ARMED SOC TRANG TIGERS
The airmobile concept has in many ways been the keystone in the effort for
the defense of freedom in the Republic of Vietnam. The 12lst Assault Helicopter
Company and its parent unit, the 13th Combat Aviation Battalion, have been instrumental
in the formulation and ensuing employment of this concept throughout
the Mekong Delta. The many awards, both for unit and individual accomplishment,
which were presented during this year, a test to their outstanding success in this
* FOREWORD *
This yearbook adds another chapter to the history of a unit famed for its esprit,
respected for its bravery, and known throughout the Mekong Delta of South
Vietnam for its vital, and timely support of both U.S. and Vietnamese units engaged
in combat against the Viet Cong forces. This year, 1969, was indeed a very challenging
one to the 121st Assault Helicopter Company, and the "Famed Soc Trang
Tigers" rose to meet these challenges, individually and collectively. Challenges
of the future will be met and overcome as history is being written in Southeast Asia.
During the preparation of this yearbook, the Viet Cong launched a massive offensive
on 31 January 1968 to disrupt the allied effort throughout Vietnam. The
"Tigers" and "Vikings" rose valiantly to this challenge and flew far and wide, night
and day to assist in curbing the VC action. Because of the scope and magnitude
of this action, the chronology of the 1969 yearbook has been extended to en-compass the 1968 "Tet Offensive".
FROM THE COMMANDER
Soc Trang, RVN
Time has wrought many changes in the U.S. Army over the past thirty years;
but as the names, faces, places and equipment fade with lime, the indomitable
spirit of the U.S. fighting man continues to grow in stature, unsurpassed by that. of
any nation on the globe.
It is this fighting spirit which permeates the "Soc Trang Tigers" and has led
them to greater heights of achievement and combat effectiveness here in Vietnam.
Although the lineage of today's "Tigers" dates back to the activation of Company
H, 2nd Battalion, 47th Quartermaster Truck Regiment on 10 February 1936, it was
not until the unit was re-designated as an aviation element in 1954 that the spirits
and performance of the unit literally "took to the air".
There may be other units at Soc Trang and there may be other "Tigers" in
Vietnam, but the record and performance of the "Famed Soc Trang Tigers" is
known for and wide. The Tiger flight supported by the famous "Viking" armed
helicopter platoon has participated in almost every major battles in the Mekong
Delta and has won the plaudits of both U.S. and Vietnamese Officials at all levels.
The Commendations and Decorations received by the 121st Assault Helicopter
Company and its personnel are too numerous to mention, but each "Tiger" stands
a little prouder and taller with the greatest reward a man can have-self satisfaction
that he is a U.S. fighting soldier, proud to serve and prouder yet that he has
earned a "Well Done" for his service to God and Country.
As the pages of history turn, demands may continue to rise, faces and equipment
will change, but the "Esprit.de-corps" of the "Famed Soc Trang Tigers", long
instilled, will continue to place the 121st Assault Helicopter Company front and
foremost as one ~f the best recognized and mast effective aviation units in the continuing
annals of Army Aviation History.
This book is respectfully dedicated to all those who have served and are now
serving with the 12lst Assault Helicopter Company and attached units. Our heritage is rich with the blood of those who died valiantly in the defense of freedom.
While serving in Vietnam the following named officers and enlisted men of the
121st have made the supreme sacrifice and gave their lives in defense of their country. We the living herewith pay tribute to these our fallen comrades.
PFC LOYE T. CHRISTMAS 22 JAN 64
PFC DALE E. UMBENHAUER 17 MAY 66
SP4 PRESTON J. SNYDER 18 MAY 66
1 LT JAMES Q. ADYLETT 11 JUL 66
W01 JACKIE P. JONES 11 JUL 66
SP4 ANGELO J. SFERRAZZA 11 JUL 66
CW2 JAMES W. HARGROVE 18 OCT 66
CW2 FRANCIS L. GRIFFIN 1 FEB 68
CPT FRANKLIN S. BRADLEY JR. 9 FEB 68
WO1 RICKEY HULL 9 FEB 68
SP5 PAUL R. ANZELONE 9 FEB 68
SP4 DAVID B. ANDERSON 5 APR 69
DUTY .............. HONOR .............. COUNTRY
THEY HAVE NOT DIED IN VAIN
PAST HISTORY OF THE 121ST
ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY
The lineage of the famed 121st Assault Helicopter Company had its beginning
on 10 February, 1936 when Company H, 2nd Battalion, 47th Quartermaster Truck
Regiment was formed. World War II and the Korean Conflict saw the company
expanding and on 1 April 1954 it was re-designated as the 93rd Transportation
Company. CH-21 transport helicopters became the primary vehicle of the company
which would write its name in the annals of Army Aviation History. The unit grew
in fame and reputation as one of the most decorated peacetime companies. It
played significant roles in offering assistance both in the mid-air collision over the
Grand Canyon in July 1956 as well as in the Illinois blizzard of 1958. Acclaim for
the unit grew as reports of its accomplishments spread throughout the United States.
On December 15, 1961 the 93rd was called to a combat role in the Republic
of Vietnam. First stationed at Do Nang, its fame grew as it helped develop the
heliborne assault techniques, re-supply methods and medical evacuation operations.
The unit made a permanent move on 19 September 1962 when it moved to Soc Trang
and became the first helicopter unit in the Mekong Delta. The CH-21 s soon gave
way to the newer and more efficient UH-1 B helicopters and the name "Tigers" became
associated with the 121 st Aviation Company. Today the UH-1Ds have assumed
the transport role while the UH-1 Bs have remained as gunships. The name
has again been altered to the 121ST ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY (UH-1) but
as in the past, each day another page is added to the glorious history of the
"Famed Soc Trang Tigers" .
"SOC TRANG TIGERS"
On June 14th, 1963 the 93rd Transportation Company was re-designated as
the 12lst Aviation Company and the nickname "Tigers" was adopted. The unit
patch is a shield outlined in red to signify the bravery and rich tradition of the
12lst. The wings with five pointed star, badge of a Senior Army Aviator, strategically
located at the top of the shield signify the high degree of professionalism
and proficiency in the 12lst. A white banner with red lettering holding high the
proud name of the 121st Aviation Company is located immediately below the Senior
Aviator wings. Below the banner, a Tiger shows its teeth to attest to the determination
and strength of the men of the Soc Trang Tigers. A lightning bolt, half
white, half blue designates the Blue and white Tiger airlift platoons and the strike
capability of the Vikings, the famous armed platoon of the 121st. This patch is worn
proudly on the right breast pocket of the uniforms of all Soc Trang Tigers.
* MISSION *
The mission of the 121st Assault Helicopter Company is to provide tactical air
movement of US and Vietnamese combat troops in airmobile operations in the Republic
of Vietnam. In addition, it provides tactical air movement of combat supplies
and equipment within the IV Corps Tactical Zone.
The company also conducts aerial surveillance, medical evacuation of wounded
and search and rescue missions for downed aircraft and missing personnel. The
great advantages of air mobility and speed in tactical operations are utilized to
the maximum extent by supported Vietnamese units.
logistically, the company provides a means of rapid transportation for Vietnamese
personnel, supplies, and equipment from one tactical location to another.
The command and liaison efficiency of Vietnamese military and civilian authorities,
as well as American Advisory personnel is augmented by the use of the Company's
aircraft for transportation.
Additional responsibilities of an administrative nature are found within the
121 st Assault Helicopter Company's stated mission requirements. It assists in providing
internal security of the airfield and post facilities, using the manpower resources
from its organic and attached personnel.
The company, in addition to having operational control, provides administrative
and logistical support to attached units.
* ORGANIZATION *
The strength and ability of the 121st Assault Helicopter Company comes from
a unified structure composed of five (5) platoons, Each in its own right has a particular
job and yet each is an integral part in the effectiveness of the unit as a team.
The headquarters platoon is responsible for all administrative work of the
121st. A staff of clerks handle the hundreds of pieces of paperwork which come
to the 121st daily. Such varied areas as efficiency reports, orders, promotions,
awards and decorations, clearance forms, preference statements and command
correspondence pass through the orderly room daily. In the operations section,
mission scheduling, after action reports, daily mission logs, flight records and
flight safety are .the major areas of responsibility.
The Service platoon's main area of responsibility is aircraft maintenance, and
the outstanding performance which has been a part of this platoon has kept the
aircraft ready at all times to meet mission requirements.
The Blue' and White Tiger platoons include the pilots, crew chiefs, and gunners
for the UH-l D transport helicopters. On all combat assault missions the crews of
these platoons fly the aircraft which carry the ground maneuver elements into the
operational area. They are the workhorses of the company and are responsible
for everything from outpost re-supply to VIP flights.
The Viking platoon, "Blue Diamond Devils of the Delta", is the gunship platoon.
The armed platoon has UH-l B gunships as their primary aircraft. They are
employed on a variety of support missions including transport escort, landing zone
reconnaissance, target engagement and airfield defense. The skill and dedication
of this group has been a decisive factor in almost every major battle fought in the
Each platoon is an integral part of the total operation and the effectiveness of
the unit is largely determined by the strength and coordination of each platoon.
The Tigers have the strength and coordination which has established the reputation
of "The Famed Soc Trang Tigers".
VIKINGS PROVIDE FIRE SUPPORT FOR TRANSPORTS AND GROUND TROOPS DURING OPERATIONS
TIGER OPERATIONS AND THE COMPANY
ARE A FROM THE TOWER,
THE WORLD FAMOUS WRECKER
C&C WITH TIGER "6"
AREA OF OPERATIONS
The 121s1 supports the ARVN IV Corps Tactical Zone which covers nearly all
of the Mekong Delta, south and west of Saigon. There are three major ARVN units
in the IV Corps: The 7th Infantry Division with headquarters at My Tho, the 9th
Infantry Division with headquarters at Sa Dec, and the 21 st Infantry Division with
headquarters at Bac Lieu.
The primary area of responsibility for the 121st is the 42nd Division Tactical.
Area under the control of the 21 st Infantry Division. However, the "Tigers" often
journey to other areas in support of the 7th and 9th Infantry Divisions and the 44th
Special Zone along the Cambodian border during major operations. Regardless
of the geographical area per se, the supported units a" know. "If there is an airmobile
mission to be done, the Tigers can do it."
In addition to supporting the ARVN units, the Tigers also render support to the
American 9th Infantry Division operating out of Dong Tam. Whatever the assignment,
the Tigers pursue their missions with increasing aggressiveness, efficiency,
and perseverance, thereby adding constantly to the growing reputation of the "Soc
THE MEKONG DELTA
The Mekong Delta is that area of the Republic of Vietnam which is South of
on east-west line stretching across the country just above Saigon. It is bordered on
the east by the South Chino Sea and on the west by the Gulf of Siam and the Cambodian
border. The Delta area is approximately 175 nautical miles long on a
northeast-southwest line and varies in width from 150 nautical miles at its widest
point to 20 nautical miles as it topers to a point at its southernmost extremity.
The Delta is on almost absolutely flat stretch of land having a mean elevation
of less than 20 feet MSL. Much of its shore line has a narrow strip of dense foliage
and trees extending in places as much as four to five kilometers inland. Other
shore line areas are characterized by swamps and marshes.
Inland may be found large rice fields which cover almost the entire region. Numerous
canals, streams and rivers mark the countryside and along the streams and
rivers are tree lines and small villages and hamlets.
The Mekong Delta is transverse by two major rivers, the Bassac and the Mekong.
The Bassac is the most southerly of the two and it comes down from Laos
through Cambodia and enters Vietnam just north of Chou Doc flowing southeasternIy
past Long Xuyen, Can Tho and empties into the South China Sea. The three
cities mentioned above are major cities in the Delta region sharing in importance
with So dec, Vinh Long and My Tho located on the Mekong. River which runs generally
parallel and to the northeast of the Bassac, Rach Gia located on the coast of
the Gulf of Siam, Co Mau located toward the southern tip of the country and Soc
Trang located just south of the Bassac near the eastern coast line.
Bac Lieu, Tra Vinh, Vi Thanh, Ben Tre and Go Cong are other cities of importance.
The Mekong River divides into three branches just southeast of Sadec near
Vinh Long. Each branch, as characteristic of the main parts of the two rivers, contains
numerous small islands.
The rivers together with the numerous streams and canals and the flooded rice
paddies in the wet season give the impression to one observing from the air that
the country is predominantly under water. This effect is minimized during the dry
season which lasts from December to late in May when the smaller streams and
canals dry up with the rice paddies.
The Mekong Delta is a rice growing region producing over two-thirds of the
food produced in the Republic of Vietnam and having over half of the country's
population. It is an area rich in natural resources which is tremendously important
to the Vietnamese people, This is the operating territory of the 121 st Aviation Company,
(Assault Helicopter) -"The Famed Soc Trang Tigers".
SUMMARY OF OPERATIONS
Operations of the 121st Assault Helicopter Company during 1967 soared to
new heights. Daily the Tigers supported the ARVN and American personnel in the
Mekong Delta, often reacting at a moments notice to give the needed support. Time
and time again the airlift capability and quick reaction force provided by the 121 st
spelled the difference between defeat and victory. The Tigers were always there
to do their job in a professional manner, never failing to give their best. Many times
bullets struck the aircraft and on occasion crew members were wounded or killed,
but the crews continued to do their job in an unflinching, persevering manner.
Their actions during the "Tet" offensive attested to the professional ability of each
man in the 121st.
During 1967 the Tigers flew 33,586.5 hours while completing 74,240 sorties.
They carried 211,091 passengers and 1,792.1 tons of cargo. This impressive total
was climaxed by a new monthly flying hour high for the 121st with 3388.9 hours
flown in December. In February 1968, during the "Tet" offensive", the Tigers put
out maximum effort which was very instrumental in repelling the Viet Cong attacks.
The record set in December was broken as the 121st flew 3,840.0 hours while completing
6,993 sorties during the period from 30 January-29 February 1968. Whatever
the challenges or whatever the demands, the "World Renown Soc Trang Tigers"
always accomplished their missions in a professional manner.
THE LONG DAY
It was pitch black as the pilots walked across the runway reroute to their ships.
There was a weary look on their faces since this was the fourth day in a row that
the pilots had to get up at 0300. The first three days at Ca Mau had been very disappointing
and the trip to Vi Thanh certainly didn't look very promising. The early
rising was necessary in order to transfer the command group from headquarters at
Bac Lieu to the stage field at Vi Thanh.
At 0700 the first transport was loaded and as the turbines began tQ whine
everything was ready to go. The morning briefing indicated that the day would
consist of a few "eagle flights" in an effort to locate Viet Cong positions in the local
Soon after take-off, Tiger lead lost UHF radio communications and the Trail
ship took charge of the flight. The new' flight lead thought it would only be a short
flight so the fact that he had never flown in the lead position before didn't bother
him too much.
The first LZ changed everything!! As soon as the troops unloaded they began
to receive intense fire from the tree line to their left front. The flight immediately
returned to Vi Thanh for more troops. Lift after lift were put into LZs on both sides
of the tree line where the VC were dug in and then the report came back telling
what was there; one full battalion of the VC 309th and a large number of personnel
from the "Tado" and U Minh 10 Battalions, three of the toughest hard core main
force Viet Cong units in the Delta. Lifts continued all morning and into the late
afternoon. No less than 40 air strikes pounded the tree line as gunships and ground
troops prevented the VC from moving out of the area. The fighting raged on and
casualties mounted. Several gunships were hit as they supported the ground troops.
One ship was shot down but due to the quick and heroic actions of the maintenance
crew, it was evacuated within 45 minutes.
At 1700 hours that evening the transports began to re-supply and make medical evacuations. Troop lifts continued to be made until midnight. To prevent pilot
fatigue, the crews who had been there since early that morning were replaced by
fresh crews. Medevacs and re-supply continued through the night and all the next
day. As the fighting eased up, the first unit put in was extracted and replaced by
fresh troops. The second day was as long as the first as re-supply replacements,
and extractions kept the transports airborne. Several loads of captured weapons
and munitions were flown out of the operational area. late that evening a few permanent
extractions began. At 2300 hours the crews were again rotated and several
ships returned to Soc Trang to allow maintenance personnel to work on them.
At 0230 hours on the 12th, the airstrip at Vi Thanh was mortared and the pilots
at Soc Trang were scrambled to the area. At 0335 hours, the first troops were inserted
in the vicinity of the mortar sites but the VC had already departed the area.
The search yielded only a few mortar stands and confirmed that the VC had indeed
evacuated the area. The remainder of the friendly troops were finally extracted
terminating the "long Day".
Aircraft hours 8 - 10 December ........................ 391.6
Viet Cong losses ................... 456 Dead 100 Wounded 16 Captured
121st Avn Co. . ................... No injuries, 3 Aircraft damaged
Captured ........................ 130 Weapons of various size and caliber.
Ordnance Expended ................ 218,400 7.62 rounds 1582 rockets (2.75)
2,125 40mm rounds.
* THE "TET" OFFENSIVE *
"The "Tet" holiday is celebrated each year by the Vietnamese people. During
the three day celebration the people worship their ancestors and discontinue all
work. An all out truce was declared at 1 800 the day before it began and was to
continue until 0600 the morning after "Tet". The truce went into effect at 1 800 on
29 January, 1968 and all fighting was to be discontinued until 0600 on 1 February.
Everything was very quiet as for as armed conflict was concerned even
though the fireworks kept the noise level at a maximum. The "Firefly" team orbited
the airfield until 0300 on the 31 st and then landed to remain on a standby status.
At 0330 the "Tet" holiday ended with a bang.
The silence was shattered by a loud crack and then several others followed.
The gunship pilots ran at top speed to their aircraft as everyone else rolled under
their beds or headed for bunkers. Within one minute the gunships were airborne
and looking for "Charlie's" mortar positions. When the all clear was sounded and
it looked safe, the personnel left their bunkers. The usual procedure at this time
is for maintenance and other non-flying personnel to man perimeter defense positions
while the flight crews may return to their rooms to get their much needed sleep.
Forty-five minutes later the mortar rounds began to fall again. Something was
drastically different now since this was the first time the Viet Cong had mortared
the compound twice in the same night. Sporadic small arms fire began to resound
from the direction of downtown Soc Trang and the volume slowly increased. Reports
began to filter in from other areas and soon we knew that "Tet" was over for
good as a holiday. The Viet Cong had attacked almost every major city or military
installation in Vietnam.
Downtown Soc Trang soon became the location of a pitched battle between
ARVN and Viet Cong troops. The MACV Compound, the National Police Headquarters,
and the A&l Compound were the primary targets of VC infiltration.
On the airfield all personnel were involved in a concerted effort to man the
perimeter and set up an impregnable wall. Sandbags were' taken from revetments
and utilized in bunker construction. Each outer revetment wall grew into a full
fledged bunker as personnel began to strengthen our defenses. Bullets whistled
down the runway as snipers snapped scattered rounds into the compound. SP5
Bobby LeBouef was hit in the head by one round but it wasn't very serious and
shortly thereafter he returned to his position. WOI Larry Babyak heard a bullet
skip off the runway and felt something strike his ankle only to find a spent bullet
lying next to his leg.
Downtown the battle grew more intense. Gunships were overhead trying to
aid the personnel of the 78th Artillery Detachment who were being slowly overrun.
The Viet Cong used B40 rockets and automatic weapons to destroy defenses and
advance on the last building. The nine man detachment from the 78th Artillery
fought valiantly but the overwhelming manpower superiority was proving to be
too much. The Viet Cong backed the group into a building and finally burst in on
them. Staring at the Viet Cong, CW3 Stanley Strum sky, Commander of the detachment,
described the scene by saying, "They had us and we knew it but they were
just kids, 13 and 14 years old, and seemed confused. For a moment I thought they
would shoot us and then they left." The entire detachment somehow escaped and
got back to the Soc Trang Airfield.
Throughout the day the gunships continuously put strikes into Viet Cong strongholds
in downtown Soc Trang. The transports shuttled troops from Bac lieu to Can
Tho in an effort to help reinforce Battalion Headquarters and the Can Tho Airfield.
That evening crews were assigned to aircraft and everyone manned the perimeter.
The gunships continued to make target attacks 360 degrees around the airfield and
in downtown Soc Trang.
At midnight the mortar rounds began to fall again. No one slept since the
possibility of Viet Cong infiltration was high and sleep was far from anyone's mind.
Sniper fire continued to zing down the runway and the fighting downtown raged
The next morning the transports continued shuttles as fresh troops were put into
the battle and exhausted troops extracted. Constant battles in the Soc Trang area
began to push "Charlie" out of town. At two o'clock that afternoon a flight of F
100's roared overhead and began bomb runs on the outskirts of Soc Trang. The
gunships made numerous target attacks expending all their ammunition and then
rearming in such short periods as ten minutes and returning to the battle. At approximately
1800 that evening CW2 Francis l. Griffin was struck in the side by a
bullet while engaging a target just east of the airfield. He was immediately rushed
to the hospital but it was too late. His outstanding feats during the first days of the
offensive were an inspiration to all the men of Soc Trang and his death deeply saddened
everyone, but the job of repelling the Viet Cong continued. The mortar
attacks continued each night but the gunships were taking their toll and attacks
became less frequent.
On 9 February the transports put troops into landing zones outside of Can Tho
all day and that evening they began to re-supply outposts scattered throughout the
42nd DTA. It was during one of these re-supply flights that Tiger 782 was downed
by enemy fire. The crew, consisting of Captain Franklin S. Bradley, W01 Rickey
Hull, SP5 Paul R. Anzelone and SP4 Michael lynch, had worked since before dawn
to aid the ARVN troops.
Captain Bradley, White Tiger platoon leader, was well liked by everyone and
his efforts in helping to develop the strong airfield defense had given Soc Trang
one of the best defended airfields in the Mekong Delta.
Daily the Tigers began to re-supply all outposts throughout the Delta. W01 Victor
Beaver and his crew were shot down and had to remain at Tieu Can outpost for
five days. Several aircraft were hit by ground fire while landing or taking off. The
Viet Cong, finding Soc Trang extremely well defended moved toward Bac lieu. A
two day battle at Bac lieu pushed Charlie even farther south. The Vikings provided
accurate and devastating fire support that gave the ARVN forces the advantage
in the battle. Time and time again they forced the Viet Cong into poorly defended
positions where the 21st Division was able to inflict heavy casualties.
As the battles raged throughout the Delta, more and more intelligence about
the VC battle plans enabled the ARVN troops to gain the upper band. At Can Tho
the ARVN troops were aided by the American 9th Infantry Division and began to
push the VC out of the area. On the 17th of February an intelligence report told
of a planned mortar attack on Soc Trang Airfield. As a result all aircraft were
evacuated late that night and as they orbited at 4000 feet the mortar attack hit. As
the rounds pounded the airfield the gunships rained lead and rockets on the enemy
positions. The timely intelligence saved several aircraft from damage or destruction. The next evening all aircraft were evacuated to Vung Tau with the exception
of gunships and the flare ships. At 0030 an extremely concentrated attack poured
recoilless rifle and mortar rounds on the airfield once again. The VC kept the
attack going for several minutes and were located in four different positions. The
gunships began to make target attacks only to find that the enemy positions were
heavily defended by .50 caliber machine guns. The accurate enemy fire forced
the gunships to make their attacks from 1500 feet.
Viking Surprise proved to be of great value at this time as it rained .50 caliber
fire on the positions stopping several mortars.
Co Mau was the last all out battle of the "Tet" offensive. On 6 March an estimated
two battalions of Viet Cong tried to overrun Co Mau. Gunships, slicks, and
ARVN troops used every available weapon to push the Viet Cong back. The gallant
efforts of everyone involved finally pushed "Charlie" back and as they retreated,
the gunships and door gunners on the slicks rained fire upon them. It was during
this period that "Tiger 6" received several hits in his fuel cell and was forced
to land at Co Mau. The battle continued for three days and in the end was an
overwhelming victory for the allied troops.
The "Tet" offensive was definitely a surprise to the allied forces but their quick
reaction and fantastic bravery turned the tables on the Viet Congo The enemy was
beaten in every major battle and the support rendered by gunships and transports
proved once again to be the deciding factor.
During the period from 29 January until 29 February the pilots flew a combined
total of 7,860 hours while the aircraft were in the air for 3,840 hours. The
combined efforts of the gunships accounted for 416 Viet Cong KBA and 10 WBA.
In addition they sank 141 sampans and destroyed 152 structures. The action took
place under extremely adverse conditions and often these air crews went several
days without sleep. The ground crews kept their heavy work loads in addition to
manning the perimeter each night. The outstanding performance of the pilots and
crews proved once again that no matter what the conditions, "If there is a Job to
do, The Tigers will. do it".
The "bug" completed another very outstanding year as it proved once more
that "Charlie" can be stopped at night. Their constant vigilance during the hours
of darkness often broke up Viet Cong attacks on friendly outposts or units while their
lightning quick reactions prevented the Viet Cong from continuing mortar attacks
on Soc Trang Army Airfield.
The devastating firepower packed by "Viking Surprise", with its .50 caliber
machinegun, two M60s and 40mm grenade launchers, often surprised the Viet Cong
in a very unpleasant manner. When the big searchlight on "Surprise" put VC sampans
or units in the spotlight, the gunships would roll on target providing timely
and unbelievably accurate fire on targets.
This highly successful techniques used by the firefly team have taught "Charlie"
that he is not safe at night and enabled the friendly personnel to relax a little at
night when they knew the "bug" was overhead. Firefly accounted for hundreds of
sampans and Viet Cong casualties during the past year, and their outstanding performance
has been a great asset in the struggle for freedom in the Mekong Delta.
The 121st provides each crew member with certain equipment designed to save
him from serious bodily injury during dangerous missions. This equipment consists
of: a ballistic flight helmet which will deflect a bullet away from the individuals
head, flight gloves to prevent hands from being seriously burned in case of fire,
and body armor designed to stop small caliber rounds from injuring the crew members.
Each piece of equipment has proved invaluable on several occasions and many
crew members walking around today owe their lives to this equipment. The picture
above serves to vividly illustrate this point.
Realizing that rest and relaxation are essential to the efficiency of a unit, the
121st provided its men a wide variety of opportunities for leisure time enjoyment.
The sports minded individuals found ample opportunity to exhibit their talents
on the basketball and tennis courts. Of course there were always a few individuals
with a football and daily games of touch-football were played. Volleyball soon
gathered a fair share of interest and inter-company rivalry made it a very popular
team sport. After a tiring game of basketball or tennis etc., several individuals
found themselves drawn to the cool depths of Soc Trang's swimming pool. The cool
water offered a pleasant relief from the tropical heat of the Delta and also gave
the "short-timers" a chance to get the much worshipped tan before they left.
Not everyone was interested in sports and these individuals found their chance
to relax in a quieter manner. A very well equipped hobby and wood working shop
offered the men a chance to play with woodworking talent, get advice on their
particular projects or work on a special hobby. Several hundred chairs, shelves,
desks and other pieces of furniture were made in the shop as people used their
talents to improve their living quarters.
When the men didn't feel like moving there was a well stocked library available
and its air-conditioned confines attracted many people. The PX kept an excellent
supply of magazines and paperback novels in stack, for those who preferred
to read in their rooms. These books and magazines usually found their way to
the platoon libraries so that everyone could read them.
In the evenings the Officer's Club and EM Club were crowded as people gathered
to tell stories about the day's action, play cards, or just have a sociable
drink. The EM theatre and the Officer's Club showed movies to capacity crowds
each night, and the new Special Services Club offered nightly activities so that
there was always something to do with spare time. Whenever possible the Officer s
Club and EM Club brought special shows to the post. Entertainment usually consisted
of a group of highly talented musicians who always managed to play "San
Francisco". When imported talent was not available, the men would use the instruments
from the Special Services Club to create their own music.
The men of the 1215t worked hard during the day and when evening approached
they played hard. The essential relaxation was always there and morale
soared throughout the past year.
The Civic Action Program at Ba Xuyen Province is a very worthy project. The
121st helps support the Providence Orphanage by giving donations sent from home.
Families, Churches, and Fraternal Orders of members of the 12lst send boxes of
light clothing, soap and other hygiene articles to Viet Nam, where the 12lst takes
them to the Orphanage for the small children and babies.
The children are visited and loved by members of the 121st. On special occasions
they are brought out to the airfield for a party and the great affection shown
by the men of the 121st.
This entry was found on the internet about the 121st Assault Helicopter Company at Soc Trang, Vietnam.
The following is my experience on the first day of the TET Offensive in 1968.
My memories of the Tet Offensive of 1968
The first night of the TET offensive of 1968, the airfield control tower siren went off three times. When the siren sounded the first time we got hit, I headed for the nearest bunker, then came the all clear siren after it was over. And on the second attack, the Siren went off again. This time, and on the third attack there was no all clear siren, for the rest of the night. After the first attack and the all clear, I had to go out to the far side of the runway and work on Viking Surprise. Viking Surprise was a troop helicopter converted to a Gun ship, that had a 50 cal on it, adjacent to the search light, a hand crank grenade launcher on the other side and smoke hooked up to the exhaust of the helicopter. I had just turned on the radios when I heard the control tower frequency call out, "In Coming, Soc Trang is under attack". That's when the second motor attack siren went off. I jumped out of the helicopter and ran to the nearest bunker on that side of the runway. What a night. After I though it was over, I jumped into 3/4 ton truck and headed for the Avionics bunker on the other side of the airstrip near the otter road. By the time I got there and inside the Avionics bunker, the third attack had just started. From that night on, and for 30 days during the TET offensive of 1968, is all a blur to me. When I wasn't working, fixing aircraft radio problems on the flight line, I was sleeping and or on guard duty in or near the avionics bunker. Everything outside our perimeter was a free fire zone during that time. Helicopter Gun ships patrolled around the airfield 24/7. I've recently learned that several aircraft were evacuated to a secure airfield. The reason behind the evacuation was that Soc Trang was supposed to be over ran by the VC. Soc Trang airfield was never over ran by the VC during the TET Offensive. The town of Soc Trang however, was over ran with VC. Thank God, our Gun Ship Helicopters took care of them. This is the best, I can remember, of the TET Offensive of 1968. I don't know if it's good thing or a bad thing that I remember this. But, maybe, just maybe, during this time of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it will let you not forget the Veterans or the men and women who serve in the Military today.