101st Aviation Battalion History, in the words of it's veterans


By John Kennedy

The 101st Airborne Division was officially designated as the 101st Air Cavalry Division on 1 July 1968.  Over some period of time this was changed through a couple of evolutions to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Mobile).  It was expected that the 101st  would operate exactly the way the 1st Air Cavalry Division had been doing, but it did not have this total capability until about the end of March 1969 because it did not have the necessary aviation resources.  Some time after the designation as air cav/air mobile, part of the reorganization required obtaining (or creating) the aviation group and obtaining the additional aviation units.  An airborne division aviation battalion (101st Avn Bn), by TO&E, consisted of a headquarters element (either a HQ company or HQ Detachment), a Direct Support Company and a General Support Company (A and B companies, respectfully).  TO&E for the air mobile aviation battalion was for a HQ Company, three lift companies and an armed helicopter (gun) company.  When the aviation group was established (160th ), A company remained in the battalion and the general support company was pulled from the battalion and became a separate company under group headquarters, designated as the 163d Aviation Co.  This unit had observation helicopters and fixed wing airplanes.  Two separate (non-divisional) assault helicopter companies that were 1st Aviation Brigade assets (17th AHC, the Kingsmen, and the 68th AHC, the Blackwidows) were transferred from their parent organizations and taken into the 101st Avn Bn as B and C companies, respectfully. {NOTE: I am relatively certain but do not know absolutely that these were the unit designations.  The webmaster of the Kingsman web site states that the 17th had been subordinate to the 160th Aviation Battalion.}  I do not know how or when the 160th Avn Group came into being or who the first commander was.  Prior to my arrival, believe it was about August 68, the gun platoons were pulled from the three lift companies (A, B and C) and, with an in-house created hq element, became a composite, or provisional armed helicopter company designated Company D.  Actually, D company did not exist officially until the Department of the Army formally created it by General Order, giving it a Unit Identification Code (UIC) and adding it to the force structure.  I do not have a specific date this occurred, but believe it was either Dec 68 or Jan 69.


On 16 November 1968, the 160th Aviation Group was commanded by Colonel Ted Crozier.  I do not know when he arrived to command this unit and do not know when he left (but do know that he was deeply concerned in late Sep/early Oct 69 when he had not received reassignment orders).  At that time (Nov 68) the Group had less than half of the aviation assets needed to provide the support required for the 101st Division to be a full-up Airmobile Division.  The units on hand that belonged to the 160th Gp were the 101st Avn Bn, the 159th Avn Bn and the 163rd Aviation Company.  The 101st Avn Battalion had all four companies authorized, the 159th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion (ASHB) consisted only of its Headquarters Company and A Company ( A company had CH-47A’s).  I have not found a reference as to when B/159 arrived, but did attend a welcoming ceremony for C /159 on 3 Jan 69.  The group’s other airmobile battalion (the 158th) did not arrive until Mar 69.  These missing resources, the 158th Bn and two companies of the 159th, caused gross over utilization on the 101st Avn Bn.  Other aviation assets in the Division were small Air sections in each brigade headquarters, a med-evac helicopter unit, one Air Cav Troop on loan from the Americal Division and the Aerial Rocket Artillery Battalion.  This ARA unit was on paper only.  There was a Lt Col battalion commander with only one C model Hog gunship, and a few enlisted people.  A formal arrival ceremony for the 158th Avn Bn was done on the PSP ramp at Cp Evans on 1 Mar 69, but it did not become fully operational on their own for another month.  A full-up complete Air Cavalry Squadron came in but I do not have a date for it, believe it was during Jan/Feb 69 time frame.  Also specifically remember attending the arrival/welcoming ceremony for the ARA battalion (4/77 Arty, Aerial Rocket, or something like that), commanded by a Lt Col Henderson, but have not found a date for that.  This was done at Cp Eagle in late Feb or early Mar 69.



Comments regarding some of the email traffic I’ve read concerning the questions w/subject of 160th Group:  Col Crozier was a colorful character full of enthusiasm, balding and missing a few teeth.  Everything that was good was “up tight, out of sight” and he was a stickler for saluting properly.  He did not like warrant officers with mustaches - insisting that the hair under a man’s nose be neatly trimmed so as not to touch the upper lip.  His call sign was either Gunfighter, or Gunslinger until he came back from R&R, then he became Wild Turkey.  He was prone to calling  battalion commanders at any hour day or night, and usually did.  He had a UHF radio set up in his office and monitored it around the clock listening to everybody’s operational traffic, and would not hesitate to interject his thoughts, suggestions and/or directions as he thought appropriate.


There was some discussion concerning designation of the group as the 101st Avn Gp, and designating the 101st Avn Bn as the 160th Avn Bn.  Col C asked me once if I would  give up the numerical designation of 101 to become the 160th.  It seemed to make sense, three battalions numbered consecutively, that’s the way the avn bn’s in the1st Cav Div were, 227th ,228th ,229th , but why ask?  He was “da man”, and likely could have done it whether I liked it or not if he wanted to.  I did not consent, call me a butt head, but the 101st Avn was an authorized color unit - we had battalion colors (not just a guidon) with campaign streamers from WW II and from A Co’s first trip to RVN as the Soc Trang Warriors and I wanted to keep that for us.  This subject never got pushed and the 101st Avn Bn stayed the 101st and the 160th remained as it was.


Someone remarked that MAJ Murry Parker became interim, or acting CO of the Group for a while.  Parker and I had been a two-man gang aviating around a large part of the country while at Fort Carson in the late 50's.  He deployed to RVN with the Blackwidows when they left Ft Benning and had become the battalion maintenance officer when I arrived on 16 Nov 68.  About a week later I made him Bn XO and he held that position until his DEROS in April 69.  To my knowledge, he never held a command, except to assume command of the battalion for two days when I left the AO to go to Division Rear at Ben Hoa.


One more comment about the status of the companies.  There was a great disparity in the resources available to the companies.   A Company had been organized and equipped as an airmobile company in an airborne division - very austere, with only minimum essential stuff.  It was the poor poverty stricken waif child of the battalion.  B and C Companies  had been organized and equipped under a different TO&E that provided much more self-sustaining equipment and even some extra comfort and convenience  items.  Also, they must have had a blank check to gather up all the stuff they wanted when getting ready to deploy.  One item that was nice to have was the rough terrain fork lift, authorized by their TOE, a piece of equipment need but not available for A Company.  One unit had a CONEX container full of bed linens - GI bed sheets, all brand new, individually wrapped in plastic, but they did not have the beds or mattresses (?).  Also heavy leather work gloves, the kind you wear when running barbed wire, bales of them all still new.  Another had seven (count ‘em, seven) AN/GRC-160 UHF radios, all new and still boxed up.  TO&E authorized one.  One of the companies had a large walk-in reefer that was being used as an office.  Maybe D company was as deprived if not more so than A Company.  They had to start from zero in country.

John Kennedy, Warrior 27, Greyhawk

John D. Kennedy (Jun '67):  Warrior,  T-Bird,  Tiger 6,  101st Avn Bn Cdr


By Joe Beach

John Kennedy's history is very accurate as it should be since he was the Battalion Commander. The 160th Group was formed on 1 July 1968 and I believe LTC(P) Ted Crozier was the Group Commander. Before this date the 101 Avn Bn had two companies, A & B. B company became the 163rd General Support Company. The 17th AHC(Kingsmen) at Camp Eagle then became B/101 Avn and the 188th AHC(Black Widows) at LZ Sally became C/101 Avn. Three gun platoons, the Black Angels from the old B/101, the Lancers from 17th AHC and the Spiders from the 188th AHC were put together to form D/101. The first CO of D/101 was Maj Ron Perry. This reorganization all occurred just before we went into the Ashau in early August of 68. There were two hook companies from the old 169th Bn that became the nucleus of the 159th Bn. 2/17 Cav had only one organic air cav troop and one attached (D/1-1)from the Americal Division. The ARA battalion began showing up in Oct-Nov 68. The first Bn Cdr of the ARA was LTC Roger Bartholomew. He was killed on 27 November 68 down south of Rockcrusher trying to take on a 51 cal with a single C model gunship. He also had the Division Artillery Commander onboard when he crashed. The 158th Avn Bn came in country much later, Mar/Apr 69 and their crews flew with us for a few weeks to get their feet on the ground. When I left country in July 1969, the 160th Group was still the 160th and Ted
Crozier was still in command.

Joe Beach
Comanchero 26


By Colonel Dennis P. Vasey

Here are my recollections. They are intended to complement John Kennedy's and are offered to demonstrate the period before the modern A/101—

When I reported as a Captain to A/101 on 1 September 1967, the division was in a normal training rotation. Serving as Post Aviation Safety Officer, I had become very attuned to the activation and closure schedule of the departure airfield control group and their Air Force counterparts. I was
also aware that most of the division aircraft were grounded for various problems and there was little emphasis being placed on improving conditions.
My assignment officer was curious about my being assigned to Campbell Army Airfield. For that matter so was I; however, when I asked the division AG, LTC Lee, about not being assigned to the division as an aircraft maintenance officer, he just said "you havenıt been back from Vietnam yet a year and the policy is to place you in a non-deployable unit for 12--18 months." In later weeks I would learn the subtle difference between a non-rated tour and rated tour in Vietnam. Colonel Lee had interpreted the assignment policy correctly; however, he failed to recognize the tour equity policy Transportation Corps had placed in effect, i.e., most of my fellow aviators were moving to a second tour or had been reassigned already. With that in mind, the AG reassigned me to A/101 as Service Platoon Commander.

MAJ Carl G. Midgett was A/101 commander; however, shortly after my arrival he left for parts unknown and I became the acting commander. MAJ Howard L. Stone had been designated as Midgettıs replacement and was scheduled to arrive in late November 1967. Little did I know that General Westmoreland had originally asked for the 101st Airborne Division (Airborne) to arrive in 1968, but because of the ominous intelligence on enemy movements he requested that they be in Vietnam by the end of 1967.

We were alerted for Vietnam deployment in early October 1967 and began the ritual of packing and POR qualification. Fortunately for A/101, the Army had mandated installation of KY-28 communication equipment in all division aircraft and a civilian contractor team, along with DACıs from Corpus Christi Army Depot, came to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to give us an aircraft condition profile inspection. We went from very low aircraft availability of less than 30-percent, to the top of the charts. In the middle of all this, we were tasked to provide six UH-1Dıs and seven air crews, two fuel tankers and up to 60 support personnel in support of flood relief operations in the vicinity of Acapulco, Mexico for an unspecified time.
All of the crews were just out of aviation training, mechanics and pilots alike! They represented a spirit of commitment to mission, a kind of bright-eyed professionalism and dedication that I remember vividly, a quality that I think is unique to Army aviation. Without any real guidance or experience to fall back on, we set up operations exactly like they had been during TAC X at Fort Rucker, Alabama, even the mistakes looked
familiar. For the operation in Mexico, I was designated Task Force Commander. I selected 1LT Hendry S. Robinson to be the Operations Officer and 1LT David C. Burch to serve as my Executive Officer. (All three of us were Transportation Corps aviators.) During our time in Mexico, we got to do everything we would finally do during our next year in Vietnam. High altitude operations, forward refueling from tanks dropped along our flight
path by an Air Force C-123 that was part of the operation, sling loads into remote places, radio relay operations, outsized internal load and medical evacuation.

While in Mexico, several non-destructive tests that were performed every five flying hours came due. We didnıt have enough dye penetrate to perform the daily tests and I began each day by downgrading the Red "X" condition to a circle Red "X." After getting nowhere with the team STRIKE Command put on the ground, I went over to the commercial aviation side of the airfield and, armed with an SF 441, purchased non-destructive services from Air Mexico. They were certified to perform the test by the Bell Tech Rep who had come along as an observer. Another problem was fuel. The Air Force wanted to fly fuel into Mexico. I decided not to do that and purchased ASTM-1 from the Mexicans. They fueled us day and night and the Mexican Government picked up the tab.
Meanwhile, back at Fort Campbell, news of my actions created quite a stir. So much so that when the helicopters returned I was sent to MacDill to brief General Dean while Lycoming factory personnel disassembled engines from the six aircraft to inspect for damage. A team from Red River Army Depot was brought in to determine whether or not the non-destructive test had been correctly performed. The verdict was that both the engines and the long control tube were found to have been properly maintained, inspected and serviced. With that out of our system, we knuckled down to the matter of deployment to Vietnam. A lesson learned at this point was that the Mexican exercise proved to be an excellent rehearsal for our tour in Vietnam.

Pilots and air crews that had remained at Fort Campbell, while the Task Force was in Mexico, participated in a joint FTX with air crews from the 82nd Airborne Division. Some of whom had recently returned from Vietnam. BG Samuel L. Kindred, a Warrant Officer at the time, said that "this was invaluable training from old hands because we were, for the most part, just out of flight school. In my case having graduated 27 September 1967. I believe that the bulk of the warrants were from the class ahead...."

MAJ Stone had assumed command and CW3 Carl Carrier and CW2 Bert Metcalf ran me through the paces of being a Maintenance Test Pilot (MTP). They took the job very seriously and before departing for Vietnam I passed my MTF check ride from a Fort Eustis, Virginia, SIP. Both Carl and Bert retired from the Army before my deployment on the advance party to the 56th Transportation Company (DS) located at Hotel 3 on Tan Son Nhut Air Base.
Assembly of our aircraft was done by civilian contractor personnel. I test flew and accepted them from the contractor. Before getting started though, I got a local area orientation and check ride out of the way. Pilots in the 56th Trans were a great bunch; but, the aircraft were ours and it was my job to keep two or three aircraft moving each day over to Bien Hoa where the division was closing. By the time I rejoined A/101 MAJ Stone was gone and MAJ Benjamin J. Mendez, Jr., had won the command slot. "Benji" was a real aggressive officer who made no bones about the fact that when he heard that a Captain was about to get command of an aviation company, he had to put in his two cents worth--after completing Command & General Staff College, I was told that MAJ Mendez was later killed in an L-20 crash.

General Kindred said "I think I was the first pilot wounded. Achieving that dubious distinction on 18 December 1967 only ten days after arrival, while on in-country orientation with the 25th Infantry Division in the vicinity of the Michelin rubber plantation."

The division was working hard relocating and getting the initial orientations out of the way. When the requirements for aircraft were submitted, every available aircraft was allocated which meant that we lost our maintenance aircraft. I appealed to MAJ Paul Wise who commanded one of the GS companies and he found an OH-23G that we used until late October 1968, when it was recalled. By that time I had completed an OH-6A transition and was a qualified instructor pilot, thanks to the mobile training team at Vung Tau.

LTC John E. McGregor was commander, 101st Aviation Battalion. He was replaced by LTC Paul B. Snyder who was replaced by LTC John D. Kennedy. When I departed, MAJ Murray E. Parker was acting commander. MAJ Alexander Balberdie, Jr., assumed command of A/101 from Ben Mendez who became the 160th Avn Gp Aircraft safety officer in July. For the most part we had great morale, however, CPT Bob Mitchell seemed to make enemies easily and was the only officer I knew whose tent was fragged with urine nightly.
At the six month point half of our crews were rotated to other units in Vietnam. Two officers who left A/101, 1LT David Burch and 1LT Gary Higbee, died as a result of enemy action, they were the only A/101 alumni, to that point, killed.
We left Fort Campbell, Kentucky with 25 UH-1D helicopters. As equipment became available to change the 101st Airborne Division into an airmobile organization we picked-up several OH-23Dıs, UH-1C/Mıs and three OH-6As.
While there were lots of opportunities for incidents and accidents, we did not have any fatalities, equipment failures, or suffer from in flight screw-upıs, aside from one aircrew flying into a tower near Hue. I managed to lose the only aircraft to hostile fire in the A Shau valley; however, although the aircraft was beyond repair, I managed to safely fly back to Camp Eagle where it was condemned to the scrap heap. Full of holes; gas poured from the many hits on the fuel tanks and other fluids were everywhere.

We finally turned the corner on the divisionıs propensity to over schedule aircraft missions. Armed with a USARV order not to fly any more than 90 percent of the assigned aircraft on any given day, we convinced the division G4 to let us manage our flying hours and in return we would support division requirements. That was a very lofty effort because at the time we only had 50 Hueyıs and six OH-6As on the books assigned to HHC,  A/101 and B/101. The Maintenance Technician, CW2 Larry E. Willer, our Platoon Sergeant, SSG David A. Hunt, and our two Technical Inspectors, SP5s Winston H. Mackey and Edgar L. Rotenberry, and the crew chiefs who all were assigned to the maintenance platoon, worked 24-hours each day, every day. They epitomized airborne esprit de corps!

We were also blessed with an administrative genius in PFC Lee Blumenthal, a draftee, who knew how to operate. A CPA, Lee pulled the operation together and made everything work. Engine availability during the year made our fleet either UH-1D or H without much notice from the supply system always noticed! In spite of frequent substitutions our maintenance teams did a superb job keeping all the bits and pieces together for the frequent changes and never got things cross threaded. My recollection of A/101 is that the people were more intelligent and professional than others I met, they thrived on our missions and they trained with a great intensity and sincerity. No job was out of the question; nor was the desire to do it correctly.

A/101 did its share of combat assaults and "ash and trash" missions. We used the 1st Aviation Brigade Standing Operating Procedures (SOP) and found that the lessons learned were very instructive. The powers that be might have wanted us to use some obscure Campbell policy; however, from what we could see operating in Vietnam was very serious business.

CPT Ronald F. Kearns, A/101 Operations Officer and I decided that if we could get copies made of their policies we could keep out of immediate danger. When I paid them a visit, MAJ George E. Day said "hell, Iıll give you a box of them." And with that he delivered a carton of freshly printed SOPs which we passed out to be memorized and put into immediate use. Following that, everything we did was done following their tried and true procedures. CPT Larry R. Wardle, Ronıs replacement, as Operations Officer continued the practice.

The 1968 Tet Offensive, considered by most historians to be the turning point in the Vietnam War involving A/101 began at 2:30 AM 31 January 1968 when Vietcong infiltrators from the C-10 Sapper Battalion forced their way into the American Embassy compound in what would become the most well known assault of the Battle for Saigon or the "Defense of Bunker's Bunker."

General Kindred said that "he might probably be the first A/101 aviator to witness the start of Tet 68. Having been shot in the foot, I could not fly and was working the night shift in the division TOC. When the ADC and all of the other "strap hangers" started pouring-in, and the usual nightly madness continued, it became evident that something significant was going on." The  division was alerted to insert elements of the 101st on the roof of the chancery to secure it. General Kindred recalled that "there was a picture of a 101st Aviation Battalion helicopter landing on the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon on the cover of Time Magazine."

The battalion continued through out the day to fly missions against the enemy who was attacking across Vietnam. More immediately, uniformed forces were marching on Bien Hoa from Zuan Loc and they were repelled by howitzer and aircraft attacks. The only casualty I am aware of at Bien Hoa was the Generals enlisted aide who had climbed on top of the water tower for a better look. During the "Battle for Saigon," Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams photographed the execution of a Vietcong lieutenant by Vietnam's National Police Chief, Nguyen Ngoc Loan. The pictured appeared on the front page of many American Newspapers and later won the Pulitzer Prize.

We flew everything and at times emptied the door guns before reaching the end of the runway environment. The attackers didnıt have a chance with Red Leg support from Concord FSB, a battery of 155ıs on our east flank, firing at point blank range into the sea of uniformed Vietcong, and the pounding by Air Force jets and helicopter gun ships. Dead bodies began at the perimeter and continued the 25 miles to Zuan Loc mountain.

Reorganization of the 101st Airborne Division (Airborne) in the Spring of 1968 as the second airmobile division and its renaming as the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) was not completed until 29 August 1969. On 1 July 1968, while NEVADA EAGLE was in progress the 101st Airborne Division changed its name to the 101st Air Cavalry Division. Shortly after that, General William C. Westmoreland turned over command of MACV to General Creighton W. Abrams.

MG Melvin Zais assumed command  of the 101st Airborne and the tactics changed within 15 minutes. Although I new of a three phased plan which involved activation of the 160th Aviation Group (later the 101st Aviation Group) and reorganization of the division, which included conversion of the Armed Cavalry Squadron to an Air Cavalry Squadron; and, finally, the activation of an Aerial Rocket Artillery Battalion was being considered, the 101st Aviation Battalion, and our operations up to that point were small potatoes which included CARENTAN II, DELAWARE/LAMSON 216 and NEVADA EAGLE which continued beyond my tour.

There was some humor during my "Rendezvous With Destiny" that didnıt get much play in the media. Seems as though MG Barsanti decided to make an example of a new lieutenant (LT) who kept getting things fouled up. Barsanti either threatened to jail the LT in a CONEX at division headquarters or he had placed him under arrest and the LT was in fact being held under arrest in the CONEX. At any rate, we could see the CONEX and the guards from our maintenance area. The LTıs father was on the USS Missouri and the battleship was under the operational control of XXIV Corps just off shore.

General Barsanti brushed the father off and not long after that a CH-46 landed in my maintenance area with several  Navy Seals. The team leader asked for permission to use our pad for a staging operation, which we granted. The Seals moved out and within an hour the CH-46 was put in action against the CONEX. We got a good look at the VIP departure which went off without a hitch. Apparently the LT  was reunited with his father aboard the USS Missouri as a liaison officer.

Whether he was in the CONEX or in a guarded tent isn't clear. What is clear is that the CONEX left without a shot being fired.
Dennis P. Vasey
 http://www.naples.net/~nfn00215  Home Page of Duke Vasey with lots of information on it

İ The photos and written material on this web site may not be published or used for any other use, other than viewing on this site, without written permission from the Webmaster and the contributor. All photos and written material remain the personal property of this web site and it’s contributors.


DISCLAIMER: Items used on This Web Page are drawn from sources all over the WWW, including FTP sites. Some images have been scanned from books and magazines. If information is  known about the originator a credit is placed near that item, otherwise if you are the author or photographer and do not want it shown or listed, please advise it and me will be removed. None of these items are being sold. No copyright infringement is intended.

Copyright İ 1998-2003 A/101 AVN. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/01/07.

Home 101st Aviation Battalion History A trip to FSB Rockpile Richmond BBQ Deer BOOM BOOM The Boot Bug Eater CCN 1970 The Counter Terrorist Raid Cyclic Climbs and Airbursts Miss America and Dan Feezell FLY DELTA’S BIG JETS Hideout Hog The Hand A/101 and Hamburger Hill The Hog A Hot Extraction Kosovo Trip After Action Report Jump Over to the Other Side Just say it was the Comancheros Raid on the Danang Deep Water Pier The Long Journey Home LZ LOLO, Lam Son 719 LZ LOLO 03 Mar 1971 Recollections of Lam Son 719 Pilots I flew with A Reading from the First Book of Rucker Night Mission and Milo's Tower Summary of September 14, 1970 CCN mission UFO SOG HALO Extraction The Spring of 69 was an exciting time to be a Coma-Coma-Comanchero Stormy Weather VI TANH 1965 Weird Harold Aviation songs that were sung by Crewmen Poems submitted by Veterans