On 1 July 1965 the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated and was ordered to Vietnam beginning 28 July 1965. In a matter of three and half weeks the newly formed division, with 16,000 men and 434 helicopters—Chinooks (CH-47s), Flying Cranes (CH-54s), Mohawks (OV-1s), UH-1s and OH-13s—was prepared to enter combat. Within 90 days of becoming the Army's first airmobile division, the ‘First Team’ was in combat as the first fully committed division of the Vietnam War.
On 10 October 1965, in Operation ‘Shiny Bayonet’, the First Team initiated its first brigade-size airmobile action against the enemy. The troopers had but a short wait before they faced a tougher test of their fighting skills—the 35-day Pleiku Campaign, an air assault mission to pursue and fight the enemy across 2,500 square miles of jungle. Troopers swooped down on the NVA 33rd Regiment before it could get away, scattering and quickly smashing it. Five days later, on 14 November, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry air-assaulted into the Ia Drang where the division’s first medal of honor in the Vietnam War was awarded. When the Pleiku Campaign ended on 25 November, troopers of the ‘First Team’ had paid a heavy price for its success, having lost some 300 killed in action, half of them in one disastrous ambush.
Bloody but unbowed, the division would go on to take part in many more air assaults and play a leading role in defence against the Tet offensive, driving out the NVA and Viet Cong invaders from Hue and, in Operation ‘Pegasus’, relieving the 3,500 U.S. Marines and 2,100 ARVN soldiers besieged by nearly 20,000 enemy at Khe Sanh.
On 1 May 1970, the ‘First Team’ was ‘First into Cambodia’ hitting what was previously a Communist sanctuary but the campaign had severe political repercussions for the Nixon Administration. Pressure was mounting to withdraw US forces from the war.
Although there would be further assault operations, the war was beginning to wind down and 26 March 1971 officially marked the end of duties in Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry Division, although it was only on 5 May 1971 that the colours moved from Vietnam to Fort Hood, Texas.
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