18th 54th 18th CAC Aviation Association
CHAPTER 2: UNIT BACKGROUND
The 54th Aviation Company was activated in April 1965 at Fort Ord, California by General Order #30, 6th U. S. Army, Presidio, California.
After appropriate organization and training the company departed for the Republic of Vietnam via surface arriving in Vung Tau on 20 September 1965. By 15 October, the company had received its sixteen U-1A Otter aircraft and was performing its assigned combat mission of providing logistical airlift for movement of supplies and personnel in the combat zone.
CHAPTER 3: COMMAND AND CONTROL
From 1 January 1969 through 31 January 1969 the unit was commanded by James E. Lybrand, Major, 05301534, Infantry.
During the period from 31 January 1969 through 27 July 1969, the company was commanded by Billy B. Dooly, Major, 086077, Air Defense Artillery.
From 27 July 1969 through 31 December 1969, the company commander was Theophilos E. M. Nicholis, Major, Infantry.
CHAPTER 4: UNIT OPERATIONS
January was a month of considerable turnover of personnel in the 54th. In addition to losing several aviators and mechanics due to DEROS, the unit also experienced a change of command.
Change of Command
On 31 January, Major Billy B. Dooly assumed command of the 54th from Major James E. Lybrand who was reassigned to a CONUS post.
Vung Tau Airfield came under an enemy attack of rockets and mortars on 21 January 1969. No damage to any aircraft or personnel on the field as all rounds fell short of the 54th area. One sailor was killed and 5 wounded on board one of the ships moored at the northern edge of the airfield.
It was a good month in the air with no hits from enemy fire, no forced landings and no precautionary landings. One aircraft was damaged by a truck while parked on the ramp at Saigon.
During the month great emphasis was placed on physical security of the airfield in anticipation of the Tet offensive. Many hours were devoted to the preparation of a very detailed plan to cover any possible situation which might arise. The only significant incident occurred during Tet was on 23 February, when Vung Tau Army Airfield came under attack. No damage was sustained by either aircraft or personnel. By the end of Tet, flying was back to normal.
While taking off at Saigon, WO1 Russard experienced a partial engine failure. A successful forced landing was accomplished at Saigon with no damage to aircraft. Several times during the month aircraft came under fire, but, luckily, none were hit.
During the month the 54th again experienced tremendous problems with the Spartan Rebuilt R1340-61 engines. Four engine failures occurred three of which were detected while aircraft were being run-up on the ground. None of these engines had over 100 hours. In contrast to the poor performance of the Spartan engines, a Pratt & Whitney rebuilt engine exceeded 1000 flying hours during the month, which resulted in a company party to commemorate the occasion.
WO1 Cunningham experienced an engine failure at 600 feet while climbing out of Don Phove. A successful forced landing was accomplished into a dry rice paddy. The crew and passengers came under enemy fire while on the ground but were able to hold out until a security force was inserted. The aircraft was then recovered by the 147th Chinook Helicopter Company and then returned to Vung Tau for engine change.
During the month one aircraft was hit by enemy fire, and two forced landings and one precautionary landing.
April saw a continuation of the engine problem noted in March, despite all efforts of the unit to have something done to improve the quality of the Spartan Rebuilt engine.
On 24 April the 54th was decorated with the Vietnamese Order of Gallantry with Palms [Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1966 - 1967] for outstanding performance of the unit during the period of 1 March 1966 through 27 March 1967. The decoration is to be worn by all personnel while assigned to the 54th.
The 54th received its annual 1st Avn Bde CMMI during the month and passed with flying colors, a great tribute to both the commander and the members of the 54th.
No aircraft sustained hits by enemy fire during the month, no forced landings and three precautionary landings were accomplished with no further damage to aircraft. Thanks to the ability of the pilots involved. All were a direct result of the poor quality of Spartan rebuilt engines.
May was a month in which positive steps were taken to improve the ever deteriorating engine situation. The 54th was visited by the CO, 210th Bn, CO, 12th Gp and CG 1st Avn Bde; all of whom became quite familiar with our existing engine problems and pledged their full support in reaching a solution. Aircraft availability is at an all time low – 33%.
A letter composed by Major Dooly was sent through the chain of command to AVSCOM requesting positive action. It was strongly indorsed at all command levels. It is believed that the engine problem should soon start to improve.
Aircraft #224 with WO1 Diaz flying was involved in a major accident while attempting take-off at Tan An. The aircraft left the runway and came to rest in a ditch. Major damage to the aircraft but no injuries to personnel.
During the month of June the 54th underwent a slight shuffle of aircraft, crews and missions. The Can Tho section was disbanded and relocated to the company area in Vung Tau. This was accomplished to improve maintenance and utilization of assigned aircraft and crews.
The 54th was awarded a Pip to be worn on the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry [Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1967 - 1968] in recognition of the outstanding performance of the unit May 1967 through May 1968.
Preparation for the annual IG inspection is in full swing. A Pre-IG inspection conducted by the 210th Bn was passed by the unit on 14 June, so all areas seem to be progressing satisfactorily.
No aircraft were hit, one forced landing and two precautionary landings this month.
July was a change of command for the 54th.
Change of Command
On 27 July a change of command ceremony was conducted. Major Theophilos E. M. Nicholis assumed command of the 54th from Major Billy B. Dooly, who was scheduled to attend the Command and General Staff College in August.
Due to an undetermined cause, suspected a virus of some type, approximately 40% of the assigned aviators were grounded for one week during the month.
The annual I.G. Inspection was conducted on 23 July. The 54th was rated excellent and the best in the 210th Bn.
Engine problems continue! CPT Valcourt experienced an engine failure and executed a successful forced landing at Long Binh. No aircraft were hit during the month, one forced landing and one precautionary landing.
Some progress was achieved in the long struggle to obtain more reliable engines. An urgent N.W.O. was received, grounding all U-1A aircraft until new exhaust push-rods can be installed.
Due to the letter initiated in May by Major Dooly, Spartan Aviation has lost the contract to rebuild the R1340-61 engines and Pratt & Whitney of Canada was awarded the new contract.
Aircraft availability rapidly improved during the month, from a low 33% to a high of 100% which was sustained for a three day period 22-22 August. This was brought about due to the push-rods and better availability of replacement engines.
It was a good month in the air. No forced landing and only one precautionary landing experienced.
During the month the unit underwent a CMMI inspection conducted by the 210 CAB.
Results of the inspection were satisfactory overall with aircraft maintenance receiving an outstanding rating.
September was a good month in the air with no forced landing and no precautionary landing and no aircraft damaged by enemy action.
The final crew from the 54th departed for Bangkok to pull a transfer inspection on aircraft #314. It was being transferred to MACTHAI who will furnish their own flight crews in the future.
CW3 Peter Young, the 54th Standardization Instructor pilot was admitted to the hospital on 2 October for back treatment.
LT Anthony Sedger of the 161 Recee Flight returned to Nui Dat after six enjoyable weeks with 54th. He was replaced by 2LT Earl Driver who will be with us for a six week period.
Major Frederick Guenther, the 54th’s Operations Officer, departs for CONUS and was replaced by CPT Erin Erickson.
During October no aircraft were hit, no forced landings and no precautionary landings.
November was a month of renewed engine problems and a significant reduction in the number of Warrant Officers assigned to the 54th.
Three CW2’s Barr, Busbee, and Crawford all received direct commission to 1LT during the month.
Even though Spartan Aviation has lost the engine rebuild contract, the supply system is still saturated with Spartan engines and engine failures continue to plague the unit.
CW3 Sadowski and 1LT Busbee experienced an engine failure enroute to Song Be. A successful forced landing was accomplished at Phove Vinh.
CW3 Wiggins and CPT Shreve also experienced a broken exhaust push-rod and subsequently forced landing at Tan Linh.
In both of these cases the crew deserve a WELL DONE for preventing further damage to the aircraft or passengers.
During the month no aircraft were hit, two successful forced landings and one precautionary landing executed.
The members of the 54th were quite shocked to learn that the 54th must relocate from the Vung Tau area. It was first stated that we would go to Long Binh, but after surveying the site it was decided that the unit would go to Long Thanh North instead. The move must be accomplished during the month of February 1970.
Engine problems continue with the Spartan engines which remain in the supply system. Positive steps have been initiated. The last information indicated that 15 Pratt & Whitney engines were shipped from the states and were to be issued as soon as possible.
CPT Shreve and WO1 Ruga encountered an engine failure at Don Xoai on 20 December. A successful forced landing was executed.
During December no aircraft were hit, one forced landing and one precautionary landing were executed with no mishaps.
CHAPTER 5: EQUIPMENT AND INSTALLATIONS
The 54th Aviation Company is located in the famous old beach resort city of Vung Tau.
Facilities for both housing and operational requirements are far above the average found in the Republic of Vietnam.
All enlisted men reside in government quarters located on Vung Tau Army Airfield. The officers reside in a rented villa located in the town of Vung Tau.
Of the 16 aircraft assigned to the 54th, 13 are based at Vung Tau and the remaining three operate out of Saigon in support of Joint United States Public Affairs Office, and the USARV Engineer Photo and Mapping Branch. At the present time plans are being formulated to move the 54th from Vung Tau to an as yet undetermined location.
CHAPTER 6: REFLECTIONS
During the year, 1969, members of the 54th Aviation Company received the following decorations:
Bronze Star 44
Air Medal 738
Army Commendation Medal 108
HISTORY OF THE
54TH AVIATION COMPANY (UTIL APLN)
210TH AVIATION BATTALION (CBT)
1ST AVIATION BRIGADE
1 JANUARY 1969 – 31 DECEMBER 1969
CW3 GENE W. EVERETT
UNIT HISTORICAL OFFICER
THEOPHILOS E. M. NICHOLIS
VUNG TAU, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
APO SAN FRANCISCO 96291
This Annual Supplement for 1969 to the history of the 54th Aviation Company (Util Apln), APO 96291, is respectfully submitted in accordance with the provisions of Army Regulation 870-5, dated September 1968.
The purpose of this supplement is to update and report accurately the activities, accomplishments, and problems experienced by the 54th Aviation Company during the Calendar Year 1969.
Where possible, to enable future readers to understand the contents of this supplement, most esoteric military terms have been eliminated.
Functions and activities have been explained in terms easily understandable to the layman as well as the militarily oriented individual.
THEOPHILOS E. M. NICHOLIS
CHAPTER 1: HERALDRY
A. The patch worn by all members of the 54th Aviation Company is depicted in the drawing on the following page.
This patch was adopted by the unit in 1968. It is 3 ½ inches wide and 3 inches high. The background color is red with all lettering in white except for the designation “54TH” which is in yellow.
Senior Army Aviator wings are included on the patch to stress the professional performance of the unit.
The unit’s non-tactical call sign, “Big Daddy”, is also present for ease of identification by other aviation oriented personnel.
The same insignia in a larger version is also displayed on the sides of the nose cowling of all aircraft assigned to the 54th.
B. At the time of this printing a certificate of lineage has been requested through proper channels and when received will be forwarded as an annex to this annual supplement.