D Troop (“Company” in traditional Army units) was formed in 1965 in Ft. Lewis, WA, to provide air reconnaissance and rapid deployment capability to the US Army’s 1st Squadron (“Battalion”), 10th Cavalry. D Troop deployed to Vietnam with the 4th Infantry Division in 1966 where the unit remained continuously engaged until its withdrawal in 1971.
On arrival “in-country” in September, 1966, D Troop, B Troop and HHQ Troop of the 1/10th, along with other elements of the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade, established Dragon Mountain Base Camp (later known as Camp Enari) near Pleiku in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
Even while establishing their primitive new base camp, D Troop’s “Shamrocks” were quickly engaged. The 4th Division was perched astride a branch of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which funneled North Vietnamese (NVA) troops into South Vietnam via nearby Cambodia, and contact with the enemy was frequent and virulent.
D Troop’s mission was to deploy “Scout” aircraft to locate the enemy, then “Gunships” would suppress and destroy so that “Slicks” could insert Aero-Rifle infantry into the Landing Zone (“LZ”) to hold the area until reinforcing Cav or other units could arrive. Collectively, Shamrock aircrews flew thousands of sortees, from single aircraft scout missions to multiple aircraft “gun runs” and “air assaults”.
In 1970, D Troop moved from Camp Enari to Camp Radcliff at An-Khe, and later would be based at Lane AAF in Qui Nhon. When the unit stood down for return to the US in 1971, some personnel and equipment remained behind, reorganized into H Troop, 1/10th Cav.
D Troop’s Shamrocks distinguished themselves with bravery, resourcefulness and tenacity throughout their involvement in the Vietnam War and helped write an important chapter in Army Aviation history.
What this textbook entry could not describe is how the unit’s diverse complement (about 200 men at any given time) grew and worked together under the most difficult of circumstances as they built an effective combat unit.
An airmobile troop of an armored cavalry squadron of an infantry division, D Troop was a “misfit” and its personnel treasured that role. But Command and Control issues were uneven at times as the Squadron’s “Tankers” and Shamrock aviators struggled to define “Delta” Troop’s role.
D Troop was a diverse mix of volunteer and drafted enlisted men, and pilot/officers, both groups made up of career soldiers and those who counted down the days until they resumed civilian life. Living together, eating together, working together as days in country turned into weeks, and then months, with no real time off, deprived of even basic comforts, these men performed remarkably.
This was in the days before email, wi-fi, and cell phones. There were only letters from home and the ubiquitous transistor radio telling us “Goooood Morning, Vietnam”. And it was before the days of prepared shelf stable food and microwaves, so even a good meal posed a challenge, as did a hot shower and a clean change of uniform.
Throughout, D Troop never lost its uniqueness, or its willingness to place itself in the “Line Of Fire”. Shamrocks” never hesitated to respond to calls for assistance from any unit, from combat support to Medevac. As one Shamrock sums up the experience, “They called, we answered,” An estimated 1200 men served in D Troop during its deployment in Vietnam. For some, it was a brief interruption of their otherwise civilian lives, for others it was a stepping stone in military careers. For all, the experience remains a defining moment in their lives.
Pocket Patch worn by “Originals”, ‘66-’67.
Shamrock Guns Patch, ‘69-’70
Left: D Troop Huey flies off USNS Core at Cam Rahn Bay, Sept, ‘66. (p. D. Dowling); Center: Aero-Rifles group, ‘70 (p. B. Melvin); Right: . Hueys in formation over the Central Highlands (p. B. Melving.
Frank Hendricks (L) and Charlie Eaves (Rt) with Shamrock Cobra, ‘70 (p. Charlie Eaves)
Despite being an air cav unit, D Troop brass was the 1/10th’s Armor Branch insignia.
Mascots (dogs, monkeys, birds) were common. (p. Steve Lee)