18th 54th 18th CAC Aviation Association
1 January 1964 – 31 December 1964
Prepared by WO-1 Norman C. Baker
18th Aviation Company
Approved by Raymond E. Dickens
UNITED STATES ARMY SUPPORT COMMAND, VIETNAM
APO U.S. FORCES 96307
The year 1964 proved to be, by far, the best year of its existence for the 18th Aviation Company. The company rounded out its third year of assignment in Vietnam with a sharp increase in cargo and passenger totals.
While air hours and sorties flown increased over 1963 by only 5% and 3% respectively, passenger miles were up 17% and cargo tons hauled were up a gigantic 84%. This indicates better utilization both on the part of the unit and the people we support.
For the safety record, major accidents decreased by 33% from 1963. There was, however, a substantial increase in minor accidents and incidents. It is believed that this is the result of a sharp rise in the number of new aviators being assigned to the unit. Over 75% of the company’s aviators assigned in 1964 have come directly from flight training.
Combat damage decreased in 1964 with only four injuries and no loss of life as occurred in 1963. This is the result of constant development of combat flying techniques by the old hands and their utilization by the newer ones.
Change of Command
Major Harlan W. Lohmann (formerly Capt Lohmann who brought the augmented platoon from Fort Ord on 16 June 1963, and who was promoted 17 December 1963) took command of the unit on 14 January 1964, relieving Major Roy L. Miller, who was rotating to the 11th Air Assault Division located at Fort Benning. For the past 5 months, 85% of the aviators in the unit were receiving their PCS orders to this newly formed test division. General feeling among them was that this was another hardship tor and the housing situation was reported poor. Letters from former members of the 18th verified this thinking and adversely affected the morale of the unit.
On 11 January 1964, a third major unit party was conducted in honor of the departing Commander and for the promotion of nine unit officers; 1 Major, 4 Captains, and 4 1st Lt’s. The cost was prorated among them so no one contributed a great deal of money. A highly enjoyable time was judiciously closed down by 2300 hours and the Grand Hotel cleanup crew took over. No adverse incidents occurred and a high representation from all outlying detachments was present.
The unit received four Warrant Officers fresh from the first fixed wing Warrant Officers candidate class. This caused some concern since they hadn’t been through the Otter transition course. Two additional un-transitioned pilots came to the 18th from the 73rd Aviation Company in Nha Trang. This represented 150 training hours to be obtained from any available aircraft. The Corps were quite helpful in this respect and the unit made the most of the Vietnamese TET holiday when the VNAF training aircraft were grounded. During the work week the VNAF aircraft monopolized the traffic pattern and the 18th had to squeeze in during their break and lunch time.
Captain William Walker took over as the new club officer. The club underwent considerable change and two extra freezers, a complete kitchen and piped in music were added. The music was due to the generosity of Captain Richard Quigley and his Akai tape recorder. With a new ceiling installed and arrangements made for a tile floor, the Cockpit Club was rapidly receiving recognition as Nha Trang’s number one club.
The old wire screen was deteriorating on all buildings and Support Group provided all units with new nylon screen which was replaced during the month. The mess hall installed gas stoves and coffee urns, and initiated a Sunday brunch from 0900 to 1200.
For the first time since arriving in Vietnam the Otters were weighted. The results were not surprising, since all figured they had put on a little weight with additional age. They averaged 6200 pounds with full fuel tank.
Two aircraft were moved from the Saigon platoon to Can Tho to be used in support of IV Corps. This move was affected on 24 February 1964.
Major Lohmann presented the following officers and EM with the awards indicated: Captain James Merchant, purple heart and air medal; Captain Clinton Cobb, Captain Nazarenus and SP/4 Brown the air medal.
The month of March saw many changes in the unit, both in personnel and in the Company Area.
The unit received ten Warrant Officers fresh from the transition course at Fort Ord. There were a lot of smiling faces around the unit for these were the replacements for many of the aviators leaving later in the month. Nine old timers left on the 29th of March and a tenth left on the 31st. Most of them were bound for the 11th Air Assault Division.
The unit area took on a new look. The new arms room was completed and the outside of the club and orderly room were brightened by the addition of bright green trim. The operations building also underwent some internal renovation.
The aircraft based at Ban Me Thuot was moved to Qui Nhon, still in support of II Corps. Another aircraft was moved from Saigon to Can Tho in support of IV Corps.
On 23 March the unit received a fifteen foot fiberglass boat from Special Services. The boat was shipped from Saigon to Nha Trang by LST and was a welcome addition to the Nha Trang recreational facilities.
On 1 April, Lt Gen Harold K. Johnson presented the air medal to five Officers and five EM. They were Captain Bailey, Captain Conarton, Captain McInerney, Lt McEwan, and Lt Nelson. The EM were SP/5 Cuppett, SP/5 Ordiway, SP/4 Noel, SP/4 Givens, and SP/4 Ferguson.
Major Ralph D. Irvin, who is to succeed Major Lohmann, arrived in Vietnam on 11 April. Major Irvin spent the remainder of the month learning the disposition of the company from Major Lohmann. The unit also received four commissioned officers from the transition course at Fort Ord, and three new Warrant Officers who had not been transitioned into the Otter.
On 27 April, Captain Bailey, the unit Executive Officer, gave a briefing to Lt Gen James K. Woolnough and Brig Gen Joseph Stilwell on the operation of the 18th Aviation Company in Vietnam. Later in the day Gen Woolnough presented the following awards to the personnel indicated: Captain Bernard McInerney, third Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal; Captain Michael Conarton, fourth Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal; Lt Charles Sexton, Air Medal with first thru sixth Oak Leaf Clusters; and Lt Marvin Cox, Air Medal with first Oak Leaf Cluster.
On 29 April the unit stood an IG Inspection, conducted by an inspection team from Okinawa. The results were not immediately known, but it was suspected the unit achieved a very high score considering the comments of the inspectors.
May arrived amid preparations for the forthcoming change of command ceremonies and forth major company party. Requests had been sent through channels to all Corps, requesting that the Otter and crews be released for one weekend in order to have a full company formation. Except for emergency details, the entire company stood tall on the 9th of May to bid farewell to Major Lohmann.
Change of Command
“Spike” Lohmann turned his command over to Major Ralph D. Irvin, who came to Vietnam from the Dept of Advanced Fixed Wing Training at Fort Rucker. Following Major Irvin’s short acceptance speech, Major Lohmann unveiled a plaque dedicated to the five officers and EM who had died while serving their country in the Republic of Vietnam. The men honored were: Captain Curtis J. Steckbauer, Captain Clarance L. Moore, 2nd Lt Louis A. Carricarte, SP/5 Michael P. Martin, Jr. and PFC Duane E. Limberg.
Formal ceremonies were followed by an afternoon of picnic, sports, including sack racing and a tug of war. Cold beer and soft drinks were served throughout the afternoon and the day was terminated with a dinner party at the Grand Hotel in Nha Trang.
Major Lohmann departed for his new station at the Presidio of San Francisco, and Major Irvin grasped the reins of leadership of the 18th. A plan was affected to stabilize officers at one location to simplify the Efficiency Report system. Major Irvin departed for the delta to visit the First Platoon located at Saigon and Can Tho.
May’s command changes weren’t restricted to the 18th Aviation Company. A new Aviation Battalion Headquarters was organized at Vung Tau. With the organization of this new unit, called the Aviation Support Battalion (Provisional), the 18th shifted from the control of Support Command to fall under control of the new Battalion.
Change of Command
The 18th had to pay the price for having a rotary wing rated commander. Major Irvin’s command was less than three weeks old when he received word that he was leaving the 18th to take over the Utility Tactical Transport Company, the armed UH-1Bs. At the same time the 18th was promised a new Major at some at some future date. There was nothing future about Major Irvin’s transfer though; on 9 June he left the 18th in the hands of his Executive Officer, Captain Harold M. Bailey.
The rapid change of command posed no hardship on the 18th because Captain Bailey was a capable man and an “Old Timer” with the Otter Company. In fact he was such an old timer he was due to rotate stateside before the end of June. As the month wore on; it looked like Captain Richard Quigley, who had moved from the Operations Officer to be Captain Bailey’s Executive Officer, would be the next Commanding Officer.
Change of Command
On 23 June Captain Quigley did take command of the Company and Captain Jewel White, former Administrative Officer, became the Executive Officer. Now the 18th was beginning to feel the strain. Replacements who had been slated for the 18th were drained off into helicopter units in Vietnam. Meanwhile the steady march of the homeward bound was taking its toll. With the loss of Captain Bailey, the unit’s officer strength was down to eighty percent. The close of the month found the 18thgiving its customary reliable support to all four Corps areas with all pilots at or near the ninety hour mark.
In the Delta one of the ships was hit by ground fire, causing slight injury to the pilot, Lt John Bachmann and the copilot, WO Carl Vanderpool. An armor piercing round came through the rear of the pilots compartment and penetrated all but the last layer of Lt Bachmann’s flack vest, while metal fragments caused lacerations on Vanderpool’s right arm. Both men are now firm advocates of the wearing of flack vests.
July began with what was now a familiar problem. Captain Quigley and Captain White were both due to leave for the states before the end of the month. The next senior man was the Saigon Platoon Commander, Captain Marco Torres, and he was also looking forward to rotation on 1 August.
The situation had to ease and it did with the announcement from the Aviation Support Command that the 18th’s new major was on his way, and several other replacement officers were close on his heels.
Major Raymond E. Dickens arrived at the 18th in mid July. His former assignment had been with the 145th Aviation Battalion in Saigon, and though he had considerable aviation experience, he had never had the opportunity to get an Otter check out.
Change of Command
On 21 July Major Dickens took command from Captain Quigley and set about running the company and learning to fly the Otter. At the same time two Lieutenants and three Captains reported to the company for duty. Captain Frank Harbor, formerly from Fort Benning, assumed command of the Second Platoon and departed Nha Trang for his new home in Pleiku. The other two captains, Wilfred Wittekind and Thomas Tyler were already well known to most of the 18th. They came from the 17th Aviation Company, the Otter company at Fort Ord, where the majority of the new pilots enroute to the 18th received their Otter transition. Captain Tyler filled the Executive Officer’s slot and Captain Whttekind went to Saigon to take over from Captain Torres.
The 18th Aviation Company, which was settling down after four rapid changes of command, was a far cry from the original company that came to Vietnam in early 1962. The old company was well stocked with senior aviators and years of experience preceded their trip to Vietnam. Now in their place were Lieutenants and new Warrant Officers fresh from flight school, who with the advice of their predecessors as a foundation, set about gaining their experience from the operations in Vietnam.
The primary factors affecting the 18th’s operations during August were the weather and the Vietnamese political situation.
The weather was poor throughout the country as the typhoon season approached. Most of the tropical storms pass through the area just north of Da Nang, but the backlash of these storms was felt clear down in Saigon. The coastline remained clear, but the inland region from Hue to Ban Me Thout experienced ceilings of the 500 to 1000 foot variety. Saigon and the delta had their share of low visibility flying due to heavy thunderstorm activity.
At the same time, political unrest in the form of anti-government student demonstrations kept American personnel restricted to their job areas and quarters for the greater part of the month.
The overall effect of these two outside influences on the 18th Aviation Company was fewer flying hours and a slight reduction in morale due to the heavy restriction on movement. On the brighter side; replacements continued to arrive, and seven new aviators were added to the roster. For the first time in three months the 18th was up to assigned strength.
September weather continued poor. On the 15th of the month typhoon “Tilda” moved directly across Da Nang. Although precautions were taken, one Otter was nearly blown loose from its tie-downs and another suffered heavy damage to the horizontal stabilizer. As a result of this damage, the Da Nang section was reduced to two flyable aircraft. A temporary replacement aircraft was ferried from Nha Trang to Da Nang to help carry the work load.
A major redistribution of the Otter aircraft also took place in September in response to a MACV directive; more aircraft were given to the southern areas. This resulted in the reduction of the number of aircraft available at Company Headquarters in Nha Trang, but few flight operations originate from there. The resulting personnel shifts made for some cramped living conditions down south, but there is hope for an early remedy to the situation.
With these changes came additional changes at the command level. Two new Captains arrived and both were assigned to Nha Trang. Captain James Garner (no, a different James Garner) took over maintenance from Captain Marion Davis who was due to depart for the states, and Captain Charles Stephenson stepped into the Executive Officer’s slot. Captain Tyler, the former Executive Officer moved to Saigon as Platoon Leader.
Toward the end of the month the Vietnamese political situation quieted down and Americans could once again venture off their compounds for relaxation. The Vietnamese and Americans were equally happy at this turn of events as many shop and bar owners had found business mighty slow with the G. I.s gone.
The month of October was marred by an accident to Captain Davis, company Maintenance Officer. Captain Davis was preparing to depart from Vietnam, when he was involved in a boating accident resulting in severe injury to his leg. Captain Davis was med-evaced to Clark AFB, and then to the U. S. The event especially saddened the company since Captain Davis was only four days from his DEROS when the accident occurred.
On 20 October the company welcomed the first arrivals of the 14th Aviation Battalion which has just come from CONUS and of which the 18th is scheduled to be a part. The 14th Battalion will make its headquarters in Nha Trang.
Changes this month is personnel structure included the loss of Captain Stephenson, our Executive Officer, and Captain Holmes to the new 14th Battalion. With Captain Stephenson’s departure, Captain Tyler has been brought up from Saigon to be the new Executive Officer and Captain Wall has come over from Battalion to take Captain Tyler’s place as First Platoon Leader.
On 1 November, the 14th Aviation Battalion began its official existence in Nha Trang. The 18th Aviation Company was assigned as a component of the 14th Battalion which is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Goodrich.
Change of Command
On 30 November Colonel Goodrich had to leave the 14th Battalion on emergency leave, and Major Dickens, our Company Commander, replaced him temporarily as Battalion Commander. Captain Tyler became temporary Commander of the 18th.
Six new aviators were welcomed to the company with open arms and smiling faces by those ready to go home. The arrival of new personnel is always a happy occasion.
A maintenance crew has been sent to Saigon to pull Periodic Inspections on the First and Third Platoon aircraft, stationed in Can Tho and Saigon. It is hoped that this change will speed up the maintenance procedures and save the aircraft the long haul to Nha Trang and back.
Storms and flood have made the “Christmas Month” one to remember with the 14th Battalion and the 18th playing a substantial role in flood relief and rescue. The rescue part came home, thought when the Battalion Headquarters was flooded out of its billets and had to use the 18th day room to house its personnel. Water was two feet deep in places, and the airfield was closed for a few days.
On 24 December Warrant Officer Gall got an unwanted V. C. Christmas gift when he was wounded while flying in the III Corps area. The round came in the left cockpit window, wounded Mr. Gall in the right arm, and passed out the right window with nary a scratch on the aircraft.
Four new Warrant Officers arrived during the early part of the month, were processed and got to spend New Year’s Eve with their new friends in their respective platoons.
The “Year of the Dragons” has ended in a rip-roaring fashion. We hope the New Year will see things a little more quiet.
1. Headquarters, 5th Special Forces Group
2. Company B, 5th Special Forces Group
3. 3rd Marine Amphibious Force
4. Joint U. S. Public Affairs Office
5. II Corps Headquarters
6. 1st Field Force Vietnam
7. 17th Aviation Group (Combat)