Unit History (Jan 1968 through Dec 1968)

ANNUAL SUPPLEMENT
183RD RECONNAISSANCE AIRPLANE COMPANY (0-1)
1 January 1968 – 31 December 1968

Commanded by:
John D. Michael
Major, Infantry

 Prepared by:
Michael J. Carpenter
 Captain, Infantry

 MISSION:

  1. To provide aerial visual reconnaissance (day and night) of enemy areas for the purpose of terrain study, locating, verifying and marking targets and directing artillery, naval gunfire and helicopter gunships throughout the II Corps Tactical Zone.
  1. To provide General Support to US and ARVN Forces in Vietnam as directed by First Field Force in Vietnam

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

FORWARD

Chapter 1:  Summary of Activities

Chapter 2:  Command and Control

Chapter 3:  General Operational Statistics

Chapter 4:  Honor Roll

APPENDIX

1.  Public Information Activities of Interest

2.  Company Personnel Roster

CHAPTER 1

SUMMARY OF ACTIVITIES

Aircraft were located at six permanent locations and two temporary locations during the first part of 1968.  Plans were in effect at that time to relinquish the temporary commitment at Chu Lai to the 21st Aviation Company. It was intended that the aircraft gained be used to form the nucleus of the proposed general support platoon.  The general support platoon was scheduled to provide assistance to the Fifth Special Forces Recondo School at Nha Trang and the U.S. Navy Coastal Surveillance Center.  The two aircraft located at Pleikeu and Kantum remained in support against hostile forces in those areas.

Captain Jerry W. Ginn was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross for routing a company of Viet Cong and subsequently destroying a base camp area in Ning Thuan Province.  Major Richard H. Kammerling was cited for an Air Medal with “V” for assisting in that action.  In the northern tactical zone, Lt. James R. Bazzell was recommended for the Silver Star for saving a U.S. Force from ambush.  His aircraft was severely damaged by ground-fire and his observer was seriously wounded.  Without regard for his own safety, Lt. Bazzell returned his observer for medical treatment and flew back to the area of operation to assist the friendly.  In all, recommendations were submitted for thirteen Bronze stars, three Air Medals with “V”, twenty one Basic Air Medals and fourteen Certificates of Achievement.

Work was initiated to strengthen the company area fortifications and the main command bunker was completed.  It has a capacity of one hundred personnel and is equipped with radio and telephone communications.  The exceptionally rugged construction of this bunker would allow it to withstand almost any type of direct hit.  Lights were installed, complete with an auxiliary power system visibility during the hours of darkness on some six hundred meters of the Dong Ba Thin perimeter.  The general appearance of the company area was greatly improved by painting all permanent type structures.

Seahorse aircraft continued to support the II Corps visual reconnaissance effort during the second quarter.  Numerous artillery support missions were flown by aircraft assigned to MACB.  On 12 February 1968, the Chu Lai section was returned to Dong Ba Thin to form the General Support Section of the First Flight Platoon.  Aircraft could then be drawn from this section to fill temporary commitments.  As always, outstanding support was received from American and allied units in all the provinces where Seahorse aircraft flew.  Newly assigned aviators demonstrated their excellent flight school training by adapting quickly to the Vietnam situation.  Aircraft were now located at five permanent and three temporary locations.  Continued support was rendered to the Fifth Special Forces Recondo School and the U.S. Navy Surveillance Center for Coastal Observation.  Seven aircraft and crews were located at Pleiku, Kontum and Ban Me Thuot in support of classified missions.  In addition, two aircraft and crews worked with the 41st Artillery Group at Dalat and Phan Thiet.  One aircraft was assigned to the 223rd Combat Support Aviation Battalion as a courier ship.
The heavy fighting during the Tet offensive demanded the evacuation of aircraft from hard-hit Dalat and Phan Thiet.  Platoon leaders set up temporary headquarters at Phan Rang and Dong Ba Thin to provide continuous support to the ground forces.  During these ten to fourteen days of heavy fighting, the aircraft took many hits, but none were lost and no aviator was wounded.  All aviators performed in an exemplary manner, for beyond what was normally expected throughout the Viet Cong Offensive.  Commanders praised the raw courage and determination of Seahorse pilots and credited much of the success of the counter offensive to the effective use of tactical air and artillery. 

Captain Harold E. Hallaway, Captain Fred C. Hankinson and Lt. Donald R. Parker were recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross for evacuating their aircraft from Phan Thiet Airfield during a heavy mortar attack and assisting in the subsequent destruction of Viet Cong forces.

Captain Frederick Coleman and Captain Gerald Bedford were recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross for valorous action during the Tet offensive at Dalat.  Captain Douglas Thorp was recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross for thwarting a combined Viet Cong – North Vietnam Army attack against a CIDG Camp in Kank Hoa Province.

In addition, recommendations were submitted for the following awards, one Bronze Star with “V”, eleven Bronze Stars, one Army Commendation Medal with “V”, seventy five Basic Air Medals, ten Army Commendation Medals and nine Certificates of Achievement.

Three aviators attended the Navy Jungle Environmental Survival Training School in the Philippines and confirmed its value to the individual aviator in a survival situation.  The nature of missions flown by aviators in single engine aircraft over dense, triple canopy jungle, four to five hours a day demands that such training be made mandatory.  Weapon familiarization firing was conducted on 2 March 1968.  All personnel fired their weapons and old ammunition was expended.  This is a regularly scheduled part of training designed to keep zeros current on each weapon.

The new technical supply building was occupied on 5 March 1968 and it promises to enhance the overall maintenance operations.  Roofs were re-built. on three billets and a James Way tent and hoist were installed in the Motor Pool area to provide an all weather capability.  Two-men foxholes were constructed all around the perimeter to provide effective fields of fire and offer a maximum amount of protection.  A large concrete and sandbag ammunition bunker was constructed to comply with the latest safety and security regulations.  It has more than a sufficient capacity and could withstand a direct hit from an E-40 rocket.  Five personnel bunkers are being constructed with dimensions eight feet by eighteen feet and should be completed some time in May.  Lastly, a self help program has been initiated to renovate the day room.

Six Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded during the summer months.  These awards were for actions which took place during Tet.  The entire summer period was oriented towards the numerous follow-up actions launched after the Vietnamese Lunar New Year offensive.  As a result. of these summer operations, Captain F. Lloyd White, Captain Montegue T. Higgenbotham, and Lt. Randy F. Jones were recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross.  SP5 Elliott A. Rawls received the Purple Heart for wound received during a rocket attack at Phan Thiet.  Captain Frederick Coleman received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for actions during Tet.  Recommendations for one Air Medal with “V”, ten Bronze Stars, six Basic Air Medals, thirteen Army Commendation Medals, one Purple Heart and seven Certificates of Achievement were submitted during the third quarter.

The mission of the 183rd Reconnaissance Airplane Company remained essentially the same.  To provide visual reconnaissance, artillery adjustment, convoy cover, radio-relay and to control gunships.  Second, to deny the enemy freedom of unobserved movement during daylight hours and to detect significant enemy activity and indications of movement in preparation for combat.  During this reporting period ending 31 July 1968, the 183rd re-organized its flight platoons.  The First Flight Platoon operated from three separate location in the II Corps tactical area.  The Second Flight Platoon continued to operate out of Phan Thiet and Phan Rang.  The Third Flight Platoon based its operations at Nha Trang and Dalat.

The 183rd Reconnaissance Airplane Company continued to perform it’s assigned mission in the fourth quarter.  Support was rendered to the II Corps visual reconnaissance program and also artillery and visual reconnaissance units belonging to IFFV.  Among the units supported are the 41st Artillery Group, E/20 Infantry, the MACV Recondo School, and the U.S. Navy Costal Surveillance Center.  While operating in the southeast portion of the II Corps tactical zone, the 183rd flew 4726 accident free combat and combat support missions from 1 August 1968 to 31 October 1968.  Few demands have been placed on the company during this quarter to provide aircraft for commitments outside the 183rd area of operations.  At this time, only two aircraft are in this category in support of E/20 Infantry at Pleiku.

On 8 October, the company re-organized its flight platoons in the following order.  The First Flight Platoon now operating from two locations at Nha Trang and Dong Ba Thin.  The Second Flight Platoon is based at Phan Thiet in Binh Thuan Province.  The Third Flight Platoon includes a section at Dalat in Tuyen Duc Province and a section at Phan Rang in Ninh Thuan Province.  The purpose for this re-organization was to consolidate as best possible, the individual platoons, thereby easing the platoon commander’s command and control function and allowing available resources to be used most effectively.  In addition, all new platoon leaders were appointed at this time.

Captain Lloyd F. White received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions occurring southeast of Phan Rang in which he saved a small friendly unit and produced over thirty enemy casualties.  Captain Montague T. Higgenbotham received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in Tuyen Duc Province in which he skillfully used artillery to repel an enemy attack on a small reactionary force.  First Lieutenant Randy Jones was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving a six man reconnaissance patrol from certain annihilation and killing fifteen enemy soldiers with his white phosphorous rockets.  In all, recommendations were submitted for twenty-two basic Air Medals, thirteen Army Commendations Medals, four Bronze Stars, three Distinguished Flying Crosses and one Vietnamese Honor Medal.

A realistic training program has been established this quarter which insures that all mandatory subjects are covered without a loss in man hours.  During this quarter, only one aviator was able to attend the Navy Jungle Environmental Survival Training School.  As a substitute for this valuable training, Captain William H Jackson, the present Operations Officer, has published a revised company SOP on Survival, Escape and Evasion which is an adequate guide on how to prepare for and how to cope with a Survival, Escape and Evasion situation.

Construction projects and self-help programs continue to receive outstanding support from all personnel in the company.  Work has been completed on the new aircraft parking ramp and revetments.  Our ramp space almost doubled and the new aluminum revetments will provide more than adequate protection for six aircraft.  In the maintenance area at the company, roofs have been constructed over work area to provide an all weather capability.  All billeting facilities are either being renovated or improved in some fashion and roofs have been painted white to reduce heat as a companion project.

The events of this year, 1968, have proved once again that Seahorses can face any task and produce admirable results.  We shall always pass the Seahorse tradition and esprit from man to man, with pride in a job well done, and confidence in the future.

CHAPTER 2

COMMAND AND CONTROL

 Major commanders and period of assignment.

Maj. William L. Buck,  13 February 1966 – 13 November 1966
Maj. Ralph L Godwin,  13 November 1966 – 18 June 1967
Maj. William R. Benoit,  18 June 1967 - -19 December 1967
Maj. Robin G. Speiser Jr.,  19 December 1967 – 27 August 1968
Maj. Bobby L. Owens,  27 August 1968 – 30 January 1969
Maj. John D. Michael,  30 January 1969 – Present (31 December 1969)

 

CHAPTER 3

GENERAL OPERATIONAL STATISTICS

The unit’s operational statistics have been collected from Unit Supply, Tech Supply, Maintenance and Operations.  Tech Supply has submitted over 5600 requisitions.  Maintenance reports that 286 periodic inspections have been performed and that the average aircraft availability rate has been 90%.  More that 48,631 gallons of gasoline and 8,480 quarts of oil have been used by the unit’s aircraft.  The wheeled vehicles of the unit have driven over 203,450 miles.  The following items are compiled from operations section and show a breakdown of Sorties and Hours Flown from 1 January 1968 to 31 December 1968.

Description

Sorties

Hours

Visual Reconnaissance

7,765

13,560

Artillery Adjustment

1,409

2,153

Administrative Liaison

2,953

2,344

Escort convoy

812

1,336

Radio Relay

594

1,190

Combat Observation

469

914

Training

625

456

Command and Control

537

286

Maintenance

533

478

Combat Support Liaison

458

425

Forward Air Control

57

86

Search and Rescue

46

73

Photo Reconnaissance

37

56

Psychological Warfare

24

23

Medical Evacuation

2

2

Air Land Resupply

1

1

Airborne Resupply

20

12

Total

16,342

23,404

The award section has submitted recommendations for an estimated 42 Basic Air Medals, 172 Oak Leaf Clusters to the Air Medal, 33 Army Accommodations Medals, 8 Air Medals with “V” Device, 1 Army Accommodation Medal with “V” Device, 30 Bronze Stars, 7 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 1 Bronze Star with the “V” Device, 1 Silver Stars, 3 Purple hearts, and 1 Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

While supporting the different provinces and operations the company has accounted for:

  1. 5,277 significant intelligence sightings,
  2. 122 confirmed VC/NVA KIA and 39 VC/NVA WIA,
  3. 286 military structures destroyed.

All were accomplished by aviators of the company using organic equipment.