Unit History of the
220th Aviation Company—1967 Overview:
Updated 21 June 2014
In the midst of a cold, wet Monsoon season, the rest of the weathered GP Medium Tent City became a thing of the past with completion of the construction of the new tin roofed company cantonment area.
On 8 January Ivon “Ike” Borgen, 2nd Platoon, was WIA from ground fire and his Marine AO, Charlie Goode, was also hit (Charlie says, “nicked”) by a round that ricocheted into the back seat. Ike was evacuated.
When we were denied permission to attend the USAF Escape and Evasion Course at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, we checked out the possibility of our attending the Navy ´s Jungle Environmental Survival Training (JEST), which our USMC Aerial Observers attended at Cubi Point, Subic Bay, before their arrival in Vietnam. With the assistance of MAJ Hammel, the 3rd Marine Division AO Team Chief, we found (actually created) a way and started sending three aviators each week to the course while the Monsoon was causing the loss of mission flying hours anyway.
NOTE: Navy Jungle Environmental Survival Training (JEST) at Cubi Point, Philippines:
When we found the "key" and were permitted to attend the Navy Jungle Environmental Survivor Training at Cubi Point in the Philippines, we sent three aviators each week, let them take advantage of a week "off" and actually made it a "business/pleasure" trip. We normally flew out of Chu Lai on a USMC C-130 on Sunday. At the Cubi Point BOQ and Club we soon met and renewed some call-sign acquaintances with several Marine and Navy pilots. There was also more than plenty of time available to attend the training course, enjoy the Navy club, check out the sights in Olongapo, shop in the big Subic Bay PX, and enjoy the week without abusing the system until hopping a return flight to Chu Lai or Da Nang the next weekend.
While a visit to Manila was almost obligatory, I opted out of that group and took a trip to the Bataan Peninsula and then took an out-rigger canoe (that had a Maytag washing machine motor rigged for power) across the channel to Corregidor Island for personal reasons. In my assignment with the Flight Detachment for Hq VI US Army Corps before coming to the 220th, our Commanding General, MG John R. Pugh, had been the G2 at Bataan and Corregidor with LTG Jonathan M. Wainwright, and together they survived the Bataan Death March and three years as POWs of the Japanese during 1942-45. The opportunity to pay homage to both of them, especially a former "boss" and a great friend, and visit a special place in our military history of WWII in the Pacific just could not be missed. Palmer Haines and Lloyd Morgan joined me on this adventure. The Philippine Army Major commanding a detachment that was preparing the Island for the 25th (1942-1967) Anniversary of the surrender of Corregidor made the trip a memorable visit that I will never forget.
On 26 January, we lost 1LT Lloyd Rugge, 1st Platoon, near Duc Pho in Quang Ngai Province. After the aircraft was hit and crash landed, the USMC AO was able to get Lloyd, who was badly injured, out of the aircraft before a VC party came upon them. However, the two became separated, Lloyd was captured and the AO, 1LT Patrick O´Malley, was eventually rescued. Lloyd was listed as MIA until his remains were later located and he was declared KIA. (There is a detailed story of Lloyd´s life in the book, One Day in Vietnam — A True Story of an Army Bird Dog Pilot, by Gary Hook, Lloyd´s cousin.)
On 5 March CPT Calvin Boyles, 1st Platoon, was WIA and his observer, 1LT William A. Berry, USMC AO, was KIA near Quang Ngai when the aircraft was hit by ground fire.
In late March, our 4th Platoon came "home" from extended duty with the 219th Aviation Company in II Corps. The company had been assigned a new mission in the DMZ and Tally Ho adjusting the fires of a new 175mm Gun Battalion (94th Artillery commanded by LTC Richard Trefry) and also working as Forward Air Controllers with the USAF in North Vietnam. The 4th Platoon with a combination of infused volunteers from the Company Headquarters at Phu Bai and the 2nd Platoon in Hue began the mission with a "guaranteed" availability of 4 aircraft and crews and the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant on the Dong Ha Base around the clock at all times. With the remaining four aircraft and crews, for the first time the Company gained some much needed flexibility and also now actually had a small reserve to augment the platoons and enhance the aircraft maintenance capability as well.
On 27 March the commanding officer received a letter of appreciation for the extended support that the 220th had been providing to the First Platoon of the 138th Aviation Company (Radio Research) which operated out of the Hue-Phu Bai Airfield. The 138th Aviation Company was based out of Da Nang and supported the entire USMC III MAF in I Corps:
On 1 April, LTC John Richardson, our new commander of the 223rd Combat Aviation Battalion was present for the change of command of MAJ Dunne to MAJ Courtney E. Smith, formerly a Platoon Leader with the 18th Aviation "Otter" Company at Da Nang / Marble Mountain.
With the new activity at Dong Ha there was greatly increased enemy artillery and rocket fire from north of the DMZ. Our 4th Platoon pilots also got used to seeing Surface to Air Missiles directed toward the Air Force jets from sites around Vinh along with plenty of small arms fire, .50 cal and 37mm and 57mm coming at them throughout their new area of operation. We also began to see larger enemy weaponry south of the DMZ.
This Spring the 3rd Marine Division Aerial Observer Team requested permission to "contract" the Seabees to erect a Sea Hut in the southwest corner of the 220th area. They soon became a welcome addition to the family housing area. We were also able to react to mission requests, and particularly those of an immediate nature, much more quickly.
NOTE: The call sign of the 3rd Marine AOs was "Sacred" —and they used letters of the alphabet (Alpha thru Zulu) which they selected as their personal identifiers, i.e.:Sacred Alpha, Sacred Delta or whatever...(at least during 1966-67).NOTE: Our 1st and 3rd Platoons worked with the 1st Marine Division AO Section "Black Coats."We then began to see a movement of US Army forces moving into I Corps, with the headquarters of Task Force Oregon at Chu Lai, and the beginning of construction of Camp Eagle for the 101st Airborne Division near Phu Bai.
On 6 April, CPT Joe Hodges and SSG Roger Putnam, in the back seat with his LMG, were both recommended for Silver Stars for exceptional valor in coming to the aid of an ARVN unit under attack near Hoi An. (They received the awards later at a ceremony at Fort Rucker, AL.)
On 15 April on the occasion of his departure as the Senior Advisor in the Quang Ngai sector of the I Corps Advisory Group, COL William V. Ochs, Jr. sent the following Letter of Appreciation to the CO, 220th:
On 23 May 1LT Bobbie Ray Jermyn, 4th Platoon at Dong Ha, died in a Non-Combat Aircraft Crash near Con Thien when his engine failed. His Aerial Observer was injured but survived.
Not known until some time later, we learned that our 3rd Platoon was honored by being listed as a supporting unit of the 1st Marine Division for the award of the Navy Presidential Unit Citation [(N) PUC] for the period 25 April—5 June 1967.
On 13 June the Commanding General, Third Marine Division, sent the following message:
During 4-9 July due to heavy artillery and rocket attacks on the Dong Ha Base the 4th Platoon was temporarily evacuated from Dong Ha and continued their operations from Phu Bai.
On 14 July the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for the period July 1965 — April 1966 was awarded to the Company at a ceremony in Phu Bai.
As additional O-1 companies were organized and arrived in Vietnam, the 220th established a "host" relationship with the 199th Aviation Company (LT) which resulted in the following Letter of Appreciation from LTC Charles F. Hutchins, CO of the 199th on 4 August.
On 11 August, MAJ Smith passed command of the 220th to MAJ George Woods, his Executive Officer.
On 14 August the 4th Platoon was permanently moved from Dong Ha to Phu Bai as the survivability of the aircraft and crews became untenable. [Ask Lloyd Oake to tell you about his and his Platoon Leader´s (Larry "Bob" Freck?) departure/evacuation from Dong Ha in the Beaver by MAJ Woods.)
On 3 September the 220th Aviation Company (RAC) was reassigned from the 223rd Aviation Battalion to the 212th Combat Support Aviation Battalion at Da Nang / Marble Mountain. This was the first time that the Company has been in close proximity to its next higher headquarters, less than an hour away by aircraft.
On 10 September, CPT Charles L. (Larry) Deibert, 4th Platoon, earned the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary valorous actions in support of the 3/26th Marines near Con Thien in an area later called "Ambush Valley".
Not known until some time later, we learned that our 4th Platoon was honored by being listed as a supporting unit of the 3rd Marine Division for the award of the Navy Presidential Unit Citation [(N) PUC] for the period 20 May — 15 September 1967.
NOTE: A reunion of the 3/26th Marines with Larry Deibert, in conjunction with the dedication of the new Oregon National Guard Aviation Center honoring Larry in Salem, Oregon, is a pointed reminder that our actions in Vietnam had lasting implications and ensured genuine appreciation from our supported units, as this newspaper photo and caption show:
On 11 October there was an unexpected change of command from MAJ Woods to his Executive Officer, MAJ Gary Clark. [George had extended his tour of duty for four months for the command; however, DA denied his request for extension since they had another command assignment already lined up for him as the CO of the USMA Flight Detachment at Stewart Field, NY.]
On 4 December we suffered the loss of CWO Louis Ferdinand Keeven (KIA) in Quang Tri Province.
In December the 21st Reconnaissance Airplane Company [or was it really the 21st Aviation Company (RAC)] "Black Aces" moved from Tay Ninh in the III Corps Tactical Zone to Chu Lai in southernmost I Corps in the build-up of Army forces in that area. This permitted the move of the 1st Platoon from Quang Ngai, where it had been almost a separate unit of the Company, to Phu Bai, where it was promptly assigned to augment the mission of the 4th Platoon in Quang Tri Province.
As the result of an intersession by Private Luciano, of the 220th, and a follow-up letter from MAJ Clark for the support of an orphanage by the Bishop McVinney of Providence, Rhode Island, the following Letter of Appreciation was sent directly to MAJ Clark:
On 28 December after a fly-in meeting at the Company Headquarters in Phu Bai, the new Officers Club, which had been completed by a great deal of volunteer work by the 220th officers and the Marine AOs, was "officially" opened after supper.
Sometime during this period, it apparently was determined that the original 220th / WE OBSERVE patch was outdated — probably because the 220th was and had been doing much more than just observing and reporting since its arrival in I Corps. The details of the change from WE OBSERVE to CAT KILLERS are unknown, but none-the-less, a new unit patch was born and proudly worn. (This appears to have occurred during the command of MAJ Clark.)
At the year´s end, the following Letter of Appreciation was received from the Commanding General, Third Marine Division:
During this year, the company, now with four platoons since late March, flew 21,323 sorties for a total of 27,245 flying hours.
COMPILER: Gene Wilson