RICE PADDY STEW & SAIGON TEA
FIRST DUTY ASSIGNMENT
|I arrived in Vietnam on March 23, 1968 and was assigned to the 170th Assault Helicopter Company,
755th Medical Dispensary in Pleiku
THE 170TH AVIATION COMPANY
The 170TH Aviation Company, the Bikini's, was born in 1965 at Fort Benning, Georgia, part of the 14th
Aviation Battalion. In 1966 the Bikini's deployed to Pleiku, Vietnam, and joined the 52nd Aviation
Battalion. In early 1970 the Bikini's moved to Kontum City, 38 miles to the north of Pleiku on the Ia
Drang River: The only TO&E American unit in Kontum Province.
The primary Bikini mission was "Over the fence" helicopter support to the Military Assistance
Command Special Operations Forces Group (MAC SOG), 5th Special Forces. It was this Special Forces
FOB-2 (Forward Observation Base 2) mission which involved daily operations in Cambodia and Laos
where there were no other American forces. The helicopters inserted and extracted Special Force led
Montagnard long range recon patrols deep in the mountainous jungle along the Ho Chi Winh road
Helicopter support was also provided within Military Region II to the 22nd ARVN Division and other
units in Kontum Province.
Used as the over-the-border assault helicopter company in W.E. Griffin's best-selling novel of the
Vietnam War, The Aviators The Aviators featured in the lead-in film of the TV series, "The A Team",
and highlighted in Philip D. Canary's collection of aviation units of Southeast Asia in LIFE ON THE
LINE the 170TH was one of the most decorated and elite helicopter units of the Vietnam war. That
book's opening dedication is a poem written by a Bikini pilot, killed in action in Cambodia and
posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Nineteen commissioned, warrant, and enlisted
flight crew Bikini's were awarded the Combat Infantry Badge by the 5th Special Force Group.
The men of the 170th also earned the Valorous Unit Award in May 1966, the Republic of Vietnam Cross
of Gallantry with Palm in March 1967, again in March 1967 through May 1968, and again from April
through June 26, 1970. Bikinis also earned The Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Metal, First
Class, for the period July through October 1970.
November 28, 1970, saw the last Distinguished Service Cross being earned by a Bikini for bravery in
Laos. That young Warrant Officer was also the Army Aviation Association Aviator of the Year, 1970.
Through February, 1971, the 170TH' s primary mission was insertion and extraction of these Special
Force reconnaissance patrols on the Ho Chi Minh Road network in Laos. Simultaneously Bikini pilots
were training South Vietnamese helicopter pilots while maintenance personnel were rebuilding battle
damaged 170TH UH-IH model slicks to the better-than-new standard of the VNAF program. The
company also defended their compound, the Bikini Beach, against North Vietnamese infantry at night
until there was not enough Americans to man the perimeter. One last motor march south to Pleiku
brought the 170TH to the relative safety of Camp Holloway and into the dust of history. The final DA-1
Morning Report was signed early in the morning mists of March 16, 1971, on the hood of the last Bikini
jeep by the last Bikini in Vietnam.