101st Airborne Division
Submitted by Charles Lee
159th ASHB - Battalion Headquarters, Phu Bai, South Vietnam.
The 159th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion was formed in country to be command and control for the
medium and heavy lift helicopter units in General Support of the division. The army concept during this
time was that the division has assigned aircraft as internal assets, i.e., lift capabilities for combat troops.
In addition there was gunship units which were in support of the aviation assets, and could also support
ground troops if needed.
Hueys were the main stay for moving troops, administratively and for combat missions. To assist
in large administrative troop movements and to resupply the artillery, engineers and other units needing
large heavy items moved, the 159th was established with 3 companies of Chinooks and a company (-) of
CH-54 or Cranes. The CH-54 company was actually a platoon of 4 aircraft. the 478th Heavy lift
company assigned to the 159th ASHB was based at Da Nang, RVN. It was commanded by a Major, had 4
aircraft and 8 - 10 commissioned and warrants assigned as pilots. It maintained a company headquarters
and supply room as did all the other full size aviation companies. Their mission was general support of
the entire division, as was the Chinooks assigned to the battalion. Because of the
scarcity of aircraft, and
the age of the pilots, these were the "Old Men" of aviation. Seldom seen, awe inspiring, even to other
pilots. Due to the limitations of the Chinook during the late 1960's, C - engines limiting the
approximately 10,000 lbs of lift, the crane or CH-54 was the "Heavy" lift unit and
used for Mini bulldozers, 155mm howitzer moves, recovery of Chinooks, etc. Later with the full "C" engines
mounted on the Chinooks, the Chinook could outlift the CH-54 and caused its
demise. Today, the D Model Chinook will lift more than the CH-54 could with a reduced amount of fuel.
The Battalion headquarters was organized in 1967 - 1968 to command and control the medium
and heavy lift units. The 478th was assigned from the 1st Cav. Division, A and B company of
were formed from units already in country. (B company may have formed stateside and joined as a
completed unit, this writer has no specific information on the formation of A and B companies).
The Battalion Headquarters consisted of the Battalion Commander (LTC), XO (Major, usually
waiting on rotation stateside or to command a company), Personnel S-1 (CPT), Security (S-2), Operations
and Liason (S-3), and Supply / Logistics (S-4), Assigned to Supply was a Non Aviation Warrant as the
property book officer. He was the ONLY non aviator assigned to the unit.
In addition to the primary staff, listed above, the Battalion level was assigned a Headquarters and
Headquarters company. This was commanded by a captain, also an aviator. This unit housed all the
personnel and records for the command element, clerks, drivers, staff officers, etc. This unit also
provided vehicle support for all the staff sections, jeeps, maintenance, etc.
During this period, the battalion was also authorized two OH - 6 helicopters for command and
control of aviation operations. These aircraft had a 2 man maintenance unit assigned to the Headquarters
company. Minor maintenance was allowed at this level with all major support
coming from one of the
subordinate units or from the 5th Transportation Group assigned to the 101st Division. 5th
Transportation Group did up to Divisional level maintenance. The Transition into the OH - 6, later the
OH - 58 was accomplished at unit level by the unit training officer. One of the staff officers had the
additional duty of Instructor Pilot for transitions into the OH-6.
All pilots were qualified in the Chinook, prior to being assigned to the battalion or one of its
The Headquarters company was not authorized a mess facility for the unit and command. In our
case, we were within walking distance to "C" company and used a combined mess facility to feed
Headquarters and C company.
During this time, the S-2 at the 159th had the responsibility to coordinate with all units in the
NW corner of the Support Base, 1 Chinook Company, two Huey Lift Companies, 1 signal Battalion, and
run a roster for perimeter support and security. Members of all units were
assigned to guard duty on the perimeter of the compound. Our section was approximately 3,000 meters. It
surrounded all the units
pulling guard duty, plus the ammunition supply point for the division. Inside the base, each unit would be
responsible for having its own internal security patrols, as well as reactionary forces that could be
gathered and sent to the base perimeter if needed as reinforcements.
Added duty for the troops assigned to each unit might very well mean a crew chief or flight
engineer might go 2 - 3 days without sleep, fly all day, guard duty at night, fly the next day and pull
maintenance on the aircraft as needed.
Charles Lee, Section Leader/Platoon Leader/Motor Officer,
C/159th ASHB, 101st Airborne Division, Bn S-2, 159th ASHB, RVN
'68 – '69.
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