A SHORT HISTORY OF 1965-1966:
Following the return to Japan, the 8th Regiment trained for winter warfare during the years of peaceful occupation,
1952-57. In August of 1957, the unit was transferred minus equipment and men to Korea where the 24th Infantry
Division was re-designated as the 1st Cavalry Division. Returning to Korea, the 8th Cavalry assumed the position of
watchful defender, deployed along the de-militarized zone. This deployment was continued from 1957 to the beginning
of the Vietnam War.
The new concepts which ultimately gave rise to the 1st Battalion, Airborne, 8th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, Airmobile,
are interwoven among the 8th Regiment's colorful and rich legacy. Recalling the elusive and dogged adversaries of the
early frontier days and the tenacious natives of the Philippines, it is apparent that mobility was the key to waging
successful operations against them. The cavalry provided the needed requirements. Faced with similar enemy in the
jungles of Vietnam, a new type of cavalry was needed.
The 1st Cavalry was recalled from Korea in 1965, minus men and equipment, to subsequently be joined with the 11th Air
Assault Division (Airmobile) to form the 1st Air Cavalry Division, Airmobile, on 3 July 1965. The Airmobile concept,
hitherto an experiment, was achieving reality. This concept was soon to be tested and modified in the realities of combat
in Vietnam. While the division was undergoing final preparation at Fort Benning, Georgia, the President had decided to
commit the division to ground combat.
The 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry became one of the eight battalions in the division. The Jumping Mustangs were attached to
the 1st Brigade, which was picked to receive airborne training - thus the whole battalion became parachute qualified.
Designed to free the infantry trooper and his logistical support from the iron grip of the terrain, the 8th Cavalry was a
new extension of the mobile policy followed by the old cavalry in the frontier days. Although this marked the first time
the 8th Cavalry had been on U. S. soil in twenty years, the troopers were destined to again depart for overseas
assignment, one which would required the ultimate in modern warfare and airmobility. The tactics employed in Korea
and World War II, were to be set aside in favor of mobility and striking power in order to deal with the
counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare. After President Johnson's declaration on 28 June 1965, the 8th Cavalry had
eight weeks to prepare for deployment to Vietnam. After many hours of training in new weapons, new tactics and new
methods of supply, the 8th Cavalry departed on the Navy transport GEIGER for Vietnam from Savanna, Georgia. The
date was 20 August 1965.
Arriving on the coast in Vietnam at Qui Nhon, the 8th Cavalry moved by helicopter to the division base area North of An
Khe in Binh Dinh Province. After preliminary skirmishes with Viet Cong forces which resulted in the capture of enemy
equipment and rice, the 8th Cavalry participated in the Pleiku Operation, for which the 1st Cavalry Division received the
Presidential Unit Citation. Involved in action around Plei Me, Duc Co, and the Ia Drang Valley, the 8th Cavalry also
cleared Highway 19 to the West of An Khe. By the end of November, over 1,500 enemy had been officially listed as KIA
and over 600 weapons had been captured. The remainder of the year was spent in conducting operations around An Khe
with the technique of combat air assaulting, rappelling and ground coordination being perfected. In addition to the
Presidential Unit Citation, SP4 Raymond Ortiz won the Distinguished Service Cross in the Ia Drang valley action. Already
at this stage, the success of the air mobile concept, as evidenced by the Pleiku Campaign, proved the 8th Cavalry was on
the right track. At every turn, airmobility had stymied enemy plans and coordination. The campaigns in the years that
follow illustrated the battalion's ability to meet the challenges of wear, terrain and the enemy.
The first year in Vietnam saw the battalion operate in sweeps while perfecting the techniques of cordon and search and
clear operations. Operating from an interlocking system of landing zones, the line companies were covered by supporting
elements, notably aerial rocket artillery and conventional tube artillery. The names for these battalion sized operations,
designed to clear enemy strongholds and disperse enemy troops, harked back to the frontier days, as the 8th Cavalry
was again chasing an elusive enemy. The year 1966 was one of learning and adapting. During the course of the year, the
1st Battalion, Airborne, 8th Cavalry, killed more than 430 Viet Cong and captured over 100 enemy. They destroyed
and/or captured over fifty tons of rice and equipment.
The beginning of the year opened with the 8th Cavalry conducting operations around An Khe and eventually pushing to
the Cambodian Border. Conducting Operation JIM BOWIE later in the Spring, the battalion learned a costly lesson in Viet
Cong booby traps as 85 Sky Troopers were wounded, stepping on pungi stakes, trip wires tied to grenades and other
ingenious devices. 20 May 1966 began with fighting erupting on all fonts as Operation CRAZY HORSE swept into full
force. Although the enemy was soon reduced to squad sized units or smaller, the Viet Cong fought tenaciously. During
the course of action in which B and C companies were involved in a fierce battle, SP4 David Dolby of B company was
awarded the unit's first Medal of Honor Medal in Vietnam. There were many other awards won including a Distinguished
Service Cross, by Capt Roy Martin, Commander of B company. The results of the operation confirmed that a fierce
struggle had indeed been waged. 85 enemy were killed and 22 captured. The battalion lost 12 men and had 54 wounded.
After several days of rest, the battalion again was faced with a new challenge as their mission to go forward and relieve
an element of the 101st Airborne Division. Accomplishing this mission, the battalion returned to LZ Eagle and fended off
a ground attack by two North Vietnamese companies. Co B killed 97 enemy and captured a large quantity of weapons
and ammunition. Even at this early date, the North Vietnamese were required to bolster local Viet Cong units. This was to
become an ever increasing occurrence as the battalion forced back the local Viet Cong and decimated their numbers.
Results of the operation, called NATHAN HALE, were highly successful. A ratio of 24 to 1 was chalked up in killed. For this
action, the battalion received its second Presidential Unit Citation, dated 21-22 June 1966, embroidered TRUNG LUONG,
after the successful conclusion of a key battle in this operation.
Proving the versatility and adaptability, the battalion had fought the enemy in various types of terrain and weather. Late
in the year, the battalion moved to the China Sea Coast in OPERATION IRVING, eventually pushing a defeated enemy into
the sea or into the hands of other units. On 17 November 1966, the battalion in conjunction with the Second Battalion,
8th Cavalry celebrated the Centennial Anniversary of the 8th Cavalry. During the waning days of the year, the battalion
companies engaged the enemy in various firefights within the II Corps area. On 30 December 1966, Co C captured an
NVA captain who had been the training officer and Chief of Staff of the 22nd NVA Division.
|Bravo Company 1965 - 1971