5th Cavalry Regiment
Air Cavalry Unit
The 1st Cavalry Division went home in 1965, but only long enough to be reorganized and be prepare for a new mission. On 1 July 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated. It was made up of resources of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) and brought to full strength by transfer of specialized elements of the 2nd Infantry Division. As a part of this reorganization, the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 38th Infantry was redesignated the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 5th Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 38th Infantry was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, (Airborne), 5th Cavalry Regiment. On 3 July 1965, in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning, Georgia the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of Garry Owen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved onto the field.
Within 90 days of becoming the Army's first airmobile division, the First Team was back in combat as the first fully committed division of the Vietnam War. An advance party, on board C-124s and C-130s, arrived at Nha Trang between the 19th and 27th of August 1965. They joined with advance liaison forces and established a temporary base camp near An Khe, 36 miles inland from the costal city of Qui Nhon. The remainder of the 1st Cavalry Division arrived by ship, landing at the harbor of Qui Nhon on the 12th and 13th of September, the 44th anniversary of the 1st Cavalry Division. In the Oriental calendar year of the "Horse", soldiers had returned to war wearing the famous and feared patch of the First Cavalry Division. The First Team had entered its third war - and the longest combat tour of duty in its history.
The newly arrived Sky troopers wasted little time in getting into action. From 18 - 20 September, to troopers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry and the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry supported the 1st Brigade of the 101 Airborne Division in OPERATION GIBRALTER. The operation took place 17 miles northeast of An Khe in the Vinh Thanh Valley; known as "Happy Valley" by the troops. Bravo Battery of the 1st Battalion, 77th Artillery provided
In November, savage fighting erupted in the Ia Drang Valley. The 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was ordered to move toward a location named LZ Albany and LZ X-Ray. Encountering a NVA battalion from the 66th Regiment in the dense jungle they slugged it out in grim determination. The 1st and 2nd Battalions, 5th Cavalry Regiment surged into the battle and the Vietnamese decided to cut their losses and run.
In his book, We Were Soldiers Once and Young, LTG (Ret) Harold G. Moore recounts the heroic actions of the Alpha company commander during the fight at LZ Albany.
In answer to the radioed summons from Colonel McDade, Captain George Forrest had hiked more than five hundred yards from his Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry position, at the tail of the American column, to the head. His two radio operators accompanied him.
Just about the time McDade started to talk to the company commanders, a couple of mortar rounds came in. Forrest immediately turned and dashed back toward his company.
"I didn't wait for him to dismiss us. I just took off. Both of my radio operators were hit and killed during that run. I didn't get a scratch. When I got back to the company I found my executive officer was down, hit in the back with mortar shrapnel. I wasn't sure about the situation, so I pushed my guys off the trail to the east and put them in a perimeter. It appeared for a time that fire was coming from every direction. So we circled the wagons. I think that firing lasted thirty-five or forty minutes. Al my platoon leaders were functioning except Second Lieutenant Larry L. Hess who was killed in the first few minutes."
George Forrest's run down that six-hundred-yard-long gauntlet of fire, miraculously unscathed, and the forming of his men into a defensive perimeter, helped keep Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry from sharing the fate of Charlie, Delta and Headquarters companies of the 2nd Battalion in the middle of the column.
When the Pleiku Campaign ended on 25 November, troopers of the First Team had killed 3,561 North Vietnamese soldiers and captured 157 more. The troopers destroyed two of three regiments of a North Vietnamese Division, earning the first Presidential Unit Citation given to a division in Vietnam. The enemy had been given their first major defeat and their carefully laid plans for conquest had been torn apart. This battle brought the United States into full scale conflict in Vietnam.
In August 1966, Hill 534, on the southern portion of Chu Pong Massif near the Cambodian Border, was the location of the final battle of Operation Paul Revere II. It began on 14 August, after Company "A", 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry suddenly ran into a North Vietnamese battalion and Company "B", 2nd Battalion began slugging it out with enemy troops in bunkers. A total of two battalions of Skytroopers were committed to the fight. When it ended the next morning, 138 NVA bodies were counted.
In the opening phases of OPERATION THAYER I, enemy elements of the 7th and 8th Battalions, 18th North Vietnamese Army Regiment were reported in the village of Hoa Hoi. The 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, in the face of strong heavy resistance, deployed to encircle the village. On 2 October, "B" Company was the first to be air assaulted into the landing area 300 meters east of the village. Immediately, the units came under intense small arms and mortar fire. "A" Company landed to the southwest and began a movement northeast to the village. In the meantime, "C" Company landed north of the village and began moving south. By this time "A" and "B" Companies linked up and established positions that prevented the enemy from slipping out of the village during the night.
During the course of the evening, "A" and "C" Companies, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment airlifted into an area east of the village to assist in the containment of the enemy. Additional support of artillery forward observers from "A" Battery, 2nd Battalion, 19th Artillery helped as the enemy locations were identified and called in during the night.
In the morning of 3 October, "C" Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry and "C" Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry attacked south to drive the remaining enemy forces into "A" and "B" Companies, 12th Cavalry who were braced in strong blocking positions to withstand the attack. This last action broke the strong resistance of the enemy and mission was completed.
On 31 October, the 2nd Brigade launched PAUL REVERE IV. Its units included; 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry; 2nd Battalion, 12 Cavalry; Company "B", 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry and the 1st Battalion, 77th Artillery. The operation called for extensive search and destroy in the areas of Chu Pong and the Ia Drang Valley, as well as along the Cambodian Border. With only one exception, only light contact with the enemy was achieved. In mid-morning of 21 November, Company "C", 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry was searching south of Duc Co along the border. Suddenly the 2nd Platoon began trading fire with a NVA force of significant size. The 3rd Platoon went to the aid of the 2nd Platoon. The two units, outnumbered by large numbers of North Vietnamese, fought desperately. The 3rd Platoon was overrun in fairly short order with only one man surviving - it happened before they were able to call in any effective artillery or air support. The 2nd Platoon took over 50% casualties but was not overrun - they had 13 or 14 KIA and about as many wounded. As was typical in the early days of the Vietnam War, many of their M-16s malfunctioned early in the fight. With the dense foliage, neither artillery nor helicopter gunships were very effective in providing support. The remnants of 2nd Platoon were saved by the arrival of a flight of Skyraiders equipped with napalm. They were accurate enough to put the canisters right on the attacking NVA. The 1st Platoon arrived a few minutes after the air strike and linked up with 2nd Platoon. Except for a few stray rounds from the departing NVA, the battle was over. The foliage was too thick to cut an LZ and the wounded were lifted out one by one by Hueys equipped with winches. The KIA's were placed in a cargo net and was lifted out by a Chinook. "A" Company located the ambush site of 3rd Platoon and medevaced the one survivor. The 101 "C" Regiment of the 10th NVA Division paid a very high price for its victory. It lost nearly 150 of their men.
Tet Offensive Theater
Moving to I Corps, Vietnam's northern most tactical zone, the division set up Camp Evans for their base camp. On 31 January 1968, amid the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year, the enemy launched the Tet Offensive, a major effort to overrun South Vietnam. Some 7,000 enemy, well equipped, crack NVA regulars blasted their way into the imperial city of Hue, overpowering all but a few pockets of resistance held by ARVN troops and the U.S. Marines. Within 24 hours, the invaders were joined by 7,000 NVA reinforcements. Almost simultaneously to the North of Hue, five battalions of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attacked Quang Tri City, the capital of Vietnam's northern province.
The 1st Brigade was not far from Quang Tri when the attacks began and was soon called to help the ARVN defenders. Four companies of sky troopers from the 1st Battalions of the 5th and 12 Cavalry Regiments quickly arrived at hot LZs around the Valley of Thon An Thai, just east of Quang Tri. The troopers destroyed the heavy weapons support of the NVA and squeezed the enemy from the rear. The enemy soon broke off the Quang Tri attack and split into small groups in an attempt to escape. For the next ten days, they would find themselves hounded by the 1st Brigade.
Air Insertion Operation
On 1 May 1970, the First Team was "First into Cambodia" hitting what was previously a Communist sanctuary. President Nixon has given the go-ahead for the surprise mission. Pushing into the "Fish Hook" region of the border and occupying the towns of Mimot and Snoul, troopers scattered the enemy forces, depriving them of much needed supplies and ammunition. On 08 May, the troopers of the 2nd Brigade found an enemy munitions base that they dubbed "Rock Island East". Ending on 30 June, the mission to Cambodia far exceeded all expectations and proved to be one of the most successful operations of the First Team. All aspects of ground and air combat had been utilized. The enemy lost enough men to field three NVA divisions and enough weapons to equip two divisions. A year's supply of rice and corn had been seized. The troopers and the ARVN soldiers had found uncommonly large quantities of ammunition, including 1.5 million rounds for small arms, 200,000 antiaircraft rounds and 143,000 rockets, mortar rounds and recoilless rifle rounds. The sweeps turned up 300 trucks, a Porsche sports car and a plush Mercedes-Benz sedan.
The campaign had severe political repercussions in the United States for the Nixon Administration. Pressure was mounting to remove America's fighting men from the Vietnam War. Although there would be further assault operations, the war was beginning to wind down for many troopers.
The efforts of the 1st Cavalry Division were not limited to direct enemy engagements but also, using the experiences gained during the occupation of Japan and Korea, encompassed the essential rebuilding of the war torn country of South Vietnam. As a result of its' gallant performance, the regiment was awarded two presidential Unit Citations and the Valorous Unit Citation.
Although 26 March 1971 officially marked the end of duties in Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry Division, President Nixon's program of "Vietnamization" required the continued presence of a strong U.S. fighting force. The 2nd Battalion of the 5th Regiment, 1st Battalion of the 7th Regiment, 2nd Battalion of the 8th Regiment and 1st Battalion of the 12th Regiment along with specialized support units as "F" Troop, 9th Cavalry and Delta Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion helped establish the 3rd Brigade headquarters at Bien Hoa. Its primary mission was to interdict enemy infiltration and supply routes in War Zone D.
The 3rd Brigade was well equipped with helicopters from the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion and later, a battery of "Blue Max", aerial field units and two air cavalry troops. A QRF (Quick Reaction Force) - known as "Blue Platoons", was maintained in support of any air assault action. The "Blues" traveled light, fought hard and had three primary missions; 1) to form a "field force" around any helicopter downed by enemy fire or mechanical failure; 2) to give quick backup to Ranger Patrols who made enemy contact; and 3) to search for enemy trails, caches and bunker complexes.
"Blue Max", "F" Battery, 79th Aerial Field Artillery, was another familiar aerial artillery unit. Greatly appreciated by troopers of the 1st Cavalry, its heavily armed Cobras flew a variety of fire missions in support of the operations of the 3rd Brigade. The pilots of "Blue Max" were among the most experienced combat fliers in the Vietnam War. Many had volunteered for the extra duty to cover the extended stay of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Most of the initial combat for the new brigade involved small skirmishes, but the actions became bigger and more significant. Two engagements in May of 1971 were typical operations. On 12 May, the third platoon, Delta Company, 2/5th tangled with enemy forces holed up in bunker complexes. With help from the Air Force and 3rd Brigade Gunships, the troopers captured the complex. Fifteen days later, helicopters of Bravo Troop, 1/9th received ground fire while conducting a reconnaissance mission over a large bunker complex. Air strikes were called in and the troopers overran the complex.
Early in June, intelligence detected significant enemy movement toward the center of Long Khanh Province and its capital, Xuan Loc. On 14 June, Delta Company of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry ran into an ambush in heavy jungle and engaged a company-sized enemy unit. The troopers were pinned down in a well-sprung trap. Cavalry field artillery soon pounded their North Vietnamese positions and heavy Cobra fire from Blue Max, F Battery of the 79th Aerial Field Artillery, swept down on the enemy positions keeping pressure on the withdrawing North Vietnamese throughout the night. The Brigade's timely movements had thwarted the enemy build up north of Xuan Loc.
By 31 March 1972, only 96,000 U.S. troops were involved in the Vietnam combat operations. In mid June 1972, the stand down ceremony for the 3rd Brigade was held in Bein Hoa and the colors were returned to the United States. The last trooper left from Tan Son Nhut on 21 June, completing the division recall that had started on 5 May 1971. With the 3rd Brigade completing their withdraw, the 1st Cavalry had been the first army division to go to Vietnam and the last to leave.
"Firsts" had become the trademark of the First Team.
On 27 January 1973, the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the civilian arm of the South Vietnam Communists, signed a cease-fire in Paris. A Four-Party Joint Military Commission was set up to implement such provisions as the withdrawal of foreign troops and the release of prisoners. An International Commission of Control and Supervision was established to oversee the cease-fire.