174th Assault
Helicopter Company

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Unit History, January-April 1971

As the year began, the Dolphins and Sharks finished their third year of residence in Duc Pho, the southern most section of I Corps near the II Corps border.

During the last week of January, the unit was alerted to go to Quang Tri with everything they possessed. This was to be a permanent move from Duc Pho.

Settling in at Quang Tri, the unit learned its 20 UH-1Hs and 6 UH-1Cs would be participating in Lam Son 719, which began on Feb 8, 1971. As part of the 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, the 174th supported the Vietnamese Marines in their combat assaults south of Highway 9 into Laos.

On the initial assault, the first of the two Dolphin KIAs (killed-in-action), WO1 Bobby Gentry, tragically occured. Sp4 Gary Padilla would be lost on March 3rd flying into LZ Lolo. No members of the Shark Platoon were killed. In all, the unit lost 14 Dolphin UH-1H slicks and all the Charlie Model Shark gunships during Lam Son 719, shot down by enemy ground fire. Itís a miracle there were not more KIAís than there were.

The unitís unique history in Laos is shown in the below stories (contained here on this web site):

Medevac rescue of the crew on the Surfer
"Mayday! Mayday! Witch Doctor 5 is down west of A Luoi!"
The 174th at LZ Lolo

The 174th was in all the heavily fought combat assaults from Feb 8th to the costly withdrawals on Mar 20th. To help confuse the enemy, unit call signs were changed during Lam Son 719. The call sign for the Dolphins in Laos was "Boats." Boats-6 was Major Dale Spratt, who lead his company's combat assaults from the front of the formations in the lead aircraft. Maj Spratt clearly demonstrated his concern for his crews as seen in the story of the shoot-down of Witch Doctor 5.
In late March, the unit was notified it would permanently move to Chu Lai, where it stayed in support of the Americal Division until standdown in October 1971.