37. First Man In The 134th By Orin Nagel

My time with the 134th AHC was certainly a time to remember. Like many, it's been 30 years so forgive me if I don't recall many of the details.


I was the first person assigned to the 134th at Ft. Bragg. When my wife and I arrived there o/a 12 December 1966, we were unable to locate the unit. No one had ever heard of the 134th. Finally, an MP with XVIII Corps recalled that he had heard that such a unit was supposed to be forming at Bragg. One thing led to another and after a couple of days I found a guy who knew something. He knew that the commander designate, I believe Major Thorpe, was the XO of 627th (??) S & S Bn.


I made my way down there and sure enough, he was there and was to be the CO when the 134th AHC began forming in the spring of 1967. I signed in to the 627th S & S, was sent to the S-4 shop and became the PBO of the company and both detachments. The PBO of the 627th was a CW2 Aarhus, who was shrewd, professional and just crooked enough to be valuable and stay out of jail. He and the S-4 NCOIC taught me the Army supply system and that education served me well for 30 years. Thanks Chief, wherever you are.


A few weeks later, WO1 Dave Wilkinson, after going through the same search, joined me and took over the property books of the Detachments. Dave and I and our families became great friends and he and I flew together, roomed together all over II Corps and flew as a fire team during our first tour.


In January 1967, we received our first EM; 1 PFC and 23 E-2s right out of AIT. All were all door gunners. The PFC had gotten seriously ill in AIT and had to be recycled so was a PFC at graduation. Simultaneously, we received our company area; an orderly room, supply room, three, two story barracks and a mess hall. PFC Wysocki was appointed 1SGT. The troops were divided 4 to a floor in the barracks and instructed to make it look great. We invited Major Thorpe to inspect the company about a month later. At the end of the inspection, he said some nice things to the troops and called Dave and I into the orderly room. He told us that this was not WOC school and while he was very impressed with the looks and condition of the barracks, we had to stop requiring the troops to 'spit-shine the floors'. So much for our first attempt at command.


We were able to escape from the supply business in late April 1967 and turned all of our equipment and records over to a real PBO. Anyone remember his name? Dave and I joined the Gun platoon and stayed there until we both left RVN in October of 1968. I think many of you remember the contest that resulted in the selection of the names Demon and Devil. How many remember some of the losers. My favorite loser was the Spartans and Trojans with the motto If it won't fly, screw it.


Training at Bragg is a fog. Picking up Hueys at the factory at Ft. Worth, training, taking them to Oakland, etc., etc. The only real memory was that WO Wigger joined the unit very late. He had been injured in a crash in Montgomery, Alabama while attempting to land in IFR conditions as the single pilot of a Huey in a flight of 10. That accident was reported in Aviation Digest in an article entitled "Ferry Flight" and resulted in a number of policy changes regarding subsequent ferry flights.


I remember the flight from Bragg to Oakland on chartered, commercial airliners. We talked the stewardesses out of their hats, scarves, pins, nametags (but not their underwear).


From Oakland we spent a lot of time playing cards and donating to the Bob Allen retirement fund. Besides being a good pilot, Bob was an excellent card player. His ambition and goal for his tour was to become the best rocket shot in RVN. Bob spent the entire tour in the right seat and few if any could match his ability with the 2.75 inch rockets. Arriving in Cam Ranh Bay, we were flown to Phu Hiep. In a day or two, I was on my way to Nha Trang to assist in convoying the unit's wheeled vehicles to Phu Hiep. We sandbagged the hose compartments of the unit fire truck, armed it with an M-60 and four men and proceeded to Phu Hiep.


From this point on, I remember very little about Phu Hiep as I was usually detached somewhere with a light fire team. During the tour, I spent about a month at Pleiku; nearly 5 months at An Khe; lived for about 6 weeks with the 28th Regiment of the ROK Army and even when in Phu Hiep, seemed to spend most of my time on all night stand by up near the Tuy Hoa officers club where we had a hooch and two pads.


During December and in to January, I flew with the 48th guns in order to get some in-country experience. While they had B Models, the experience was very valuable and I think we had an easier time adjusting to the B Models than their pilots had adjusting to the I won't hover and you can't make me C Models.


In late January, Roger Jones and I got three days off and decided to visit the MACV compound and the historic city of Nha Trang, a quiet little spot between us and Cam Ranh Bay. During the second night, there was a lot of fireworks and we awoke to a nearly deserted town. Walking down the deserted streets from our hotel, we encountered some MPs who told us that the town had been attacked by a large force the night before and there were VC everywhere. We beat a trail back to Phu Hiep, picked up a couple of gunships and joined Cpt. Chrobak and the rest of the platoon in Plieku. Lots has been written about TET, most is true. We grew up during TET and were a force to be reckoned with from then on. I returned to Phu Hiep in late February and was on my way to An Khe in March 1968.


We had 2 guns and 3-4 slicks in An Khe under the command of the slick platoon leader, Cpt. McGown, I think. Dave Wilkinson and I stayed up there until mid-July when I went on R & R. The weather in An Khe in March is cold by RVN standards and we often slept under blankets. The C Models loved the early morning road sweep and flew quite nicely before it got hot. We owned the road from the An Khe to the Mang Yang passes. The mission was to keep it open. Forces available included the 1/50th Mech Inf of the 173d, C Company, 1/69th Armor, three 105 MM arty batteries deployed at An Khe and on two fire bases along the road, and us. It was a gun pilots dream. We could fly as much as we liked and had a free fire zone the size of Rhode Island. Lots of interesting missions. I remember two really good ass chewings my first tour, both in An Khe. The first came when the Company Commander dropped in one evening when we were having barbecued deer for supper. Unfortunately, he wanted to know how we got it. Well, we created an ad hoc mission that day when we saw some deer and talked one of the slicks into picking one up after we shot it. We dressed it and it was DAMNED good eating. The company commander was unimpressed and ate my butt for supper.


The second, also at An Khe, came on the occasion of my deciding to take a prisoner and couldn't find a slick to pick him up. I landed, the crew chief and I grabbed personal weapons and proceeded to chase this guy through the bush while the aircraft with pilot and gunner took off to join Devil 27 to fly cover for us. We never caught the slippery little guy and were picked up without incident. Of course, stories travel fast in RVN and this one got back to the CO. On my next trip to Phu Hiep to exchange an aircraft, he once again lunched on my butt.


By the way, how many of you remember the concoction that we dipped our jungle fatigues in to make them fire proof (no flight suits initially)? And, remember half way through the tour someone decided that flying in jungle boots was unsafe, so we got new leather boots. I hope some of our crewchiefs and gunners can relate the fun of carrying the M-14. For whatever reason, we never got M-16s. We had two M-14s on the aircraft initially and when we turned them in, we just carried the M-60s, maybe a pistol and sometimes an M79.


After R & R, I never went back to An Khe. Dave and I took a light fire team next door to the 28th ROK Regiment. and lived over there for a month and a half in direct support of them. Great soldiers, no fear, usually interesting missions. I've supported the insertion and extraction of a lot of 173rd LRRP teams, but the ROK LRRPs were the hairiest, especially for the slicks. Eight ROK soldiers dressed in NVA uniforms with NVA equipment would load up at the Regimental pad. We'd make a couple of false insertions and then drop them in the middle of no where. We would then be scheduled to pick them up, 20-30 clicks away a week or ten days later, providing we didn't have to extract them sooner from a hot LZ. Whenever we picked them up, we relied on a Korean in the back seat for positive ID and to tell us where the team and LZ were. Once on the ground, eight, very NVA looking dudes would come out of the tree line and get on the bird. Scary, very scary.


By the time we got back from the ROK Regiment, we were short timers and I remember virtually nothing of my last 30 days in country.


I returned to the U.S. and was assigned as the Ops Officer of Delta Troop, 2/9/Cav., 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley. We too were a force to be reckoned with! Our scouts were OH-13s and our lift ships were H-34s. We had no guns.


In July, 1971, I was back in RVN as a Captain, having accepted a direct commission in June, 1969 and commanded my first ADA Vulcan battery from June 1970-June, 1971. As a second tour RLO (real live officer) I was asked for my preference when I came through the Repo-Depot in Saigon. I said the 134th and they said ok. I arrived back in the 134th in mid-July, 1971, but after my check ride, in-country orientation ride and mountain flying check out, I was reassigned to HHC, 17th CAB.


While my second stay in the 134th was short, I can offer two humorous stories. First, I was coming from Ft. Carson, CO, where mountains are mountains, and had been in LZs above 13,000 feet so I got to tell you that the mountain check ride (to a pinnacle) was less than exciting. Also, when I in-processed the mail room, the mail clerk, to my amazement, said I already had mail though I had been out of the U.S. less than a week and no one knew my address. Sure enough, I had one letter. It was addressed to CWO Orin Nagel and had been kept safely in the mailroom since my last tour. The letter was two and a half years old.


AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022