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Air Assault History
Air Assault technology and its corresponding award, the Air Assault Badge were not created after the Vietnam war but have evolved over time since helicopters were first used in WWII and more extensively in Korea for aeromedical evacuation.

The first helicopter-borne landing of a combat unit in history was conducted in 1951 when Marines attacked and captured a hill in Korea being assaulted by Chinese troops. They were transported by Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 using Sikorsky S-55 Chickasaws which flew 28 sorties and evacuated 84 casualties.

1956 - COL Jay D. Vanderpool, chief of the Army aviation school's combat development office assembled an armed helicopter platoon (Sky-Cav) which became the provisional 7292d Aerial Combat Reconnaissance Company.

1958 - COL John J. Tolson took over the Army infantry school's airborne department and created an airbmobility section at Fort Benning, Georgia.

1961 - First Army airmobile combat action (Operation CHOPPER). Approximately 1,000 Vietnamese paratroopers were airlifted in H-21 Shawnee helicopters (pictured here) by the 57th Transportation Company (Light Helicopter) and the 8th Transportation Company (Light Helicopter) into a suspected Viet Cong headquarters where they successfully captured an elusive underground radio transmitter.

1962 - Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara appoints LTG Howze to head the U.S. Army Tactical Mobility Requirements Board, commonly known as the Howze board which recommended the development of air cavalry brigades and air assault divisions.

1963 - MG Kinnard selected to command the newly formed 11th Air Assault Division (Test).

1964 - 11th Air Assault Division (Test) develops and successfully tests air assault technology.

1964 - The original Air Assault Badge (shown on the bottom of this page - lower right) was awarded to the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) by Commanding General Kinnard, "designed to duplicate the espirit that the paratrooper and aviator wings achieved." The original Air Assault Badge was never approved by the Army.

1965 - 11th Air Assault Division (Test) was merged with newly reactivated 1st Cavalry Division and shipped to Vietnam. The Air Assault Badge is worn in 1st Cavalry Division by former members of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) and later in the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam as the Airmobile Badge.

1974 - 101st Airborne Division develops a new Airmobile Badge for local wear based on a one week training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

1978 - Army approves the new Airmobile Badge as the Air Assault Badge for Armywide wear.

1995 - Vietnam combat veterans write to PERSCOM Awards branch for retroactive Air Assault awards and are advised that the Army "considered and rejected" the retroactive award of the Air Assault Badge to Vietnam Airmobile and Air Cavalry veterans.

1997 - 101st Airborne Division refers requests for retroactive Air Assault Badges from Vietnam Airmobile and Air Cavalry combat veterans to PERSCOM as the "proponent to the military awards regulations governing the Air Assault Badge".

1998 - PERSOM Army Awards Branch Conducts an "exhaustive study and research" concerning the retroactive awarding of the Air Assault Badge to soldiers which does nothing to bring about the retroactive awarding of the Air Assault Badge

2000 - In response to a Congressional inquiry about retroactive Air Assault awards for Vietnam Airmobile and Air Cavalry combat veterans, the PERSOM Military Awards Branch now indicates that the proponent for the Air Assault Badge is the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

2001 - 101st Airborne Division recommends individuals may apply to the Commanding General for retroactive Air Assault awards. A test application was completely ignored (there was no response from MG Cody despite several documented and verified written requests).

2002 - Major General David H. Petraeus assumes command of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and agrees to develop an honorary Air Assault certificate for former Screaming Eagles in conjunction with the 101st Airborne Division Association. The certificate is planned to include an 'authorized to wear' statement.

2003- Development of the honorary certificate is halted when the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) is called to duty for the War on Terror.

2003 - In Country (Iraq) Air Assault training reduced to 6 days, similar to Vietnam era SERT training timeframe (see AIR ASSAULT TRAINING IRAQ page).

REFERENCES:

Dorr, Robert F., Marine Helicopters first to fly troops into combat. Marine Times, 19JUL04.

Stanton, Shelby L., The 1st Cav in Vietnam: Anatomy of a Division. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1987.

Tolson, Lt. Gen. John J., Vietnam Studies: Airmobility 1961-1971, Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 1989.



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