1967 - 134th AHC Reactivation
The 134th was reactivated on 17 February 1967 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as an Assault Helicopter Company. WO Orin Nagel was the first person assigned to the company and PFC Ray Wysocki was the first enlisted man and acting First Sgt. The 134th with its subordinate units, the 618th Transportation Detachment and the 832nd Signal Detachment, was one of four companies being organized at Fort Bragg for training prior to deployment overseas. Authorized strength was 219 men for the 134th, 72 for the 618th and 9 for the 832nd. Roughly 75-80% of the men were regular army volunteers and the rest draftees. The unit picked up its 23 slicks (UH-1D's) and eight gunships (UH-1C's), many with consecutive tail numbers, at the factory in April-May and began training. The commanding officer was Major (later LTC) Richard Kielman, Executive Officer Major John Thorpe, Operations Officer Captain Carl Pritzl and gun platoon leader Captain Walter Chrobak. Captain Pritzl, a reserve LTC, was on his 3rd war, having flown with the Army Air Corps in World War II and later Korea.
While at Fort Bragg, Major Kielman held a contest to design a company patch and suggest call signs. The 134th Assault Helicopter Company patch designer was Ted Motsinger. Captain Chrobak suggested the call signs Demon and Satan. This was changed to Demon and Devil.
134th Aviation Company (AML), and later
134th Assault Helicopter Company
The days at Fort Bragg were an exciting time as new men arrived and joined the fledgling unit. The very first to arrive were 22 door gunners straight out of AIT and 2 warrant officers just out of flight school. The men were well-trained, spirited and anxious to get on with the job. Many remember getting up at 5 am for the mandatory PT runs with the other units at this
gung hoairborne base and then going back to bed after PT to get up for work at a more reasonable hour. There were also a number of memorable events, such as:
Upon completion of training, the 82nd Aviation Battalion administered an ORT (Operational Readiness Test). The test was completed in a minimum of time due to the preparedness of the 134th. The company far surpassed all requirements and was said to be the most highly trained and professional unit to have been organized at Fort Bragg.
The 134th was ready for deployment by the first of November 1967. The CO, XO and OPS Officer did not deploy with the unit since they were all second tour personnel who were several weeks short of the one year requirement between tours. Captain Chrobak was named acting Commander for deployment. The unit's equipment (vehicles, refrigerators, etc.) went through the Panama Canal from Charleston accompanied by WO Ray Labier.
The aircraft were flown as a unit across country (+24 hours of flight time) to Sharpe Army Depot in California where they were loaded onto an aircraft carrier. Once the entire unit was in San Francisco, they boarded the USNS John Pope for a 21 day voyage to Vietnam. However, before boarding the ship, the first lift platoon was separated and diverted to Korea as a result of an incident on the DMZ and the need to beef up security. Also on the Pope were the 61st AHC from Ft. Bragg and the 92nd AHC from Ft. Campbell. Another sister unit at Ft. Bragg, the 57th AHC, was deployed at the same time but was flown to Viet Nam on C-141's and arrived two weeks before the 134th
Some were a bit disappointed with the sendoff from the Oakland pier. Rather than cheering crowds, marching bands and speeches as in the old war movies, the pier was deserted except for a couple of Red Cross ladies handing out donuts and a small, lonely-looking Army band. However, the view of the Golden Gate Bridge on the way out of the harbor was a spectacular sight, one still imprinted in the memory of the men who were on the troopship that day.
The voyage to Vietnam was incredibly boring and there was literally nothing to do but sleep, eat, play cards, read and gamble. No one realized there was a
hustlerin the our midst and by the third day out WO Bob Allen had virtually everyone's money. Many men read quite a few novels and any books they could get their hands on. As an indicator of their desperation, it is interesting to note that a book popular among some folks was Gibbons'
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, all 2000 or so pages of it. Although the ocean was calm for the entire trip a few men, especially WO Gus Reali, never developed their sea legs and were seasick for the entire trip.The 134th and subordinate units arrived in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam on Thanksgiving Day, 24 November 1967. Majors Kielman and Thorpe arrived via aircraft just prior to the units arrival. The company was flown into Phu Hiep AAF on C-130's but took ground fire on approach and diverted to Tuy Hoa. Needless to say, this was a rather ominous beginning to the 134th's war effort. Once in Phu Hiep tents were set up on the beach adjacent to the area which would later become Hell's Half Acre. Everyone pitched in and began building the company facilities. One of the first things built was an outdoor movie screen between the tents so nightly movies could be shown.
Vehicles and equipment were picked up at Nha Trang and driven by convoy to Phu Hiep. This was an unsettling experience for those driving and riding shotgun since they had only been in-country a few days. The fire truck's hose compartment was lined with sandbags and manned by 4 men with M-60's. Other weapons and plenty of ammunition were kept handy. Luckily, before the primary living areas and other major facilities were built, a neighboring unit (the 192nd AHC) relocated to Phan Thiet. The men of the 134th then moved into these ready-made quarters (only 7 tiles had to be changed in the Officers Club bar countertop to change 192 to 134!).
Most of the flight crews and their aircraft were initially farmed out to sister units for a few weeks of intense in-country training, some with the 129th AHC (Bulldogs) at An Son but mostly with the 48th AHC (Blue Stars) at Ninh Hoa. Demon 66-16319 (WO
StorkHamel and CE SP5 Harold Shonk) had an engine fire on its first flight out of Ninh Hoa but the Blue Star pilot flying as aircraft commander set it down with no damage. The 48th had some damn good pilots and the 134th crews learned a great deal from them. The Devil gunships were the envy of Ninh Hoa during their orientation. The 48th guns (Jokers) still had UH-1B models with twin M-60's on each side while the Devils had brand new C models with miniguns and two
Frogswith 38 rockets and a 40 mm grenade launcher, or
chunker. In less than a month after arrival, the 134th was participating in normal operations with one lift and one gun platoon, the second lift platoon not being formed until six months later.
Upon arriving in country all men in the 134th had standard army issue weapons, primarily M-16 rifles, 45 and 38 cal. pistols. Shortly afterwards, the gun platoon driver, PFC Harold Long, decided that he preferred one of the small M-1 carbines used by the Vietnamese and traded his M-16 for one. His punishment was to serve 30 days in the field with the 173rd Airborne Brigade to learn how to properly appreciate his weapon. He was sent on a patrol that was attacked one night, and the next morning they found his position surrounded by dead VC. The 173rd awarded PFC Long a Bronze Star with
Vand a Combat Infantryman Badge. Of course, he was very happy when his 30 days with the infantry were up. After this incident, there were remarkably few problems with personnel swapping weapons.
Being short one lift platoon made the 134th a bit unusual and the company was not assigned a direct support mission like most assault helicopter units. Instead, the 134th was assigned the mission of general support for II Corps, a task which was to last throughout its tour of duty. Its area of operations extended as far as Dak Pek in the northwest, LZ English in the northeast (north of Qui Nhon), Phan Thiet in the southeast and Ban Me Thout in the southwest. Backing the Demon and Devil flight crews up was a superb maintenance team that set the standard for excellence for aircraft maintenance during the Vietnam War.
At various times during its tour of duty the 134th supported:
|Last modified: Wednesday May 31st, 2023|