Assault Helicopter Company

(Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton, 65-66)
(For details about this photo, click)

" Thunderbirds "



(If you are a Facebook fan/member go to 118th AHC Thunderbird page)

Thunderbird News & Updates

Dates of Service in Vietnam

33rd Transportation Company............17 Sep 62 -- 25 June 63

118th Aviation Company(AML)............25 June 63 -- 1 Dec 65

118th Assault Helicopter Company.........1 Dec 65 -- 31 Aug 71

Updated and Expanded Book Out!! "Thunderbird Lounge" by Bob Brandt

Units of the 118th AHC

 1st Platoon (Scorpions)

 2nd Platoon (Choppers)

 3rd Platoon (Bandits)

 "Shot Gun" Platoon

 573rd Trans Det. (Bird Watcher)

 198th Signal Detachment

93rd Medical Detachment

Origin and Brief History of the Thunderbirds

On 7 June 1963 the 118th Aviation Company(AML) was constituted in the Regular Army by AGAO-O (23 Jul 63). Then, on 25 June 1963, General Order 236, HQ, US Army, Pacific, activated the 118th Aviation Company (AML) as one of the two helicopter units comprising the 145th Aviation Battalion(the other being the UTT).

Rising like a phoenix from the deactivated 33rd Transportation Company(Light Helicopter) which had arrived in Vietnam during the autumn of 1962 aboard the USNS Croatan from Ft. Ord, CA, the 118th "Thunderbirds" immediately began to typify their motto...."IT SHALL BE DONE".

Fully operational as an assault helicopter company in July 1963, the Thunderbirds chalked up an impressive record of combat assaults during their first month of operation, without the benefit of an armed helicopter platoon. Flying dual rotor CH-21's, the pilots and crews had to resort to the use of personal sidearms when assaulting a hostile LZ. One of the Thunderbirds' first confirmed Viet Cong kills was reported to have been when a door gunner shot from the aircraft's landing gear with his pistol.

With the replacement of the CH-21 with the UH-1B helicopter in Sep 1963, the armed 3rd Platoon "Bandits" was created. During Nov 1963, the Bandits were credited with more than 150 enemy kills, a record not surpassed until the large build-up of American troops in 1965.

Organized for heliborne operations over the myriad terrain features of the III Corps area, the 118th was the model for the assault helicopter unit concept that would follow in another two years. The Thunderbirds were so highly regarded by the commanders of other helicopter units that they were constantly training crew members of the new units that began pouring into Vietnam.

Known as the"First of the Assault Helicopter Companies", the 118th actively participated in every major battle and operation in III Corps, distinguishing itself in the early years in the Battle of Dong Xoai, Operations Attleboro, Cedar Falls, and Junction City.

The measure of a helicopter unit, like the measure of any fighting group, is in the measure of its fighting men. Among the greatest claims of the Thunderbirds and their reputation as a fighting unit was they were the first to arrive and the last to leave because....."IT SHALL BE DONE!"

Finally, after serving in the Republic of Vietnam beginning 17 Sept 1962 the 118th Assault Helicopter Company was inactivated on 31 Aug 1971 by USARPAC General Order 458, dtd 25 Aug 71. The Thunderbirds had served in combat with great honor and distinction for almost 9 years! (The 118th was re-activated again on 21 Dec 1972 in Hawaii)

(Copied primarily from "First in Vietnam--A Pictorial History of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion" published by the Battalion Information Office, 1966-67, Dai Nippon Printing Co., LTD, Tokyo, Japan)

How the Thunderbirds Got their Name!

Unit Awards and Citations

This page has a complete list of Unit Awards and Citations that the 118th Assault Helicopter Company received during almost 9 years in Vietnam. It also offers links to full explanations about the various awards.


In addition, the page has a complete list of Vietnam Campaigns that the 33rd/118th is credited with participating in during almost 9 years in Vietnam.

Unit Day

How the 118th's Unit Day came about! Also, a graphic personal account of what took place on the day that was selected as Unit Day.

Memorial Page

A listing of pilots, crew members and enlisted men who died serving the United States of America while in the 33rd Transportation Company and the 118th AHC throughout the almost 9 year period of time in Vietnam.


A listing of Officers and Warrant Officer Pilots who flew in the 33rd Transportation Company or the 118th AHC during the almost 9 years in Vietnam

Crew members & Enlisted

A listing of Enlisted men who flew as Crewmen or were support personnel assigned to the 33rd Transportation Company or the 118th AHC during its 9 years in Vietnam


A grid listing the names of those who served in leadership positions of CO, XO, Operations, 1SGT, CO of 573rd Maint. Det, and CO of 93rd Med. Det. during the nearly 9 years.


Photo Album

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( 62-63)

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Interesting pictures provided by former "Thunderbirds" showing different aspects of life in the 33rd and 118th.

Aircraft Histories and Incidents

Records indicate that at least 95 aircraft of the 118th AHC were involved in at least 210 incidents.

Thunderbird Aircraft Today

More than 35 years after the 118th Thunderbirds left Vietnam, several aircraft have appeared around the United States that were originally flown in Vietnam in the 118th.

If anyone knows of other aircraft that have been "resurrected", please notify the Webmaster.


I remember when......

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Interesting stories provided by former members of the 33rd Transportation Co. or 118th AHC.



After 50 years!

Stories of those who have returned to Vietnam

Impressions and photos!

 Click Here



Details from various official and non-official publications about significant battles and operations. Plus, personal remembrances of 118th pilots and crew members.

These operations and battles were instrumental in helping to mold the 118th into one of the finest Assault Helicopter Companies in all of Vietnam for almost 9 years.

Civic Action

The story of Civic Action was never fully told by the U.S. media or the world media. Civic Action was an integral part of the life of being a member of the 33rd and the 118th. The Civic Action story MUST BE TOLD!



Old Thunderbirds and friends come together after decades to relive and reminisce about good and bad times in the 33rd Transportation Company and the 118th Thunderbirds.


Thunderbird News & Updates



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© Copyright April 1, 2000--2010
 Thomas Payne, Web master

Looking for Vietnam helicopter related web sites?

Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association--VHPA
Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association--VHCMA
VHPA Museum Site
1st Aviation Brigade
145th Combat Aviation Battalion