrival, 18 March 1967 at Sharp Army Depot, Stockton, California.

28 March 1967: Additional movement instructions were received, and 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 1967: Requirements for the advance party were partially finalized, and the number in the party was limited to five Officers and included:

 

Major Richard V. Coulter,     Operations and OIC

Major Jesse E. Stewart,         Training and Intelligence

Captain Ernest R. Bowling,    Communications

Captain Phillip Ashley,           Maintenance

Captain Darrell Waite,           Supply

 

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

As the end of April approached and with the final shipment of the units equipment, the men were given their last leave and told to report back by 1 May for deployment to the Republic of Vietnam.

3 May 1967: The unit was broken into contingents and began departing via U.S. Air Force C-141 Starlifters. while enroute to Pleiku AFB, Vietnam. Intermediate stops were made at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska and Yokoda, Japan were made. The sweltering heat of Pleiku was indeed a change from the cold mountain air and recent snow of Colorado..

With May being late in the dry season, the unit had a few days to move into Camp Holloway to set up tents before the monsoon season. Having evolved into the 189th Assault Helicopter Company upon arrival in Vietnam, the unit was assigned to the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion.

The unit's location was a bare piece of ground alongside the runway as a permanent bivouac area. Because the assigned area lay outside of the Battalion's perimeter, the first order of business was to extend barbed wire to encompass the unit's new home. Tents were erected and sandbagged by officers and enlisted personnel who shared equally in the backbreaking task of filling sand bags with the red clay of Pleiku. Revetments for the slicks were built of perforated steel planking (PSP), soil and sandbags. The aviators alternated days working on construction and days flying as copilots with sister companies in order to learn the area around Pleiku and to gain some experience flying in a combat environment.

The remainder of the body arrived at the new location on the 6th and 7th . Shortly thereafter, the TO&E equipment, less aircraft, arrived. Finally, the 189th neared an operational readiness goal.

22 May 1967: The unit's helicopters arrived at the Port of Vung Tau, a coastal city in II Corps and was also an in country R&R site. Much excitement accompanied the crews fortunate enough to RON at the old French hotel, sample the local Bier 33 and consort for the first time with the local Vietnamese bar girls. It was a welcome respite from the heat and red dust of Pleiku. Vung Tau was relatively peaceful at the time and the rule was that no side arms be openly displayed while out on the town. Being new in the country, most of the 189th troops elected to go out armed, but concealed, rather than surrender their newly issued Smith & Wesson revolvers. Wanting to depart Vung Tau with the proper amount of flourish, the unit's first real in-country flight was in full company formation flight from Vung Tau up the coast to Cam Ranh Bay, Qui Nhon and thence inland over Route 19 through the An Khe and Ming Yang passes to Pleiku. A full-scale flyby at Camp Holloway was made to announce the presence of a brash new kid on the block to both local VC and sister companies.

Today, the first ten (10) aircraft arrived followed by eleven (11) more H models and six (6) UH-IC's the next day. Two (2) more H models arrived on the 24th. The remaining two (2) UH-IC's were scheduled to arrive 25 May 1967.

With the arrival of equipment and personnel, the company was given an operational readiness date of 15 June 1967. Operational requirements demanded that the transition be made as quickly as possible into a full-scale combat flying unit. It is significant to note that both the aircraft commanders and pilots of most crews had very little, if any, combat experience, yet they went directly into flying operational missions.

27 May 1967: UH-IH, 66-1065 (need photo) crashed in the ocean and aircraft caught fire while on a courier and resupply mission. WO Herbert A. Ripka, was the unit's first in-country fatality. Although he was initially reported missing in the over water accident, three (3) days later his body washed ashore, and he was pronounced dead from drowning.

1 June 1967: The first DEROS took place in the 189th and, 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 gun ship pilots with their usual hefty amount of bravado decided to seek their combat fortunes using the call sign AVENGERS Their platoon patch would feature the grim reaper holding a scythe on top of a coffin. The slick pilots followed the theme by selecting GHOST RIDER as their call sign which was characterized by a patch featuring a ghost armed with a .30 caliber machine gun alongside a slick. It then followed logically, to name the revetment area, where the slicks parked their aircraft, the GRAVEYARD. The gun platoons C (Charlie) model gun ships were unable to park there. When fully loaded with ammunition, the Charlie models were not able to hover high enough to clear the barbed wire apron that surrounded the GRAVEYARD. Instead the Charlie models were kept in an area easily accessible to the runway and this area became known as the ARSENAL.

  

The First and Second Airlift Platoons had their own distinctive patches. The First Airlift was known as Silver Flight and their patch was a blue lightning bolt with silver lettering SILVER FLIGHT 1st A/L. The Second Airlift was known as Scarlet Flight with the same lightning bolt shape but red in color with white lettering SCARLET FLIGHT 2nd AL. Their patches represented the swift and sudden striking force of lightning which aptly defined the job of the lift platoons to get in and out quickly.

   

The Maintenance Platoon also adopted their unique patch and call sign of CARETAKER. Its patch depicted the powerful Condor on top of a mountain keeping vigil over its young one which, in this case, was a UH-1H helicopter. The patch implies the care of the Condor even though it can be one of the fiercest fighters in the sky.

  http://189thahc.org/189th_Maintenance_Patch.jpg 15 June 1967: The 189th AHC became operational, combat training was completed and the company assumed its place as a combat- ready unit in the 52nd CAB. The 189th AHC was placed in direct support of the 4th Infantry Division.   Mission assignments consisted of C&C, resupply, and combat assaults.

 

To prevent a major reorganization of the unit when the original members returned to the states after their one-year tour ended, pilots with varying DEROS dates were infused from other units. To make up for these newer members, some of the original men were transferred out to other units.

 

Mission: The mission of the 189th AHC was to provide tactical air movement of combat troops in air mobile operations, tactical air movement of combat supplies and equipment within the combat zone, combat assault support to combat troops, medical evacuations, reconnaissance, command and control, liaison, and logistics and administration missions.

 

Terrain: The II Corps Tactical Zone, where Pleiku is located and where 189th AHC rendered the majority of its support, covered an area of 32,725 square miles or 49% of the land area of South Vietnam. Its western border is 342 miles long and in common with Laos and Cambodia. The eastern border is approximately 400 miles of coastline bordering on the South China Sea. The area is 40 miles wide in the north and 142 miles wide in the south. The area is politically divided into the provinces of Kontum, Binh Dinh, Pleiku, Phu Bon, and Phy Yen in the 22nd ARVN Divisional Tactical Zone, and Darlac, Kanh Hoa, Quang Duc, Tuyen Duc, Nunh Thuan, Lam Dong, and Binh Thuan in the 23rd ARVN Divisional Tactical Zone. Geographically, this area may be divided into three (3) major areas:

 

Coastal Plain

 

The coastal plain is the narrow strip of long, flat and often marshy terrain not more than twenty (20) miles wide from the sea island. This area is formed by a series of numerous river deltas interrupted by rocky ridge lines running steeply to the sea. It is almost entirely under cultivation with four (4) rice crops a year.

 

Mountain Region

 

The mountain region extends from north to south almost the entire length of the II Corps Tactical Zone. Elevations range from 3,000 to 8,000 feet with the eastern slopes quite steep and the western slopes more gradual. Rain forests cover three quarters of this area with most of the remainder covered with open, deciduous growth. Cultivation is limited to small cleared areas on relatively flat lands. Flying in this area is very hazardous with forced landing areas practically non-existent, ceilings frequently very low and unpredictable winds,

 

Plateau Region

 

The plateau region is located west of the mountains and is comprised of the Kontum Plateau in the north and the Darlac Plateau in the south. This region has altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 feet with gently rolling hills and much open area. Where the soil is not under cultivation, a thick growth of eight to ten foot grass covers the ground. Where adequate drainage is provided, this area will support four vegetable crops yearly.

 

The principal cities of these regions are Pan Thieu, Pan Rang, Ha Rang, and Sui Hen are on the coastal plain; Dalt in the mountains, and Ban Me Thu et, Pleiku and Kontum in the plateaus. The major routes of this area are:

 

Route #1 Saigon          Dan Nan (coastal route)

Route #11 Dalt            Pan Rang

Route #14 Saigon        Ban Me Thule to Pleiku to Kontum

Route #19 Pleiku         Sui Nhon

Route #20 Saigon        Dalt

Route #21                    Ban Me Thule to Ha Rang

 

The Republic's major rail line parallels Route #1 along its entire length with one spur line from Phan Rang to Dalat. The logistical and communication complex at Cam Ranh Bay is located between Pan Rang and Ha Rang

 

Weather: Weather throughout the area can be divided into the summer monsoons(June through September) and the winter monsoons (November through April) with the months of May and October as periods of transition. During the summer monsoons, the wind is southwesterly causing cloud buildups on the western slopes of the mountains. This results in a rainy season for the plateaus and mountain regions during the summer months while the coastal provinces have clear skies and good flying weather. The winter monsoons bring a northeasterly flow with the conditions reversed. The coastal provinces of Binh Thuan and Nhin Thuan are not affected by either monsoon seasons and have generally clear weather year round. Average rainfall in the mountain and plateau region is 92 inches; on the coastal plain 87 inches. The temperature on the coastal plain ranges from the mid 70's to the high 80's during the rainy season and low 80's to high 90's during the dry season. The mountains and plateaus experience temperatures from the mid 50's to mid 80's during the wet season and low 60's to 90 plus during the dry season. Winds are normally gusty at 10 to 15 knots with velocity increasing with altitude. In the Kontum, Pleiku area, surface winds of 25 to 45 knots were common in the fall

 

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