The 238th Aerial Weapons Company distinguished itself by exceptionally meritorious service to the U.S. Army, Republic of Vietnam and allies from 31 March 1969 to 30 November 1971. Through the dedication and professionalism displayed by the soldiers assigned during this period, the 238th Aerial Weapons Company greatly enhanced the mission accomplishment of those units on the ground and in the air that required close air support and armed escort.
Activated on 25 July 1968 as the 238th Aviation Company (Aerial Weapons) and co-organized with the 587th Transportation Detachment, the unit spent the first seven months training for armed helicopter employment and the integration of organic aircraft maintenance. Unit activation and concept testing were completed in February 1969, and both units were alerted for redeployment to the Republic of Vietnam. The company moved by means of ocean-going vessel and air. It arrived in RVN on 18 March and was assigned to 268th Combat Aviation Battalion, 17th Group, 1st Aviation Brigade. On 31 March 1969, the unit became operationally ready for combat sorties from An Khe in the Central Highlands.
The early months of the 238th’s combat operations consisted of convoy cover, medevac, and tactical emergency missions. Unit pilots were transitioned into the AH-1G Cobra. Maintenance personnel established and maintained aircraft availability.
As the unit’s tactical proficiency increased, so did its capacity for employment. This was reflected in the 238th’s many missions in support of the 4th Infantry Division, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, MACV, 5th Special Forces Group Detachment B-20 Mobile Strike Force at Pleiku and assumption of a general support mission for Military Region II.
The role of the 238th within Military Region II soon became that of being sent to where the heaviest action was. Be it the battle of Bu Prang, siege of Dak Seang, Cambodian incursion, an ROK Army assault near the Mang Yang Pass, or an ARVN sweep out of Pleiku, the 238th Aerial Weapons Company was there. It flew more hours, completed more missions, and inflicted more damage on the enemy than did any similar unit.
In early 1971, the company redeployed to Dong Ha, RVN, and was reassigned to the 223rd Combat Aviation Battalion in preparation for missions in support of Operation Lam Son 719. Between 8 February and 25 March 1971, the 238th Aerial Weapons Company flew 1,150 hours, and completed 2,900 sorties while facing the heaviest anti-aircraft fire of the war. Despite operating in a mid-intensity conflict, the soldiers of the 238th distinguished themselves by their courage under fire, endurance under stress, and dedication to their mission.
Upon the conclusion of Operation Ian Son 719, the unit returned to its home station near Tuy Hoa, RVN and resumed its general support role in Military Region II. The months between April and December 1971 saw the 238th Aerial Weapons Company continue its impeccable mission readiness, and aviation safety records to their deserved conclusion.
In December 1971, the company received orders to redeploy to CONUS. This allowed the unit to reflect on its 16,500 combat aviation hours and nearly 25,000 sorties flown in support of the allied effort in the Kingdom of Laos, and the Republics of Cambodia and Vietnam. These alone testify to the effectiveness of the unit maintenance program and the professionalism of the company’s aviators and aircrew men. These missions were flown in four models of aircraft, under seven commanders, from four home stations, into often severe weather, and over mountainous terrain.
By its unfailing mission readiness, impeccable aviation maintenance management, and record in aviation safety, the 238th Aerial Weapons Company contributed immeasurably to the allied effort in Southeast Asia. The officers and men of the unit, by their professionalism, technical expertise, and unselfish dedication to the ideals and mission of the U.S. Army in Vietnam, have reflected great credit upon themselves, their unit, and the United States of America.
Click here to read a narrative of the unit’s history in the Republic of Vietnam.