Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Vietnam To Europe, The 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Lives On!

Up to now, I may have hinted to the fact that the Vietnam version of the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery presented the world with the the notion that the AH-1G Cobra could be used as an artillery platform from which 36 pairs of 2.75in rockets, 1,500 rounds of mini gun ammo and 400 M-40 grenades.

The next logical step was to use the concept of a firing platform, add some more power, put some TOW missle racks on those wing stores and add a gyro stabalized sighting system that could track a tank as the TOW missles closes the gap between its total destruction.

As we like to call it, pop the top off the tank.

Knowing they were going to go to Germany on REFORGER of 76, the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery found themselves becoming an anti-tank battalion rather then close combat artillery support.

So, basically, about the same time, the 3rd Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB) was spending 1975 trying to figure out what would work best  -- serving as a test bed to prove the Army's aviation concept -- the 4th Battalion, 77th Feild Artillery already knew how to do it. It was a brillent move on behalf of the Battalion being run by an equally brillent commanding officer, LTC Tom Denny.

In fact, on December 1975, and the new unit was officially formed and designated the 4th Battalion (Attack Helicopter),  77th Field Artillery (Provsional). 

It consisted of 831 soldiers, 60 Cobras, 24 OH-58 Kiowas, and  9 UH-IH Hueys. Between it and the 2 Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry,  during Reforger 76, 315 confirmed tank kills were recorded from the total of 464 TOW engagements.

The ratio of destroyed Cobras to completely -- okay, it was on paper only -- destroyed tanks was 14 tanks to 1. Meaning 34 Cobras were deployed, fired their TOWs and 22  came home with out a scratch.

Pretty amazing stuff when you figure in the Cobras being used still had the French curve canopy and didn't have the home field advantage that we did -- we being the 3rd Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB).

During REFORGER 77, the 3rd Combat Aviation Battalion crippled the Orange side's armor inventory to half within one week without one AH-1S Modified TOW Cobra recorded as being destroyed.

Umpires were so fustrated that they stopped the advancing forces, had them get out of their Armor vehicles, made them use their field binoculars and told them if they could see an unmasked Cobra, they would be able to record a destroyed Cobra....They couldn't.

The age of the Cobra as being an anti-tank TOW Missile firing platform had arrived. But I honestly doubt the 3rd Combat Aviation Battalion could have done it without the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery.

When I arrived at the 3rd Combat Aviation Battalion, I said hello to a few El Toro Vietnam pilots I knew. Warrant Officer Joe Maxsom and Fredrick Cappo.

Also assigned to the battalion were SFC Joseph "TI Joe" Freedlove and a SP6 Frank James were also there.  Men I had met and worked with both while assigned to A Company, 5th Transportation Battalion.

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