The new Huey UH-1B model boasted a more powerful engine, 4 M machine guns and a new mount for 16 2. The new armored helicopter company proved to be effective enough in the role of armored escort that US Marine H crews at Da Nang even began to request Army armored helicopter escorts. On January 2, the first real disaster occurred at the Battle of Ap Bac. It was deemed a win, but many would probably consider it a defeat.
The incident underscored the fact that armed helicopter escorts simply were not an adequate substitute for a fixed wing escort when facing a determined entrenched enemy. The fact that the CH Shawnee helicopter was only a single engine, tandem rotor helicopter that was under powered for its size and not easily maneuvered didn't help the situation at Ap Bac.
The CH was armed with a. The events at Ap Bac were the first sign that the VC had been planning and were now losing their fear of the helicopters as they devised ways to fight back. It was time to rethink the way troop lifts and armed escorts were being conducted. Command quickly began to realize the need for a better command structure among its helicopter and aviation companies and battalions. In the 45th Transportation Battalion was reorganized and nearly all of its companies were redesignated by September 24, and the Delta Aviation Battalion provisional was formed.
Its purpose was to provide airmobility to the IV Vietnamese Corps. It was originally called the Delta Aviation Battalion. In December , the 13th was assigned to the th Aviation Group. In October , the unit was moved to Soc Trang where it remained until The following were assigned to the 13th Aviation Battalion during all or part of course of the conflict:. It initially oversaw the 13th, 14th, 52nd and th Aviation Battalions. It provided and maintained tactical and administrative control over divisional and non-divisional aviation assets.
The Brigade provided command, staff planning, and administrative supervision to its assigned aviation groups and battalions. In September it was composed of two combat aviation groups the 12th and the 17th and two combat aviation battalions the 13th and the th. At its peak the 1st Aviation Brigade oversaw 4, rotary and fixed wing aircraft and 24, soldiers.
In , the 1st Aviation Brigade transported more than 6. The 1st Aviation Brigade and its predecessors were instrumental in developing and perfecting the art of helicopter warfare.
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Mackmull - September March To see a wider selection of helicopter nose art photographs, please visit the following collections:. Profile Images. The Helicopter War in Vietnam. The Battle of Ap Bac. As it turned out, not only did Rob have no commo, most of the instruments on the control panel were not working. At least the airspeed indicator and altimeter were apparently still working properly, however. Johnson, monitoring what is going on over the intercom, noticed the message on the windshield.
But fortune was trying to smile on this crew, and Halvorson pulled out his emergency radio to call Quang Tri tower. Grabbing the hand-held radio and transmitting on Guard, Halvorson alerted the tower to their situation. We have multiple wounded on board, no idea of their condition, no hydraulics, and no instruments.
We need a straight in. Clear everything, I need to be first in line. All appropriate measures were immediately taken by the tower controller. Dustoff was in serious trouble, they were fighting to stay in the air, yet they were still 10 minutes away and limping home.
Pachyderm was the call sign that the CH Chinook helicopters of the st Airborne Division, and there was more to come. The pilots continue their narrative. Boys, just remember your training, just like flight school. Well, the boys did remember their training and with both pilots on the controls, they were able to put the Huey down on the runway, skidding to a halt, skid shoes smoking and smelling of that distinctive odor all Huey crews remember from practicing emergency procedures such as this.
They were able to put it down, under control, with no further damage.
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The 18 th Surgical Hospital had their ambulances waiting and took care of the wounded. Also of note, perhaps because of his actions during this mission, WO1 Robin Halvorson was made an Aircraft Commander the next day, having proved himself under heavy enemy fire.
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And they were all volunteers. Medic Frank Crockett. That same day, 1LT Brink filled out an after action report, detailing the mission for headquarters. I knew those guys we picked up and now at least one of them was dead. Some of them I had just met at the party. He was temporarily not allowed to fly because he violated the agreement with North Viet Nam. Like the NVA honored the agreement! But when Red Devil 6, a one star general, heard about the grounding, he overrode it and Brink was back in the air 2 days later.
And speaking of 1LT Brink, remember those shards of his armored seat that knocked his feet off the pedals? Months later, Brink noticed his legs were itching a lot. While scratching them one time, he noticed that he pulled out a piece of the ceramic that surrounded his armored seat. I was pulling stuff out of the back of my legs for years after that!
And the Helicopter?
Oh, that! As a Huey is shut down, the normal procedure is to wait two minutes at a reduced RPM to let the engine cool down. Being the good pilots they were, Brink and Halvorson were waiting out the cool down period and at the two minute mark, Rob cut off the fuel, shutting down the engine. As the crew performed a post flight inspection, they found the problem with the engine- there was no oil in it, a bullet had drained it all. Remember it was running hot on the way home?
The engine had seized after shutdown, as good fortune had continued to smile on them; it just as easily could have quit in the air rather than on the ground. Further inspection of the aircraft also showed no transmission oil the oil cooler had taken a hit and no hydraulic fluid, as would be expected. Oh, yes, and bullet holes. Yep, they counted one hundred and twenty one incoming rounds in Since the Huey was still virtually intact, the common practice was to sling load it to the repair facility at Red Beach, on the west side of Da Nang Harbor, about an hours flight away.
But at this post-flight part of the mission, we have a conflict of memories. A few days after this last landing, and having saved literally thousands of lives over her career, left the ground one more time as the Chinook that was sling loading her headed for the coast and the flight to Da Nang.
But Brink remembers it differently. Whether the loss of this very heavily damaged Huey occurred over land or over water or both is still uncertain at this time, 40 years later. Both pilots could be correct, but one thing is certain; UH-1H always brought her crew home, even when she was terribly wounded. Being dropped at either place or both, it was a fate she certainly did not deserve.
One final note. When I started researching another mission, I was told about Crockett having to fire his weapon to protect his patients. I had to know more about what happened. It was Tommy, for sure! Log in No account? Create an account.