Unit History

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History of the 114th Birddogs

(Click photo to enlarge)

Front Row, Left to Right
Captain Gene Boyle and CWO William "Bill" Craven

Standing Second Row:
CWO Bennie Benefleld, CWO Terry Luther
CWO Jerry Lee, CWO Gary Pravden
Vinh Long Airfield, South Vietnam, 1964-1965.

Some time ago, I was asked to provide some background on the 73rd Reconnaissance Airplane Company (RAC) (Provisional). I'm sure some members of our Association are curious as to how 01-F "Bird Dogs" ever became a part of the 114th Aviation Company (Air Mobile Light). I can only provide you with my personal viewpoint and how I wound up being a Bird Dog pilot assigned to the 114th AVN CO (AML).

I believe the 73rd RAC deployed to South Viet Nam in the spring of 1963. As I recall, one platoon of approximately 18 aircraft each was stationed in each of the four Corps Tactical Zones. I know that the company headquarters was located in Nha Trang (II Corps), one platoon was in Danang (I Corps), one in Bien Hoa (III Corps), and the other was in IV Corps. Various RAC sections were assigned out to other operational areas, most in direct support of the MAAG Advisory elements. There were three sections of six aircraft each in IV Corps assigned to the Delta Aviation Battalion (later redesignated as the 13th Aviation Battalion [Combat]). One section was at Bac Lieu supporting the 21st ARVN Division Advisors, one section was located at My Tho supporting the 7th ARVN Division Advisors and the section that eventually wound up being a part of the 114th AVN CO (AML) was at Vinh Long supporting the MAAG Advisors to the 9th ARVN Division.

I was initially assigned to the 73rd RAC on August 19, 1964 when I in-processed at MAAG Headquarters in Saigon. After about three days, I was directed to check in at the 18th Aviation Company (U-I "Otter", Low, Slow, and Reliable) operations at Tan San Nhut and bitch a ride to Nha Trang for further in-processing, in-country checkout and further assignment somewhere in one of the four Corps AO's. Three days later and 7 hours into my in-country checkout, I was directed to go to Bien Hoa with a 0-IF and augment the section located there for a "special" mission. This "special" mission consisted of flying as a nighttime airborne radio relay platform maintaining radio contact with three elements, a communications center ("STARCOM"), a POL site on the Saigon river (TANK FARM). and an aviation company operations center located at Tan San Nhut. Their gunship platoon (Playboys?) was on call should STARCOM or TANK FARM come under attack. (VC did not launch an attack due to excellent BIRD DOG vigilance!!). Seven days and 40 plus nighttime hours later I was directed to return to Nha Trang for further assignment.

Somewhere in the July-September, 1964 time frame, deactivation plans for the 73rd RAC was in progress although I was not aware of this action until later.

Three days after returning to Nha Trang, I was assigned to the platoon and section located in Danang and hitched a ride there on an Air Force C-123. I settled in at 9 (Gia Long, where our platoon personnel were quartered. I received my Laotion border and DMZ area checkout and was cleared to start regular support of the Advisors in the area. About a week after arriving in Danang, a typhoon hit and blew out every windowpane in our quarters at 9 Gia Long. Several of us went to the airfield expecting to find our Bird Dogs scattered about, but fortunately they were still secure in their tie-downs. We managed to get the airplanes in a big hanger and as we were congratulating ourselves on a job well done, the typhoon main strength came ashore and the wind started peeling sheets of corrugated steel roofing and siding off the hanger akin to scaling a fish with a sharp knife in front of a big floor fan. We all sought shelter under the wings of the Bird Dogs and watched the steel roofing and siding sail into C-123, C-130, C-46, C-47 and various other airplanes parked on the ramp.

Sometime around the middle of September 1964, the deactivation of the 73rd RAC was announced and company personnel and assets were either assigned or attached to the Provisional Aviation Battalions located in each of the four Corps Tactical Zones.

Being one of the new guys in the unit, I was a prime candidate to be sent to the "boondocks" as some of the company headquarters personnel opted to re-locate to the big city of Danang. Needless to say, I was on the road again, hitching another ride on a C-123 from Danang to Saigon. CAPT. Lou West, Platoon Leader of the IV Corps area 73rd RAC who delivered me to Vinh Long, met me there. I had been assigned to the Delta Aviation Battalion and further attached to the 114th AVN CO (AML), Major George Young, Commanding.

I don't recall exactly when the 73rd RAC was deactivated. I believe is was some time in late September or maybe even October, 1964 at about the same time or shortly thereafter when the Delta Aviation Battalion (Provisional) was redesignated the 13th Aviation Battalion (Combat).

When I arrived at Vinh Long, enlisted crew chiefs were quartered at the airfield and the 73rd RAC pilots lived downtown in the Vinh Long MAAG house with some of the Advisors. There were three 73rd RAC Warrants flying Bird Dogs in addition to CAPT. Lou West. They were CWO Teny Luther, CWO Jeny Lee and CWO Gary Pravden.

Sometime around the middle of October, 1964, quarters became available and we fixed-wing aviators re-located from the MAAG house to the airfield. I believe it was at this time that we all became officially assigned to the 114th AVN CO (AML). CAPT. Lou West joined one of the 114th slick platoons and I became the 114th AVN CO (AML) 01-F Section Leader. Similar restructuring took place in My Tho and Bac Lieu with the other 73rd RAC personnel and aircraft. Later on, CWO William "Bill" Craven and CWO Bennie Benefield were assigned to the section. CWO Craven brought with him a wealth of experience. He flew B-24 Liberator Bombers in the Pacific during W.W.II and had several thousand hours as a civilian Bird Dog LP. Also Lt. Bill Rades, 96th Signal Detachment Commander at Vinh Long, quite frequently flew Bird Dog missions with us.

From October 1964 until about June-July, 1965 the 114th AVN CO (AML) 01-F Section flew a variety of missions, primarily in direct support of the MAAG Advisors assigned to the 9th ARVN Division. We also supported the Regional Force-Popular Force (RUFF-Puffs); Sub Sector Advisors, and the 23rd Riverine Assault Group (RAG) Navy Advisors. Typical missions included reconnaissance, artillery fire adjustment, Forward Air Control (FAC), Naval gunfire adjustment, PSYOP "Litterbug" missions dropping leaflets, radio relay, resupply via bundle drops, calling for and coordinating medivac's with DUSTOFF, and several other services for our Advisors such as airdropping mail, clean laundry, cold beer secured in a .50 cal. ammo can, and marking targets and friendly front line traces for close air support provided by high performance aircraft and helicopter gunships (Bob Molinelli and "Pete" Kendrick were the Cobra Gunship Platoon Leaders during my tour). In the spring of '65, a 114th crew medivaced one of Major Oscar M. Padgetts 9th ARVN DIV 13th Regiment Advisors, Lt. Dennis Reimer, who suffered shrapnel wound in the stomach during a nearby operation. We could also provide illumination for up to 45-48 continuous minutes as the Bird Dog could carry and drop up to four Mark-45 flares per sortie.

Probably the most important role the Bird Dog played in its support role was that the aircraft and the pilot were the Advisors direct link to the outside world. On board were one VHF, one UHF, and two FM radios. From this aerial platform the pilot became the extended eyes, ears and voice of the advisor on the ground. When they needed something, be it artillery fire support, close air support, medivac, radio relay, reconnaissance, resupply (cold six-pack) or whatever may crop up, they could get it from and through the 01-F Bird Dog. Four of the six 114th Bird Dogs were armed with four 2.75 FFARs each and could provide limited aerial fire support until the Cobra Platoon gunships or fighter aircraft arrived on the scene.


Sometime in the June-July, 1965 time frame the 74th RAC was activated and three additional RACs arrived in country. I believe they were the 219th, 220th and 221st RAC. One RAC was assigned to each Corps Tactical Zone and the remaining original 73rd RAC personnel and assets were absorbed by these new 01-F companies. I think the 221st RAC (Shotguns??) were stationed at Soc Trang. I know we provided some of their crews a 10-hour in-country check out when they were assigned to Vinh Long. I was so close to my DEROS (August 18, 1965) that I remained assigned to the 114th until o/a August 11, 1965 when the company commander, Major George Derrick, flew me to Saigon and dropped me off at a helipad on Tan San Nhut.

The 73rd Aviation company was reactivated at Vung Tau sometime between October 1964 and August 1965 as an OV-l "Mohawk" unit.

The crew chiefs assigned to the 01-F section did a magnificent job of maintaining the assigned Bird Dogs. Although a few of the airplanes sustained some minor battle damage, none were ever lost due to mechanical failure or faulty maintenance while assigned to the 114th. The aircraft engines had to be replaced at the 900-hour level. The crews were making these changes about every six or seven months on each airplane. This should give the reader an idea as to the flight requirements levied on the 01-F Bird Dog Section. Specialist Herbert Silver, Specialist Fyffe, PFC's Frank Gaeben, Irvine Matsuda and several others did an outstanding job under sometimes-difficult circumstances. Any achievements and or accolades earned by this section would not have been possible without the enlisted crew contribution and dedication.

I trust you find this account of how a small group of fixed-wing aviators and crew chiefs from the 73rd RAC (Call Sign "BACKSPIN") wound up assigned to the 114th Aviation Company (AML) to be somewhat interesting.

Submitted by Gene Backspin Boyle


More history will appear as it comes in

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