During the Vietnam War, the United States relied on the helicopter as never before. The helicopter’s role in combat expanded enormously in this conflict as thousands of “choppers” rapidly transported personnel throughout the war zone. Heavily armed helicopters offered a fearsome component to ground operations as close air support.
If assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Division, you were given a week of In-Country training before being sent to your new unit. This training was at the First Team Academy in Bien Hoa.
The 1st Air Cavalry Division entered the Vietnam War 50 years ago in 1965. The division’s colors and unit designations was transferred to the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), then at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in July, 1965. They began deploying to Camp Radcliffe, An Khe, Vietnam. The division perfected new tactics and doctrine for helicopter-borne assaults over the next five years in Vietnam.
The 1st Cavalry Division, popularly known as the “First Team,” was the only American division to fight in all four corps tactical zones. The bulk of the division began departing Vietnam in late April 1970, but the 3rd Brigade remained until June 1972. The 1st Cavalry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation and “First Team” soldiers won 25 Medals of Honor, 120 Distinguished Service Crosses, 2,766 Silver Stars, 2,697 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 8,408 Bronze Stars for Valor.
Charlie Troop 1st Squadron 9th Cavalry Regiment also arrived in 1965. Pat & Carol Bieneman will be hosting a Special Reunion June 30th through July 3rd in Columbus, Georgia honoring the men from Charlie Troop, Headquarters, and Headquarters Troop and Delta Troops.
I entered high school in the middle 60’s when the war in Vietnam was escalating at a rapid pace. Newspapers and magazines were plastered with photos and stories about our involvement in Vietnam. The top stories on the nightly world news were always about the war. Newsmen were often in the middle of the action reporting the horrors of war as it happened.
I enlisted in the Navy shortly after graduating from high school and was on the 120-day delay program before I would become active. The Navy never occurred due to an untimely event in my life. I then became eligible for the draft and I knew Vietnam would be my fate…
In early December 1970, I had the privilege of meeting John Hlavacek a reporter/foreign correspondent for a midwest television station. I was no longer with the Charlie Troop Blues due to an injury on the greenline of Phuoc Vinh and was chosen to be our Troop mail clerk for the remainder of my tour.
John’s mission was to film and interview soldiers serving in Vietnam from the TV viewing area around Sioux City, IA and Omaha, NE. He was putting together a program to be viewed as a TV Special during the 1970 Christmas Holidays. The families of the soldiers were notified by the TV stations ahead of times they could watch their loved ones when the program aired.
“I always want to emphasize, I felt honored — and I use the word measuredly — to cover American men and women in combat in Vietnam. Because, what everyone may think of the war — it may have been the wrong war and the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons — but the Americans who went there, went there for the right reason. They went there because they loved their country, and their county had asked them to go.”
Photographer Dickey Chapelle
Chaplain John McNamara of Boston makes the sign of the cross as he administers the last rites to photographer Dickey Chapelle in South Vietnam Nov. 4, 1965. Chapelle was covering a U.S. Marine unit on a combat operation near Chu Lai for the National Observer when she was seriously wounded, along with four Marines, by an exploding mine. She died in a helicopter en route to a hospital. She became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first American female reporter to be killed in action. Her body was repatriated with an honor guard consisting of six Marines and she was given full Marine burial.
There were more images of conflict and battles in Vietnam than any previous war. Many scholars consider Vietnam to be one of the most well documented wars in modern times. War reporters began to report on the bloody battles of the Vietnam War and the Washington politics surrounding it. The American people began losing faith in the war effort and the government. “Reports during the Vietnam War and images from the front line on television were crucial factors in turning public opinion against the war.
It dawned on me the other day that I received a check from The State of Iowa in the Seventies for my 13 month tour in Vietnam. I was a resident of Iowa when I entered the service in 1969. I thought it was around $300, but it must have been $227.50 based on the information below.
Iowa offers a Vietnam Conflict Veterans Bonus for Vets that serveded at least 120 days between July 1, 1973, and May 31, 1975.
Payment of $17.50 per month for service in the Vietnam service area.
Payment of $12.50 per month for service outside of the Vietnam service area.
Maximum payment of $500.
Iowa residents who served on active duty for at least 120 days between July 1, 1973 and May 31, 1975 are eligible for this bonus program. Veterans who served in Vietnam will receive $17.50 for each month served. Veterans that served outside of Vietnam during this time will receive $12.50 for each month of service. The maximum bonus amount is $500 for veterans who served in Vietnam and $300 for those who were not in country.
Quite a few states are giving some sort of rebate to veterans. In nearly all cases, the service member must have been a resident of the state when they entered the service, and be a resident of the state at the time of application.
The sound of bombs landing in a small area delivered by B-52s
As our choppers headed toward Saigon, I looked down and could see many craters in the terrain caused by bombs dropped over the course of the war. Quite often the Blues were inserted to assess the damage and detonate unexploded bombs inflicted by B-52 strikes. Our mission in Saigon was for Charlie Troop 1/9th to recon the outskirts of the city in preparation for an upcoming visit by V.P. Agnew scheduled for August 27th, 1970.
The 52s had three nick names: *Whispering Death. So called by the NVA because the altitude from which the B52s released their bombs meant you got no warning of their presence. When the bombs arrived was the first sign. Luckily for them bombs do little damage in a jungle. *Rolling Thunder. From the sound of 318 bombs landing in a small area in a carpet bombing mode with only 3 planes. Rarely did the Yanks use only 3 planes. In 3 years they dropped 860,000 TONS of bombs. 52,000 North Vietnamese died as a result. *BUFFS. The troops called them this from “Big Ugly Fat Fuckers” or in the presence of the Vicar or ladies, “Big Ugly Fat Fellows” Their normal bomb load was 84 bombs internally and 24 bombs under the wings. Each bomb weighed 500 pounds. Sometimes they carried 750 lb bombs.
This photo was taken by Bert Schreibstein at Fire Support Base Buttons in January, 1970. A B-52 air strike (Arc Light) can be seen miles away.
Hooch maids were paid by the GIs on a monthly basis to do a number of chores. These included doing laundry, making beds, sewing patches on uniforms, cleaning hooches (our sleeping quarters) and a number of odds and ends. The maids could earn as much as a captain in the South Vietnamese Army, although it was often less. Most were paid was about $10.00 per month.
The military generally allowed most officers and non-commissioned men to have hooch maids, whenever these men wanted and requested their services. Some maids reportedly had sex with soldiers to earn extra income…
Photo courtesy of retired Air Cav pilot Dan Carbone, who
served in Korea, Germany, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The tradition of the Cav Hat began in the early days before the Vietnam War. The 11th Air Assault Division cavalry scout pilots were looking to distinguish themselves from other troops when they adopted the Model 1876 campaign hat for wear. They felt a need to return to the traditions of the Cavalry so long forgotten. LTC John B. Stockton, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, is given credit for establishing the tradition of wearing the Cavalry Stetson, much to the chagrin of the Division command group. By the time the 11th Air Assault Division was redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) the members of his unit, the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, were wearing the hat.
Although 26 March 1971 officially marked the end of duties in Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry Division, President Nixon’s program of “Vietnamization” required the continued presence of a strong U.S. fighting force.
My DEROS (Date of Expected Return from Overseas) was near so the first part of April, I transferred to Firebase Di An about 12 miles north of Saigon where I waited for my official orders to depart from Vietnam.
My final days in Vietnam were either uneventful or perhaps my mind shut down wanting to forget it all. I do not recall boarding the ‘Freedom Bird’ or where we flew out of, but I did take these pictures.
‘Freedom Bird’ leaving Vietnam taking us back to Oakland Army Base where the journey began.
I remember arriving at Oakland Army Base around midnight to process out of the Army. I thought back thirteen months earlier when I was processing for my entry to Vietnam. The men coming back looked burned out and lacked emotion. That night I understood why because that’s how I felt.
Although I physically left Vietnam, the experience of combat had a profound and life long effect on my frame of mind.
After receiving my last payment from ‘Uncle Sam’ (about seven-hundred bucks) I signed a bunch of papers, releasing me from active duty in the United States Army.
In the wee hours of the morning, a bus took us to a nearby airport where I caught a flight to Los Angeles International Airport. There I boarded a non stop flight to Eppley Airfield in Omaha, where I would be greeted by my family. I recall the strange looks I got from people as I walked through the airport terminal at LAX carrying my war trophy.
My eyes closed as soon as I boarded my last flight and didn’t open until our approach into Eppley. I looked out the window and saw the Missouri River.
I was home at last…
Eppley Airfield Omaha, Nebraska where my parents, two of my brothers and girlfriend (now wife) waited for my arrival…
The 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated on July 1, 1965. It was made up of resources of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) and elements of the 2nd Infantry Division as a part of this reorganization, the 3/17th Cavalry Regiment was redesignated 1/9th.
The Squadron left with the Division for Vietnam in August, 65, wearing the Black Cavalry Stetsons to war for the first time since the Horse Soldier days. On 28 June 71, the 1/9th Cavalry (less B Troop) returned from Vietnam, the most decorated Unit of that war, and assumed the role of the Divisional Reconnaissance Squadron.
It is estimated that the 1/9th was responsible for fifty percent of all enemy soldiers killed by the 1st Cavalry Division during the war. It was for this reason the battalion earned its current nickname “The Headhunters.”
Richard Lamb (crew chief) C Troop early August until late October 1968.
Transferred then to HQ Troop as crew chief on the Squadron check-out LOH.
That aircraft was destroyed Christmas Day in a landing mishap and he was
transferred to B Troop Scouts. Shot down Feb 9, 1969 in LOH 16069
Photo courtesy of Richard Lamb
Captured by ‘FIRST TEAM’ in A Shau Valley
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp
Bob Hinote (radio dispatcher) HQ Troop 1/9th, 1969
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp