61st Assault Helicopter Company

History By Year

1967-1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971-1972

61st AHC History 1970

Commanders and Period of Assignment 1970
MAJ. Emmett F. Johnson   1 October 1968 - 1 April 1970
MAJ. Ellis D. Parker   1 April 1970 - October 1970
CPT. Willie L. Manning   October 1970 - March 1971

Units Supported
173rd Airborne Brigade
IFFV Artillery
D.S.A. II Corps
Capitol ROK Infantry Division
B/ 40 / 41 Special Forces
22nd ARVN Division
2nd Brigade 1st Cavalry Division
3rd Brigade 4th Infantry Division


The first days of 1970 have given the men of the 61st cause for thought and hopes that this will not set a trend in the new year. On 4 January, on an emergency resupply mission, the Starblazer's were diverted to aid friendly troops in contact. While being credited with 6 confirmed KIA's, both gunships received fire and were forced down with precautionary landings. Names of little importance before take on new meanings, "Happy Valley", "Hard Times", "An Lao Valley", and others now mean trouble. The mission of support to the 173rd Airborne continues, with a will to do what must be done in the most professional way possible. No ships were lost and no casualties sustained during the month.

An all Korean combat assault dominated the early month of February, over shadowing even the suspected TET Offensive. Sixteen hours were put on many of the "Lucky Ships" taking part in this operation. Although ships form other companies were forced down the "Lucky Stars" came through unscathed. Combat Alley has raised its head once more for the 61st and only the alertness and competence of the 173rd Airborne, with the 61st in support, prevented the estimated brigade size element of NVA form leaving the "Rock" or "Hill 474" in Combat Alley for the TET Offensive. WO Lindsay, A/C of one of the Blazer gunships deserves special mention in this supplement. At the bottom of a rocket and minion run on the "Rock" he performed a successful medavac when the dust off could not be performed by the medavac chopper on station due to intense hostile fire.

Almost a direct continuation of February, March has seen the offensive spread from Combat Alley to the Tiger Mountains and other parts of the unit's area of operations. The 61st has moved the entire 3/506 Infantry from the "Crows Foot" area into the "An Lao Valley" with subordinate units in the 506 Valley and Tuy Hoa area. These units were all moved and relocated during this month. The 3/506 Infantry, which is primarily concerned with containing and destroying the enemy in the Quan Hoai Nhon district, has put the mobility of the 61st AHC to its best use this month. Phu gas drops by the 196th ASHC under the direction of "Lucky" C&C ships were used effectively this month in all areas. We feel that the men of the 196th deserve special mention for the aid and cooperation they have extended to our unit. Our mission of support to the 173rd Airborne Brigade has intensified to some degree this month because of enemy activities. The 61st AHC is still the "Can Do" company for the 173rd.

In April the Spring Offensive of 1970 has started in earnest. We have lost two pilots due to wounds received in action. WO1 Roger Williamson, A/C of one of our Starblazer gunships sustained wounds in the right leg and hand and WO1 Lyle Real, A/C for one of the "Lucky Star" ships sustained a wound in the left heel. Both were medavaced out of Vietnam. Several ships were damaged so badly by hostile fire, precautionary landings were necessary. One ship was hit by a RPG round in a landing zone and burned on the spot. "Lucky" ship 956 was written off due to extensive combat damage after crashing in a landing zone. Four other ships sustained damage and were returned to duty.

On 1 April 1970 command of the 61st was turned over to Major Ellis D. Parker, with ceremonies held at Lane AHP. We will miss Major Emmett F. Johnson's capable hand, but welcome Major Parker to the 61st with confidence in his abilities.

During the month of May the 61st aided and supported in the successful and significant advance of Allied troops into Cambodia, supporting an old friend, the 3/506 Infantry Battalion of the famed 101st Airborne Division and troops of the 4th Infantry Division. The 61st again proved their mettle under combat conditions.

The loss of one aircraft and its four crewmen, three KIA and one WIA, plus the loss of five 4th Infantry Division passengers prevents this month from being one of our best. Combat experienced A/C, WO1 lawrence J. Herman III, Pilot WO1 Robert P. Sheppard, and Crewchief, SP5 William A. Peyton were killed i action when their UH-1H crashed during a Cambodian mission. Door-gunner, SP4 John A. Shaw was critically injured in the crash and is presently recuperating in CONUS. The officers and men of the 61st mourn the loss of their good friends and comrades and offer wishes of a speedy recovery to SP4 Shaw.

In June the 61st returned almost full strength to its mission of support to the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Twice this month the Starblazers sent light fire teams to aid in operations near the Cambodian border, but another team always stood by at LZ English for continuing support of the 173rd. No lives were lost and no major damage was done to any aircraft.

During the early part of July the 61st Starblazers were scrambled to the site of a .51 cal anti-aircraft position. Two armed helicopters from the 238th AHC had left the area after one had sustained an engine failure while attacking the position. The downed aircraft managed a restart on the ground and the two ships departed the areas. With rockets and mini guns blazing the Starblazers knocked out the position on the first run and mopped up the enemy positions until relieved by Air Force jets on a bombing mission. The Chinese made .51cal. machine gun now sits in front of Lane AHP headquarters as a war trophy won by the 61st AHC Starblazers. On the 24th of this month the 61st lost a 29,300 hour safety record when an aircraft piloted by LTC Salavca, Airfield Command of LZ English and co-piloted by Erich Hahn, lost the 90 degree gear box and tail rotor assembly during flight. Much can be said for the skill of LTC Salavca in that he managed to put the aircraft down in a small LZ surrounded by trees with no injury to any passengers or crew. This accident ended a safety record of 835 combat flying hours. We have already begun a new safety record.

On the 5th of August a UH-1H of the 61st sustained 5 hits from automatic weapons fire, WO1 Arcement was wounded in the right leg by fragmentation from a round that came through the center console of the aircraft. Despite severe vibrations the aircraft ws successfully flown to a friendly LZ nearby. On 8 August Lane AHP, the home of the 61st, was hit by mortar rounds for the first time since 1967. No damage was sustained by the 61st during this attack and no casualties were reported. Support of the 173rd continues with the majority of the work being done o pacification operations.

The month of September was one of the slowest months for the 61st. During the month only one combat assault was flown, which was for the Koreans at a location just south of Qui Nhon called "Miami Beach". The 61st was committed for 12 lift ships, which were to make up two flights, Blue Flight and Yellow Flight. Blue Flight was led by the CO of the 61st, Maj Parker, and Yellow Flight was led by CW2 Jack Smith. The Blue Flight had a little trouble with their end of the assault when the lead and chalk two aircraft were hit by ground fire on final for the first LZ. One ship was shot up bad enough that it had to be "Sling Loaded" back to Lane AHP. The rest of the month consisted of supporting the 173rd in pacification operations.

During the month of October the 61st would undergo many changes. Such as receiving the mission of training VNAF pilots to fly the UH-1H model helicopter in combat situations. Five VNAF pilots reported the 23rd of this month with ten more scheduled to arrive around the 15th of November. These pilots are to remain for 3 months or 220 hours. Major Parker turned over command of the 61st to Captain Willie L. Manning. The 61st will miss Major Parker and his guidance, but welcomes Captain Manning and his capabilities. Along with these changes the 61st was assigned to a new battalion, the 223rd CAB, presently located in Qui Nhon.

During all these changes the 61st continued to support the 173rd with occasional MACV missions.

The month of November had a different outlook for the 61st when during rain and high winds a tactical emergency was called to rescue people off of buildings and islands, and carry emergency food and water to people that were not in the need of evacuation, but did not have anything to eat or drink. These people were driven from their homes by the fury of a typhoon that left thousands homeless. Then end of the month saw the 61st supporting the 173rd i the Soui Ca Mountains where two gunships and two slicks were shot up. the 61st was extremely fortunate in that only one person was wounded, a VNAF pilot, who was wounded in the hands and chest.

The month of December was also a month of changes, testing the flexibility of the 61st. Units of the 173rd moved out of the 61st operational area which would require the 61st pilots to learn new areas. With the "Herd" gone, the 61st was assigned new missions that took men and machines as far west as Pleiku, as far north as Bien Hiep, and south to Ban Me Thout. All of these locations were new to the pilots and crews of the 61st, but they overcame these problems and once again proved their abilities by performing their missions no matter what they were in.

This ends the calendar year of 1970, the pilots and crews wait to see what trials and hardships, if any the New Year will bring to the 61st Assault Helicopter Company headquartered at An Son, RVN.