Rattler/Firebird Association

Valorous Unit Award for Lam Son 719?

Valorous Unit AwardSome time ago, our unit member Doug Womack discovered that the 14th Aviation Battalion along with assigned and attached units was supposed to have been submitted for the Valorous Unit Award for actions during the Lam Son 719 operation, but due to an oversight, the submission never took place. In an attempt to rectify this error, he has wrote to Department of the Army and submitted extensive documentation back in 2005. In response to that contact, the award was approved and the VUA was approved for HHC, 14th Aviation Battalion. Only HHC, 14th Avn Bn was listed because the file was limited to active units, and HHC is now 1-14th Avn Regt at Fort Rucker. After again contacting DA, he was informed that the assigned and attached units included in the recommendation were also approved, and that a General Order confirming the award is pending a final review by the Army Center of Military History to insure that the lineage and honors for all units concerned have been properly represented.

Barring any deviations from the recommendation by DA, the 71st AHC earned the Valorous Unit Award, the unit equivalent of a Silver Star, for the period 8 February 1971 to 28 March 1971, during Operation Lam Son 719. Each member assigned and present for duty during that time frame is entitled to the award. Over 1,800 soldiers, veterans of the 14th Avn Bn and current members of 1st Bn, 14th Avn Regt, share in the award.

Copies of the documentation can be seen in the three following documents. In order to download the files, right-click and choose Save Target, or Save Link from the context menu. Note that you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download for free at http://get.adobe.com/reader/.

Note that when the documents were scanned, they were scanned in black and white mode, so the highlighting does not show up properly.

What follows is an overview of the submitted information.

Guide to Pertinent Data Supporting 14th CAB VUA Recommendation

(Highlight passages as indicated)

101st Avn Gp LOG (3 Mar 71)

Highlight Organization and Period Covered from Heading of DA Form 1594.
Highlight Items 11, 14, 16 and 20 in their entirety.
Highlight Summary Attachment as pertains to 14th CAB, 71st and 174th Avn Companies
(Summary includes 14 aircraft damaged, 3 aircraft destroyed, 8 WIA and 4 MIA)

101st ABN Final Report – LAM SON 719 (Highlight as follows)

Cover – Paragraph 2. “The report covers the period 8 February 1971, date of the initial airmobile combat assaults into Laos, through 6 April 1971, the date of the concluding airmobile raids into Laos. Major emphasis is placed on the period 8 February to 24 March, the date of the withdrawal of RVNAF forces from Laos.”

Page I-4, Paragraph 5. “Enemy Strengths/Disposition” “… [D]uring the peak of enemy activity in early March, it is estimated that the enemy had committed approximately 36,000 troops total to counter LAM SON 719 operations.” “Of major importance was the increasing density, mobility and sophistication of the antiaircraft defenses used by the NVA to counter the airmobility of LAM SON 719. Particularly effective was the emplacement of these weapons very close to RVNAF forces; this hugging tactic made neutralizing fires difficult if not in some cases impossible. Resupply and extraction missions became extremely hazardous.”

Page I-23, Sections a. and b. Command and Control” “Command Officer, 101st Aviation Group commanded all assault, assault support, and aerial weapons helicopter units.” “Assault Helicopters” “The 14th Combat Assault Battalion supported the Vietnamese Marine Division. The direct support helicopter battalion planned and controlled all combat assaults and general support missions for the supported units.” “Regardless of what aviation units provided helicopters to support of RVNAF unit, the direct support assault helicopter battalion headquarters always commanded the operation.”

Page II-4, Task Organization – OPCON to 101st Abn Div “14th CAB, 71 Co (23 UH-1H, 8 UH-1C), 174 Co (23 UH-1H, 8 UH-1C), 116 Co 23 UH-1H, 8 UH-1C) (5-7, 22-24 March), 132 Co (16 CH-47).” Note: 116 Co was a combined with 176th Avn Co.

Page IV-4, Concept of Operations, Sections 1. and 2. “Unit Alignment” “An Assault Helicopter Battalion was placed in direct support of each major ARVN unit… to facilitate planning, coordination, and execution of combat operations while simultaneously realizing an increasing degree of confidence and professionalism between the US helicopter battalions and the ARVN units.”
Aircraft Allocation” “Based on mission requirements, the assets of the twelve assault helicopter companies and four aerial weapons companies were allocated to the three assault helicopter battalions.” “The only constant in aircraft allocation was the direct support battalion headquarters which habitually worked with the designated ARVN units. Aviation companies of the various aviation battalions performed well. Regardless of the controlling battalion headquarters.”

Page IV-40, Section (2) CO, 159th Aviation Battalion Comments. “On very few occasions, the enemy was able to prevent the aircraft from getting their cargo onto the LZ. The rare times the enemy were successful were a result either of effective long range artillery or exceptionally heavy direct fire, both small arms and antiaircraft fire, all around a fire base. When activity became this intense, even the less vulnerable UH-1H aircraft were unsuccessful in resupply attempts, such as occurred at Fire Base DELTA in the last days of the operation.”

Page IV-130, Paragraph N. ©, Sections 1. and 2. “Personnel Summary” “Flying Hours” “101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) aviation units and units OPCON to the 101st could not maintain the level of flight hours required to support LAM SON 719 and at the same time adhere to the USARV flight time regulation.” “A waiver of the regulation was granted to units directly supporting LAM SON 719 (USARV msg DTG 040939Z Mar 71).”
“Casualties” “In 45 days of combat flying over Laos a total of 210 casualties were incurred by US Army and USMC helicopter crews; of this total 152 were WIA, 26 KIA and 32 MIA. The average casualties per day were 3.4 WIA, .58 KIA and .71 MIA.”

Page IV-146, Combat Damage, Sections 1. and 3. “General” “There were 644 aircraft damage incidents to 451 different aircraft and a total of 90 aircraft lost.”
“Attack, Utility and Medium Lift Helicopters” “Forty-eight different UH-1C aircraft were damaged on 66 different occasions.”

Page IV-151 Combat Damage (continued) “Two hundred and thirty-seven UH-1H aircraft were damaged on 344 different occasions.” “Nearly twenty-nine percent of all the UH-1H losses occurred on 3 March and 20 March 1971, with respective operations to assault LOLO and to extract forces near BROWN. Altogether there were 84 incidents of damage to UH-1H helicopters on these two days.”
“Combat Exposure” “Using sortie information from the Aviation Statistical Summary, combat damage rates were established and then compared for aircraft operations over Laos and the Republic of Vietnam, during LAM SON 719. This comparison showed that the threat damage was thirteen times greater when flying in Laos.”

Page VI-2 Enemy Losses. “Thousands of tons of ammunition, POL and other supplies and equipment were destroyed by LAM SON 719 forces including US air assets.”
“Destruction of Enemy Forces” “Combined air-ground operations in Base Area 604 resulted in a reported total of 13,914 enemy killed in action. Air and ground attacks inside the five depot areas reportedly accounted for 5,357 of these casualties. An additional 69 soldiers were captured.”

“The Rise and Fall of an American Army” by Shelby Stanton (Highlight as follows)

Page 354. “The VNMC battalions were hanging on to several fire bases by their fingernails, and only the heroics of Army helicopters of the 14th Aviation Battalion kept them supplied with ammunition.”

Indochina Monographs “Lam SON 719” by MG Nguyen Duy Hinh (Highlight)

Pages 93-97 (p.93) “On 2 March, the 7th Marine Battalion, 147th Brigade, began landing troops in Fire Support Base Delta.” “For three consecutive days, the 147th Brigade Headquarters and the remaining 2d and 4th Battalions were inserted into Delta” “The entire 258th Brigade, meanwhile, was inserted at FSB Hotel.” On 3 March, in execution of the plan to enter Tchepone, the 1st Battalion of the 1st Infantry Regiment was inserted at Landing Zone Lolo 13 kilometers southeast of Tchepone. The landing had met with strong enemy opposition and had been postponed twice because additional preparations required for the landing zone. The 1/1 Battalion finally touched ground at the price of 11 helicopters shot down, 44 (p.95) others hit by gunfire…”

(p.96) “… 14 instances of surface-to-air missile firing were photographed or reported by forward air controllers, army pilots, tactical air and reconnaissance aircraft.” “The day selected to enter the ultimate objective, Tchepone, was 6 March. A total of 120 U.S. helicopters were assembled to carry out the assault. In addition to B-52, U.S. tactical air strikes or air cover sorties were scheduled every 10 minutes.” “An enemy attack by fire on Khe Sanh Base forced the huge assemblage of U.S. helicopters to depart 90 minutes earlier (p.97) than planned, but preparations for this operation had been so carefully executed that when the first helicopters carrying the 2/2 Battalion landed at Landing Zone Hope four kilometers northeast of Tchepone, only sporadic gunfire was received.”

Pages 108-117, “Lock Its Head, Grip Its Tail” “In the southeast, activity in the Marine Sector began to pick up. The 147th Marine Brigade Headquarters at Fire Support Base Delta received 400 incoming rounds which killed eight marines. The 7th (p.109) Battalion, operating outside the base, received a corresponding number of artillery rounds and had five wounded.” “A NVA recruit just assigned to the 812th Regiment, 324B Division rallied to the Marines and disclosed that the entire 44324B Division was in the “Route 9 campaign” with its 29th, 803d and 812th regiments. The 29th Regiment had recently suffered heavy losses and the 812th Regiment was engaging the 147th Marine Brigade.”

(p.110) “From 18 March on it seemed that the enemy was well aware of the ARVN withdrawal and there were signs of the enemy concentrating a regimental size unit northwest of Fire Support Base A Loui while pressure increased around Fire Support Base Delta of the 147th Brigade. The base began to receive fire from 130-mm field guns and NVA infantry had infiltrated close enough to fire at aircraft. There were about 10 antiaircraft guns positioned on the mountain slopes around the base that could not be silenced.”

(p.111) “On the Marine side, Base Delta was still experiencing heavy enemy pressure. The 7th Marine Battalion constantly received attacks by fire and ground attacks. The enemy even used a noxious gas but suffered heavy casualties with 42 killed. Marine losses were light.” “The 19th of March was a day of intense activities. All ARVN units in Laos reported enemy contacts.” “The 308th NVA Division with its 36th, 102d and 88th regiments was attacking from the north. (Map 22)”

(p.113) “The 324th Division deployed its 29th and 803d Regiments to attack the 147th Marine Brigade while its 812th Regiment pinned the 258th Marine Brigade down around Hotel and at Co Roc. The enemy apparently wanted to catch the entire ARVN force in his trap. In the manner of a hunter, he set about to kill his prey by “Locking its head and gripping its tail.”

(p.114) “On the front manned by the Marine Division, the situation was even more serious. The units of the 258th Brigade were increasingly engaged by the enemy and the encirclement of Fire Support Base Delta did not relax in any way. Supplies could not be delivered and the 2d and 4th Battalions were intercepted on their way to the relief of the base. Inside the base, five of the ten 105-mm howitzers were out of action due to the enemy fire and the number of marines killed and wounded kept increasing.”

(p.115) “On 20 March, the U.S. Air Force and Army helicopters exerted their maximum effort, with 1,388 gunship sorties, 270 tactical air strikes and 11 B-52 missions dropping 909 tons of bombs. Around 1300 hours, the 3d Battalion, 2d Regiment was extracted from the area west of Sophia East by U.S. Army helicopters which flew through heavy antiaircraft fire to evacuate it to Ham Nghi Base [Khe Sanh]. In the process, 28 of the 40 helicopters involved were hit. Plans for the extraction of 4/2 Battalion were subsequently aborted because the first helicopter attempting to land was hit by fire and exploded in the air.” Around Fire Support Base Delta of the 147th Marine Brigade, on this same day, Communist suicide troops reached the defense perimeter and dug in. Small arms fire from these pockets made helicopter landings and takeoffs even more difficult. Supply deliveries could not be made but the 7th Marine Battalion and the troops of the 147th Brigade held on because they had previously received a ten-day reserve of supplies which would permit them to continue fighting.”

(p.116) “[I]n the Marine’s area, there was an eruption of fire. The 29th and 803d Regiments of the 324B Division were determined to destroy Fire Support Base Delta. These two units began attacking fiercely at dawn of 21 March. Mortar and direct artillery fire (the latter believed to come from tank guns) was very accurate. All 175-mm guns from the ARVN side of the border were mobilized to provide close fire support to the Marines. In the morning, 13 tactical air sorties provided additional support. A B-52 mission was diverted to the area and crushed an enemy battalion (a PW later reported this battalion had lost 400 men from this B-52 action). The attack was checked and the base held firm.” “After the battle, the 147th Brigade and the 7th Marine Battalion ran short of supplies. Thanks to air support, seven U.S. UH-1H helicopters were able to land, bringing ammunition and evacuating wounded. These helicopters were (p.117) able to return to their base but all bore battle scars. An eighth helicopter was shot down.”

Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association KIAs by Date List (14th CAB Personnel)

02/08/71WO1 Gentry, Robert B.174th AHC
02/25/71WO1 Burch, Steven R.174th AHC
02/25/71WO1 Erb, Patrick D.174th AHC
03/03/71CPL Padilla, Gary T.174th AHC
03/07/71CPT Afflerbach, MarkF/8th CAV, Attached
03/07/71WO1 Port, Hyram B.F/8th CAV, Attached
03/22/71WO1 Cleve, Reginald D.176th AHC
03/22/71WO1 Traver, John G.176th AHC
03/22/71SP4 Hall, Walter R.176th AHC
03/22/71SP4 Knutsen, Donald P.176th AHC
03/25/71SFC Foster, Doyle174th AHC

Bodies recovered by 71st AHC, 14th CAB under fire on 03/24/71 (VHPA KIA List)

SGT Beckwith, Harry M.D/3/5 CAV
SP4 Neal, William E.D/3/5 CAV
CPT Coker, David L.D/3/5 CAV
SGT Bauer, Curtis D.D/3/5 CAV
PFC Walters, Robert D.D/3/5 CAV

101st Aviation Battalion S-3 Loss Summaries

Highlight Loss Summaries as pertains to 14th CAB, 71st Avn Co, 132nd Avn Co; 174th Avn Co for 8 Feb 71, 21 Feb 71, 3 Mar 71, 4 Mar 71, 5 Mar 71, 6 Mar 71, 7 Mar 71, 9 Mar 71, 18 Mar 71, 19 Mar 71; 20 Mar 71

14th Combat Aviation Battalion LOGs (Highlight Dates and Items as Indicated)

Statement by Major Tommy C. Stiner, Brigade Aviation Officer, 1/5 Mech

Statement is included in its entirety.

You will note that all the source documents dovetail together, verifying the facts in the matter and supporting the recommendation as submitted.