I hope everyone had a good Christmas and will have a healthy 2001. To begin the New Millenium, I think it appropriate to look back and be reminded of what the 9th Cavalry has been over the years of its existence. As most folks know, the U.S. Army’s 9th (& 10th) Cavalry was initially organized in 1866 as Black horse soldiers to protect new settlers in the West. These “Buffalo Soldiers” sustain their legacy with their own organizations and annual events (see http://www.zianet.com/wblase/courier/buffalo.htm for more info). The familiar regimental badge depicting the gold “Indian” on the galloping horse has the blue, five-bastioned fort as background. The fort background is there because it was the badge of Teddy Roosevelt’s 5th Army Corps in Cuba, of which the 9th Cav Regiment was a part (the badge was approved in 1925).
During WWII, the 9th Cav sent its assets to other units, but elements that later became part of the 9th Cav did serve in both theaters, including the landing at Normandy. Interestingly, the 302nd Mech Cav Recon Trp, a precurser to the 1-9th, was the unit that included the Lakota Souix “Code Breakers”. At the outbreak of the Korean War, the 1st Cav was serving post-war duty in Japan, and their recon unit at the time was the 16th Recon Co. On 15 Oct ‘57, Co "A", 509th Tank Battalion, 9th Cav, previously inactivated at Fort Knox, KY, was redesignated Troop "A", 9th Cavalry. On 1 Nov ‘57, Trp "A", 9th Cav was redesignated as HHT, 1st Recon Sqdn, 9th Cav. On 1 Sept ‘63 the 1st Recon Sqdn was reorganized and redesignated as the1st Sqdn, 9th Cav, remaining on duty at the DMZ until ‘65 when it was transferred to Fort Benning. On 1 July ‘65, the 1st Cav Div (Airmobile) was officially activated, made up of resources of the 11th Air Assault Div (Test) and elements of the 2nd Inf Div. As a part of this reorganization, the 3-17th Cav Rgmt was redesignated 1-9th. The Squadron left with the Division for Vietnam in August, ’65, wearing the black cavalry Stetsons to war for the first time since the horse soldier days. On 28 June ‘71, the 1-9th Cav (less B Trp) returned from Vietnam, the most decorated Unit of that war, and assumed the role of the divisional reconnaissance squadron. I’ll cover post-Vietnam 9th Cav history in the next issue. I will mention that at the end of the Gulf War and the subsequent reorganization in Dec ‘92, Troop "A", 9th Cavalry, 199th Infantry Brigade, was redesignated as HHC, 9th Cavalry and reassigned to the 3rd Brigade (Grey Wolf), 1st Cav Div, Ft. Hood. For you folks with on-line access, you can read about Cav activities during WWII and Korea under “War Service” at http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/matrix/1CD/1CD-Matrix.htm and at 1st Cav Assn. Historian Harry BOUDREAU’s great site: http://www.vvm.com/~firstctav/home.html. For a comprehensive history of the 9th Cavalry legacy beginning with the Buffalo Soldiers through today’s unit at Ft. Hood, I urge you to look at Harry’s “9th Cav” site at: http://www.metronet.com/~harryb/1st_team/9th_rgmt/. Also available on-line now is Gen. Tolson’s 1972 history of the formation and application of the air assault concept, “Airmobility: 1961-1971” (http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/Vietnam/Airmobility/airmobility-fm.html). This book depicts the history of how the Army’s first airmoble division was conceived, formed and used. I’ll review this and other pertinent books on the 1-9th later. Please let me know if you want more or less history seen in this column. If you want more, I will provide it, but I’ll trade it for some personal input for you readers. I also hope to relate today’s 9th Cav activities with each issue.
Speaking of history, in the last issue I related the story of the reincarnation of the “Cav Hat” by Col. STOCKTON (Bullwhip 6) at Ft. Benning during airmobile training prior to shipping out to Vietnam. I received a response from LTC William P. GILLETTE III (1189 Winer Rd., Odenton, MD 21113) who wrote “Thanks for your efforts in promoting 1-9 Cav News – the reinstatement of the black Cav Hat is a lot more detailed than you wrote”. He included a copy of an “Armor” (May-June ‘77} magazine article he wrote in which he related how “the cavalry hat was reborn” in Nov. ’64 during “Air Assault II”. As captains, he and Walt Harman – I presume after learning of STOCKTON’s intent to bring back the old Stetsons - obtained some olive drab drill sergeant hats and proceeded to dye them black and have them blocked in the old Cav hat shape. With the concurrence of their B Trp CO, Maj Robert J. STORERINK, they presented Col STOCKTON with one on his birthday. Seems C Trp also presented him with “Maggie” the mule at the same event (another story). GILLETTE and HARMAN later contacted the Stetson company who ultimately provided proper Cav Hats and cords for Col. STOCKTON’s new cavalrymen. Everyone there at the time can relate what a trial it was for Bullwhip 6 to hold his ground concerning his “hat thing”. I still have mine, and am grateful for his stubbornness. The mule was appropriate.
Fast forward to Ft. Hood, circa 1977-80. Former Ssg Clifford R. BOXLEY sent a letter starting out with: “As a member of the 1st Cavalry Division Association, we all respect you Vietnam Vets, but wait a minute, 1-9th was still a great unit to be in, even during the disaster years of the Carter Administration. During those years,1-9th lead the way, especially C Troop.” I can’t transcribe the whole letter, but he mentioned that C Trp set the standard for the Sqdn then, with only one officer assigned – a Cpt. COLLITTI. “I would like to tell you a short story about Cpt. COLLITI, what his men thought about our Captain.” Seems that the Unit was to be deactivated and the colors transferred to a unit in Germany, so Sgt. RONE organized a final party. Unaware of this, poor Cpt. COLLITI held the morning formation with nobody there. The Sqdn CO played along and gave the Cpt. an hour to find his troops or go see the Division CO. “The Sqdn CO took [COLLITI] out to where his company was holding their party, with all the troops and their families. C Troop Strikes Again.” BOXLEY added a note that he is involved with a program to obtain used computers to teach Veterans how to get on-line. He’s at 24 Paseo St., Lamar, CO 81052. Thanks Cliff.
Mike KELLEY (C-1-9, ‘65-66, CE Scouts & Guns) e-mailed, mentioning the Squadron’s early Ia Drang actions including the ambush of Nov.3, ‘65 led by “Thirsty Blue” Chuck KNOWLEN which was one of the first serious battles between the U.S. Army and conventional NVA forces in Vietnam. Mike previously detailed these and other initial actions along with several photos in the Oct. ‘99 issue of “Vietnam” magazine. He recently visited Mrs. Lillian GAVARIA, mother of SP5 George GAVARIA (CE, UH-1B), KIA 1 Dec. ’66. “She took us to George's grave site and I had a very emotional reunion with my old friend. It took me all these years to visit George, but it was worth the trip out.”
Mike is looking for the Gonzales, CA gravesite of SP4 Robert Tommy WARNER (CE C-1-9, ‘66-67), a Ft. Rucker schoolmate who died Oct ‘67 in a crop duster crash near Monterrey, CA. Mike authored Chap 4 in Matt BRENNAN’s “Hunter-Killer Squadron”. Mike’s now working on a book project about his experiences with 1-9th. Mike can be contacted at email@example.com or phone (978) 657-8151. There seems to be a recent surge of folks who lost relatives and friends in Vietnam and now wish to contact guys that knew their husband, father, brother, son, uncle, next door neighbor, high school bud, hootchmate, etc. For those of us who lost friends, or even witnessed some aspect of an American KIA, our contact is so special to those who now want information about a KIA relative. For these situations, there is a great group of dedicated people who volunteer their time to get people connected, the “Family Contacts Committee” of the Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network. On-line, find them at: http://www.virtualwall.org/contacts/. Julie KINK (sister of C-1-9 David KINK, KIA 8-3-69) [Kink100@aol.com] is an essential element in this special group. Ed SCHULTZ (firstname.lastname@example.org, Portland, ME) e-mailed: “I was Charlie Troop's Blue Leader in the spring and summer of 1967, when the call sign was Phantom Raider. If there's anyone out there who remembers me, I'd sure like to hear from you.” Several former 1-9th guys have left messages on the C Trp website (www.RealCav.org), some looking for information about buds they knew in Vietnam. Fortunately, this and other new 1-9th websites being established facilitate communication exchanges with former 1-9th members (see below for more new unit links). A sampling: Kevin SANFORD (email@example.com, Bastrop, LA wrote: “my best friend and mentor served in the 1/9 cavalry "C" troop from '65-'67...Sgt Howard KITCHENS. Anyone that might have known or served with him please send me an e-mail.” Carl SCHWIND (firstname.lastname@example.org, Harrison, MI): “C Troop scout 65-66 Thirsty 13 assigned primarily to 1/7 Cav.” John SACCA: (jwsNYGuard@aol.com, Albany, NY) “Served as gunner on C Model Huey, and later as Blue RTO from Aug '68 to Feb '69. Howdy to Lee SALAZAR in California and JR SVAREN in Montana.” Paul HART (PHart247@aol.com, Tubac, AZ): “Lift Plt. pilot [C] 4/67-3/68, Bong Song, Phu Bai, Dong Ha & Evans. Contact IP Hunter AAF 6/68 - 12/69.” Dave BONCI (email@example.com, West Springfield, MA): “I'd love to hear from anybody stationed at HQ 1/9 or C Trp 1/9.” Terry L. WORRELL (firstname.lastname@example.org, Ohio) “Hello to all my brothers out there - Welcome Home. I served with C Troop, 1/9 Blues Platoon from 4/67- 4/68, LZ Two Bits South, Bong Song Plains. Sure would like to hear from some of my old buddies - especially MANSFIELD (cook turned infantry), Fred ROMERO (best point man I ever knew), and any member of the 228th Headhunters Group. Take Care and God Bless.” SP5 Oscar RINCON (Oschere@aol.com, S. Calif.): “I served with A1/9 Cav Aug70 Jun71. I’ve been looking for Cpt EVANS and Mr GLASS for many years; flew a lot of missions with these guys. Last saw Cpt EVANS at Ft Hood in Dec 71. I crewed UH-1s and flew many missions in Cambodia; still don’t see much recognition for that. Is that ever going to change does anyone know? Anyway time moves on and I will never forget the guys that didn’t come back. Peace.” Oscar, we recognize your service right here and at our reunions. One of my goals as 9th Cav columnist is to dredge up 9th Cav history before and after Vietnam, and to track down folks like our beloved Blues and those who served with non-aviation groups such as D Troop, and tracker dog teams.
Many of 1-9th activitiess after 1968 involved Cav LRRPs. I’ve established contact with H/75th Rangers and expect to arrange a get-together at the next Cav reunion. D Trooper SP4 Robert Barry CROSBY was killed when the vehicle he was driving hit a mine near Phouc Vinh on Feb. 26, 1970. He was from my home town. During Christmas I met with Barry’s brother, Harold M. CROSBY (911 S. Washington Ave., Greenville, MS 38701). Harold has kept all articles, letters, photos, etc. concerning his brother and his untimely death. Barry was a graduate of Washington and Lee Univ and president of his fraternity. I borrowed several photos of Barry’s fellow D Troopers which had been sent to him by Barry’s Plt Sgt, Mark SCULLION, who I also spoke with by phone. Mark was also Plt Sgt for Donald Sidney SKIDGEL when he was killed on 14 Sept ’69 in an action that won SKIDGEL the Medal of Honor. Names labeled with the photos include P. MORALES, Charlie BROWN, J. NANARA, DUNNAWAY, FARLEY and WILKINSON.
In the category of “you were what you wear”, my experiences continue to confirm that we should all be displaying our military participation. I put window stickers on my truck (1st Cav Asso. Patch & RVN service sticker), and now sometimes wear Vietnam-related shirts when I travel. Hank LLEWELLYN printed my post in his Silver Wings column last year in which I related about the 30s-something man who, without any prior conversation, shook my hand on a plane and thanked me “for serving our Country”; clearly he had noticed my VHPA shirt. In November, I was driving from work on the expressway with a job interviewee when I sensed a car pacing me on the left. Irritated, I didn’t look over until I he had moved up off my 10 o’clock. When I did look, I saw a guy in the right seat holding a salute, which he crisply snapped before the car sped off. My passenger didn’t know what to make of it and I was unable to talk, such recognition being so rare. In addition to the 9th Cav-related websites mentioned in the last issue, A Troop now has another website at: http://www.apachetroop.homestead.com/apachetroop.html and B Troopers have a new site at: http://www.geocities.com/b19loretta/bravo_home.html. Gary ROGNEY (A Trp Scout gunner, ‘65-67; C Trp Scouts, Guns, ‘70-71) is working on a website for 1-9th in general, complimenting the Bullwhip Sqn site at: http://www.bullwhipsquadron.org/. Of special note is the new 9th Cav e-mail listserver established by Bob YOUNG (C Trp Scout pilot, ‘65-66) [email@example.com]. To see what it is about, go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/9thcav/. C Troopers have a similar message exchange at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ctrp9thcav/. Don’t forget about the 54th Annual 1st Cav Div. Asso. reunion will at Killeen/Ft. Hood on be 13-17 June. For more in formation and for on-line registration, go to: http://www.metronet.com/~harryb/1st_team/1st_assn/reunion/ or look elsewhere in this issue.