Raw Footage – 1st Air Cavalry Division – Vietnam War Helicopter Assault

The Vietnam War began on the 1st of November, 1955, and ended more than two decades later, on the 30th of April, 1975. It was an era-defining conflict, dominating much of the political discourse in the mid 20th Century and resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides.

Although geographically the battles were being fought in Vietnam, the backdrop against which these catastrophic events were taking place was that of the Cold War. America and Russia had been locked in a tense stalemate since the end of the Second World War, with both country’s building ever larger arsenals of nuclear warheads.

Both the United States and the Soviets soon had vast military capabilities, but neither nation wanted to directly engage the other, for fear of triggering a nuclear holocaust. When Russia backed the northern faction in Vietnam during a civil war, America threw their weight behind the southern army, and a grueling 19 year war began.

The First and Second World Wars had seen American soldiers in action in battlefields across the globe, but the jungles of Vietnam were a new and challenging environment for combat. The northern Vietnamese armies had a deep understanding of the terrain and the best ways to utilize it, and this often put the United States military at a disadvantage.

This gripping video takes us to the front line of the Vietnam War, and reveals just how intense fighting could be, in the air and on the ground.

The footage is narrated by Military Policeman Michael Baker. It opens with a description of assault tactics carried out by helicopters by the 1st Cavalry Division (aka Airmobile). The footage that runs alongside this narration shows the 1st Air Cavalry in combat (using CH-47 Chinooks and UH-1 Hueys).

This combat takes place between the 26th and the 28th of February, 1967, in a seaside location in the Quang Ngai Province. Today it is a peaceful agricultural region, with a focus on farming and rearing livestock, but in the mid 60’s it was sight of a Viet Cong stronghold, several large massacres and numerous deadly military engagements.

The combat shown is part of Operation Pershing, which was a campaign to stop Viet Cong and VA activity in the Binh Dinh Province; this ended up taking eleven months and caused eighteen major engagements and many more skirmishes.

Following the narration, the footage continues on with live sound from the time it was recorded.

Due to it being such old footage it doesn’t seem to have been synchronized so you may notice that the sound and picture do not quite sync up correctly. However, this does not in any way detract from the intensity of the visuals, and the fascinating insight it offers us into this period of the war.

It still accurately portrays the true combat conditions of the day, and let us see the powerful war machines that the United States had deployed for use throughout the conflict.

SFC B. McBride was the cameraman who manage to capture all of this remarkable footage. Thanks to him and many others in the same profession, we have a huge amount of footage and photography from the Vietnam War, which allows us to examine the events in hindsight with greater clarity than any war before it.

The 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam had changed from a standard infantry unit to one that was an air-assault division. Using helicopters as medevacs and troop carriers had never been carried out on such a large scale before but they realized by doing this the infantry was then free to better attack the enemy.

The Airmobile Division started dispatching troops to Camp Radcliff in late 1965.

This Camp was based in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and was fully stocked with new weaponry, such as UH-1-C gunships, M16 rifles, CH-47 Chinook helicopter and the enormous CH-54 Skycrane cargo helicopter.

The camp was named after the first combat death of one of their own – Major Donald Radcliff.


Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.

@joris1944 facebook.com/joris.nieuwint