Once again the 545th MP Company was with
our beloved 1st Cavalry Division where a Cavalry MP Company belongs.
At Ft. Benning, GA, in the mid-fifties,
General John R. Tolson developed a tactical doctrine for the use of
helicopters in combat and became one the leading, early pioneers in
modern air mobility. Several other military personnel played key roles
in development of missions, configurations, and weapons for air cavalry
operations. Lt. General James M. Gavin, Chief of Staff for Operations of
the Department of the Army, campaigned for helicopter units that could
take over, extend and add great speed to the traditional roles of the
Soon thereafter, at the Aviation School at Ft. Rucker, Colonel
Jay D. Vanderpool assembled a “Sky Cavalry” platoon using borrowed
personnel and equipment. The “Sky Cavalry” began giving impressive
demonstrations of the roles that helicopters could play in combat.
Heralding the era of the gunships, the “Sky Cavalry” carried and tested
a variety of weapons and rockets.
Additional men and other organizations played vital roles in the
development of the “air assault” concept: the Rogers Board, formed on 15
January 1960 and chaired by Lt. General Gordon B. Rogers; the Howze
Boards, headed by Lt. General Hamilton H. Howze, a man with several
significant links with the 1st Cavalry Division; Secretary of Defense
Robert S. McNamara and Major General Harry William Osborne Kinnard.
The main mission of the Rogers Board was to review aircraft
requirements of the Army in three categories: observation and
transportation. The findings of the Rogers Board were fine as far as
they went, but McNamara believed there was more promise in air mobility
than the Rogers Board revealed. In the spring of 1962, McNamara ordered
a panel of distinguished military leaders and civilian experts to
re-examine the need of the Army. This panel became known as the Howze
Board and it was granted sweeping powers to conduct tests, stage war
games and study combat in various areas of the world.
The findings of the Howze Board outlined the requirements for an
air assault division. Such a unit would have five times the number of
aircraft of a regular division along with an extensive reduction in
ground vehicles. After the report was issued, McNamara gave orders to
field the air assault concept and run it through its paces in a tough
series of field tests which would further reveal the strengths and
limitations of an air assault force. The unit chosen for the exercise
was the 11th Airborne Division, which was reflagged as the 11th Air
Assault Division. It was commanded by Major General Harry William
The 11th Air Assault Division (test) was formed in February 1963
as a tactical training and experimental test bed at Ft. Benning, GA. At
the same time, the 10th Air Transportation Brigade was created around an
existing aviation battalion at Ft. Benning. Most soldiers had little
knowledge of helicopters and their potential. Tactics, techniques and
procedures had to be created as the division and test bed grew amid
The first division-wide test, Operation AIR ASSAULT I, was
conducted in September and October 1963 near Ft. Stewart, GA. Four major
exercises tested the mettle of the new air assault division. Experiments
and field tests continued. Finally in the summer of 1964, the division
faced its toughest trail in Operation AIR ASSAULY II, an extensive
two-sided maneuver against the reinforced 82nd Airborne Division in the
1964 North Carolina maneuvers.
The initial tests evaluated airborne command and control,
assault doctrine, formation flying, suppression of hostile fire in
landing zones by aerial artillery, air lines of communication and
airspace control. The limitations of the units included poor ground
mobility, vulnerability to armored attacks and operational vulnerability
to bad weather and extended operations. However, the shortcomings of the
Division were offset by its excellence in high-tempo operations,
long-range capability and ability to quickly concentrate forces at
The 11th Air Assault tested its ideas and equipment in Vietnam.
It formed, equipped and trained six airmobile companies to send into
combat. Then, troubling events in Vietnam accelerated the decision to
convert the 11th Air Assault (Test) to a combat division. The decision
was initially made in March 1965. It was also decided that the new
division would be formed around the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division.
On 16 June, McNamara made a public announcement the Department of the
Army had been given the green light to organize an air assault division.
McNamara also stunned many observers, when he declared that the new
division would be combat ready eight weeks after its organization.
The colors of the 1st Cavalry Division returned from Korea in
1965, but this new First Team was around only long enough to be
reorganized and be re-equipped for a new mission. On 1 July 1965, the
1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated by General
Order 185, Headquarters Third US Army, and was made up of the resources
of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), the 10th Air Transportation
Brigade and the 2nd Infantry Division. On 3 July 1965, in Doughboy
Stadium at Ft. Benning, GA the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division
(Test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of
Garry Owen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved into the
field and were passed to the commander of the former 11th Air Assault
Division (test), Major General Harry W.O. Kinnard.
In parallel with the reflagging, the Division was reorganized
with an authorized staff of 15,847 airborne personnel and fielded an
aviation group. The divisional helicopters numbered 335, and although
the Howze Board believed the number of ground vehicles could be cut by
two-thirds, the Division was authorized 1,500.
The Airborne Infantry Battalion had one combat support company
with reconnaissance, mortar, and anti-tank resources along three rifle
companies. Although the battalion lacked 4.2 inch mortars and .50
caliber machine guns, they had a number of new weapons. The M14 rifle
was superseded by the lighter M16, which put out more firepower and was
supplemented by the M79 40mm grenade launcher. The question as to
whether the airmobile division should replace the airborne division had
not been resolved. Planners decided that one brigade of three infantry
battalions and one artillery battalion was to be authorized airborne
qualified personnel as an interim measure.
Anticipating the increased requirements, the Aviation School at
Ft. Rucker, AL. held special transition class to teach 89 aviators the
skills that they would need to fly the UH-1 Huey helicopter. In
addition, another 120 aviators were introduced to the aerial weapons
firing course at Ft. Rucker.
In order to subdue the white name tags on faded fatigues,
troopers used dark green dye and the legend has it that the
Chattahoochee River ran dark green from the runoff of the dye used to
camouflage the bright yellow, position revealing patch. General Kinnard,
reroute to Vietnam, made a stopover in Japan to order a supply of black
and dark green patches and insignia. This first use of a subdued rank
and unit insignia set precedence for all units of the Army to use.
In a matter of three and one-half weeks the newly formed
division, organized into a 16,000 man division along the lines of the
11th Air Assault Division (Test), with a total of 434 helicopters, was
prepared to enter combat, the ultimate test of its capabilities. An
actual movement of personnel was called Operation PAT and was scheduled
in three increments; an Advanced Liaison Detachment; an Advanced Party
and the Main Body.
The first echelon to depart was the Advanced Liaison Detachment
composed of 32 officer and men. Led by Brigadier General John S. Wright,
the detachment left on 9 August and arrived in Vietnam two days later.
Beginning on 14 August and for six days, the Advanced Party of 1,040
officers and men left Ft. Benning and along with their equipment and
cargo of 132 tons, including nine UH-1B helicopters moved to Warner
Robins Air Force Base at Macon, GA. From there, they were deployed by
C-124 and C-130 aircraft of the Military Airlift Command. Flying via
Travis Air Force Base, CA. Hickman Field, Hawaii and Clark Air Force
Base, Philippines; they arrived in intervals at Nha Trang between the
19th and 27th of August 1965. Joining with the Advance Liaison
Detachment, they established a temporary base camp near An Khe, 36 miles
inland from the coastal city of Qui Nhon.
The third and final phase of troop and supply movement centered
on the bulk of the 1st Cavalry Division departing Ft. Benning, GA and
deploying by troop and cargo ships of the Military Sea Transport
Service. Approximately 13,500 men and their cargo left Columbus, GA by
train and bus to staging areas at port cities in the Southeastern United
States. Six troop ships, seven cargo ships and four aircraft carriers
were employed in the over water movement. The 2st Brigade loaded on the
Unites States Navy Ship (USNS) Geiger, the 2nd Brigade and an Artillery
Battalion loaded on the USNS Buckner and the 3rd Brigade on the USNS
Rose. The remainder of the Division, including elements of the Support
Command, Aviation Group and the various combat units loaded on the USNS
Darby, Patch and Upshure. On 16 August, the USNS Bucker and USNS Darby
departed Charleston, SC. The other four troop ships departed over the
next four days from Charleston, SC. and Savannah, GA.
The 470 aircraft of the division were loaded on the Carries USNS Kula Gulf, USNS Croaton, USNS Card and the USNS Boxer. The Boxer, carried a total of 239 aircraft, fifty seven Chinooks (CH-47’s), four Flying Cranes (CH-54’s) six Mohawks (OV-1’S) fifty Hueys (UH1’s) and one hundred twenty-two Sioux (OH-13’s). On 11 August, the first of the carries, the USNS Croaton sailed from Mobile, AL. The remaining three departed on subsequent days. The USNS Card left Mobile, Al and the USNS Boxer and USNS Kula Gulf sailed from Mayport Naval Station at Jacksonville, FL. the sea movement through the Suez Canal. The other aircraft carriers and troop ships sailed west through the Panama Canal, stopping at the island of Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines.
The songs played in this tab are old Civil War Cavalry songs, some of which are Confederate Cavalry songs. Keep in mind that many an old Horse Cavalry Soldier in the Union Army just after the Civil War had prior service in the Confederate Army. It was not unusual for the regimental bands to play Dixie and The Bonnie Blue Flag and other such southern songs during parades and ceremonies on cavalry posts just after the Civil War. This can be seen and heard in many movies such as The Generals, Fort Apache, The Horse Soldiers and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. These movies were all pretty historically accurate as John Ford wanted it so in all his movies. Many of the Cavalry mounts were also captured Confederate mounts and they all recognized this music on parade. Cavalry mounts loved a parade and they usually perked up a bit for such events.