The awarding of unit recognition in the form of awards and citations is one which is delegated to governments of nations to render. Such recognition is one of the oldest forms of recognition for a military unit and dates back for centuries, even millennia. Not only is the award visible upon the uniform of the soldier, while a member of the unit, it is proudly displayed upon the staff which carries the Colors/guidon, as a streamer, for the whole world to see. Company-size units receive silver bands on the staff which represent campaign credits(See Campaigns below), However, they may obtain streamers for the unit awards.

The 118th Assault Helicopter Company received a number of unit awards during its over 8 years long presence in Vietnam. However, the 33rd Transportation Company, during its first year or so in Vietnam received no awards, as far as we know. This is not to say that they did not deserve any awards, but to say that such awards were not given, mainly due to what could be called, political reasons.

MG Bob Brandt, Ret. a member of the 573rd Trans. Detachment, during the first year remembers, "in those early days unit awards were scarce. I think that any unit awards authorized for the 33rd/118th began in the summer of 1963. Actually, awards are rather a sore point among many of those who served, beginning in 1961 through 1963. Remember, we were not supposed to be involved in a fighting war. Combat awards were not initially authorized, even Purple Hearts. The Air Medal criterion was designed to prevent multiple awards and this did not begin to change until 1963. Combat pay was not even authorized until the fall of 1963."

So, history is played out in strange ways. As seen below, the Unit Awards did, in fact, begin in the summer of 1963. Those who served in the 118th in the later years no doubt could attest to the fact that awards were somewhat more common then and many received a fair share of them during their tour.

(A very special thanks to Pat McClarney, Ret. SGM Butterman and Robert Johnson for researching the Unit Awards)

Meritorious Unit Citation
01 Jun 63 thru 30 Jun 66 (DAGO 17, dtd 1968)

Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, w/Palm
02 Jun thru 12 Jun 1964 (DAGO 46, 1968)

Distinguished Unit Citation
(Dong Xoai)
10 Jun to 13 Jun, 1965 (DAGO 43, dtd 1966)
(Later redesignated Presidential Unit Citation (Army)

Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, w/Palm(2nd Award)
01 Mar 66 thru 26 Mar 67 (DAGO 22, dtd 1968 as
amended by DAGO 21, dtd 1969 and DAGO 59, dtd 1969)

Valorous Unit Award(For Combat Action)
(Ho Bo Woods)
19 July 66 (DAGO 17, dtd 1968)

Meritorious Unit Citation, 2nd Award
01 Jan 67--21 Dec 67 (DAGO 48, dtd 1968)

Valorous Unit Award(For Combat Action, 2nd Award)
(Soui Tre)
19 Mar 67 (DAGO 17, dtd 1968)

Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, w/Palm(3rd Award)
27 Mar 67 thru 17 May 68 ( DAGO 21, dtd 1969 as amended
by DAGO 46, dtd 1969 and DAGO 59, dtd 1969)

Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal First Class
01 May 69 thru 15 May 70 (DAGO 55, dtd 1971)
(A very special thanks to Pat McClarney, Ret. SGM Butterman and Robert Johnson for researching the Unit Awards)



The Distinguished Unit Citation was established as a result of Executive Order No. 9075, dated 26 February 1942. The Executive Order directed the Secretary of War to issue citations in the name of the President of the United States to Army units for outstanding performance of duty after 7 December 1941. The design submitted by the Office of the Quartermaster General was approved by the G-1 on 30 May 1942.

As a result of a request from the Commander, USMACV, to expand the scope of the Meritorious Unit commendation to include acts of valor, a review of the unit awards program was conducted in 1965. The study concluded that a gap existed in the awards program. The Distinguished Unit Citation was awarded for gallantry in action for heroism that would warrant the Distinguished Service Cross to an individual. There was no lesser unit award for heroism. Based on the study, a recommendation was submitted to expand the scope of the Meritorious Unit Commendation to include acts of heroism. The recommendation was disapproved by the DCSPER and in a memorandum to the CSA, dated 7 January 1966, the DCSPER recommended a Valorous Unit Award be adopted to signify unit gallantry in combat to a degree equivalent to that required for award of a Silver Star to an individual. The recommendation with proposed design was approved by the Chief of Staff, Army, on 12 January 1966.

The Distinguished Unit Citation was redesignated the Presidential Unit Citation (Army) per DF, DCSPER, date 3 November 1966.

(The preceding information from The Institute of Heraldry )



Unit Citation



Unit Award



Unit Citation


Vietnamese Gallantry Cross/Palm


VN Civil Actions Honor Medal First Class

Note: If you would like to know more about when the various awards were started and the criteria for each one, click on the award and you will be linked to the appropriate page and description within the web site of The Institute of Heraldry.




(Typical Campaign Streamer)


The 118th Assault Helicopter Company did not participate in the last
two (2) Campaigns due to deactivation.
They were:
Consolidation II (1971-1972)
Vietnam Cease-Fire (1972-1973)
For a much more detailed description of all the Vietnam Campaigns, go to: http://www.splorg.org/vietnam/vncampaigns.html

(Campaign and Unit Day information provided by Pat McLarney from official War Department records)


Over 6 years after the Thunderbirds stood down and left Vietnam, MAJ Lott Lawson III, Commanding Officer of the 118th Aviation Company, 25th Infantry Division, APO San Francisco 96225, requested by official letter, dtd 4 August 1977, to Department of the Army, that 30 August be designated as UNIT DAY for the 118th. The letter stated that, "30 August was selected as Unit Day to commemorate the date the first members of the unit fell in combat in Vietnam on 30 August 1963." Those who died on that day were:


CPT James Edward Wenzel
1LT Timothy Michael Lang

They were killed in a CH-21C, number 55-04212, when it went down over the "Iron Triangle" en route to Tay Ninh, low level. The other Crew members, SP4 J. Parham, Gunner and PFC John A. Martino, Crew Chief, survived and were rescued.

Personal remembrance of Alan Laya written at the time!

 Alan Laya, an H-21 pilot, remembers what happened: "Friday, 30 Aug 1963, the 118th conducted a fifteen ship combat (action) in the Tay Ninh area, ten ships from our company and five from the 120th. I was in Bravo flight, number two aircraft of five in a V-formation. In our pre-take-off briefing with Capt. (James E.) Wenzel and Lt. (Timothy M.) Lang leading the flight, we planned on gaining altitude over Bien Hoa and flying over the scud at 1500 feet. On take-off, we received a call to contour the 55 miles to Tay Ninh, forty minutes of flying over stretches where VC's are known to be with no escort Huey's for support. Our ships were empty with the ARVN troops waiting for us at Tay Ninh."

"For thirty minutes we clipped the tree tops and skimmed the rice paddies. At coordinates XT 500300, we dropped off the tree-tops into a little clearing with about a foot of water from the rains. Our lead ship(212) suddenly went into a violent flare approx. 100 yards from the tree line. A second later the aft rotor blades were digging themselves into the ground and the aircraft toppled over on its side disintegrating on impact. Being the following aircraft, it was our responsibility to retrieve the crew and S.O.P. for the other aircraft to continue the mission. We made a 270 turn to the right, all three other ships peeled around and followed us into the area. As we set down facing our machine guns into the tree-lines, the other aircraft set up a perimeter completing a semi-circle around the downed ship. The water around all the ships turned into little fountains from the incoming fire of VC's in the trees."

"On touch-down, I sent our crew chief (Robert A.) Graupman and PLT SGT Milbauer to rescue the crew. (Norman H.) Guthrie and Witherell from 141 and 657 jumped out to help, all this while being under fire. The gunners couldn't feed their 30 cal. fast enough to deep the fire from the ground crews. Witherell, a big boy himself, put the gunner of the downed ship, 212 on his back and carried him to 657 getting splashed from bullets landing near him. After placing the 200 lbs injured gunner in the ship, he tried to return to 212 to give more needy help, but got shot in the leg and tumbled into the water. Not being able to help the others, he sat in the water spraying the tree-line until SGT C. J. "Duke" DuShane helped him back to 657 and Capt (James A.) Kilgore helped put him on the aircraft."

 "Aircraft 212 was spread all over, but under the direction of Sgt. Milbauer, the team evacuated the wounded into the waiting, H-21's and policed the weapons and ammunition. Thee were very few words spoken and direct orders were unnecessary because everyone on the ground knew what had to be done and did it without hesitation or question. The injured needed immediate medical attention; there was no time to wait for the Med ship, the area was hot, and as the gunner on 148, Sgt. Curry said, "I'm running low on ammunition, Sir!" he fired nearly a thousand rounds and was wounded in the leg at the time."

"The crew chief of 212, (John A.) Martino, miraculously walking under his power even while bleeding from the nose and mouth and under shock, had enough composure to help carry the wounded to the other ships. Sgt. Milbauer was the last to leave the downed ship and with a tracer, ignited the fuel cell. We all left the area leaving only a burnt shell. 148 staggered out with eight hits, two through the cockpit, and a wounded gunner. 141 took seven rounds, two through the fuel cell. 657 had a wounded crew chief; 132, lucked out."

"The total time we stayed on the ground was seven minutes, it seemed like seven hours. There were no commands to break formation, land, set up a perimeter. Instinct, alertness and natural reactions turned what could have been a tragedy into an excellent maneuvered operation. 132, the sister ship of 212, has the complete crews of 141, 148, and 657 to thank for the protection and assistance we got in the rescue. Without the quick thinking on their part, two ships and nine Americans would have been lost."

"At Tay Ninh, doctor and Med evac ships were waiting for the wounded. 657, 141 and 148 were too badly damaged to carry on with the mission. Our first lift into the landing zone was successful without any hits. The second lift was a different story. At mid-point, the VC's were waiting for us and clobbered the Alpha flight. I was in Bravo flight and saw the white smoke signifying enemy fire. We made a sharp turn to the right, but not soon enough, for we caught a round through the servo system coming up between my legs up through the plexiglass. Another entered the console and started an electrical fire. The aircraft pitched up but since we both were on the controls, we caught it in time and staggered to a landing spot. I thought our Christmas tree got hit, but fortunately not. We were being shot at all the way down, but we still had enough power to carry us over a tree line just out of range of the main concentration of fire. A 120th aircraft covered for us and followed us all the way down. After a safe touch down, we cut the engine and turned the switches off to stop the electrical fire. When leaving the aircraft, I found I landed in three feet of water. Non of our crew were injured, just overjoyed at seeing that big H-21 next to us waiting to take us back. Thank you Capt Hall and CWO Murrah."

"On that Friday, 30 August 1963, thirteen of fifteen aircraft were hit, two crew killed and five crew were wounded. Two aircraft were downed; one demolished the other salvaged. I pray in thanks to my Leader, the Man up-stairs!"