Unit History (Jan 1967 through Dec 1967)

183RD RECONNAISSANCE AIRPLANE COMPANY (O-1)
JANUARY 1, 1967DECEMBER 31, 1967 

Commanded By
Robin G. Speiser Jr. Maj. Infantry

Prepared By
Jerry W. Ginn Cpt. Infantry

 MISSION:

  1. To provide aerial visual reconnaissance (day and night) of the enemy areas for the purpose of terrain study, locating, verifying and marking targets and directing artillery, naval gunfire and air strikes throughout the II Corps tactical Zone.
  2. To provide General Support to U.S. 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         Tactical Operations Support

Chapter 4         General Operational Statistics

Chapter 5         Honor Roll

Chapter 6         Equipment and Installations

 

APPENDIX

  1. Public Information and Activities of Interests
  2. Company Personnel Roster

CHAPTER I

SUMMARY OF ACTIVITIES

On 17 January 1966, Headquarters III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, issued General Order 18, which activated and organized the 183rd Reconnaissance Airplane Company.  On 7 March 1966 the company began training for shipment overseas at Gray Army Airfield with and estimated departure date of 10 May 1966.  The unit was shipped out and arrived at Cam Rahn Bay on 7 June 1966 to officially begin their combat tour.

The company is assigned to the 223rd Combat Support Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group.  Since the last reporting period there have been numerous changes in placement of the unit’s aircraft.  The first platoon is headquartered at Chu Lai in support of the Americal Division.  Its primary mission is the registration and adjustment of the Division Artillery of the newly formed unit.  There are four pilots and four aircraft assigned.  The second platoon is located at Phan Thiet in support of MACV advisory Team 37, Binh Thuan Province.  They are providing direct combat support to the 101st Airborne and 2/7 CAV who are operating in the area.   It has a total of four pilots and four aircraft.  The third platoon is located at Nha Trang in support of MACV Advisory Team 35,  Khanh Hoa Province.  Being the largest area of responsibility they are assigned six pilots and six aircraft.  The fourth platoon is co-located at Phan Rang and Dalat with the headquarters at Phan Rang. There are four pilots and four aircraft at Phan Rang in support of MACV Advisory Team 39, Ninh Thuan Province.  In Dalat, which is the capital of Tuyen Duc Province, MACV Advisory team is supported by three pilots and three aircraft.

The company is presently operating under a present for duty strength of 120 personnel, 90 enlisted and 33 officers. There are a total of 24 aircraft, 18 of which are 0-1E and 6 are 0-1G.

The numerous improvements discussed in the previous report have been completed and new projects are under way.  The unit mess hall has been completely renovated and will feed the entire company at one sitting.  Hot water showers are presently in use and enjoyed by all personnel.  The barracks, which presently provide each man a room of his own, are under consideration for renovation by the engineers.  The operations section and maintenance areas which were originally located at the north end of the airfield have been relocated to the south end.  This completes the consolidation of the company headquarters minus the motor pool, which is also to be moved to the south end of the airfield.  All necessary materials and space has been acquire for the construction of a new motor pool area and is expected to be completed in early March 1968.  Another major improvement under way is the building of a Tech supply building presently under construction by the engineers and is also to be completed by March 1968.

The company’s being dispersed in it’s many locations caused many problems in the supply and administrative fields.  Major Ralph L. Godwin began, what was termed, a monthly “fly in’. This has been continued by each of the commanders and affords an opportunity for everyone in mass to discuss the activity at his location.  It has also enabled most administrative and supply problems to be overcome as well as giving the commander a chance to put forth new policies and ideas.  Included in the “fly in” is a safety meeting conducted by the Operations Officer with guest speakers on several occasions.  This activity has been instrumental in affording the aviators to conduct some “hangar talk.”  This is the time to discuss peculiarities of aircraft flying situations and a general exchange of experiences.  Call it “war stories” or “bull throwing” or what ever but it has given the newer pilots a greater insight into their profession.  A recent policy of Major Robin G. Speiser Jr., present commander, is to bring U.S. Sector Advisors to the meeting so they may see what is accomplished.  This has greatly increased the working relationship between the pilots and sector advisors, as they now have a clearer understanding as to our capabilities and problems. 

In late 1966, the platoon leaders and pilots of this organization stated that numerous targets of opportunity were being discovered in the conduct of normal reconnaissance operations, but in many cases due to the absence of artillery and armed helicopters, these targets were not being engaged.  In addition, the great majority were not suitable as targets for Air Force tactical aircraft due to their small size and/or mobility.  It was suggested that machine guns be mounted on some of the units aircraft in order that these targets could be engaged.  In October 1966 one aircraft was equipped with machine guns to be used as a test vehicle.

A 0-1E (SN 51-12028) was equipped with twin M-60 machine guns from the standard kit.  The objective of the test was to determine the effectiveness of a Bird Dog armed with machine guns in the visual reconnaissance mission role.

The aircraft was first employed at Phan Thiet where enemy activity was greatest, and subsequently was used in Darlac and Quang Duc Provinces.  In all cases, the aircraft performed normal operational missions.  Various pilots flew missions in the test aircraft and their comments were recorded. Records were kept of sorties flown, rounds fired, difficulties encountered and other pertinent data.  In all cases, pilots were very favorably impressed with the versatility and effectiveness in accomplishing various types of assigned missions.

At the conclusion of the field trial period, the aircraft was returned to Dong Ba Thin where an inspection of critical areas was performed by a direct support maintenance team.

Data:

Test period: 23 November 1966 – 20 January 1967
Number of flights                                                          95
Number of rounds fired                                                  25,000
Number of malfunctions                                                14
Number of malfunctions corrected
            By immediate action                                          2
Cause of malfunction:
            Wire became unsoldered                                    1
            Back plate improperly installed                           1
            Bad ammunition                                                1
            Long rounds in belt                                            3
            Improper positioning of belt feed                        1
            Short in wiring system                                       1
            Lack of lubrication                                              1
            Dirty weapon                                                     2
            Unknown                                                           3
                       
Most malfunctions occurred during the early phases of the test and were due in most part to lack of familiarity with the system or failure of personnel to exercise proper care in handling and maintaining the weapons.  Once these lessons were learned, the frequency of malfunctions decreased.  During the latter portion of the test period, there was no instance recorded where both weapons became inoperative during the same flight.

No dangerous deficiencies were noted with the system from the standpoint of general handling, ammunition storage, and in flight use. It was found to be a safer system than the rockets currently used and no structural factors influencing safety were discovered.

All commanders and aviators praised the effectiveness of the system.  Aviators learned very quickly to deliver accurate fire, which had excellent effects on buildings, boats, light storage areas and personnel in the open or lightly concealed. Fires were started easily and targets effectively marked when all tracer ammunition was used.

No major maintenance difficulties were encountered during field trials.  As with all weapons systems, great attention must be given to maintenance, this being extremely true in dusty areas.

Along with the many hours of operational flying came the combat hazards.  CW2 Richard J. Wright crashed into a hillside on 8 February 1967 and both pilot and observer were killed.  On 5 November 1967 Captain Clifford W. Schneeman Jr. crashed landed his aircraft into a hillside and received fatal injuries.  Since 1 January 1967 the unit has lost nine aircraft and two pilots including the two above.  None, however, can be attributed to loss by hostile fire.

 

CHAPTER II

COMMAND AND CONTROL

Major commanders and period of assignment:
Major William L. Buck                         13 February 1966 – 13 November 1966
Major Ralph L. Godwin                                    13 November 1966 – 18 June 1967
Major William R. Benoit                                   18 June 1967 – 19 December 1967
Major Robin G. Speiser Jr.                               19 December 1967 – Present (Dec 31 1967)

 

CHAPTER III

TATICAL OPERATIONS SUPPORTED

September 1966 – Present:                                                                                                           Operation Market Time in support of the U.S. Navy coastal surveillance program.

January 1967 – February 1967:                                                                                                     Operation Farragut III at Phan Rang in support of 101st Airborne.

February 1967:                                                                                                                              Recondo School in support of Special Forces at Nha Trang.

February 1967:                                                                                                                           Operation Gatling at Bao Loc in support of 101st Airborne

January 1367 – February 1967:                                                                                                    Operation White Horse I at Nha Trang in support of 5/27th artillery.

April 1967 – January 1968:                                                                                                          Operation Task Force Oregon at Chu Lai and Duc Pho in support of Americal Division.

November 1967 – December 1967:                                                                                               Operation Rose at Phan Rang in support of 101st airborne.

January 1968:                                                                                                                                 Project Delta at Pleiku in support of Special Forces.

January 1968 – Present:                                                                                                                       FOB II at Kontum in support of Special Forces.

 

CHAPTER IV

GENERAL OPERATIONAL STATISTICS

The unit’s operational statistics have been collected from unit supply, Tech Supply, Maintenance and Operations.  Tech Supply has submitted over 6,000 items ranging from acetate to welding rods.  Maintenance reports that 335 periodic inspections have been performed and that the average aircraft  availability rate has been 89%.  More that 47,547 gallons of gasoline and 30,200 quarts of oil have been used by the unit’s aiecraft. The wheeled vehicles of the unit have driven over 281,570 miles. The following items are compiled from operations section and show a breakdown of sorties and hours flown
from 1 January 1967 to 31 December 1967. 

 

Description

Sorties

Hours

Visual Reconnaissance

11,161

16,894

Photo Reconnaissance

33

45

Forward Air Control

77

98

Artillery Adjustment

808

1,241

Escort Convoy

642

1,077

Combat Observation

556

808

Search and Rescue

50

95

Flare Drop

2

2

Psychological Warfare

36

41

Training

278

267

Maintenance

484

329

Administrative Liaison

1,945

1,547

Tactical Aeromedical Evac.

4

4

Airborne Resupply

69

48

Air landing Resupply

120

171

Combat Support Liaison

1,558

1,306

Command and Control

457

405

Radio Relay

561

792

Total Sorties

25,170

18841

The awards section has submitted recommendations for an estimated 170 air medals, 12 Purple Hearts, 40 Bronze stars, 19 Air Medals with “V’ Device, 11 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 1 Legion of Merit, 1 Silver Star, and 1 Distinguished Service Cross.

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

2,923 Significant intelligence sightings, 110 confirmed VC KIA and 12 VC WIA, 170 Military structures destroyed. All of this was accomplished by aviators of the company using organic equipment.

 

CHAPTER V

HONOR ROLL

Chock, Linus G.                       Captain                        KIA 29 November 1966
Wright, Richard J.                    CW2                            KIA 8 February 1967
Schneeman, Clifford W. Jr.       Captain                        KIA 5 November 1967

 

CHAPTER VI

EQUIPMENT AND INSTALLATIONS

INDEX

  1. O-1 with M-60 machineguns mounted
  2. Aerial view of Company Headquarters (Dong Ba Thin)
  3. Aerial view of first platoon at Dalat
  4. Aerial view of second platoon at Phan Rang
  5. Aerial view of third platoon at Nha Trang