Reunion Information
Oct 02 - Oct 05, 2017: 173rd Aviation Company (Aslt Hel)  More Details
Patch
Unit Details

Strength
Company
 
Type
Transportation
 
Year
1966 - 1984
 

Description
MISSION:  The mission of the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company was to provide tactical air movement of combat troops in airmobile operations, and to provide tactical air movement of combat supplies and equipment.

HISTORY:  The 173rd Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light) was activated on 1 September 1965 and was initially assigned to the 10th Aviation Group at Fort Benning, GA. The 173rd Avn Co (Airmobile) (Light) remained at Fort Benning for organization and training until January 1966 when it began deployment to Vietnam. The main body departed Columbus, GA 15 February 1966 and arrived in Vung Tau, Vietnam 10 March 1966. The 173rd was assigned to the 1st Aviation Bridge's 11th Combat Aviation Battalion at Phu Loi and made their base at Lai Khe. The 173rd supported elements of the 1st, 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions in the III Corps, in the Tactical Zone north of Saigon. The 173rd Aviation Company underwent a name change and became the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company and operated as an element of Airmobile. The 173rd AHC served from 1966 to 1972 when the unit stood-down. The unit was awarded the Valorous Unit Award and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. SP4 Gary G. Wetzel was awarded our nation's most precious award, the "Medal of Honor" by then President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In September 1972, the 350th Aviation Company (Air Mobile), located at Fliegerhorst Kaserne, in Erlensee, FRG, part of the Hanau Military Community stood down and the aircraft and equipment was transferred to the restructured 173rd Aviation Company. The 173rd Aviation Company was a subordinate unit of the 11th Aviation Battalion located at Maurice Rose Army Airfield, Bonames, FRG, north of Frankfurt. At that time, there was a mixture of UH-1C and D models and AH-1s. Ultimately the unit would have 23 UH-1H helicopters equipped with the M-56 Mine Dispensing Units, broken up into 3 Flight platoons. There was also a Headquarters platoon and a Maintenance Platoon. The unit carried the nickname of The Robin Hoods and the field behind the billets was named Sherwood Forest. The unit remained until it was deactivated in the early 1980's. 

Notable Persons
Medal Of Honor Recipent - SP 4 Gary Wetzel
Medal of Honor - Date of Issue:  19 Nov 68
 
Citation

Sp4c. Wetzel, 173d Assault Helicopter Company, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life. above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Wetzel was serving as door gunner aboard a helicopter which was part of an insertion force trapped in a landing zone by intense and deadly hostile fire. Sp4c. Wetzel was going to the aid of his aircraft commander when he was blown into a rice paddy and critically wounded by 2 enemy rockets that exploded just inches from his location. Although bleeding profusely due to the loss of his left arm and severe wounds in his right arm, chest, and left leg, Sp4c. Wetzel staggered back to his original position in his gun-well and took the enemy forces under fire. His machinegun was the only weapon placing effective fire on the enemy at that time. Through a resolve that overcame the shock and intolerable pain of his injuries, Sp4c. Wetzel remained at his position until he had eliminated the automatic weapons emplacement that had been inflicting heavy casualties on the American troops and preventing them from moving against this strong enemy force. Refusing to attend his own extensive wounds, he attempted to return to the aid of his aircraft commander but passed out from loss of blood. Regaining consciousness, he persisted in his efforts to drag himself to the aid of his fellow crewman. After an agonizing effort, he came to the side of the crew chief who was attempting to drag the wounded aircraft commander to the safety of a nearby dike. Unswerving in his devotion to his fellow man, Sp4c. Wetzel assisted his crew chief even though he lost consciousness once again during this action. Sp4c. Wetzel displayed extraordinary heroism in his efforts to aid his fellow crewmen. His gallant actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
 
Reports To
Aviation Units
 
Active Reporting Unit
None
 
Inactive Reporting Unit
None
 
Unit Videos 
 
 

Unit Documents
 173d Annual Hist Rept 1971
 173d Annual Hist Rept 1969
 173d Annual Hist Rept 1968
 173d Annual Hist Rept 1967
 173d Annual Hist Rept 1966


Unit Web Links
173rd Assault Helicopter Company Facebook Page
149 Members Who Served in This Unit


 

  • Abrams, Payton, SP 5
  • Arce, Louie, SP 4, (1971-1974)
  • Arena, Joseph, SFC, (1968-1998)
  • Barden, Ralph, SP 5, (1969-1970)
  • Barden, Ralph, SP 5, (1969-1971)
  • Barrett, Steven, CW2, (1969-1971)
  • Bellizzi, Michael, SP 4, (1977-1980)
  • Bibek, John, SP 5, (1968-1971)
  • Black, Freeman, SP 5, (1973-1980)
  • Braun, David, SP 4, (1980-1983)
  • Bush, Harold, SP 4, (1971-1974)
  • Cassels, Randall, CW4, (1968-1996)
  • Cavinee, John, SP 4, (1965-1968)
  • Christian, Michael, SP 5, (1969-1976)
  • Cintron, Melvin, CW4, (1976-2016)
  • Clark, Michael, PV2, (1974-1975)
  • Cofield, Keith, SSG, (1966-1999)
  • Cora, Constantin, SSG, (1974-1991)
  • Costa, James, CW2, (1972-1980)
  • Curtis, Larry, CW4, (1974-1994)
  • Dean, John, CW2, (1969-1971)
  • DeGood, Randy, SP 5, (1966-1974)
  • Dismukes, Bill, COL, (1958-1992)
  • Downs, Thomas, SP 5, (1968-1970)
  • Dyer, Kenneth, SP 4, (1966-1973)
  • Feingold, Edward, MSG, (1965-1986)
  • Fonte, Ronald, PFC, (1964-1967)
  • Ford, Edgar, MSG, (1967-2007)
  • Foster, Jim (Clyde), SP 5, (1969-1972)
  • Foxworth, Myron, SP 4, (1971-1975)
  • Fuller, David, SP 4, (1975-1978)
 
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Battle/Operations History Detail
 
Description
Operation Junction City (22 February - 14 May 1967) was an 82-day military operation conducted by United States and Republic of Vietnam (RVN or South Vietnam) forces begun on 22 February 1967 during the Vietnam War. It was the largest U.S. airborne operation since Operation Market Garden during World War II, the only major airborne operation of the Vietnam War, and one of the largest U.S. operations of the war. The operation was named after Junction City, Kansas, home of the operation's commanding officer.

The failure to gain surprise lay in discovery of the plans after NVA Col. Dinh Thi Van managed to place one of her agents in social circles that included ARVN Gen. Cao Van Vien and US Gen. William Westmoreland.[citation needed] That agent further reported one ARVN staff officer's comment of the early phase of the operation: "(The Viet Cong) seem like ghosts. All the six spearheads of our forces have been attacked while we don't know exactly where their main force is. Even in Bau Hai Vung that is considered to be a safe area, we lost one brigade.

It's so strange."
The stated aim of the almost three month engagement involving the equivalent of nearly three U.S. divisions of troops was to locate the elusive 'headquarters' of the Communist uprising in South Vietnam, the COSVN (Central Office of South Vietnam). By some accounts of US analysts at the time, such a headquarters was believed to be almost a "mini-Pentagon," complete with typists, file cabinets, and staff workers possibly guarded by layers of bureaucracy. In truth, after the end of the war, the actual headquarters was revealed by VC archives to be a small and mobile group of people, oftentimes sheltering in ad hoc facilities and at one point escaping an errant bombing by some hundreds of meters.

Hammer and Anvil
Junction City's grand tactical plan was a "hammer and anvil" tactic, whereupon airborne forces would "flush out" the VietCong headquarters, sending them to retreat against a prepared "anvil" of pre-positioned forces. Total forces earmarked for this operation included most of the 1st Infantry Division and the 25th Infantry Division including the 27th Infantry Regiment (United States) "Wolfhounds;" and the [(196th Light Infantry Brigade]) and the airborne troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and large armored elements of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

American forces of II Field Force, Vietnam started operation on 22 February 1967 (while Operation Cedar Falls was winding down), the initial operation was carried out by two infantry divisions, the 1st (commanded by Major General William E. DePuy ) and the 25th (Major General Frederick C. Weyand), who led their forces to the north of the area concerned to build the "anvil" on which, according to the American plans, the forces of the Viet Cong 9th Division would be crushed. At the same time the movement of infantry (eight battalions with 249 helicopters), took place on the same day including the launch of the paratroopers (the only launch carried out during the entire Vietnam War and the largest since the days of Operation Market Garden in World War II), an airborne regiment of the 173 Airborne Brigade, which went into action west of the deployment of the 1st and the 25th Infantry Division.

The operations were apparently at first a success, designated positions were reached without encountering great resistance, and then on February 23, the mechanized forces 11th Armored Cavalry and the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Division, the "hammer" of armor struck against the '"anvil" of the infantry and airborne positioned north and west, giving the enemy seemingly no chance to escape.

In fact, the Vietcong forces, highly mobile and elusive as ever, and with information sources located deep in the south Vietnamese bureaucracy, had already relocated their headquarters to Cambodia, and launched several attacks in mass disorder to inflict losses and wear down the enemy. On February 28 and March 10 there raged two fierce clashes with U.S. forces, the Battle of Prek Klok I and the Battle of Prek Klok II where the US, supported by a powerful potential air strikes and massive artillery support repuled Vietcong attacks, but the strategic outcomes were overall disappointing.


Best available photograph of the 25th Infantry Division. A year after Junction City, the 25th ID shows the M113 Armored Personnel Carriers by which the US enjoyed a firepower and armor advantage in Prek Klok I and II.

On 18 March 1967, General Bruce Palmer, Jr., new commander of II Field Force, Vietnam, in replacement of General Seaman, launched then the second phase of Junction City, this time directly to the east and carried out again by the mechanized divisions, the 1st Infantry Division and 11th Cavalry, reinforced this time from the 1st Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division (including the 5th Cavalry Regiment). This maneuver gave rise to the toughest battle of the entire operation, the March 19 Battle of Ap Bau Bang II, wherein the 273rd Vietcong regiment put into difficulties the American armored cavalry although eventually forced to retire by a huge amount of firepower.

In the days after the forces of the Viet Cong they launched two more attacks in force, on March 21 and in Ap Gu on April 1, against the 1st and the 25th Infantry Division, both assaults were bloodily repulsed, and the Viet Cong 9th Division came out seriously weakened, though still able to fight and, if necessary, to retreat to safety in areas adjacent to the Cambodian border. On April 16 the U.S. command of II Field Force, in agreement with the MACV, decided to continue operations with a third phase of Operation Junction City, until May 14 certain units of the 25th Division Infantry American, undertook long and exhausting research the enemy, advancing in the bush, raking villages and retrieving large amounts of material logistics Vietcong, but with little contact with the Communist units, now cautiously moved to a defensive footing.


Outcome
The US infantry enjoyed advantages in mechanization over the Viet Cong forces encountered, including the M113 and in certain locales, full battle tanks.
The province of Tay Ninh was picked over thoroughly and Viet Cong forces suffered significant losses, including large amounts of material captured: 810 tonnes of rice, 600 tonnes of small arms, 500,000 pages of documents . According to calculations by the American command the 9th Division VC went seriously weakened by the operations, suffering the loss of 2,728 killed, 34 captured men and 139 deserters, but also the American losses were not negligible, amounting to nearly 300 dead and over 1,500 injured.

After the operations, the American forces were recalled to other areas of operation and then the country, apparently assured to be in the firm control of the South Vietnamese government fell prey again soon to infiltration by the Viet Cong forces returned from their sanctuaries in Cambodia.

When American troops found in some stores of the enemy, 120 reels of film and logistical equipment for the printing of documents, the command of MACV assumed to have finally found the famous COSVN in reality things were very different. The mobile headquarters, commanded by some mysterious and famous personalities such as generals Thanh, Tran Van Tran Between and Do, had quickly retreated to Cambodia, maintaining its operations and confounding the hopes of the U.S. strategic planners.
With a huge consumption of resources and equipment, including 366,000 rounds of artillery and 3,235 tons of bombs, the American forces had inflicted losses on the enemy and demonstrated the remarkable ability of airborne forces and even mechanized forces (also useful in impervious territory), but also strategically Junction City had missed the most important goals and had not led to the expected turning point of the war.
 
BattleType
Operation
Country
Vietnam, South
 
Parent
Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase II Campaign (1966-67)
CreatedBy
Not Specified
 
Start Month
2
End Month
5
 
Start Year
1967
End Year
1967
 

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