335th Transportation Company (DS) Dong Ba Thin, Chu Lai
335th Transportation Company (AM&S) (DS)
Dong Ba Thin, Chu Lai
I arrived in Vietnam in March of 1968. I was assigned to HQ 58th Trans Bn. from March until August of 1968. In late August of 1968, I was assigned to the 335th as the Production Control (PC)/ XO. I kept that position until I returned to the States in Feb 1969. During all of 1968 until some time in 1970, the 335th was at Ky Ha a part of the Americal Base at Chu Lai.
There were three COs of the 335th while I was on my first tour in 1968-69. The first CO of the 335TH from around Jan 1968 to July 1968 was Major Ken Kellogg. He was replaced in July 1968 by Major Joe LaGrassa. In Jan of 1969 he
was replaced by Major Hank Northridge. In the Fall of 1968, a major event occurred as the 335th was reassigned from the 58th Trans Bn. and placed under the Operational control (OPCON) of the 16th Combat Avn Group. In essence, we
became members of the Americal Div. As the 335th PC, I welcomed the change because my reporting requirements decreased by about 75%. The 335th remained a part of the 16th CAG until it and the Division stood down in November of 1971.
Another interesting event occurred in the Fall of 1968. The 335th recovery team was sent to recover the 001 that crashed while carrying the Division Cdr, MG Getty, and his aide. The CG suffered a broken arm. Also aboard was a Major
Colin Powell, who later became the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secy of State.
I left the 335th in Feb of 1969. On my last day, the VC arranged a special rocket attack. During my time at Chu Lai, Ky Ha had never been hit. That changed on my last day which happened to be a Sunday morning. Around 0700 we came under a heavy rocket attack. The flight line took several hits and our motor pool and Tech Supply building took direct hits. Luckily the attack took place on Sunday morning when most of the Company was off. Our only casualties were three guys who were in the motor pool when the attack began. A rocket hit about 15 feet from them. The blast knocked them down and gave them mild concussions, but miraculously they were otherwise unhurt. Everything around
them was full of holes from the shrapnel. They were in the process of getting ready to board a truck to take them to the airfield for a return to the States as this was the last day of their tour. I left the next day.
I returned to Vietnam to begin my second tour in July of 1971 and was again assigned to the 335th. This time as the CO. During my absence, the Company moved from Ky Ha to a new area on Chu Lai that had once been the home of a Navy Sea Bee unit. For Vietnam, these were great facilities. We had our own gated compound with two story barracks with flush toilets and hot showers. We also had our own Mess Hall and our own Em Club with two free USO shows a month. The 335th aircraft maintenance operations also moved from Ky Ha to the main Airfield where we had our own big hangar. These facilities were originally built to support Navy and Marine jet fighter ops and were a big improvement from our old facilities.
Two major events occurred to the 335th during my nearly 2 and 1/2 year absence. The first was a terrible tragedy that occurred in Feb of 1970 when the company 001 piloted by the 335th CO suffered tail rotor failure and crashed near
Freedom Hill in Da Nang with the loss of all aboard. This was the most casualties ever suffered by the 335th. What made it even worse was that several of the passengers were being flown to Freedom Hill to out-process for their end of tour return to the States. This was to be their last in country ride. Another major event occurred in Feb of 1971 when the 335th was deployed north to the Quang Tri area to support helicopter Ops for Lam San 719, one of the largest helicopter operations of the war. The 335th successfully accomplished its mission and returned to Chu Lai in the Spring of 1971.
I assumed command in Aug, 1971 and was the final commander. The unit stood down in November of 1971. In early Sept, 1971, it was announced that the Americal Div was going to be deactivated. The 335th would be tasked with packing and shipping all aviation maintenance tools back to the States and was also tasked with
assisting the combat aviation units that were being stood down with preparing their helicopters for transfer to the Vietnamese. The Division was to be gone by Dec 1 1971. While we were busily standing down, Typhoon Hester, a major typhoon with winds in excess of 120 mph passed directly over Chu Lai. Luckily, most of the Division had already left and only the 335th and a few other logistics units remained. The base was nearly totally destroyed. Most of the hangers at the airfield were destroyed. Our hangar had much of the roof peeled off and parts of the back blown in. It was the least damaged of the hangers. The roof of our mess hall was blown off and the rear wall caved in. Out motor pool was largely wrecked and we had no electricity because our generator was damaged. Luckily we had no serious injuries. On the morning of the storm, I told everyone to stay in the barracks and I took a small team of maintenance types to go to the flight line to secure our aircraft. The storm lasted into the early evening.
One interesting thing happened on the day of the storm. That morning, prior to the Typhoons arrival, our mess people put a number of prime rib roasts in the ovens in preparation for the evenings meal. Then came the storm which pretty much wrecked the mess hall. Well, not to let a little thing like a major typhoon interfere with their plans, early that evening, as the winds subsided, the intrepid cooks crawled through the mess hall's wreckage and retrieved the prime
rib roasts which,miraculously, were perfectly done. They converted the officer's lounge into a temporary mess facility and served the best prime rib I have ever tasted. Because of their actions while everyone else on base was eating cold C
rations, we were feasting on prime rib. That evening Col Leslie, the 16th CAG Cdr, came by and asked if my troops had anything to eat I said yes and he asked "Are you all eating C rations?" I told him no, we were eating prime rib, and
asked if he would like some. Needless to say, he gladly ate with us.
The morning after the storm, we used our vehicles and got all of the debris out of our area. That afternoon, our maintenance platoon went over to the MEDIVAC unit and got them flyable. Also that afternoon, a soldier who had been a contractor prior to being drafted came up with a plan to repair the mess hall. He was given the equipment and crew that he requested and by that evening he and his crew rebuilt the mess hall Another soldier who had experience repairing big
generators came forward with a plan to reconnect our generator. Again with a small crew that he picked, we had full power that evening. The result was that on the evening after the storm, the 335th was the only unit in Chu Lai with
power and a working mess hall. In addition we were operational and continued our mission which included rigging over 40 destroyed and damaged aircraft for extraction. By late November, in spite of Typhoon Hester, we successfully
accounted for and prepared the Division's Aviation assets for shipment back to the States.
As we were now the only operational company in the 16th CAG, we represented the 16th CAG during its deactivation ceremony. For the ceremony, the company was split in two. One half being the 335th and the other half
representing the HQ company of the 16th CAG. I stood in front of the 335th and my 1st Sgt and the 16th CAG Hq Company Cdr stood in front of the other half of the company. The HQ Co Cdr told my 1st Sgt that all troops representing the HQ Co would have to remove their 335th metal pocket patches because they were representing HQ Company. The first SGT, who in my opinion, was really one of the best in the Army not only refused to comply but told the young Captain that this was probably the best group of soldiers that he ever would stand in front of and
that he had better stand tall and look proud or he would "kick his ass." The soldiers kept their pocket patches on. We were reviewed by General Abrahms,(he replaced Gen Westmoreland) the USARV Commander. After the review, he told Col Leslie, that "These were the best looking troops I've seen since I arrived in Vietnam. And so in late November of 1971, the 335th completed its service in Vietnam and passed into history.
All those who honorably served should feel proud of what they accomplished.
Col, USA, Retired
Photos courtesy of Michael Boone, 335th in Chu Lai 1967
335th TRANSPORTATION CO (ADS) 1969 CHU LAI VIETNAM PHOTOS OF COMPANY PERSONNEL COURTESY OF JAMES KELLY AND M SCOTT GARRETT
335TH TRANSPORTATION COMPANY HISTORY 1970 AND PHOTOS OF COMPANY PERSONNEL COURTESY OF LES HINES, AMERICAL DIVISION VETERANS ASSOCIATION.
PHOTOS AND PERSONNEL ROSTER OF 335TH CO. 1971 COURTESY OF M SCOTT GARRETT.