Helicopter Warfare in the Vietnam War | US Army Documentary | 1969

Helicopter Warfare in the Vietnam War | US Army Documentary | 1969



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This 1969 U.S. Army film is a documentary short about helicopter warfare in the Vietnam War. It explains how the helicopter changed modern warfare and how the 1st Cavalry Division became an air assault division as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), commonly referred to as the 1st Air Cavalry Division or simply the “First Team”. The film presents significant historical battles in Vietnam from a perspective of the 1st Air Cavalry Division, such as the Battle of Ia Drang Valley (1965) and the Battle of Khe Sanh (1968).

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND / CONTEXT

The 1st Cavalry Division (“First Team”) is a combined arms division and is one of the most decorated combat divisions of the United States Army. The history of the 1st Cavalry Division began in 1921 after the army established a permanent cavalry division. Before Vietnam, the First Team fought in World War 2 and the Korean War as a conventional infantry unit.

During the Vietnam War, the division had become an air assault division as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), commonly referred to as the 1st Air Cavalry Division. The use of helicopters on such large scale as troop carriers, cargo lift ships, medevacs, and as aerial rocket artillery, was never before implemented, but by doing so it freed the infantry from the tyranny of terrain to attack the enemy at the time and place of its choosing. In 1965, colors and subordinate unit designations of the 1st Cavalry Division were transferred from Korea to Fort Benning, Georgia, where they were used to reflag the existing 11th Air Assault Division (Test) into 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Concurrently, the colors and subordinate unit designations were transferred to Korea to reflag what had been the 1st Cavalry Division into the 2nd Infantry Division.

Shortly thereafter, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) began deploying to Camp Radcliff, An Khe, Vietnam, in the Central Highlands and was equipped with the new M16 rifle, the UH-1 troop carrier helicopter (nicknamed “Huey”), UH-1-C gunships, the CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter, and the massive CH-54 Skycrane cargo helicopter. All aircraft carried insignia to indicate their battalion and company.

The division’s first major operation was to help relieve the Siege of Plei Me near Pleiku and the pursuit of the withdrawing North Vietnamese Army which culminated in the Battle of Ia Drang (1965), described in the book We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, was also the basis of the film We Were Soldiers. Because of that battle the division earned the Presidential Unit Citation (US), the first unit to receive such in the war. In 1966, the division attempted to root the communist Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army out of Binh Dinh province with Operation Masher, Operation Crazy Horse and Operation Thayer. 1967 was then spent conducting Operation Pershing, a large scale search and destroy operation of communist base areas in II Corps.

In the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, the largest battle of the Vietnam War, the Tet Offensive, was launched by 84,000 communist soldiers across South Vietnam. In the 1st Cavalry Division’s area of operation, the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong forces seized most of the city of Hue. As the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, fought to cut off communist reinforcements pouring into Hue.

In March 1968 the 1st Cavalry Division shifted forces to LZ Stud, the staging area for Operation Pegasus to break the siege of the Marine combat base at Khe Sanh – the second largest battle of the war. All three brigades participated in this airmobile operation, along with a Marine armor thrust. As the enemy divisions depleted, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) leapfrogged west, clearing Route 9, until at 0:800 hours 8 April, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, linked-up with Marines at the combat base, ending the 77-day siege.

Helicopter Warfare in the Vietnam War | US Army Documentary | 1969

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NOTE: THE VIDEO DOCUMENTS HISTORICAL EVENTS. SINCE IT WAS PRODUCED DECADES AGO, IT HAS HISTORICAL VALUES AND CAN BE CONSIDERED AS A VALUABLE HISTORICAL DOCUMENT. THE VIDEO HAS BEEN UPLOADED WITH EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. ITS TOPIC IS REPRESENTED WITHIN HISTORICAL CONTEXT. THE VIDEO DOES NOT CONTAIN SENSITIVE SCENES AT ALL!

14 thoughts on “Helicopter Warfare in the Vietnam War | US Army Documentary | 1969”

  1. I was a helicopter driver and it was so obvious the overall plan really, really sucked. The grunts would fight over a square on a map and go home and the next day we would take them back to the same place. The "body count" philosophy was sort of like Verdun of WWI. It was pitiful. We lost a lot of good people and we sure were rough on the civilian populations as back then it appeared we did not count "brown people" the same.

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