174th History -- 1968, Part 3
DEFENSE OF HA THAN, TASK FORCE GALLOWAY
Keeping a steady pressure on the enemy and steadily pushing him west, the 174th concentrated its efforts on the mountains west of Quang Ngai City. Due to U.S. forces constantly operating west of Quang Ngai City , the enemy was forced to evacuate the lowlands and occupy the area around the Ha Than Special Forces Camp. On 4 September, the Dolphins inserted 311 troops of the 11th Brigade on to a ridge line four miles east of Ha Than, to begin Task Force Galloway. The ridge line became known as LZ Chevy. The 174th supported the operation by running almost unending resupply and command and control missions into the mountainous forward locations.
On 5 September, WO Edwin Gill received wounds as his aircraft took numerous hits while attempting a medevac mission two miles east of LZ Chevy. CW2 Jack Hathaway came to his aid and evacuated him and the ground troops to the medical aid station in Chu Lai. This area became infamous to the aviators of the 174th as the “Horseshoe.” West of Quang Ngai City, the Tra Houc River meanders into a large “U” shape, and has been a center of hard core VC activity. During operations in this area, Shark gunships of the 174th have been credited with many enemy killed.
The 174th’s dedication to the mission was more than apparent on the night of 6 September. A recon element came under intense enemy fire near the “Horseshoe,” and radio contact was lost. Aircraft of the 174th were called upon to extract the troops. Without any visual contact and only partial radio contact, two Dolphin slicks were “talked” into the area by the ground element. When the ships touched down, an enemy 50 caliber opened up on them less than 30 meters away. WO James Rawlings was wounded in both legs but continued the mission, along with the ship commander, WO Thomas Dana. The recon platoon was safely extracted, thanks to the tenacity the 174th is known for. (WEBMASTER NOTE: In an e-mail message from Jim Rawlings in January 1999, Jim corrected a minor error here, in that Jim was flying as the aircraft commander and Dolphin flight lead, and Tom Dana was flying as aircraft commander of chalk 2 [the second helicopter in the flight]. Jim said he doesn't remember now who his copilot was, but his copilot quit flying after that night and moved to battalion.)
Task Force Galloway came to an end when intelligence reports indicated the 2nd NVA Regiment had moved into the Song Vea Valley. On 25 October, 745 men were inserted into LZ Bulldog by the 174th Dolphins and 176th Minutemen.
The Duc Pho base camp in general, and the 174th helicopters in particular, were a constant target for the local VC forces. On 20 August, the Duc Pho base camp came under enemy mortar attack, and it proved to be a costly error for the VC forces. The enemy made the mistake of starting the attack while a Shark gunship team and flare ship were in the air. The ships were immediately called to the scene and CWO Robert Fielding spotted the enemy muzzle flashes and led his gunship team in on them. The team was credited with seven enemy killed and captured an 82mm mortar tube. It now sits in the 174th Officers Club.
On 10 September, command of the 174th again changed hands. Major Richard A. Brown took over as Commanding Officer, but he was no stranger to the 174th. Major Brown was part of the 174th when it was originally formed at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1965, and made his first trip to Vietnam with the 174th.
On 1 October, the tactical situation permitted personnel of the 174th and its various detachments to take a brief respite from the war to celebrate “Organization Day.” Observing the second anniversary of the 174th, a brief ceremony was held and was followed by a company-sized cookout and a football game between the officers and enlisted men.
Two enlisted men of the 174th distinguished themselves by graduating first in their class at the U.S. Army Aviation School at Vung Tau, RVN. Specialist Forth Class Joseph Blumber received the highest marks in his course on Turbine Engines, and Specialist Forth Class Joseph Lumley was the top man in his course on Aircraft Frames. There were numerous personnel changes in the Fall of 1968: Captain Leonard Kauffman was assigned as Operations Officer and CW2 Albert Fairweather was assigned as commander of the 452nd Signal Detachment. CW2 Rowe C. Propst took over as Supply Officer replacing CW2 Jean Pate. Doctor (Captain) Charles T. Langford took over the post as the 756th Medical Detachment Commander from Doctor (Captain) Byron Schoolfield.
Doctor Schoolfield and Lieutenant Peters. Photo by Jim McDaniel, Duc Pho, 1968