Returning Fire In the Beginning by COL (RET) James W. "Pete" Booth
"This book is the factual story of the development of armed helicopters in the US Army and their first employment in combat. The story is dramatically told by the courageous men who lived it--flying daily into enemy infested areas facing murderous fire from automatic and anti-aircraft weapons.
In late 1961 the US Government deployed five Transportation Helicopter Companies (H-21 lift ships) to South Vietnam to increase the mobility of South Vietnamese ground forces. The Viet Cong quickly recognized that the H-21s were unarmed and began shooting at them endangering the lives of American crewmen. A helicopter company equipped with 25 UH-1 helicopters had been cobbled together on Okinawa by the Commander US Army Pacific. Believing the company was soon to be deployed to Vietnam, the men assigned to the unit armed its helicopters by scrounging weapons systems left over from WW ll and Korea stored in Army/Air Force depots in Okinawa. Machine guns and 2.75 inch rockets were jury rigged onto the UH-1s.
.Officially designated the Utility Tactical Helicopter Company, but widely known as the “UTT”, the company deployed to Saigon in September 1962. After some jurisdictional squabbles with the Air Force over roles and missions, UTT began combat operations in October. It quickly became widely known for professionalism and the courage of its crew members. Such was its fame that for years South Vietnamese military personnel called all armed helicopters “UTT.” Unfortunately over its years in RVN the Company endured frequent designation changes--UTT/68th/197th/334th Armed Helicopter Company. Why remains a mystery even today.
The Company’s legacy is strong and endures today. Armed helicopters are a major component of US Army combat forces. The current Army Apache program (over 600) is a direct descendent. Additionally, the Marines and Navy have strong armed helicopter programs, as does every major military power in the world. Ironically it all began with a small group of courageous men mounting scavenged weapons [mostly outmoded] on helicopters originally designed for medical evacuation. This is their story."
Hardback, 708 pages