On 7 June 1963 the 118th Aviation
Company(AML) was constituted in the Regular Army by AGAO-O (23
Jul 63). Then, on 25 June 1963, General Order 236, HQ, US Army,
Pacific, activated the 118th Aviation Company (AML) as one of
the two helicopter units comprising the 145th Aviation Battalion(the
other being the UTT).
Rising like a phoenix from
the deactivated 33rd Transportation Company(Light Helicopter)
which had arrived in Vietnam during the autumn of 1962 aboard
the USNS Croatan from Ft. Ord, CA, the 118th "Thunderbirds"
immediately began to typify their motto...."IT SHALL BE DONE".
Fully operational as an assault
helicopter company in July 1963, the Thunderbirds chalked up an
impressive record of combat assaults during their first month
of operation, without the benefit of an armed helicopter platoon.
Flying dual rotor CH-21's, the pilots and crews had to resort
to the use of personal sidearms when assaulting a hostile LZ.
One of the Thunderbirds' first confirmed Viet Cong kills was reported
to have been when a door gunner shot from the aircraft's landing
gear with his pistol.
With the replacement of the
CH-21 with the UH-1B helicopter in Sep 1963, the armed 3rd Platoon
"Bandits" was created. During Nov 1963, the Bandits
were credited with more than 150 enemy kills, a record not surpassed
until the large build-up of American troops in 1965.
Organized for heliborne operations
over the myriad terrain features of the III Corps area, the 118th
was the model for the assault helicopter unit concept that would
follow in another two years. The Thunderbirds were so highly regarded
by the commanders of other helicopter units that they were constantly
training crew members of the new units that began pouring into
Known as the"First of
the Assault Helicopter Companies", the 118th actively participated
in every major battle and operation in III Corps, distinguishing
itself in the early years in the Battle of Dong Xoai, Operations
Attleboro, Cedar Falls, and Junction City.
The measure of a helicopter
unit, like the measure of any fighting group, is in the measure
of its fighting men. Among the greatest claims of the Thunderbirds
and their reputation as a fighting unit was they were the first
to arrive and the last to leave because....."IT SHALL BE
Finally, after serving in
the Republic of Vietnam beginning 17 Sept 1962 the 118th Assault
Helicopter Company was inactivated on 31 Aug 1971 by USARPAC General
Order 458, dtd 25 Aug 71. The Thunderbirds had served in combat
with great honor and distinction for almost 9 years! (The 118th
was re-activated again on 21 Dec 1972 in Hawaii)
(Copied primarily from "First
in Vietnam--A Pictorial History of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion"
published by the Battalion Information Office, 1966-67, Dai Nippon
Printing Co., LTD, Tokyo, Japan)
This page has a complete list of
Unit Awards and Citations that the 118th Assault Helicopter Company
received during almost 9 years in Vietnam. It also offers links
to full explanations about the various awards.
A listing of pilots,
crew members and enlisted men who died serving the United States
of America while in the 33rd Transportation Company and the 118th
AHC throughout the almost 9 year period of time in Vietnam.
More than 35 years after the 118th
Thunderbirds left Vietnam, several aircraft have appeared around
the United States that were originally flown in Vietnam in the
Mini", a Bandit gunship,
has been reconfigured in Pennsylvania and is used in parades
6" a restored UH-1D/H,
66-16236, is in North Carolina at a VFW Post.
68-15369 is a former Thunderbird in Belle Plaines, MN that
is on display in the town's Veterans' Park.
69-15022 , unhappily, was up for auction on E-bay as a "gutted
65-09506, a UH-1C aka "Bandit 7",
has been found at China Lake Naval Weapons Test Center where
she has been used as a target for missile testing !!
2" , a UH-1B with serial
no. 62-2084 has been restored to flyable condition by the Wings
and Rotors Air Museum at Murrieta, CA.
7" returned to the States
and was ultimately used for target practice at China Lake Naval
Weapons Test Center in California.
65-10126 is a UH1-D/H that was last assigned to the 118th
AHC in 69-70 and is now in the National Air & Space facility
at Dulles Int'l Airport near Wash. D.C.
68-15543 was in
the 118th AHC Thunderbirds for only about 3 months after being
in the 68th AHC "Top Tigers" for 15 months. She then
spent 7 months with Naval Reseach at the Univ. of Michigan before
being sent to Germany as a Medivac with the 421st Med Co. for
4 full years. She was recently found on display at the American
Legion Post # 139 in Milford, PA.
63-08739 was not actually a 118th Avn Co. (AML) aircraft but
it is sitting at VFW Post 7991 in Dunnellon, FL. However, the
UH-1D is painted in Thunderbird 2nd Platoon colors and is dedicated
to those KIA/BNR at Dong Xoai in 1965.
If anyone knows of other aircraft
that have been "resurrected", please notify the Webmaster.
The story of Civic Action was never
fully told by the U.S. media or the world media. Civic Action
was an integral part of the life of being a member of the 33rd
and the 118th. The Civic Action story MUST BE TOLD!