282nd Assault Helicopter Company


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Billy Phillips was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, on January 9, 1948. He was the son of a Greek American WW2 USAAF veteran and B-17 Gunner, Alexander Phillips with heritage from Mouzaki, Thessaly in Greece (for whom our followers can read in next week) and Alyce Checoura, who was also a Greek-American, with heritage from Dardanelle in Asia Minor. Billy’s actions during the Vietnam War couldn’t be described better than his own words. The following narrative was given for Eleftheria Post #6633 - "Honor & Remembrance" book, which was published in…and which we reproduce here, along with Billy's personal photos from his tour of duty:

"I graduated from high school in June of 1966 and entered the service the following September. I called my Mom and Dad the day I was to take a train from 30th Street Station and told them I had joined the Army and was leaving for South Carolina for basic training. Needless to say, they rushed down to see me off. Mom was really upset, Dad was a little more understanding; I was 18-years old. The train was an old troop train, where they packed us in like cattle, draftees and enlistees alike. Our destination was Fort Gordon, GA, for basic training, which lasted eight weeks. I was given a two-week leave and then it was on to Fort Polk, LA, for advanced Infantry training. This place was a real hellhole. They had re-opened the post a year before to accommodate the increased flow of new recruits. This post had been closed since the end of WW II so you can imagine what the conditions were. We were there another eight weeks, and then it was on to Fort Benning, GA, for parachute training. While there, I volunteered for the Pathfinder Course, which taught us how to direct aircraft (helicopters) in and out of a landing zone. After finishing the course, I was sent to Fort Rucker, AL, for advanced training in helicopter operations and tactics and then, finally, I was transferred to Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, for training in helicopter weapons systems. I received my orders to go to Vietnam in August of 1968, was given a 30-day leave, and arrived in Vietnam in mid-September of 1968. I was assigned to the 282nd Assault Helicopter Company, 212th Combat Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade. Our base was located at Marble Mountain Air Facility outside of Da Nang on the coast. The base was a US Marine Corps facility, with us being the only Army personnel assigned there. As far as I know, our company was the only US Army helicopter unit assigned that far north in Vietnam at that time. Our mission was to provide air support to the US Marine and South Vietnamese units. Our company consisted of four platoons a scout platoon of four OH-6A observation helicopters called "Loaches", a gunship platoon of six UH-1C Huey armed helicopters, and two lift platoons of eight UH-1H “Huey” helicopters each. My assignment was with the gunship platoon as a door-gunner aboard an armed helicopter. My day started at about 5:00 a.m. when I woke up and had some breakfast in the mess hall then walked out to the flight line and loaded the weapons on the helicopter. My ship was outfitted with a seven—tube rocket pod on each side which fired seven 2.75-inch folding tin aerial rockets one at a time or all at once, and a General Electric mini-gun mounted on a pylon on each side of the ship capable of tiring up to 6.000 rounds of 7.62mm per minute. It was my job to load the rockets in the tubes and mount the mini-guns on the pylons and to load all the ammo boxes which were roughly 35.000 rounds of belted 7.62mm ammo with every fifth round a tracer. Our crew consisted of four men an Aircraft Commander who was the overall commander of the aircraft who sat in the right front seat, the pilot, who sat in the left front seat; the crew chief who sat behind the pilot atop the ammo boxes on the left side of the ship. The crew chief’s job was to maintain the aircraft and make sure it was flyable every day. He also acted as a door—gunner armed with an M-60 handheld machine gun with 3.000 rounds of belted ammo in a box at his feet. I sat on the right side of the ship also with an M-60 hand-held machine-gun and 3,000 rounds of belted ammo. We usually lifted off around 7:00 am, with another helicopter as our wingman. This was known as a "Light Fire Team". Other times we flew with two other helicopters which were known as a "Heavy Fire Team" and flew all—day long going back to base in the early evening only stopping during the day to refuel and rearm and to grab a bite to eat from the C-Rations we carried on board. This was seven days a week; there were no days off in Vietnam. Our missions varied from answering radio calls for help from troops on the ground in contact with the enemy, escorting lift ships carrying troops into hot landing zones and Hunter-Killer missions which were when one of our scout helicopters would fly very slowly at tree-top level to draw fire. We would fly at 1500 feet above him and when the scout ship was fired upon we would roll in and engage the enemy with our weapon systems, but most of the time we would fly at very low level hoping to draw fire and looking to engage enemy troops in the open."

Top: "Marble Mountain Air Facility, Republic of Vietnam, 1968, sitting in the door of my ship with Ma Deuce...." Note the details in the M2 Machine Gun and the multiple rocket launcher attached in the helicopter pylon. Very few machine guns in the history of the world own a legacy such as that of the famous Browning M2 heavy machine gun series. Born out of a World War 1 requirement of 1918 which saw American authorities attempt to copy the success of the French Hotchkiss M1914 11mm medium machine gun for the anti-aircraft role, engineers John Browning and Fred Moore went to work on developing a large-caliber version of their existing M1917 .30-06 caliber machine gun. The resulting effort became the "US Machine Gun, Caliber .50, M1921" of 1921 chambered for the mammoth 12.7mm cartridge. The gun was used extensively in every war from WW2 till our days (Billy Phillips, further info https://www.militaryfactory.com)
Middle: Hill 55 RVN '68, a US Marine Firebase, taking a break with my friend & pilot CWO/2 Mike Stanage, the best helicopter pilot there ever was! He was 21 years old! (Billy Phillips)
Bottom: Out in the "Arizona", An Hoa Combat Base, RVN, 1968.... (Billy Phillips)
The UH-1C was specifically developed as a gunship version until the "interim" attack helicopter, the Bell AH-1G Huey Cobra was available and to correct the deficiencies of the UH-1B when it was used in the armed role. The UH-1C was widely referred to as the "Huey Hog" in US Army service. The "Charlie" model was fitted with the 1,100 hp (820 kW) T53-L-9 or L-11 engine to provide the power needed to lift the weapons systems in use or under development at the time. It incorporated the new Bell 540 rotor system with 27-inch (690 mm) chord blades. The increased power lead Bell's engineers to design a new tail boom for the "C" which incorporated a wider chord fin on a longer boom and larger synchronized elevators. The "C" also introduced a dual hydraulic control system for redundancy in battle and an improved inlet filter system for the dusty conditions found in southeast Asia. Fuel was increased to 242 US gallons and gross weight to 9,500 lb (4,300 kg), giving a nominal useful load of 4,673 lb (2,120 kg). Development on the "C" model had commenced in 1960, with production starting in June 1966. A total of 766 "C" models were completed, including five for the Royal Australian Navy and five for Norway. The balance went to the US Army. Many UH-1Cs were later re-engined with the 1,400 hp (1,000 kW) Lycoming T53-L-13 powerplant. With this engine, they were redesignated UH-1M.[3][4]The call sign "Blackcat" was assigned to the company on 23 May 1966. The Black Cat patch on the left was the original crest and was used by the entire company. In March of 1967, the lift platoons adopted the crest on the right, which graces the front of each lift helicopter and strikes terror into the hearts of every enemy whose paths they cross. The "Blackcat" call sign was used by the First and Second Platoons who were referred to as "Lift" or "Slick" Platoons.. (Copyright Tom Cooper, further info from Wikipedia and http://282ahc.com)

"In late November 1968, we were scrambled in the early morning hours to give fire support to a South Vietnamese firebase under siege by North Vietnamese troops. A heavy fire team was dispatched and the battle lasted all day into the early evening. During the fight, my ship received numerous hits from enemy ground fire resulting in the pit” being shot in the foot and several rounds passing up through the floor of the ship wounding me in my left leg and arm with bullet fragments,(my first Purple Heart). In December we were assigned to fly cover for Bob Hope Christmas Show which was appearing at the Freedom Hill Marine Combat Base in Da Nang. Actress Ann Margaret was with him that year. Bob gave us a wave from the stage when he looked up and saw us flying over. On my 2lst birthday, in January I969, while supporting a US Marine operation in heavy contact with the enemy, my ship received numerous hits from enemy ground fire killing the Aircraft Commander and causing the ship to lose its hydraulic power. We crashed into a rice paddy and the ship rolled over on its left side killing the pilot. My crew chief and I made it out of the crash and ran for cover into a bomb crater half filled with water, all the while being shot at from a tree line where the Viet Cong (VC) were tiring from. We were rescued by US Marines later that day. My crew chief was suffering from a broken wrist and bullet fragments to his legs and I with some Plexiglas fragments embedded in my face and bullet fragments in my neck (my second Purple Heart).

In March of that year, our company was given the task of defoliating an area being used by the VC, known as “Dodge City”, because of all the firefights and ambushes that were occurring there. Two lift ships were outfitted with lOO-gallon tanks and 20—foot long sprayer racks on each side. Since this area was saturated with enemy activity, only volunteer aircrews would fly this three-day mission. We would fly at tree-top level and spray the area with defoliant, the reasoning being to deprive the enemy cover to launch his ambushes. I volunteered to fly as a gunner on one of the lift ships not knowing at that time the defoliant was Agent Orange. After two days, my ship received so much damage from the ground fire it was grounded for repair and unable to complete the mission. In late July 1969, while supporting South Vietnamese troops who were engaged in heavy contact with the enemy, my wingman received heavy ground fire killing the pilot and wounding the rest of the crew and severely damaging the aircraft, impairing its ability to stay airborne. The Aircraft Commander, although wounded, managed to crash-land the aircraft outside the perimeter of the firebase into a mined field. Wanting to save our comrades from certain death, since they became a prime target from the enemy in the tree line, we ran several strafing runs keeping the enemy’s heads down to give our comrades time to get out of the ship and run for the safety of inside the perimeter but their wounds prevented them from getting out, especially the crew chief who was shot in both legs. My Aircraft Commander asked me if he set down just inside the perimeter about 50ft from the downed ship would I jump out and run to the ship and carry back the wounded to our ship and carry back the wounded to our ship so we could evacuate them to a hospital nearby. I answered “Yes”. We landed and I ran to the ship through the field and carried each, man back to my ship for evacuation; they all survived their wounds. For this action, I was awarded the Silver Star. Eventually, it was my turn to rotate home, which I did in September 1969, my hitch in the Army was up and I was honorably discharged."

He received the following decorations and awards:

Aircraft Crewman Badge
Parachutist Badge
Pathfinder Badge
Purple Heart (2)
Silver Star
Vietnamese Service Medal
Vietnamese Campaign Medal with 4 Stars
Air Medal with "V" Device
Air Medal with 5 Silver Oak Leaf Clusters
Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Medal {Unit Citation)
Presidential Unit Citation (1st Aviation Brigade)
Army Commendation Medal

Above Right: "Younger days, Quang Ngai, RVN 1968...that weapon is a Swedish K 9mm Sub Machine Gun, the magazine held 40 rounds, believe it or not, it was very hard to find 9mm ammo over there since everyone used .45 caliber"
Photos Below: The 282nd Assault Helicopter Company and its three support detachments, the 484th TC Det (Cargo Helicopter, Field Maintenance), the 504th Signal Det (Radio Repair and Avionics), and the 105th Medical Det, was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on 7 October 1965. The mission was to train personnel and prepare for overseas movement. The Company's personnel, aircraft and equipment deployed, arriving between May and June of 1966 at Marble Mountain Airfield in Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. The 282nd initially flew missions in I & II Corps in support of MACV, SF, LRRP, Ranger and Hac Bao units. This included elements of the USMC, USAF, USN, ARVN and the Aussies. This mission required that personnel be garrisoned as far north as Hue Citadel, as far south as Dong Ba Thin, and as far west as Ban Me Thuot and Kontum. The 282nd flew UH-1 (Huey) helicopters and consisted of three flight platoons. First and Second Flight Platoons flew lift helicopters (Slicks) armed with an M-60 machinegun on each side. Crews consisted of an aircraft commander, pilot, crewchcrew chiefgunner. Each aircraft commander was assigned a permanent call-sign (Blackcat) which was used by his crew instead of the ID number of the aircraft being flown. The Third Flight Platoon flew heavily armed UH-1B's, C's, and Cobra gunships and used the call-sign Alleycat. These men flew medevacs, combat assaults, LRRP insertions and extractions, delivered hot food to troops fighting for rough terrain, delivered water, ammo, mail, batteries, and beer to Special Forces base camps, artillery observation posts or any other type of mission which was required. They sustained more than their share of casualties, even amongst those who returned to "the world". (Billy Phillips, further info http://282ahc.com)
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Above First Row: Various images during Billy's tour of duty in Vietnam, with various guns and an inflight photo from the 'Blackcat' UH-1C he flew with.
Above Second Row: On the left image Billys Crew Chief Danny "Pig Pen" Gaddis and Major Randall a US Army Advisor to a South Vietnamese Ranger Regiment, examining a Russian made 12.7mm Anti Aircraft machine gun that his men captured south of Hill 55 on an operation that we supported,1968. In the middle, Billy met his cousin Steve, who served with the Marines at An Hoa Combat Base, RVN, 1968. On right Billy during a combat mission over Vietnam.
Above Third Row: On the left side, Billy poses with his Norton 750 Commando in 1972, almost 3 years after returning home, in September 1969. In the middle image, after the war, Billy continued serving the public interest as a police officer in Philadelphia Police. On the right side, two Greek-American heroes, Alexander and Billy Phillips, father, and son, both gunners in different wars, served and distinguished themselves making proud both American and Greek people. (All by Billy Phillips)



Dimitrios Vassilopoulos correspondence with Billy Phillps

Eleftheria Post #6633 - "Honor & Remembrance" book.



Special Thanks to:


Donald Mounts researcher and owner of Global Military Research, LLC.