The fourth rendezvous began in mid-1965, when the Division’s 1st Brigade and supporting elements went to war as one of the first American based units to fight in Vietnam.
The 1st Brigade fought in the proud tradition of the Screaming Eagles of the past The “Nomads of Vietnam” made 32 tactical deployments, traveling 2,500 miles to conduct 25 major operations. Tuy Hoa, An Khe, Qui Nhon, Cheo Reo, Song Mao, Dak To and Phan Thiet were places they knew well. Their record speaks for itself.
In fall of 1967, the Division was alerted for movement to Vietnam. The 101st began to prepare for another rendezvous with destiny. Vietnam oriented training was instituted, leaders were sent to special schools, the enormous task of packing and loading of equipment and supplies was accomplished with speed.
During 41 days in November and December, the Division completed the largest airlift in military history as the only Army division ever to be airlifted directly into combat. Giant C-141 cargo jets carried 10,356 combat and support troops and 5,118 tons of equipment during Operation Eagle Thrust, as it was called.
On December 13, Major General O.M. Barsanti reported to General William C. Westmoreland, “Sir, the 101st Airborne Division reports for combat, Airborne Sir.” The first days in country consisted mainly of building basecamps and undergoing a brief training program.
Late one evening in early January a platoon of paratroopers from the Division’s 2nd Brigade knocked out a camouflaged enemy bunker north of Cu Chi and killed two Viet Cong machine-gunners. The event marked the end of formal in-country training and the start of combat operations for the 2nd and 3rd Brigades in Vietnam.
Since that day, the Screaming Eagles have spent their time following one routine: find Charlie, capture or kill him, take his rice and weapons, and keep him running.
The 101st has fought from as far south as Saigon and as far north as Quang Tri. Places such as Hue, Phuoc Vinh and Phan Theit are just as familiar to today’s Screaming Eagles as Normandy, Holland and Bastogne were to their predecessors.
During the Vietnamese Lunar New Year (Tet) Holidays, the VC and NVA launched an all out attack against the people of Vietnam and their allies. Screaming Eagles went into the city of Saigon to rescue the American Embassy. Using the roof of the newly constructed building as their landing zone, the paratroopers under the leadership of Maj. Hillel “Gus” Schwartz, assaulted under fire and regained control of the embassy.
The 2nd Brigade teamed up with elements of the 1st Cavalry and 1st ARVN Division in a two-day pitched battle for control of Quang Tri in I Corps.
During the same period the 1st Brigade was heavily engaged with North Vietnamese Regulars in Phouc Long Province, as the NVA attempted to over-run the government outposts surrounding Song Be. The actions of the Division during the Tet offensive demonstrated the Division’s ability to move anywhere… anytime…and fight.
Immediately after the Tet offensive the Division launched some offensives of their own. During Operations Carentan I and II, the Screaming Eagles killed over 3,000 enemy soldiers. Without giving the enemy a chance to catch his breath Operation Nevada Eagle was launched as one of the most successful operations of the war. Over 1600 enemy were killed or captured along with 1,931 weapons and over 360 tons of enemy rice. During the battle of Phuoc Yen 429 NVA were killed and 107 captured against American losses of 5 killed and 31 wounded. So successful were the Division’s tactics in the I Corps Tactical Zone that the U.S. Marines have adopted our style of fighting.
The 101st Airborne Division has built an impressive record during it’s short period of duty in Vietnam. Screaming Eagles have accounted for more than 8,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers killed. They have seized over 2,800 weapons and captured over 500 prisoners.
Individual heroics are too numerous to describe, Screaming Eagles have displayed their devotion to duty through countless acts of courage and feats of bravery.
Troopers of the 101st Airborne Division have earned 3 Distinguished Service Crosses, over 260 Silver Stars, more than 830 Bronze Stars for Valor, and over 400 Army Commendation Medals for Valor during their Vietnam campaigns.
The Screaming Eagles continue to make their “Rendezvous with Destiny,” and you as a new part of this Division will become a part it’s history. You will enjoy the triumphs of the future as well as the triumphs of the past and you will learn to respect the old shout that is a tradition this unit: AIRBORNE, ALL THE WAY!
Pointman of the 2nd Bn., 506th Abn. Inf. keeps alert as he leads his squad through a swamp during a recooaissance-in-force mission northwest of Sagion.