DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
HEADQUARTERS, 13TH COMBAT AVIATION (GUARDIAN) BATTALION
APO San Francisco 96215
|AVBN-GC||19 April 1968|
SUBJECT: Documentation of Army Aviation Operations (29 January through 29 February 1968)
164th Aviation Group
1. Task Organization
a. Headquarters and headquarters company 13th Combat Aviation Battalion stationed at Can Tho.
b. The 114th Assault Helicopter Company stationed at Vinh Long.
c. The 121st Assault Helicopter Company stationed at Soc Trang.
d. The 175th Assault Helicopter Company stationed at Vinh Long.
e. The 336th Assault Helicopter Company stationed at Soc Trang.
f. The 271st Assault Support Helicopter Company stationed at Can Tho (The main body of this unit started arriving 21 February 1968. The unit was not operational until after the end of the reporting period).
2. Significant offensive and defensive Actions:
a. Soc Trang City and Soc Trang AAF: During the period 31 January 1968 - 29 February 1968, Soc Trang Army Airfield was attacked by hostile forces utilizing 60mm mortars, 82mm mortars, 75RR's and small arms on twelve separate occasions. The 121st and 336th Assault Helicopter Companies were charged with primary responsibility for providing Army Aviation support in the defense of Ba Xuyen Sector and Soc Trang Army Airfield for a period of thirty-two days.
On 31 January 1968 the Viet Cong initiated a ground attack against the town of Soc Trang while simultaneously conducting a mortar and recoilless rifle attack against Soc Trang Army Airfield. At 0330 the Viet Cong shelled the airfield using 75mm recoilless rifles and 82mm mortars. The gunships immediately responded by scrambling to the area of known enemy positions and taking them under fire. Utilizing organic gunships from both helicopter companies at Soc Trang Airfield, the command elements managed to have at least one light fire team airborne at all times. A second mortar attack began at 0405 and it soon became evident that this mortar barrage was just a prelude to a more concentrated attack. Sporadic fire on the outskirts of Soc Trang was the first indication of a VC ground assault. The downtown area soon came under attack by a large Viet Cong force estimated to be a reinforced battalion. It concentrated its attack on government and U. S. Army installations. By 0630 the fighting in downtown Soc Trang was very extensive with the VC gaining momentum and initiative resulting in the gunships (UH-1B) being called upon to assist the ARVN troops. Although the aircraft were receiving intense automatic weapons and small arms fire, they continued to make target attacks throughout the day. At first the gunships concentrated their attacks on the southwest corner of town where the Viet Cong were making concentrated efforts to overrun the Administrative and Logistics Compound. Using B40 rockets, 75mm recoilless rifles and large numbers of automatic weapons, the Viet Cong slowly pushed the ARVN troops out of the compound. As a result, a 9 man detachment from the 78th Artillery was trapped in the compound but due to their valiant defenses they were able to slow the Viet Cong advance. The gunships made continuous attacks on the advancing forces. The superb fire support rendered allowed the 9 man detachment to escape and move into a more secure position where they could better defend against the rapid moving forces. While providing the compound with this vital support, the gunships made several firing passed on enemy positions which were strategically located along the routes to the A & L Compound. Their devastating firepower and accurate concentrations soon forced the Viet Cong to move away from their blocking positions allowing the ARVN troops to move to positions where they could more easily assist the defenders of the A & L Compound.
The gunships flew all day and at dusk they began the necessary preparations for night operations. one fire team remained over the airfield in a defensive role while a second fire team assisted the ARVN troops by giving them fire support cover over most of the town. UH-1D flare ships remained airborne at all times providing sufficient light over the airfield and town. Mortar attacks were initiated against the airfield at 0215 and the gunships used their superior firepower to quell the attack.
At dawn, on the first of February, the gunships began an all out support operation of ARVN troops who were beginning to take the offensive in the downtown area of Soc Trang. The mission commander, Major Carl H. McNair Jr., was the coordinating control for all supporting air operations. The transports were dispatched to airlift elements of the 31st Infantry Regiment from Vi Thanh to Soc Trang where they were to reinforce troops of the 33rd Regiment. CH-47 helicopters also assisted by moving elements of the 44th Rangers from Vi Thanh to Soc Trang. The gunships combined their efforts with ground forces to dislodge the Viet Cong from their defensive positions and slowly began to push them out of town. As the Viet Cong were able to move into a defensive position on the southeast edge of town, airstrike after airstrike were utilized to destroy his positions.
The gunships kept the Viet Cong moving, never permitting him a chance to regroup to take cover and organize good defensive positions. As the enemy moved into a large Pagoda in the north central part of the city, the gunships put a concentrated barrage on the area around the Pagoda. Despite heavy automatic weapons fire, the armed helicopters continued their assault until the VC infested area began to burn uncontrollably. The Viet Cong were forced to evacuate the buildings and ran into the streets and on into open rice fields north of the city thus allowing the friendly forces to engage in hot pursuit. As the friendly forces began their concentrated assault on the Viet Cong, the armed helicopters set up a "daisy-chain" over the retreating enemy and kept the VC completely disrupted. Through the combined efforts of gunships and ARVN units, the Viet Cong units were totally routed and sustained heavy casualties.
On 2 February, the transports departed for Can Tho while the gunships continued to aid in the Soc Trang ARVN offensive against the Viet Cong forces. The last pockets of resistance were cleaned up in the city and the ARVN forces began the final pursuit of the Viet Cong along the rivers and canals. Gunships continuously broke up Viet Cong hasty defensive positions allowing the ARVN troops to continue their pursuit. With the town secured, the gunships moved to the southeast where the Viet Cong were reported to be digging-in. Finding the enemy in a large Pagoda on the outskirts of My Xuyen, the gunships repeated their performance by striking the area around the Pagoda. As the VC evacuated and ran, the gunships utilized their devastating firepower and followed in hot pursuit routing his remaining forces. Intelligence documents revealed that this unit had been the headquarters group for the Soc Trang Mobile Battalion. The destruction of this battalion was instrumental in preventing any other VC major offensives against the city and/or the airfield.
Operations continued around the city and airfield for the next three days as remaining Viet Cong forces were pushed out of the area.
The timely support of the gunships enabled the friendly forces to disrupt the Viet Cong offensive. The devastating firepower of the armed helicopters was responsible for the successful completion of the Soc Trang operation and enabled the friendly elements to secure the airfield and the city. Without the support of helicopters, both armed and transport, the friendly forces might not have been able to secure the area, and it is quite possible that both the city and airfield could have been overrun by the attacking Viet Cong forces.
As attested to by the record of performance and the results attained, Army Aviation assets clearly contributed to the successful defense of major installations. The support rendered was not available from other sources and because of the flexibility, responsiveness and perseverance of the airmobile units, losses of both U. S. and Vietnamese personnel and property were minimized. What started out as another Viet Cong offensive maneuver to capture the city of Soc Trang resulted in a major Viet Cong defeat.
Because of the close-in fighting and the nature of the operations in and around Soc Trang, defensive and offensive operations became almost synonymous. Army Aviation assets were effectively utilized offensively in that they succeeded in disrupting enemy units apparently moving for new attacks. It was the immediate reaction capability of armed helicopters. UH-1D flare ships and light ships which actively engaged the enemy during the crucial hours of darkness throughout the period of the "TET Offensive."
b. Vinh Long City and Vinh Long AAF. At approximately 0300, 31 January 1968. Vinh Long Airfield came under enemy attack by hostile forces utilizing a coordinated plan of attack consisting of infiltration and 81mm mortar fire. At the time the airfield defensive positions were in 10% status. The signal for 100% alert status was given and all defensive positions were 100% status by 0315 hours. Counter fire by the gunships was immediately delivered on suspected mortar positions while the ground guards annihilated the infiltrators and continued to hold the perimeter with assistance from the gunships.
A heavy volume of fire was received in the vicinity of the Knight Ramp and the maintenance hanger which destroyed four aircraft. At the termination of the mortar fire a heavy fire fight broke out on the southwest section of the airfield. Heavy contact against a VC force of unknown size and equipped with automatic weapons and hand grenades lasted for one hour before the infiltrators had been killed or captured and further infiltration had been checked. This action resulted in U. S. losses of eleven (11) killed and twenty seven (27) wounded in action. The enemy toll for body count was forty five (45) killed and eight (8) prisoners.
In the absence of the Airfield Commander, who was killed in action, the defense of Vinh Long Airfield was directed by the Commanding Officer of the 175th Assault Helicopter Company.
Fighting subsided by 0700 hours and steps were immediately taken to fortify all positions, check the security of the airfield and compound, and meet our daily mission requirements.
The airfield remained on 100% alert status for 15 days at which time it reduced to a 50% status. There was also a flare ship and a light fire team of gunships in orbit around the airfield throughout the night and on call during the daylight hours. Continuous coordination was effected throughout the offensive with the 9th ARVN Division. We also received assistance from the 9th US Divion, Dong Tam, US Air Force in the form of airstrikes and the US Navy Sea Wolves (Armed helicopters) who are stationed at Vinh Long.
After the initial outbreak the subsequent happenings were as follows:
(1) 1 Feb 68 - Received a few mortar rounds and sniper fire. each was subsided by gunships. Negative casualties.
(2) 2 Feb 68 - Same as #1.
(3) 3 Feb 68 - Sniper activity, H & I mortar fire all day and night.
(4) 4 Feb 68 - Same as #3.
(5) 5 Feb 68 - 8 Feb 68 - Every thing was relatively quiet. very sparse sniper fire.
(6) 9 Feb 68 - A mortar attack began at 0020 hours and lasted three (3) minutes. The gunships were quick to retaliate before damage could evolve.
(7) 10 Feb 68 - Received sniper fire throughout the night. Negative casualties.
(8) 11 Feb 68 - Everything was quiet and on the 15th of Feb, we came off 100% alert status to 50% alert status.
(9) 17 Feb 68 - Intelligence reported a 0300 hours planned VC attack of the airfield. The airfield was placed on a 100% alert status and for security of the aircraft, they were flown in orbit from 0230 to 0600 hours. Incoming mortar rounds fell at 0325 hours. One (1) round fell on the CP Bunker which resulted in one (1) US and two (2) ARVN killed. Sniper fire was also received.
(10) 18 Feb 68 - Intelligence reported another planned attack. The aircraft were sent to Vung Tau for the night. Prior to take off, at 1915 hours, incoming mortar rounds (81mm) fell on the Cobra line and Knight ramp. Approximately 30 rounds fell resulting in one (1) US killed and eighteen (18) wounded. Two (2) aircraft were destroyed and six (6) required maintenance before they could be mission ready.
(11) 20 Feb 68 - Incoming mortar rounds fell at 1450 hours. Negative casualties or damage resulted. Also at 2000 hours a limited mortar attack was launched causing one (1) minor wound.
(12) 21 Feb 68 - Everything was quiet.
(13) 22 Feb 68 - Received sniper fire resulting in one (1) US wounded.
(14) 23 Feb 68 - 29 Feb 68 - Everything was quiet.
3. Total number of airmobile operations.
a. 114th Assault Helicopter Company - 14
b. 121st Assault Helicopter Company - 21
c. 175th Assault Helicopter Company - 14
d. 336th Assault Helicopter Company - 27
e. Total airmobile operations - 38
Note: Two and sometimes three units may be participating in the same operation.
4. Significant airmobile operations. Army aviation assets played a vital and decided role in the liberation of the cities of Soc Trang, Can Tho, Bac Lieu and Vinh Long. the details of Soc Trang are discussed in paragraph 2a, The details of Vinh Long, Can Tho and Bac Lieu are contained in enclosures 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
5. Total number of resupply missions. There were a total of 368 resupply missions transporting approximately 978 tons. This headquarters estimates that 50% of the missions flown required armed escort to accomplish the mission.
6. Total number of medevac missions. There were a total of 70 medevac missions accomplished. This headquarters estimates that 20% of the missions flown required armed escort to accomplish the mission.
7. Total number of administrative missions. There were 418 administrative missions. This headquarters estimates 5% of the missions required armed escort to complete the mission.
8. Ammunition expended. This data has been included in the reports submitted by the 345th, 346th, 347th Airfield Support Detachments, and 164th Aviation Group.
9. Casualty information:
ENEMY (Claimed by Aviation)
KHA WHA HHA KIA WIA
15 79 41 1,588 55
Note: This data has also been included in the reports submitted by the 345th, 346th, 347th Airfield Support Detachments, and 164th Aviation Group.
10. Number of decorations received for the period:
DSC DSM SS
LOM DFC SM BS
BS"V" AM AM"V"
ACM ACM"V" PH
3 5 1 18 37
11. Number of recommendations for awards for the period:
DSC DSM SS
LOM DFC SM BS
BS"V" AM AM"V"
ACM ACM"V" PH
2 13 24 1 13 28 173 30 8 29 91
FOR THE COMMANDER:
1. Night Relief of Besieged Vinh Long Army Airfield
2. Can Tho
3. Bac Lieu
4. Statistical Data
5. Armed Helicopter Questionaire
6. Map of Soc Trang (omitted)
"A TRUE COPY"
JAMES L. PERSON
NIGHT RELIEF OF BESIEGED VINH LONG ARMY AIRFIELD
Throughout the "TET" offensive Army aviation assets were noted as being in the forefront of both offensive and defensive operations directed towards blunting VC attacks and defeating his attempts to overwhelm allied forces and capture installations. In the Mekong Delta, the principal Army Airfields of Soc Trang, Can Tho, and Vinh Long were immediately recognized as prime targets for heavy attacks by Viet Cong infantry and artillery units and sapper teams. After the period of cease fire had been announced and only thirty-six hours after it had been officially retracted, the 121st Assault Helicopter Company and attached units were scrambled by the Army Aviation Element, IV Corps. It was announced that Vinh Long Army Airfield was in a critical situation and in danger of being overrun. The Tigers were called upon to assist their sister assault helicopter companies by accomplishing a night combat assault into Vinh Long in spite of intense mortar, recoilless rifle, small arms and automatic weapons fire.
The 121st was selected as the primary unit for the airlift with Major Carl H. McNair Jr. designated Mission Commander. Major McNair immediately flew to Can Tho for the detailed briefing conducted at HQ, 13th Combat Aviation Battalion. In the mean time the Tiger crews at Soc Trang were alerted and Lt. William E. Hattaway was given a short mission briefing. Aircraft crew, although integrated into the perimeter defense, prepared their aircraft and stood-by for a scramble mission. Receiving orders to get airborne, the lead aircraft started his engine, scrambling all other crewmembers immediately to their assigned aircraft. At 0015, Soc Trang itself was hit by a 75MM R. R. attack, however, the crews manned their ships for the scramble and lead cranked his engine at 0020 and the entire flight was airborne by 0030. The flight immediately proceeded to Can Tho where they refueled and lined up. While at Can Tho, a flight of UH-1D's from the 336th Assault Helicopter Company joined the Tigers giving the mission commander a combined total of fourteen (14) UH-1D aircraft. The flight was shut down and Major McNair briefed the Aircraft Commanders on the mission, emphasizing the proposed approach and emergency procedures. Because of the intense enemy concentrations around Vinh Long and the fact that some VC penetrations had been made on the south side of the runway, it was recommended that the aircraft approach from Northeast to Southeast from over the river and utilize only the last one-fourth (¼) of runway 08 for landing. A flare ship was prepared to light up the runway if needed for the landing since it was decided that the transports would not use their landing lights unless required to prevent an accident. The aircraft commanders then briefed their crews and instructed the troops that upon arrival at Vinh Long they were to immediately exit the aircraft and move into the revetments on the south side of the runway.
At 0130 the flight was once again airborne and en route to Vinh Long. Two light fire teams, of AH-1G gunships escorted the flight while a light fire team of UH-1C gunships orbited over Vinh Long. The troop transports were told not to suppress under any circumstances because of the close proximity of friendly forces. As the flight approached Vinh Long, the V's of five formation was changed to trail and the flight commenced its approach. The gunships began to suppress the area surrounding the airstrip to include the area just off the approach end of the runway 080 causing a secondary explosion. Simultaneously, two VC automatic weapons began to fire at the flight from a position approximately 75 meters to the right of the runway.
On short final the flight began to receive heavy ground fire from several other locations on the same side of the runway. The transports continued their approach disregarding the apparent danger and successfully inserted the troops. As each unloaded, the pilot immediately initiated his take-off so that a minimum amount of time was spent on the ground, greatly reducing the possibility of being mortared. Departure instructions were that the flight was to make a left turn before reaching the end of the runway. As the aircraft gained airspeed and altitude the Viet Cong opened up from both sides of the runway. Gunships immediately used up their remaining ordnance in an effort to suppress the intense fire being received. The transports gained altitude, formed in V's of five, and proceeded back to Soc Trang.
Miraculously, not one of the aircraft was hit by the intense fire although numerous tracers were seen passing between the skids and the fuselage of the aircraft while on final approach and take-off. The excellent cover and suppression provided by the gunships combined with the speed of the insertion enab;ed the lift to be successfully accomplished without sustaining casualties and/or damage to aircraft.
The timely insertion allowed the defenders at Vinh Long to reconstitute their perimeter defense, secure the airfield and begin repairs on damaged aircraft.
Once again Army Aviation assets from several units were combined to successfully complete a vital mission; this time in defense of their own installations and sister companies.
During the evening of 9 February 1968, the Army Aviation Element, IV Corps, assigned the 121st Assault Helicopter Company primary mission command responsibility for a search and destroy operation in support of the 21st ARVN Division.
Throughout the "TET" offensive, Can Tho Army Airfield and the city of Can Tho were prime objectives of the Viet Cong. The VC had secretly managed to bring four reinforced, well-supplied and well-equipped regular battalions to positions immediately outside the gates of the city and the perimeter of the airfield.
The operational area was chosen due to the increased enemy activity in the area. The sharp threat poised near IV Corps Headquarters itself, and the number of large sampans and fast water taxis that were camouflaged in positions along all major and minor avenues of approach into the contested area called for extensive use of Army Aviation assets.
Army Aviation assets had previously moved elements of the 31st, 32nd, 33rd Infantry Regiments, the 42nd, 43rd and 44th Ranger Battalions into Can Tho Army Airfield. The aviation assets were then placed in support of the maneuver elements by performing combat emergency resupply, medevacs, armed helicopter fire support and timely combat assaults. Throughout the morning and early afternoon of 10 February armed helicopters braved accurate, intense enemy fire while supporting friendly elements. The Viet Cong were capable of defending against friendly battalion sized operations. They had an antiaircraft capability of light and heavy machine guns. In spite of the opposing fire, armed helicopters continued to pressure and devastate enemy positions while 1/33, 3/33, probed southeast and 3/31, and 43rd Rangers pushed northwest. Dense vegetation and underbrush along the canals hindered rapid foot movement and location of targets by maneuver elements, however, daring lowlevel reconnaissance flights performed by armed helicopters accurately pinpointed enemy positions enabling the command and control aircraft to effectively coordinate armed helicopter, VNAF, and Air Force airstrikes against them.
By 1400 hours all friendly elements were in critical need of resupply. Additionally, all elements had significant numbers of medevacs sustained as a result of encounters with fierce pockets of resistance, mines and booby traps. Resupply helicopters were launched and escorted into landing zones under protective fires of armed helicopters. Transports continued to shuttle ammunition, rations, and water into hasty landing zones, quickly off-loading only to depart with the more serious medevacs loaded aboard.
During the period from 9 - 16 February Army Aviation assets under control of Major Carl H. McNair Jr., air mission commander, demonstrated their effectiveness by greatly aiding the RVN forces in their operations. The overwhelming gunship and troop transport support provided was largely responsible for driving Viet Cong units out and away from the airfield and city of Can Tho, pushing them south and west of the Ba Se road. It is felt that without the fire support rendered by the armed helicopters or the airlift support of the transport helicopters, the friendly forces' advance would have been stalled on several occasions and the need for supplies and ammunition would have caused the operation to be delayed. Timely and rapid medical evacuation of wounded personnel undoubtedly saved the lives of many soldiers and permitted the units to continue their offensive without delay.
And again, Army Aviation assets proved to be the deciding factor for the friendly forces in the success of a combat operation.
Early on the morning of 10 February 1968 a large Viet Cong force initiated an assault against the city of Bac Lieu. The tactical, political, and psychological value of the city was extremely important since it was the headquarters of the 21st ARVN Division. Gunships from the 121st Assault Helicopter Company were dispatched to Bac Lieu before dawn and the transports were utilized concurrently to airlift reinforcements. The Mission Commander, Major Carl H. McNair Jr., immediately went to the area where he controlled the operation from overhead.
The gunships provided cover for the transports as they picked up troops from the outlying outposts and brought them to Bac Lieu Airstrip. The troops moved towards Bac Lieu from the north while the ARVN units located in the city began to advance from the south. The transports stoodby at the airstrip as the armed helicopters rendered support to friendly forces. Realizing that the Viet Cong were located between the two forces, the Mission Commander had the gunships use their superior firepower to drive the Viet Cong from the buildings on the north side of town. The gunships kept a constant flow of ordnance pouring into the buildings as the ARVN forces continued to advance on the VC positions. A large portion of the northern section of the city was soon in flames and the Viet Cong began to retreat along the east-west canal just north of the city. The ARVN forces closed in on the enemy as the gunships slowed the VC retreat. Because of the outstanding fire support rendered by the armed helicopters, the friendly casualties were minimal while Viet Cong casualties continued to rise. The operation was terminated late that evening with the city secure and ARVN forces blocking the remaining enemy force.
On the morning of 11 February the gunships, transports, and Mission Commander returned to Bac Lieu. The transports airlifted elements of the 32nd ARVN Regiment into a landing zone located to the west-northwest of the city. The Viet Cong force, now reported as 150 hardcore troops were located in the treeline running along the canal. By having a friendly force on three sides and a canal to the rear of the Viet Cong position, the friendly troops were able to successfully trap the Viet Cong force. The gunships aided by several airstrikes, pounded the treeline while the friendly elements advanced. As the Viet Cong attempted to escape by swimming the canal, gunships suppressed the canal eliminating this final avenue of escape. In the ensuing battle, a total of 112 Viet Cong were killed, 30 prisoners taken and several weapons captured. The operation was terminated at 1900 that evening as the area was completely secured by friendly forces.
The utilization of aviation assets enabled the 21st ARVN Division to repel the initial attack and then completely rout the escaping Viet Cong force. As a result of the airmobile capability provided by heli-borne assaults, the friendly forces were able to envelope the retreating Viet Cong force and quickly destroy its effectiveness.
STATISTICAL DATA (29 Jan - 29 Feb 68)
|1. HOURS FLOWN||8,859||3,092|
|2. SORTIES FLOWN||17,623||3,837|
|3. TROOPS TRANSPORTED||47,394||N/A|
|4. CARGO TRANSPORTED||978||N/A|
5. AIRCRAFT DAMAGED ON THE GROUND
DUE TO HOSTILE ACTION
|6. AIRCRAFT RECEIVING HITS IN FLIGHT||40||60|
|7. AIRCRAFT SHOTDOWN||7||6|
|8. NUMBER OF VR MISSIONS FLOWN||N/A||N/A|
|9. NUMBER OF PHOTO MISSIONS FLOWN||N/A||N/A|
|10. NUMBER OF SL R MISSIONS FLOWN||N/A||N/A|
|11. NUMBER OF IR MISSIONS FLOWN||N/A||N/A|
|12. NUMBER OF STRUCTURES DESTROYED||12||867|
|13. NUMBER OF SAMPANS DESTROYED||8||1,874|
ARMED HELICOPTER QUESTIONNAIRE
1. Q: What type missions have your gunships performed since 31 Dec 67?
1. A: Helicopter gunships performed the following missions since 31 December 1967:
a. Escort of troop carrying helicopter formations, med-evac and resupply missions.
b. Route, PZ, and LZ reconnaissance.
c. Direct fire support of ground troops.
d. Firefly and airfield security.
2. Q: Could these missions have been accomplished by other means? If not, why?
2. A: Undoubtedly, certain missions could be accomplished by other means, but the reaction time can not be matched when consideration is given to the fact that target attack is almost simultaneous with target detection where gunships are involved.
3. Q: During the TET Offensive, did your gunships play an important role: If so, give dates, locations, enemy killed, enemy structures or sampans destroyed and other factual information in narrative form?
3. A: a. Gunships throughout the battalion played a most important part during the TET Offensive. On 31 Jan at 1500 hrs. a fire team of Cobras (114th) and a fire team of Mavericks (175th) were scrambled to a known VC concentration, Southwest of Sadec. Over 150 Sampans were destroyed, over 100 enemy troops were killed or wounded and later intelligence reports indicated that this action had destroyed the main force which was to have attacked Sadec on the initial night of the TET Offensive.
b. At approximately 0310 hrs, 31 January, Soc Trang AAF and the city of Soc Trang came under a well coordinated ground and mortar attack by an estimated two battalions of Viet Cong. Within two minutes after the first mortar round hit Soc Trang AAF, the gunships of the 121st and the 336th AHC's were in the air silencing the enemy mortars. The VC had virtually cut off the A&L and Artillery Compounds from reinforcements. With illumination being provided by helicopter flare ships, the gunships were able to locate and place fire into the VC positions thus preventing a complete overrun of the two compounds. Further, the gunships prevented the VC from withdrawing or diverting their direction of attack until friendly reinforcements could be brought in at dawn. Shortly thereafter a counterattack was launched by the friendly forces under close and direct fire support of the armed helicopters. The VC were finally forced into open rice paddies where friendly forces were able to engage in hot pursuit. Throughout the pursuit, the armed helicopters continuously struck the retreating enemy and maintained such pressure that the enemy could not regroup into a defensive posture.
c. At 0310 hrs, 1 February, the first rounds were fired and the Offensive began at Vinh Long. Shortly, gunships from the 114th and 175th Assault Helicopter Companies were airborne and initiating strikes on suspected mortar positions. At 0312 hrs, a Maverick fire team sighted and destroyed an enemy recoilless rifle position that was firing point blank into the perimeter. Throughout the night gunships encircled the perimeter with a hail of suppressive fire.
d. Throughout the period, gunships came to the relief of besieged outposts and installations. Resupply of many outposts would have virtually been impossible without gunship support.
e. For the period 29 January to 29 February gunships claimed 1,447 VC killed, 932 sampans destroyed and 1,083 structures destroyed.
4. Q: During the TET Offensive, did Air Force aircraft share in the defense of your airfield and to what extent?
4. A: With the exception of the AC-47 flare and gunship (Spooky), Air Force support was almost nonexistent during the initial phases of the TET Offensive. In succeeding days, however, the Air Force provided valuable support in bombing and strafing enemy troop concentrations in the vicinity of airfields.
5. Q: What increase in capabilities over current gunships are desirable in future gunships? Why?
5. A: Larger payloads and increased endurance would be desirable in future gunships. Present UH-1B and C gunships cannot carry both a full fuel load and full armament load.
6. Q: Please give all factual written statistical data available, based on the experiences of your unit, which would support the following contentions:
a. The UH-1 gunship is providing important support not available from the Air Force or any other means.
b. The AH-1G can provide better support than the UH-1 gunships.
6. A: a. Comparing other means of firepower available in the IV CTZ, gunships offer a distinct advantage over artillery and USAF/VNAF close air support. Artillery fires are generally not available and quite often inaccurate and/or excessively slow in responsiveness. Armed helicopters can engage the target while observers are attempting to adjust the artillery. In the case of mortar attacks against airfields, armed helicopters have repeatedly engaged the enemy firing position within two minutes from the time the attack began. Armed helicopters are in the best position to easily observe and select other targets of opportunity. Fighter bomber support is grossly impractical in some cases since the only VNAF installation in the Delta is at Bien Hoa. Immediate type airstrikes have taken as much as one hour. Even "Spooky", the armed AC-47 flare ship, must come from Binh Thuy unless it is on station by prior request on or near the installation under attack. Its use is further dependent upon the conditions of darkness. The principal advantages of armed helicopters being available on site and responsive to support ground units are readily apparent; however, other cogent factors such as weapons system compatibility, maneuverability, longer station times, target discrimination and the estimate of Command and Control, accentuate the effectiveness of armed helicopters in the direct fire support role. In the counterinsurgency environment where targets are fleeting and sometimes almost undetectable, the armed helicopter itself can seek out and destroy while the heavier fighter bomber aircraft must standby until a satisfactory hard target can be found.
b. The AH1G carries a larger payload than the UH-1 gunships but the support provided is not necessarily better. The UH-1 crew makes four pairs of eyes available for increasing the visual reconnaissance capability. The inability of AH-1G crews to hear ground fire in many cases is also a limitation. Both aircraft fulfill a very useful role and it would be difficult to say the support of one is better than the other.
7. Q: If gunships had not been available in your area of operation during the TET Offensive, what would the probable results have been? Why?
7. A: Had there not been helicopter gunships available during the TET Offensive, it would have been extremely difficult to halt the VC offensive and regain the initiative. At a minimum, friendly casualties would have been greater and friendly installations would have sustained more damage. The availability and use of mortars and recoilless rifles by the VC as opposed to TOE weapons available to airfield personnel gives the enemy a considerable firepower advantage if armed helicopters are discounted.
Documentation by: 1st Sgt. Joe White
Coding/Graphics by: Joe Moore