EARLY DAYS OF C TROOP
The reason for the change from C7/17 to F/8, I am told, is that when first moved to Chu Lai, C Troop was “OPCON” (operationally controlled) by the 23rd division(Americal). This structure has specific TO&E, personnel, funding and organizational requirements and restrictions. It also kept 7/17 one troop short. When the decision was made to keep an air cavalry troop in the Americal they (USARV) assigned us (think PCS) to them. This allowed 7/17 to re equip the C troop position and come up to full strength. As full squadrons are comprised of A, B, C, D, and occasionally E troops, the designation of “F” troop has historically been used for solitary troops that are assigned to divisions without a parent squadron supporting them. We were under the command of the CG and his staff not the usual chain of command. We spent the bulk of our time working with the 1/1 armored cavalry but could be, and often were, sent to wherever it was hitting the fan– just like good cavalry should! We were very fortunate that we had a good Americal commanding general in that he understood the highest and best use of Cavalry. Many cavalry units were viewed merely as a collection of assets that got broken up to serve as spares or enhancements for lift companies, aerial rocket artillery companies, or staff transport in the case of the OH-6’s. I was at Ft. Knox with B- 7/1 Cav as a gun pilot in UH1C’s. 3/17, 7/17 and 7/1 all trained together for months. 3/17 and 7/17 left first and 7/1 followed. I was infused (they didn’t want everyone DEROS’ing at the same time–All that training out the window!) to C7/17 in early Feb ’68 and became a scout (Ghost 17) in May when we made the transition to AH1G’s. My second tour was with HHT 7/17. That is where I was told about how this all came about.
William J. Rand
William J Rand has given an excellent explanation of how F/8 Cav came into being.
The only missing link was the date that C Troop 7/17 Cav was put under the operational control (OPCON) of the Americal Division. I was in B Troop 7/17 during our final stateside training at Fort Knox and our unit deployment to RVN. We landed in RVN on 10 Oct 67. I don’t remember exactly when C Troop was detached but I think it was before Thanksgiving. I’m sure there are folks still around who know.
Rand is correct in that C Trp was not redesignated until some time later.
William D (Dan) Dantzler Jr
The Original B Trp Aerorifle Plt Ldr Apr 67 – Jan 68
The Last Commander of F Trp 8th Cav Oct 72 – Mar 73
A BRIEF HISTORY OF C TROOP, 7th SQUADRON, 17TH AIR CAVALRY, 1967
(provided by Les Hines, historian for Americal Division)
From the first day that Troop C became fully operational the troop has been doing an outstanding job in support of the 196th Brigade. While supporting the various units of the Brigade, Troop C has conducted reconnaissance missions, screening missions, provided cover for the ground troops, (Snatch missions, Combat Assults) etc. Up until 14 December 1967, the troop had only made small contacts with the VC and NVA spotting them here and there throughout their area of operation, therefore, the number of kills and captured were small each day.
On 14 December 1967, while operating in the western valley West of Tam Ky and northeast of Tam Ky along the coast, Troop C recorded 12 confirmed KIA and several possible kills. The Infantry was put on the ground three different times to search possible VC villages. Directly North of Tam Ky on the western shore of the inland waterway WO Harold Nicely (Rhodell, W. Virginia) in his OH-6A spotted six VC with wea-pons. A squad of infantry was landed and immediately received sniper and automatic weapons fire. WO Nicely received one round through the bottom of his OH-6A and was slightly wounded. He did manage to shoot the man who shot him before he left the scene. A member of the infantry squad, SP4 Richard Dubois (Atlanta, Georgia) was hit in the face with a grenade thrown by a VC. Before it had time to explode he saved his platoon sergeants life by pushing him down behind a hedgerow. 1LT George Briggs (Freeport, Maine) in his OH-6A relieved WO Nicely on station and killed three VC evading and firing on the infantry squad on the ground.
Shortly before noon, the squad was extracted. On the 15th of December 1967, CPT Billy J. McKenzie (Attalla, Alabama) working in a mixed team with MM John R Burden (Wapakonetta, Ohio) spotted 28 VC sampans on the inland waterway and sank all 28 with rockets and miniguns.
On 16 December 1967, while working with the 1/1 Cav a mixed team of 1LT George Handley (Ogdensburg, New York) and WO Thomas Pearcy (Norfolk, Virginia), the team received simper fire from VC while working the flat land northeast of Tam Ky. WO Pearcy’s OH-6A was hit and his crew chief/door gunner PFC James Goodman (Silver Springs, Mary-land) was wounded. He continued to fire at the source of fire until the ship was forced to land. The 1/1 Cav immediately set up a perimeter around the downed aircraft until more support from Troop C could arrive. An estimated 20 VC KIA were reported in the area and 15 structures were destroyed.
Again on the 17th of December 1967, Troop C, known as the “Blue Ghosts”, showed its superiority. CPT McKenzie in his OH-6A spotted numerous VC hiding in camouflaged sampans approximately 4000 meters north of Tam Ky. All had weapons and packs. CPT McKenzie alone killed three with his mini-gun When his ship ran out of ammo, the crew chief/door gunner SP5 Joseph Johnson (Elba, Alabama) killed one with his M-60. When he ran out of ammo SP5 Johnson killed one with his .45 caliber pistol and WO Robert Smith (Fort Worth, Texas) a lift pilot serving as observer killed one with his .38 caliber pistol. CPT McKenzie also destroyed 8 sampans after which he hovered over them in his OH-6A while SP5 Johnson hung on the skid recovering small arms, ammo, packs and web gear.
MAJ James D Marett, the Troop Commander, (Tamassee, South Carolina) while flying over a village just north of Lake Song Dam had an estimated 150 pound bomb detonated under his UH-1C. Ho also received small arms and automatic weapons fire. SP5 Frederick Hersom (Bath, Maine) his crew chief/door gunner killed one VC shooting at the aircraft. A team of 1 LT Micheal Chambers (Hoistington, Kansas) and WO Phillip Monte (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) was also on station. They killed four VC evading into a bunker. All were armed. An airstrike was called in on the villa and damage assessment was gotten by the ground unit.
CPT McKenzie later returned to the sunken sampans and saw 3 VC trying to recover equipment and confirmed 3 KIA. He then retrieved more weapons, web gear, ammo, C-4 bags and packs. CPT Billy F Hatch (Little Rock, Arkansas) then came on the scene and sank 25 more sampans which were camouflaged. On the 21st of December Troop C still remained in direct support of the 196th Brigade. The big action of the day came while in support of F Troop, 17th Cav, and A Troop 1/1 Cay.
In the morning about four clicks northeast of Tam Ky F Troop made contact with the VC. Troop C’s infantry was committed and two likely suspects were captured. MAJ Marett found one suspect hiding in the water breathing through a reed. He hovered over him until F Troop could capture him. He turned out to be a VC squad leader. The infantry later captured two more VC and turned them over to Troop F. Later in the day the mixed team of MM Burden and WO Nicley were sent to screen for A Troop 1/1. While screen-ing they spotted 19 NVA, at the same time A Troop was crossing the waterway and one APC sank. WO Nicely in his OH-6A hovered over the APC and lowered his crew chief/door gunner PFC Edward Ventura (Chandler, Arizonia) into the water. He hung on the skid and saved 3 of the APC’s crew. He then jumped into the water and attempted to save the remaining two. All of this was done with the threat of 10 NVA with weapons 300 meters away. Shortly afterwards two APC’s from A Troop 1/1 ran into an estimated NVA company just cast of the sunken APC. A mixed team of ILT George Briggs in his OH-6A and ILT Michael Chambers in his UH-1C gunship who were screening for them marked their position and put rockets into the enemy position until more Troop C gunships could arrive on the scene.
After the other gunships arrived, 1LT Briggs heard another APC, located midway in the waterway that had lost its steering and was taking water. He evacuated three men in his OH-6A while receiving fire from ashore and all of their weapons. The APC with the reduced load was then able to make it to shore. Once on the opposite shore he took the men, weapons, and ammo back across to the APC. At the same time WO Nicely who was now screening killed one NVA with an AK-47 sneaking up on the APC’s. He also directed gunships on target while receiving automatic weapons fire. ILT Chambers had one confirmed KIA, MAJ Marett had 2 KIA confirmed. 18 structures were destroyed and 2 sampans sunk. The estimated 20 KIA. An airstrike was called in on the position shortly after dark and Troop C pulled its elements out. This actually has been the real significant action that Troop C has had in the short time they have been at Chu Lai. It is a fact that the short time Troop C has been operational in this area they have had more kills than any other unit in the 196th Brigade.