61st Assault Helicopter Company

History By Year

1967-1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971-1972

61st AHC History 1967-1968

On 8 February 1967, the 61st was reactivated at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as an Air Mobile Light (Helicopter) Company. The initial authorized strength for the unit was 15 officers, 52 warrant officers, and 152 enlisted men. Also authorized were two airlift platoons, one-armed platoon, and a service platoon. Utilizing 22 UH-1H’s for airlift, 8 UH-1C’s for gun ships, and one UH-1H for a maintenance recovery ship. An extensive training program was undertaken from June 1967 thru September 1967 in preparation for the company’s deployment to the Republic of South Vietnam.

The 61st Assault Helicopter Company was assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Battalion, when the advanced party arrived at Dong Ba Thin on 15 November 1967. One week later, the main body landed at Qui Nhon aboard the USNS General John Pope. The unit initially set up housekeeping at Lane Army Heliport, An Son, RVN. In-country orientation and checkouts were provided by the 129th Assault Helicopter Company, located also at An Son. The aircraft were shipped to Vung Tau by surface vessel and were processed and ferried to An Son during the first two weeks of December.

The unit was declared operational on 20 December 1967 and was given the mission of General Support II Corps. And during the last eleven days of 1967 provided support to CRID, IFFORCEV and MACV units in the Qui Nhon area.

On 28 February 1968 the unit moved to LZ English, Bong Son, RVN

Commanders and Period of Assignment for 1967 – 1968
Major Clarence B. Brooker - 1 May 1967 – 3 February 1968
Major Alvin E. Walker – 3 February 1968 – 29 May 1968
Major William T. Wade – 29 May 1968 – 21 October 1968
Major Kenneth E. Hebrank 21 October 1968 –

Units attached to the 61st Assault Helicopter Company in 1968
616th Transportation Detachment
922nd Signal Detachment (Avionics)
193rd Medical Detachment

On the 1st day of January the 61st Assault Helicopter Company lost its first aircraft and four crew members plus six passengers in a crash on a mountain in the An Khe Pass. After this initial blow the 61st settled down to its mission. The first major combat assault mission the 61st AHC participated in was the "Ming Ho" (Fierce Tiger) operation near Phu Cat. For the rest of January the 61st supported the ROK division in the Qui Nhon area, and flew LRRP missions with the 173rd Airborne Brigade at An Khe on several combat operations.

During the TET offensive, from 30 January to 9 February, two 61st Starblazer gunships were utilized day and night in the Qui Nhon, Camp Lane area. This included defense of Qui Nhon City on 30 and 31 January and the defense of Qui Nhon Airfield when it came under attack. The highlights of the 61st mission during the TET were:

One slick took rounds wounding the crew chief and gunner: the gunner was able to return to duty but the crew chief was evacuated out of the country. The Starblazer's destroyed two VC held reinforced concrete buildings and one service station in the city of Qui Nhon. Units supported by the 61st during the month of February were, 3/503 Infantry (Abn), IFFV Artillery, DSA II Corps, Capital ROK Infantry Division, B/22 5th Special Forces, 22nd ARVN Division, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. On 28 February the 61st AHC move to LZ English to support the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cav. Division (AMBL). On 29 February support shifted again to 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. In the move CH-47 helicopters moved most major items, including vehicles. A forward CP was established while still maintaining a rear CP and rear support maintenance.

The 61st AHC continued its mission of providing direct support to 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division throughout the month of March. On 10 March the 61st lost and aircraft and crew of four at LZ Uplift. Another aircraft was lost later in the month but no one received serious injury in this case. The 61st AHC performed eight medical evacuations in March. An important medevac was performed by two Starblazer gunship's when they spotted a convoy under attack North of Pleiku. The alert, immediate response of the aviators saved two men’s lives by taking them quickly to the 71st Evac hospital at Pleiku.

In April a large influx of both officers and enlisted personnel necessitated an intensified training program. The enlisted crew training consisted of familiarizing the new personnel with aerial machine gun firing techniques, standard operating procedures, and crew duties. In addition to other training, candidates for instructor pilot were screened. On the 1st of April the supported unit changed form the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Three aircraft were lost in April, two were due to tree strikes while flying low level on the Airborne Personnel Detector (APD) Mission, also known as sniffer mission’s. The third aircraft was lost due to engine failure while on a flare mission. Three aircraft also sustained minor damage from ground fire while on low level APD Mission’s.

The 61st AHC participated in 76 combat assaults during May, no aircraft were lost but 6 UH-1C and 3 UH-1H helicopters received combat damage from enemy fire. Also during May the 61st got two detachments, the 364th Aviation Support Detachment (Tower Control) and the 193rd Medical Detachment with a flight surgeon attached. The 364th took control of LZ English Airfield on May 27.

During June the 61st AHC continued its support of the 173rd Abn Bde in the Cochise AO, in addition to this, aircraft were also provided for general missions and direct support in other AO’s in the II Corps area. A total of 61 hours of these additional missions were flown. The 61st also continued in its building of a company area at LZ English. The improvements were designed to better the living conditions in the field. The 364th ASD continued in their building program by completing the English Tower and beginning construction of their living quarters near the tower.

During the month of July the 61st AHC continued its mission in direct support of the 173rd Abn Bde, and other elements in AO Cochise Green. On 31 July the 193rd Medical Detachment became fully operational. The long delay was caused by equipment and supplies being late in arriving in country. This delay did allow the men of the 193rd to build a complete dispensary building prior to receiving their equipment and becoming operational. During the month of July the enemy made an offensive push in an effort to over run Fire Support Base Tom. The 61st reacted and for two nights and days made combat assaults into the area of contact reinforcing friendly elements. The troops carried were both US and RVN who succeeded in repelling the attack. The 61st had nine aircraft, which received hits by hostile fire during the month. One UH-1H received major damage and had to be retrieved by sling loading back to LZ English. All other hits caused moderate or minor damage. No casualties were sustained.

In August construction was begun on a new heliport at LZ English to replace the existing heliport, which had become outdated. The new facility was planned to pe a permanent heliport providing capability for protecting twenty-four aircraft I revetments constructed to conform to MACV standards. A mini-port designed for quick refueling and an 880-foot runway were also incorporated in the plans to add more efficiency t the complex. The heliport was scheduled to become fully operational by November 1968. The training program that was started during the month of June continued on schedule. Aviator and crewmember training continued to occupy the unit IP’s. In country orientations and 90 day standardization rides were given to all aviators. Whenever possible these check rides were given in conjunction with operational missions to provide maximum practical application to the training.

During September units of the 40th ARVN Regiment were hampered during a battle by approaching darkness. The Starblazer’s were called in. The ARVN unit was battling an enemy force of unknown size near Bong Son. Starblazer’s, Artillery and Air Force "Spooky" blasted away at the enemy. After five NVA had been killed, a wounded NVA threw his hands in the air and surrendered. A passing gunship from the 61st guided the enemy to the nearest friendly troops. First Lieutenant Robert McElhose and CW2 Ezell Ware were credited with obtaining the 61st first detainee while still in the air. 61st ships continued to resupply and medevac missions for the ARVN’s late into the night. Flare ships kept the battle area well illuminated there by aiding in a successful operation.

On October 21 command of the 61st Assault Helicopter Company was transferred from Major William T. Wade to Major Kenneth E. Hebrank, the change of command ceremony was held at LZ English.

Also during October formal classes were conducted on the care and cleaning of the M-16 rifle for all personnel armed with the weapon. Special classes were given to enlisted crewmembers concerning emergency procedures and reponsibilities and on aerial machine gun firing techniques. Gunship pilots and crews received classes on the new 17-pound warhead for the 2.75 rocket.

The construction of the heliport at LZ English proceeded as planned and the complex became operational in November. A revised POL system was designed and installed yielding the capability to refuel eight aircraft simultaneously. Renovation of the cantonment area at LZ English was initiated in line with the continuing improvement program of the 61st. Construction of permanent billets to replace the tents now being used for billeting personnel was begun. In November the 61st also began conducting "Starlite" missions in conjunction with firefly missions. This reconnaissance mission proved extremely effective in disrupting enemy movement by allowing the engagement of enemy targets at night with relative surprise.

On December 13th the 61st " Starlite-Starbright" ship interrupted it’s regular nightly mission to go scope the countryside around North English. They were under an attack by mortars and small arms fire. The enemy was pinpointed and artillery called in. Within minutes the area was thoroughly worked over, leaving no discernable movement. The 61st finished the year in the holiday spirit. Eleven ships and approximately 90 members of the company journeyed south to Phu Cat AFB and there enjoyed the Bob Hope Christmas show.