|Charlie Company's First year an a half in Viet Nam
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), commonly called the First
Air Cavalry Division, 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 Division was recalled from Korea in late June 1965, minus men and equipment, to subsequently be reorganized and be prepared for
a new mission. This was the first time the Division had been on U.S. of A. Soil since being sent to the pacific theater in WW II, but was only for a
very short period of time. On 1 July 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated with the men and equipment of 11th Air
Assault Division (Test) making up the assets of the new division. 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 a-side 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 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 won the units
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 an relieve and 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 unit. 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 South 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 conjunctions 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.