prepared March 2008 - Raymond Keith
Upon deployment to Vietnam in 1967, the 1st Squadron / 1st Cavalry Regiment consisted of three armored cavalry troops and one air cavalry troop, D-Troop, which was not deployed until July 1968. D-Troop spent that year training and equipping at Fort Hood to be one of the first Air Cavalry troops constituted as red unit- gunships, white unit- Light Observation Helicopters LOH and blue unit- UH-1s with aero rifle platoon. This organization provided flexibility, fire power, rapid response, close communications and extreme mobility ideally suited for jungle warfare and destined D-Troop to primarily offensive missions like scout, reconnaissance, rapid insertion, search and destroy, interdiction and attack; but also search and rescue, medivac, resupply, flare drops, recovery and the list goes on.
D-Troop was shipped to Vietnam with aircraft on board to join its parent unit, the 1st Squadron/1st Cavalry Regiment, which was already in Vietnam attached to the Americal Division at Chu Lai. Enroute, D-Troops orders were changed, temporarily attaching it to the 101st Airborne Division. The Troop disembarked at Da Nang on July 21,1968 and flew directly to Camp Eagle. The Troop then remained on combat duty in I CORP for the next four years and used the call sign Sabre.
The 101st Airborne Division was undergoing a conversion from an airborne (parachute) to an airmobile (helicopter) formation and was renamed 101st Air Cavalry Division on July 1, 1968 and renamed again as the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) on August 29, 1969. The Division was short of aviation assets in the summer of 1968 and therefore arranged for service of D-Troop until its own aviation assets were up to strength. D-Troop was attached to the 2/17th Cavalry within the division and flew missions primarily in northern I CORP in the Quang Tri, Thua Thien and Quang Nam Provinces. UH-1C model gunships were replaced with AH-1G Cobras through the summer of 1968 as new aircraft were received and crews were trained in-country. In March 1969, one of the 2/17th squadronâ€™s air cavalry troops returned to Camp Eagle. The new troop and D-Troop exchanged some personnel and flew together through May, when D-Troop departed for Chu Lai.
D-Troop was returned to operational control of the Americal Division at Chu Lai in May 1969, but it did not join its parent unit because the 1st Squadron /1st Cavalry Regiment had already acquired another Air Cavalry Troop, F Troop / 8th Cavalry, at the time it joined the Americal Division in January 1968. The Americal Division, formed in Vietnam from three infantry Brigades, was not airmobile and found a pressing need for aviation assets. It activated the 123rd Aviation Battalion on December 8, 1967 from a nucleus taken from the 161st Aviation Company, which was being deactivated (Pelicans and Warlords). Troop D was assigned to the 123rd Aviation Battalion so it too would support the entire Division. D-Troop worked primarily the Southern part of I CORP in Quang Nam, Quang Tin and Quang Ngai Provinces until the end of 1971.
The Americal Division began to stand down in October 1971 and D-Troop started a move to the old Marine base at Marble Mountain near Da Nang. Typhoon Hester hit the southern I Corps coast on October 23, 1971. The worst storm in twenty-seven years swept in from the South China Sea and flattened half the base at Chu Lai.
On 4 May 1972, D-Troop emerged from 1st Squadron/ 1st Cavalry to D-Troop 17th Cavalry, under the operational control of the 196th Infantry Brigade (the last remaining Brigade from the Americal). D-Troop, 17th Cavalry established its Headquarters at Marble Mountain Army Airfield and flew missions all over I CORP. On August 29, 1972, D-Troop was relocated from Marble Mountain to Da Nang Air Base. The last D-Troop missions in Vietnam were flown in November 1972 and the Troop stood down in February 1973.
The parent unit of D-Troop, 1st Squadron /1st Cavalry Regiment (First Regiment of Dragoons), has a long history of service dating from the Mexican War (1846) and was the first cavalry regiment to be completely mechanized (1933), being designated the First Armored Regiment in 1940, and became part of the First Armored Division. During the spring of 1963 the Squadron took part in the STRICOM exercise "Swift Strike", and then returned to Fort Hood. In January 1967, the squadron commander was called to Vietnam to assist in a study of the role of Armor in Vietnam. Upon his return to Fort Hood in March 1967, the Squadron began to form and train for Vietnam. In August 1967 the 1st Squadron/1st Cavalry was detached from the 1st Armored Division and sent to Vietnam as a separate armored cavalry squadron. It joined with the 196th Infantry Brigade in Task Force Oregon and operated around Chu Lai. The Americal formed around Task Force Oregon and 1st Squadron/1st Cavalry became part of the Division on January 10, 1968. The Squadron remained at Chu Lai for the entire tour of duty and departed Vietnam on 10 May 1972. 1st Squadron /1st Cavalry has continued in active service as an Armor unit with an air cavalry troop to this day, although it is now scheduled for deactivation in Germany in 2008.
The first U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam March 8, 1965, as 3500 Marines landed at China Beach to defend the American air base at Da Nang. D-Troop arrived at Da Nang in July 1968 in the midst of the troop build-up, which peaked in April 1969 at 543,400 while D-Troop was still at Camp Eagle. On June 8, soon after D-Troop arrived at Chu Lai, Nixon announced that a phased troop withdrawal would occur in 14 stages from July 1969 through November 1972. The very first U.S. troop withdrawal occurred on July 8 and by the end of 1969 levels were down below 430,000. American troop levels dropped to 280,000 by the end of 1970 and 6,100 American soldiers departed Vietnam on July 1, 1971, a daily record. At the end of 1971 there were only 156,800 US troops remaining in country and by April 30, 1972 the level was reduced to 69,000. D-Troop was flying combat missions to the very end, covering an ever-larger Area of Operations as the US force was diminished. All US combat troops were withdrawn by November 30, 1972.