Welcome to The Cat House

History - 1970



prepared by WO Joseph M. Brown, Jr

Approved by Walter M. Burch, Major, Air Defense Artillery, Commanding.

Although the basic mission of the unit remains the same i.e., support of Military Region 1 Headquarters, the MR1 Advisory Effort, and the operations of the 1st and 2nd ARVN Divisions, the role of "Black Cats" has progressively developed from the purely assault phase, to a more administrative capacity, on more analogous to a Corps Aviation Company. In spite of this fact, the 282nd has always remained prepared to revert to the assault role when called on to do so. With the expanded scope of the unit's responsibility, it is necessary for the crews of the Black Cat and Alleycat aircraft to convert on short notice from administrative or escort missions to combat missions. At times this has increased the responsibilities of the personnel involved, but in the past, the 282nd has responded admirably to the challenge. The capabilities of the unit are quite impressive; combat assaults, medical evacuations, resupply, visual reconnaissance, command and control, firefly, armed escort, target attack, suppressive fire and whatever is required, the unit action has always been one of instant response.

A discussion of the major change in the 282nd's operations is in order. The unit provides fourteen mission ready UH-1H aircraft, one maintenance recovery (UH-1H) aircraft, and a minimum of four UH-1C aircraft per day for the use of support units within MR 1. Until September 1970, two slicks were assigned to each of the ARVN Divisions, one is assigned to the Quan Tri Province Advisor, in the northern portion of MR 1. The crew of the two aircraft assigned to the 1st ARVN Division were originally in the Imperial City of Hue, returning to Marble Mountain for the 2nd and 3rd echelon maintenance. The aircraft assigned to the Quang Tri Province Advisors were quartered in Quang Tri and followed a similar procedure for maintenance. It has become the policy that additional aircraft are dispatched to the units when one or both of their assigned aircraft were down for maintenance. The two aircraft assigned to the 2nd ARVN Division, quartered in Quang Ngai, southern MR 1, operated in the same manner as these to the north.

The remaining nine aircraft are dispatched daily from Marble Mountain Air Facility, as specified by the Aviation Section, MR 1Headquarters. Two of the UH-1H aircraft are in a permanent 24 hour standby under the control of the Protocol Branch of I Corps Headquarters. These aircraft are specially equipped "VIP" aircraft, for the use of the I Corps Commanding General, the Deputy Senior Advisor, and the rest of the Military Region 1 Staff. The aircraft designated Protocol I and Protocol II, are also on call for visiting VIP's. The crews of these aircraft are permanently assigned on the basis of flying ability, knowledge of the area, and fitness in handling the type of mission involved. They normally remain on a fifteen minute standby, but must be able to respond on a moments notice when called to do so.

The remaining seven aircraft are assigned daily to the Quang Nam Sector, the Quang Da Special Zone (including the 51st ARVN Infantry Regiment), Food Service, various CORDS elements Naval Advisory Groups, Naval Gun Fire and Province Advisor Teams.

The gunships of the 282nd are affectionately known as the "Alleycats". Two light fire teams are maintained on a thirty minute standby 24 hours a day. Again like their"Blackcat brothers the gunships have also been affected by the administrative trend. The Alleycats fly many escort missions, but continue to take pride in their combat related activities like combat assaults, medical evacuation coverage, and target attacked suppressive fire. In spite of the increase in the escort missions, the Alleycats are always ready to respond instantaneously.

In September 1970 the 282nd Assault Helicopter Company assumed the additional mission of training twenty Vietnamese. In the months that followed these pilots flew with our aircraft commanders and were trained to a degree which enabled them to form their own squadron. The VNAF pilots made an outstanding showing as they learned the techniques of combat flying and they will go with the confidence that will enable them to uphold the "Black Cat" tradition.

As missions have become more diversified, so has the 282nd, but as in the past, the "Black Cats" have continued to accomplish their mission with the highest degree of professionalism and dedication to duty. Always prepared for the unexpected, the 282nd Assault Helicopter Company has provided the expected: THE BEST.

During the monsoons of October, November and December 1969, the Viet Cong and the NVA had begun infiltrating the lowlands to the south and west of Da Nang. In December they launched many harassing actions in the surrounding area.

In January the 282nd flew a combat assault of the eastern tip of the "Arizona Territory" and another in the rice paddies along the river just south of Da Nang.

On 17 January a LOH went down three kilometers east of Hill 55. Gunships and a slick attempted to extract the crew. The first two approaches the slick came under fire and pulled back to let the gunships rake the area. Finally the gunships placed fire fifty meters from the downed aircraft and the slick was able to extract the injured crew.

In February, considered "a lull", by many, Black Cat aircraft flew missions daily and by the end of the month were responsible for 200 KBA's, several prisoners, and numerous documents confiscated.

On 23 March a ship on aerial recon for the 1st ARVN Armored Brigade came under heavy automatic weapons fire while on short final to the 21st ARVN Ranger HQ pad. Hit six times, the aircraft was losing fuel, transmission oil and hydraulic fluid. Gaining control of the floundering ship, WO Robert L. Leach, Jr prepared to make an emergency landing but was informed that one of the passengers had been wounded. WO Leach faced with failing transmission and hydraulic pressure, was able to extend the descent of the ship enough to land safely at a nearby aid station where the wounded passenger was treated and the crew could await evacuation in safety. WO Leach, credited with saving the lives of his crew and passengers, was awarded the Air Medal with "V" for Valor.

During the first quarter besides supporting the friendlies the Black Cats dealt death and destruction on the enemy leaving 256 confirmed dead, destroying 100 bunkers, and damaging 150 structures. The enemy was not standing idly by, however, for over this same period 50% of the 282nd aircraft received battle damage and one was declared a total loss.

As Black Cats were recovering from the first quarter, a quiet village named Thuong Duc began being a daily stop for missions. Everything started slowly with some troops being moved into the village, but soon the place erupted into a "no-mans land" with .51 caliber machine guns dominating all approaches to the Special Forces pad. Daily the gunships worked these routs, attempting to silence these weapons. On one of these missions a gunship came under fire and took several hits. Deciding the aircraft was unable to return to Marble Mountain the AC elected to land on the strip near Thuong Duc. The maintenance aircraft arrived, was hit by enemy fire, suffered a tail rotor failure and also was forced to land on the airstrip. The aircraft survived sporadic mortar barrages during the night and were sling loaded out by CH-47 the following day. The Special Forces commended the Black Cats for their outstanding work at Thuong Duc. They reported 44 KBA's over a two day period.

On 12 April at about 1231 hours, the 282nd compound was hit by ten rounds of 82mm mortar fire.

On 23 April aircraft #813 was called in to dust off an Aussie who stepped on a bobby trap. As the ship set down just south of Hoi An, Charlie lobbed in two mortars about 100 yards to their 10:00. No other serious incident followed.

On 27 April aircraft #813 medevaced six ARVN to the ARVN Hospital in Da Nang. Later the same day, while on a resupply mission in the Arizona Territory, the Aircraft Commander took small arms fire from their 9:00 position from about 50 yards. Quick reaction from the crewchief eliminated the VC.

On 12 May the company lost two slicks to ground fire, no one was injured.

On 3 June about 1300 the flight line was impacted by approximately 13 82mm mortar rounds.

On 7 July aircraft # 224 came under intense enemy mortar and machine gun fire while sitting in LZ "Brick" south of Phu Bai. The crew was able to get the ship and passengers out of the LZ, but not without casualties. The pilot, WO Murry Bledsoe, was wounded in the right leg and foot and the crewchief, Sp4 William Peterson, sustained shrapnel wounds to the neck and both legs. Cpt Whitehouse, Aide-de-Camp to Gen Jackson, was hit in the back of the head by shrapnel and was attended to by Gen Jackson and Gen Lam while the crew returned fire. Cpt Whitehouse later died at Phu Bai Evac Hospital. WO John Phillips and gunner Lawrance Laishouis were not injured in the engagement. An inspection of #224 revealed over 100 hits on the aircraft. There were seven pieces of shrapnel in the N2 compressor section, one piece lodged in the 42 degree gear box. There were holes in the tail rotor, all the way up the tail boom, in the gun well, the cargo door, the pilots door and the chin bubble.

A unique mission occurred on 29 July. The 1st Marine Recon Unit suspected an enemy jamming station to be operating in the hills west of Da Nang. The Alleycats were called out to the general area. Using their FM homing capability the Alleycats fixed the suspected location and fired on the station. After the Marines made a sweep through the area they discovered several enemy dead plus the remains of what once had been the jamming station.

In August, September and October the 282nd worked as a true Assault Helicopter Company. Over this period they flew many combat assaults, numerous Eagle Flights and several LRRP insertions. On one Eagle Flight southwest of Marble Mountain, the Blackcats drew on the element of surprise and used it well. Inserting troops on the eastern side of the village, the troops were able to surround the village on three sides, leaving one side bordered by a river open. The surprised VC abandoned their caution and attempted to escape across the river, where they were quickly engulfed in an intense barrage of flechette and mini-gun fire from the Alleycats. By days end the tally was 43 dead VC. A letter of commendation was received, once again giving thanks to the Black Cats for their outstanding professionalism.

8 August, while on a recon mission to Kam Duc an old French air field five miles east of Laos, General Jackson and his new aide were let off at the HQ compound. The crew flew the POL and refueled. While at the POL the ship took small arms fire. WO John Applegate yelled to get back in the ship. They lifted off the LZ and flew over an hour until they were called back. No one was injured in the incident.

On the morning of 23 August, about 20 minutes southwest of Da Nang, aircraft #287 crashed, taking the lives of pilot WO John Phillips and gunner Robert Simes. AC Bob Leach, crewchief Roy Kaliher and a passenger were injured in the crash. The recovery team burned the aircraft in place.

In September the 282nd assumed the additional mission of training twenty Vietnamese aviators. In the months that followed, these pilots flew with our Aircraft Commanders and were trained to a degree which enabled them to form their own Vietnamese Air Force Squadron.

On 9 September Sp4 Kent Gabriel distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions while serving as a crew member aboard the Command and Control aircraft on a combat assault 3 miles north of Dien San Province. Spotting numerous enemy troops in an area where they could not be seen by the advancing friendly ground troops, he maintained constant visual contact upon the enemy and their locations so that the hostile force could be surrounded and overtaken by advancing friendly ground troops and gunships. Even though flying at a dangerously low altitude in the range of enemy small arms, machine gun and anti-aircraft fire, Specialist Gabriel remained calm and reacted in a professional manner, contributing greatly to the highly successful mission which resulted in numerous enemy casualties and several prisoners captured with no friendly casualties. His outstanding aerial combat performance and undaunted courage were in keeping with the highest tradition of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

The Black Cats are dedicated aviators and enjoy a diversion like anyone else. Near the end of the dry season, the 282nd took time for several parties at China Beach and the hanger where all were able to enjoy steaks and beer. With the onset of the monsoon season, these parties were curtailed but each evening the Black Cats could be seen enjoying themselves at the club.

On 28 September the EM Club was booby trapped. A hand grenade was placed just inside the door, close to the latrine. The pin had been pulled and it was just sitting there waiting for someone to come along and open the door. Just by chance a rat that was in the club was rooting around and started playing with it. The rat knocked it over releasing the spoon. It was about 1330 in the morning when it blew the door off the EM Club. A soldier on his way to the latrine thought it was incoming and dove for the nearest bunker. He received shrapnel wounds to his chest.

In mid October it was announced that the 282nd would stand down in December of 1970. We were training ARVN pilots who would take over the company in 1971.

On 21 October two of Third Platoon's Alleycat gun ships were shot up pretty bad. One of the door gunners M-60's was hit by a 50 cal. The round went through the M-60 and took off two of the gunners fingers. The 50 cal round stopped at his chicken plate. Fortunately, he came back alive. The two C Model gun ships took numerous AK-47 hits and another 50 cal thru the fuel blatter. Both ships came back to Marble Mountain.

One evening at the club was cut short in late October when a call was received from higher headquarters requesting the assistance of the Blackcats for an emergency evacuation. The monsoon rains had caused the river to overflow, turning the lowlands into a gigantic lake. When the Blackcats arrived to assist the VNAF, they discovered they were alone. The VNAF had refused to fly because of the deteriorating weather, leaving the whole job to the Blackcats. The aircraft flew well into the night, evacuating 200 troops from an ARVN compound that was washed away by sunrise. At the break of dawn the 282nd was once again airborne, plucking people from rooftops and small mounds not yet covered by the waters. When the flood crested, the Blackcats had flown 798 sorties in 87 flying hours and evacuated 7,015 people. The unit continued at an astonishing pace in an attempt to insert ARVN troops in order to prevent the VC from simply walking in and taking the deserted hamlets.

In November a major typhoon hit the Da Nang and Arizona Territories to the south. Thirty inches of rain fell in thirty hours. During the rescue operation to evac the flood victims a door gunner [ed note Sp4 Joseph Earl Rohlinger KIA 1Nov 70] was killed by VC fire. The aircraft was a total loss. The pilot made a running landing in the mud. Three slicks were there to rescue the crew. Everyone else made it out alright.

On 5 December word came down that the company would not stand down. Something was up but the men did not know what. Rumors were everywhere.

The Black Cats continued to stalk from the Valley of Khe Sanh, across the DMZ, through the Qung Da Special Zone, southward to the Ranger outposts near Duc Pho. Everywhere the Red-Eyed Cat was known and respected by both friend and foe.





























































































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