118th Assault Helicopter Company

(AHC)

 

THE LATER YEARS

The redesignation of the 118th Aviation Company, Air Mobile Light (AML) to Assault Helicopter Company, took place on 1 December, 1965. As of yet, the official GO has not been found ordering the change. However, there seems to have been no major change in the TO & E. The new designation, Assault Helicopter Company, remained until the 118th transferred all its assets to the VNAF 231st Helicopter Squadron on 31 March 1971. The 118th then stood-down and returned to Hawaii.

The 118th already had the UH-1B for all platoons, including the "Bandits". Then, beginning in early 1966, new UH-1C and UH-1D model helicopters began to arrive replacing the UH-1B's. By August of 1966, there were no B Models left in the 118th. The 1st and 2nd Flight Platoons had UH-1D's and the 3rd Flight Platoon, "Bandits" had UH-1C's.

 

A great panoramic photo showing the 118th Thunderbirds doing an insertion of
173rd Abn troops near Tan Uyen, just about 10 miles north of Bien Hoa. According to Tommy Thornton,
"this was a 145th CAB operation on May 4, 1966 taking the 173rd Airborne Bde in north of Tan Uyen.
Our company (118th) made 7 lifts that day. We extracted the 173rd on May 6. Our flight
had 3 aircraft hit, Top Tiger 6 ( MAJ. Honneycutt) was hit in the leg, and a 197th AWC
pilot was hit in the shoulder on the extraction."
This area was also near the site of the Leper Colony.(66)
(Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)

 


"Old Bird Cage"

View of "Old Bird Cage" on final approach(Approx. 330 degrees) during monsoon season (Mar-May 66). This was originally a short runway (15-33) of the Bien Hoa Air Base. There were lots of "pot-holes" and it had been oiled for paving with patches of old PSP. Large tall, two-bay hanger on right is where 573rd Maint. Det. was set-up. "Thunderbird" Operations was short building on left at end of parked "Hueys". Note sand filled canisters for "L" revetments. Picture taken from UH-1D as indicated by FM homing antenna. It belonged to the 2nd Flight Platoon.
(Photo courtesy Tom Baca)
 
 

The Bird Cage

A low-level view of the 118th "Bird Cage" looking generally to the NW. The road in foreground
is the Bien Hoa Air base perimeter road showing a right turn after passing the old French
"pill box". The Bandit area is the first area after turning right and the lift platoons are in
two rows on the far right.(67)
(Photo courtesy Richard Little)
 
 
 
The old French "pill box" at the entrance to the Thunderbird "Bird Cage"(67)
(Photo courtesy James Morgan)
 
 

 
 
Photo from Bandit aircraft approaching the Bird Cage for an over-head break to land.
Note the mud puddles between the 1st Plt and 2nd Plt. areas and the Bandit area at the
bottom. In this photo, the new Spartan Heliport was not yet being constructed. (66)
(Photo courtesy Carl Garrett)
 

Thunderbirds--Form-up!

Interesting photo taken from Bandit 2 showing the Thunderbirds
forming-up within the "Bird Cage" for departure.(67)
(Photo courtesy Richard Little)
 

REVETMENTS

A major change to the "Old Bird Cage" area, which was an extra wide and short old runway, was the construction of revetments for all aircraft. Up to that time, revetments, when there were any, were very crude. Much of the real protection was provided by dispersing the aircraft far apart. The construction of new revetments allowed the aircraft to be parked much closer together. The newer revetments allowed all UH-1D's to be parked in 5 feet tall, "L" shaped metal canister revetments filled with sand. It is unknown just what had been in the metal canisters or from where they had come. The "Bandits" parked their UH-1C's in "L" shaped revetments in the "Bandit" area, but they were made from 55 gallon drums full of sand and sand bags.

Typical sand bag revetments in Bird Cage in early 1966.
Note maintenance hanger in background.
(Photo courtesy Richard H. Stevens)
 
 
 
"Shit Platoon" memorial plaque says, "in honor of all those sandbagger(s) who shoveled away
their lives for the Dinks" Apparently, this was to fill the metal canisters (behind the plaque)
used to construct the new helicopter revetments at the Old Bird Cage.(Dec 66)
(Photo courtesy Willis Long)
 
 
Terry Wade of 573rd Maintenace Det. holding same sign--66
(Photo courtesy L.E. Golden)
 

1966-67

 

 

 

118th Thunderbird's Flight Operations
at the "Bird Cage"(66)
(Photo courtesy Charles Milan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bailey Compound and
the 118th Company street.
Orderly Room is at right with
CO's jeep sitting in front.(67)
(Photo courtesy Bill Langan)

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
The 118th Orderly Room from what
appears to be the back door. (Nov 67)
(Photo courtesy Willis Long)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Richard P. Bubar Day Room of
the 118th Thunderbirds. Named in
honor of Richard Perley Bubar who
was killed in the rocket and mortar
attack on Bien Hoa Air base shortly
after mid-night Nov. 1, 1964.
(Photo courtesy David Vandenburg)

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
The old Enlisted barracks on the Bien
Hoa airfield near the Control Tower.
These buildings were vacated and
turned over to the Vietnamese and
had been home for several years. The
Enlisted men were forced to live
in tents for several months until
the new two story barracks were
finished on Bailey Compound.(66)
(Photo courtesy Richard Little)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
"Home Sweet Home" for the Enlisted
men of the 118th in the barracks above.
Accommodations were wonderfully
appointed with screens, cement floors,
footlockers and wall lockers.(66)
(Photo courtesy Richard Little)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The "Tent City" where the EM lived as the
new 118th barracks were being built in Jan 67.
(Photo courtesy Willis Long)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The new 118th and 573rd barracks
being built in Jan 67.
(Photo courtesy Willis Long)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


"New Bird Cage"

© Copyright--JEAN AKER

New 145th CAB heliport and parking areas. Looking to the NW from Spartan Tower
which stood about 80 feet above the tarmac and red Vietnam soil. Note the tall and
long 573rd Maint hanger for the 118th AHC in the right far distance and right of
the water tower. The 118th "Bird Cage" was this side of that hanger stretching
to the left. (Photo courtesy Jean Aker, a Spartan Tower controller in 1968)
Note: See more of Jean's great photos from atop Spartan Tower and of
Bien Hoa, follow this LINK!
 
 
 
 
Another view of Spartan heliport and the "New Bird Cage"
as seen on short final landing to the N.(69)
(Photo courtesy Bob Rich)
 

Close-up view of Spartan Tower by Dale Moore in Red Bird 3
on take-off from Lane 4 on a 33 departure(69)
(Photo courtesy Dale Moore)


1968

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
118th Headquarters and Orderly Room(68).
(Photo from "145th Combat
Aviation Battalion";
Pictorial History, Vol. II)

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
118th Thunderbird Operations crew
in 1968. (Photo from "145th
Combat Aviation Battalion";
Pictorial History, Vol. II)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

118th Thunderbird Supply Section
in 1968 (Photo from "145th
Combat Aviation Battalion";
Pictorial History, Vol. II)

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
118th Thunderbird Mess Hall crew(68).
Photo from "145th Combat Aviation
Battalion" ; Pictorial History, Vol. II)

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
118th Thunderbird Motor Pool (68)
Photo from "145th Combat Aviation
Battalion"; Pictorial History, Vol. II)
Standing third from left is
Michael "Butch" Hall.
Typical Combat Assault in the wet season
prior to rice planting.
Probably 9th Div. (67)
(Photo courtesy Lanny Hansen)

 

Honor Smith Compound, Home of the 145th CAB
units including the 118th Thunderbirds.(70)
(Photo courtesy Tom Morely)

 

On approach to Ham Tan. (70)
(Photo courtesy Rock Lyons)
 
Interesting view of Thunderbird approach to Ham Tan on the
coast of the South China Sea. (70)
(Photo courtesy Rock Lyons)
 
 


"SMOKE SHIPS"

An interesting photo of "Pollution IV" running the smoke device at 2000' +
AGL! Obviously too, it is the wet rainy season. Dave "Killer" Evans remembers..."That could very well have been a mission I was on.
As it turned out, Thunderbird 6 decided that Pollution IV would not need to smoke the LZ and as it turned out, the LZ was "cold"!
However, Pollution IV was scheduled to go into the hanger for maintenance when we returned after the day's mission and the "Fog Oil"
tank had to be enpty. So....we pumped the tank empty at altitude enroute home! The bad part of this was that as part of the crew,
and after each time we used smoke, we all had to pitch in and scrub down the tail boom as soon as we got back to the
Bird Cage. It was a very unhappy chore for all of us. Plus, we didn't get to smoke anyone that day!!"(68)
(Photo courtesy Jim Thorne)

An innovation that came out of the "Air Mobile Concept" in Vietnam was the "Smoke Ship". Spawned by the need to protect the aircraft and crews from Viet Cong small arms fire, the idea of using smoke to obstruct the vision of the VC gunners as they lay-in-wait was a battle tried technique dating back to WW I and perhaps prior.

The predominate terrain in the southern provinces of Vietnam and along the sea coasts was open with canals and rice paddies. These terrain features had been "man made" over hundreds and perhaps thousands of years for transportation and agricultural purposes. They afforded the VC with ready made dikes and tree lines in which to remain hidden from observation. Thus, the simplest way to foil their effective fire was to obstruct their vision.

Sometime in 1964-65, the "Smoke Ship" was first employed by the 145th CAB; the first CAB to fly smoke ship missions in Vietnam. In 1966, the 145th CAB "Pathfinder" detachment flew and maintained the UH-1B "Smoke Ship". In 1966 it was usually flown by the Pathfinder Detachment CO, CPT Homer Hudson. Other 145th CAB officers were co-pilots for the craft.

 

145th Battalion Smoke Ship

   

 

Photos showing the 145th Battalion "Smoke Ship" flown
by Homer Hudson, Commander of the Pathfinder
Detachment as it sets up a smoke screen between
the village and the LZ. (67)
(Photos courtesy Richard Little)
 
Another great photo of the 145th Battalion "Smoke Ship" flown by CPT Homer Hudson
doing a treeline before the Thunderbird flight lands.(66-67)
(Photo courtesy Charles Milan)
 


"POLLUTION IV"

In 1968 the 118th Assault Helicopter Company was able to acquire an extra UH-1H for the use as a "Smoke Ship". Adding tanks to the cargo area and pumps to transfer the "fuel" to the ring of nozzles encircling the turbine exhaust, the "Smoke Ship" and its dedicated crew carried out low-level missions designed to obstruct the vision of the VC anytime a Platoon or Company sized flight was used to insert or extract combat troops. The crew of the "Smoke Ship" was highly dedicated and could be classed as definitely "daredevil" like.

Leading the flight of troop carriers by a minute or so, smoke ship would swoop down to low level, on top of the rice paddies, and fly parallel to the tree line, Nippa Palm line or dike line trailing a dense wall of white puffy smoke. The flight of troop carriers would then land with the smoke providing a "wall" of smoke between them and the suspected VC. Assuming the wind was not too high, the technique was very effective and the smoke stayed close to the ground for 4-5 minutes. But, the maneuver was highly dangerous for the crews of the "Smoke Ship". However, the very aggressive crew of the smoke ship thrived on it, to hear them tell it!

"Pollution IV" the 118th "Smoke Ship" in 1969 with its Gunner
SP4 Brian Willard (aka "Wizard") Note the tank and hoses under the seat
and the removed Pilot doors. Also note the troops beyond the helicopter.
If this is "Pollution IV" what happened to Pollution I, II and III?
(Photo courtesy Dave Norton)
 
 
 

 

ARVN LZ in the jungle.
Note height of trees.(68)
(Photo courtesy Dave Evans)

 

Pollution IV crossing below the flight.
See rotor disc slightly above skid!(68)
(Photo courtesy Dave Evans)

 

Pollution IV Crewmembers at Bien Hoa (Nov 68)
(Courtesy Dave "Scottie" Henderson)
 

 

Pollution IV at work on combat assault in 1968
(Courtesy Dave "Scottie" Henderson)
 
 
 
 

Today

Brian Willard, aka "Wizard" shown with one of the curators
of the Vertical Flight Collection at the Smithsonian's
National Air & Space Museum, Dulles Facility.
Brian donated his helmet, scarf and a photo for
display at the facility.(below their hands)
(Photo courtesy Brian Willard)
 
 
Close-up of Brian Willard's helmet, scarf and photo at Vertical Flight
Collection of the National Air & Space Museum facility at Dulles
(Photo courtesy Brian Willard)
 
 

Remembrance of Dave Norton

" Pollution IV" was Blue 4, renamed. I think it was set up for smoke within 6 months prior to my arrival (Aug. 1968), because I think the original AC still flew it for quite awhile after I started flying. They also only used certain peter pilots. It had a heavy crew. That is, it had a regular crew of AC,Pilot, crew chief, and 2 gunners. The #1 gunner mostly took care of the guns and the #2 gunner took care of the oil tank and cleaning up the oily tail boom. Because they were in harms way a lot, they used two gunners on the hot side; sometimes, all three on one side. The only official duty for them was to smoke the LZ. So, they went looking for trouble between lifts. That's what made "Pollution IV" the ship of choice to fly on if you had it in you to get in harms way. They got a pretty fair body count. The AC called it "the hunt" when they were out looking for VC. Once, they even slipped into Cambodia a few times and once went low level right over a major base camp. They just made a big circle and came across again shooting. The AC got chewed out by the CO for that one. Sometime in early 69 they traded a mini gun for a fifty cal. and set it up with a big rubber cushioned mount for it. It was used for shooting-up bunkers and sampans that the VC had sunk to hide from the ground troops. It was pretty effective."

Remembrance of Bruce Plumb
 Bruce Plumb, a Crew-Chief remembers that, "Also, pollution 4 ate many tail booms from oil eating up rivets and hard points. Also, we had to keep a special eye on the transmission cooler because of the oil. The .50 cal had to have special padding under the mount, and even with that there was cracking of airframe at door openings.

Interesting photo of combat assault by 118th using a smoke ship in
the area of Xuan Loc. Photo provided by John Peeff who was an
Advisor with the 18th ARVN Div. (68)
(Photo courtesy John Peeff)
 

Remembrance of WO Bob Wrinkle who flew Pollution IV

 In April 1968, when I made PIC, I was honored, along with another WO in the 1st Platoon with the assignment of one of the first 2 H-models to arrive in the company. That day I got to paint it with a red strip and big white 7 at the base of the vertical fin. (SP5 Bruce Plumb contends that the first H-model was his ship, Red 2) By summer I was asked to ‘volunteer’ to fly Pollution IV for First Platoon which was one of the next 4 H models to arrive. Two of these H models were fitted with smoke equipment that worked, their tail numbers were IV and VIII. The Second Platoon flew VIII when 2nd Platoon flew lead and I flew IV when 1st Platoon flew lead. Generally every other day was our ‘pigs and rice” missions. One of my three gunners was nicknamed “Killer” (David Evans) a lad of 130 lbs, about 5’5’’ and big glasses. A strange 19 year old but could place a tracer round in the top of a palm tree or the center of a bomb crater puddle from 2000’. I won money on him doing that several times. He could fix any M-60 problem that came up and I saw him drop several VC coming out of a tree line on a smoke run. No nude pictures on his wall just guns and ammo pictures.

WO1 John Robert Wrinkle, 118th AHC from 15 Feb 1968 to 12 Feb 1969
 
Bob Wrinkle
LTC,USA (Ret)

Two photos taken from within Thunderbird formation flights showing
Pollution IV doing its "thing"!(69)
(Photos courtesy Bob Rich)

 

A 118th pilot, Robert Konopka, remembers

 The way that pollution IV got the 50 cal. was CPT Chapman, XO of the Thunderbirds, asked me to see if I could "acquire" a 50 cal. that would be mounted on the smoke ship. He had tried to have supply requisition one through the supply channels with no luck since we were not authorized one. I got busy and traded a couple of VC flags for a couple of air-conditioners which where then traded for a 50 cal. machine gun. You should have seen the XO's eyes when I came walking into the HQ with a 50 cal. over my shoulder. It worked quite well on Pollution IV and was very effective on bunkers and sampans.

 
 
"Pollution IV" as seen from above. The high speed low-level pass is just
beginning and prior to smoke being placed along the dike and tree line
in advance of the lift ships sitting down with their troops. (1969)
(Photo courtesy Dave Norton)
 
 
 

Personal remembrance of Dale Moore, Pilot in 118th from 1968-70.

"I flew on the smoke ship a few times. It was a "Red tail," I think. Even though we had "Star 5" and "Rainbow 6" as special named aircraft, the 2nd platoon as, I remember, had Pollution 4 (I was in first platoon.) Yes, In 1969 it was fitted with a 50 cal. out the left door."

"It was an exciting ride to say the least. The 50 cal. hammering out the left side and smoke oil spraying into the hot exhaust. What more could a young crazy pilot ask for?"

"The 50 cal. was mounted with rubber padding and wood to absorb the shock while firing. It didn't work! The deck it was attached to was being voided(hollowed or separated) badly and the aircraft was sent back to the states for rebuild sometime in 1969."

"While I was still in Vietnam, I received a letter from a guy that I had known that had been a crew-chief with the 190th Spartans in 1968. He was at that time stationed at Fort Benning,GA."

"He wrote to me that they had received a rebuilt Huey and that he could see under the over sprayed paint the outline of the tail flash of a four and knew it had been in the 118th. He asked me if I could explain all of the patches that the aircraft had! I wrote him back that it was probably our old smoke ship."

Dale Moore
Thunderbird 13
1968/1970

 
 
 
A better picture of "Pollution IV" laying smoke prior to lift ships
touching down with combat troops.
(Photo courtesy Dave Norton)
 
 
Great photo showing the "Pollution IV" laying down smoke to mask the jungle beside an
LZ which was NE of Bien Hoa in the vicinity of Dinh Quan(City of Rocks) area.(69)
(Photo courtesy Joe Lemieux)
 

View from inside Pollution IV at low level
and 90 Knots!! (68)
(Photo courtesy Dave "Killer" Evans)

 

Look very closely, in the center of the photo and
just to the right of the smoke,......Ten Thunderbird
slicks on the ground as Pollution IV makes
a pass! Also, check the bomb craters, possibly
from an Arc Light (B-52) strike.(68)
(Photo courtesy Dave "Killer" Evans)
 
 
 
Interesting photo from altitude of "Pollution IV" as
it shields from view from river line and houses
along the river. Note also the artillery prep and WP
or smoke rounds in wooded area to the
right.(69)
(Photo courtesy Robert Springer)
 

 
 
Note: If you flew any of the smoke ships, have pictures or know anything about them
and their crews, please contact the Webmaster