61st Assault Helicopter Company

History By Year

1967-1968 * 1969 * 1970 * 1971-1972

61st AHC History 1971-1972

Commanders and Period of Assignment 1971 thru 1972
CPT. William L. Manning   October 1970 - March 1971
MAJ. Clyde Hennis   March 1971 - June 1971
MAJ. David A. Burkes   June 1971 - August 1971
MAJ. Matthew R. Kambrod   August 1971 -
MAJ. Ross A. Russell   - March 1972

Units Supported
173rd Airborne Brigade
22nd ARVN Division
Capitol ROK Infantry Division
B / 40 / 41 Special Forces
Task Force 19
Qui Nhon Support Command (MACV)


The first days of 1971 were not good ones for the 61st, on 3 January, a U-6A Beaver left Qui Nhon airfield for Ban Me Thout. The Beaver was piloted by CPT. Farris Rhodes of HHC 223rd CAB. On board were, WO1 Dennis W. O'Melia, WO1 Thomas R. Oaklund, 1LT. Michael D. Parson, WO1 Luis Gallegos Holguin, SP5 Patrick MaGee and SP5 Carl A. Palen. The mission was to ferry crews of the 61st to pick up aircarft in Ban Me Thout from the 155th AHC which was being deactivated. The aircraft was lost enroute, all crew members were decleard dead in the late 1970's. There bodies have yet to be recovered as of 11 November 2000. The officers and men of the 61st mourn the loss of their good friends and comrades.

In starting out 1971, the 61st Assault Helicopter Company (Lucky Stars) was privileged to continue to support the first U.S. Army combat unit to arrive in Vietnam, the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Our company had promoted a very close working relationship with the 173rd that continued until they redeployed to the United States and our direct support ended in July 1971.

Our mission then changed to a General Support role for all of Military Region II, specifically support of major Vietnamese and Korean units along the coastal plains and several Vietnamese units in the central highlands including those in the Tri-Border area. The assests of the 61st were redistributed during 1971 so as to provide logistical and tactical support for all of the varied units operating in Binh Dinh Province. Additionally the decrease in Aviation Uints in Military Region II has increased the operational area of the Lucky Stars. 1971 saw the 61st aiding in combat assaults as far south as Phan Rang, as far north as Dak To and in general throughout all of II Corps.

In May 1971, the "Lucky Stars" enjoyed the unique experience of assignment to the 7th Squadron 17th Cavalry. This particularlarly unusual aviation assignment was of great professioal benefit to personnel of both units and enhanced the Cavalry's mission capability by adding a greatly expanded lift capacityh. The experience gained by both organizations will be of significant benefit to all thse assigned. This relationship terminated as the 61st completed five years in Vietnam and deactivated in March of 1972.

During 1971 there were four major airmobile campaigns in which the 61st was involved. A description of these is to follow but it must be noted that, although those four are the most significant, they by no means reflect the entire story. Day-In and Day-Out operations such as psyops, command and control, resupply, convoy cover, medavac, flare and others, although not receiving notoriaty as such, still emphasize what we feel is our important role in providing support to the Ground Units.

Operation 123 "Bright Light"  7-8 March 1971

In this operation the 61st helped insert the 1st regiment, Capital ROK Infantry Division int an area norhwest of Phu Cat know as the Sai Cau. This mission was to locate a reported POW site containing both Korean and American prisoners.

Operation Manh Ho 16  23-24 April 1971 to 17 May 1971

Here the 61st help insert Cavlary Regiment and 1st Regiment of the Capital ROK Infantary Division and two Battalions, 2/503 and the 3/503, 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The operation was a search and destroy mission to clear the Sai Cau area of reported NVA units (3rd NVA Division Headquarters) it resulted in the destruction of 3 enemy Bunkers, the capture of 110 enemy weapons, 35 Crew served weapons, 7 radios and 252 enemy killed in action with no U.S. casualities.

Operation Manh Ho 17  August 1971

Was also a combat air assault in support of the GRID and was conducted in the same area as Manh Ho 16 due to regrouping and buildup of enemy forces in Base Area 226. Two ROK Infantry Regiments were air assaulted onto the mountaintops surrounding the valley and the valley floor. Two insertions of 2 and 3companies were conucted as a diversionary tactics. The operation resulted in 210 enemy killed, the capture of 134 individual weapons, 7 crew served weapons, and 3 radios. U.S. forces suffered 2 killed and six wounded.

Operation Bum Kae 23  9-22 September 1971

Elements of the Cavalry Regiment and 26th Regiment (GRID) were inserted into the Van Canh Valley in an attempt to surround enemy units erported to be working in the area. The operation resulted in 173 enemy killed, and the capture of 4 POW's, 73 individual weapons and 4 crew served weapons.

During 1971 the 61st AHC also completed the training of 20 VNAF Pilots under the VNAF Improvement and Mobilization Program. With the last of these pilots graduation in August, all fullfilled the minimun 220 hour requirement with the classes averaging 231 hours.


On 20 February 1972 the 61st Assault Helicopter Company began its stand down. After just over five years of continous service, the Lucky Stars were deactived in the Republic of Vietnam in March of that year. The significant events occurring prior to the deactivation were as follows:

On 18 January 1972 the 61st Assault Helicopter Company aided in the insertion of two battalions of the 26th Regiment GRID into the area of the Van Ganh Valley. The 61stst maintained continous support for these elements (resupply) and completed the exteaction four days later encountering sporatic small arms fire throughout the operation. As a result of the operation 193 enemy were killed, over 100 individual weapons were captured in addition to 16 machine guns, 6 mortars, and 12 RPG's with amunition. Also, extensive quantities of rice were captured and detroyed. The Koreans lost 6 men killed in action.

In response t the expeted enemy buildup and action during TET of this year, the 61st maintained its gunships on 24 hour standby and it pilots nightly flew the firefly mission.

On the night of 14 February the ARVN outpost at LZ Salem came under air and ground attack. The gunships and flare ship were scrambled and maintained continous support throughout the night until the beleaguered outpost could be releived in the morning. Actual resulets are not available at this time but, it is estimated that over 125 enemy were killed. For their actions, the pilots have been awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and have been submitted as deserving the Distinguished Flying Cross.

As of 15 February this is the final data for aircraft utilization:
Year Hours PAX Tons Cargo Combat Assualt
1967 Not Available      
1968 Not Available      
1969 Not Available      
1970 25,419 110,130 4,413 120
1971 44,238 113,886 4,530 126
1972 3,312 11,753 596 12