THE BLACKHORSE BECOMES A LEGEND VIETNAM (7 September 1966)
At Vung Tau, South Vietnam, the Regiment made an amphibious landing under the command of William W. Cobb, (34th COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT) along with 3,762 troopers. Base camp was established on November 1966 and the Regiment began reconnaissance in force operations directed at suspected Viet Cong concentrations in the provinces around Saigon.
Skeptics questioned whether armor (tanks) vehicles could play an effective role in the jungles of Vietnam. The Regiment responded to those skeptics by developing innovative tactics, techniques, and procedures that established a reputation of a relentless fighter. "Find the bastards, then pile on" became a slogan, then a way of life.
Nine different Colonels would lead the Regiment during its extensive stay in country. One of the saddest days in the history of the Regiment occurred when Col. Leonard D. Holder, (37th COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT) was killed just after being in country only a few weeks. His aircraft malfunctioned after receiving small arms fire and crashed. He died a few days later from injuries. He is the only Colonel of the Regiment to have died while in command of the Regiment.
When the Tet Offensive of January 1968 began, the Regiment was ordered to Long Khanh Province, moving south towards Bien Hoa and Long Binh to restore security. The Regiment moved 80 miles at night through a contested area, arriving 14 hours after its initial alert notice. This superb demonstration of cavalry agility has become the trademark of this Regiment throughout its history. Always ready to try new ideas, the Regiment added a new element to its Air Cavalry Troop, the Aero-Rifle-Platoon (ARP). This airmobile unit was often sent to search and destroy suspected enemy in areas accessible only by air.
The summer of 1968 brought George S. Patton Jr., (39th COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT) and the 11th ACR back towards Saigon. The North was once again threatening the South Vietnamese capital. After two days of heavy fighting, the Regiment drove the enemy away from Saigon, causing heavy casualties and crushing their ability to muster a large-scale attack in the area.
August 1969 saw another innovation under the command of James A. Leach (40th COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT) when an entire Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle (ACAV) Troop using modified M113 personnel carriers was airlifted by C130 aircraft. This enabled the unit to be in combat at night, move by aircraft in the morning and be able to re-engage the enemy at a different location by that evening. These bold maneuvers kept the enemy at bay whenever he ventured out of his Cambodian sanctuaries.
On 7 December 1969 Donn A. Starry (41st COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT) assumed command. By 28 April 1970 the Regiment was alerted to a major offensive that would finally "take-out" the North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia. The 11th ACR received just 72 hours to refit, re-supply, and move into a staging area south of the Cambodian Fishhook. This required Third Squadron, which was the farthest away at the time, to road march 145 kilometers to its assembly area.
On 1 May 1970 the Blackhorse stood ready to spearhead the Allied incursion into Cambodia. Massive air strikes by B-52's had already prepared the target area. Second Squadron led the attack, followed by Third Squadron while First Squadron provided rear guard security. Trailing the Regiment were elements of the First Cavalry Division and several Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) units. At 1030 on 1 May 1970 the Blackhorse crossed into Cambodia.
The Regiment was ordered to force-march 40 kilometers further north to capture the City of Snoul. Within the given 48 hours they reached the city and attacked with incredible ferocity on 5 May, reminiscent of those mounted cavalrymen charging into Ojo Azules, Mexico after Pancho Villa in 1916. Then Major Frederick M. Franks (50th COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT), Second Squadron’s S3, joined in an assault on an enemy anti-aircraft position, when a NVA grenade landed near him. Colonel Starry burst into motion and actually dove into Franks trying to knock him out of the way of the blast. Major Frank's life was spared with his chicken plate (flack vest), but his left foot was a total mess. Colonel Starry hadn't worn his chicken plate that day - if he had, he would have only been scratched. Starry remains the only Colonel of the Regiment to date to have been wounded while in Command. With Snoul secured and 148 enemy killed, the Blackhorse began a systematic search of the surrounding area. Colonel Starry turned over the reigns of the Blackhorse to John L. Gerrity, (42nd COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT) on 22 June 1970. The Regiment had captured or destroyed massive amounts of supplies and equipment depriving the enemy of desperately needed successor.
On 7 March 1972 Second Squadron was the last of the Regiment to be deactivated, bringing to a close the Regiment's 5 1⁄2 years in Vietnam. As the Blackhorse troopers left Vietnam Wallace H. Nutting, (43rd COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT) told them "We have all been privileged to ride together with the Blackhorse in the cause of freedom. There is much on which we can look with pride. Stand tall in the saddle. Allons!"
The Blackhorse went home from the toughest, most agonizing conflict that has ever engaged American soldiers on foreign soil. Whatever the notation of the war's outcome that enters into the history books, it will be said that: "The Blackhorse troopers have performed with estimable devotion to duty and unsurpassed gallantry. It was the Regiment's finest hour."
Grant of Shoulder Sleeve Insignia
As authorized by the Secretary of the United States Army, gives grants and assigns unto the 11thArmored Cavalry Regiment the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia following.
Description: On a shield 2 3⁄4 inch (6.99cm) in width overall divided diagonally from upper right to lower left, the upper portion red and the lower portion white, a rearing black horse facing to the left all within a 1/8 inch (.32cm) black border.
Symbolism: The colors red and white are the traditional cavalry colors and the rearing black horse alludes to the “Black Horse” nickname of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.
Background: This insignia was approved on 1 May 1967.
Under the provisions of title 18 United States Code Section 101-104 the Shoulder Sleeve Insignia here given having been registered and recorded in the Institute of Heraldry United States Army are reaffirmed from this date and hereafter may borne, shown and advanced by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment as safe property of said insignia.
In testimony whereof these letters are given under my hand of the City of Alexandria in the Commonwealth of Virginia this first day of May in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixty seven and in the Independence of the United States of American one hundred and ninety one.
Colonel, Adjutant General’s Corps Commanding
Rank and organization: Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Place and date: Near Bien Hao, Republic of Vietnam, 1 January 1969. Entered service at: Honolulu, Hawaii. Born: 13 December 1943, Kealakekua Kona, Hawaii. Citation: Sfc. Yano distinguished himself while serving with the Air Cavalry Troop. Sfc. Yano was performing the duties of crew chief aboard the troop's command-and-control helicopter during action against enemy forces entrenched in dense jungle. From an exposed position in the face of intense small arms and antiaircraft fire he delivered suppressive fire upon the enemy forces and marked their positions with smoke and white phosphorous grenades, thus enabling his troop commander to direct accurate and effective artillery fire against the hostile emplacements. A grenade, exploding prematurely, covered him with burning phosphorous, and left him severely wounded. Flaming fragments within the helicopter caused supplies and ammunition to detonate. Dense white smoke filled the aircraft, obscuring the pilot's vision and causing him to lose control. Although having the use of only 1 arm and being partially blinded by the initial explosion, Sfc. Yano completely disregarded his welfare and began hurling blazing ammunition from the helicopter. In so doing he inflicted additional wounds upon himself, yet he persisted until the danger was past. Sfc. Yano's indomitable courage and profound concern for his comrades averted loss of life and additional injury to the rest of the crew. By his conspicuous gallantry at the cost of his life, in the highest traditions of the military service, Sfc. Yano has reflected great credit on himself, his unit, and the U.S. Army.
Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Troop F, 2d Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Place and date: Near Loc Ninh, Republic of Vietnam, 6 January 1968. Entered service at: Chicago, Ill. Born: 19 January 1942, Rockford, Ill. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Cpl. Wickam, distinguished himself while serving with Troop F. Troop F was conducting a reconnaissance in force mission southwest of Loc Ninh when the lead element of the friendly force was subjected to a heavy barrage of rocket, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from a well concealed enemy bunker complex. Disregarding the intense fire, Cpl. Wickam leaped from his armored vehicle and assaulted one of the enemy bunkers and threw a grenade into it, killing 2 enemy soldiers. He moved into the bunker, and with the aid of another soldier, began to remove the body of one Viet Cong when he detected the sound of an enemy grenade being charged. Cpl. Wickam warned his comrade and physically pushed him away from the grenade thus protecting him from the force of the blast. When a second Viet Cong bunker was discovered, he ran through a hail of enemy fire to deliver deadly fire into the bunker, killing one enemy soldier. He also captured 1 Viet Cong who later provided valuable information on enemy activity in the Loc Ninh area. After the patrol withdrew and an air strike was conducted, Cpl. Wickam led his men back to evaluate the success of the strike. They were immediately attacked again by enemy fire. Without hesitation, he charged the bunker from which the fire was being directed, enabling the remainder of his men to seek cover. He threw a grenade inside of the enemy's position killing 2 Viet Cong and destroying the bunker. Moments later he was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Cpl. Wickam's extraordinary heroism at the cost of his life were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army, Troop A, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Place and date: Binh Long Province, Republic of Vietnam, 11 January 1969. Entered service at: Milwaukee, Wis. Born: 21 February 1944, Chicago, 111. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Capt. (then 1st Lt.) Fritz, Armor, U.S. Army, distinguished himself while serving as a platoon leader with Troop A, near Quan Loi. Capt. Fritz was leading his 7-vehicle armored column along Highway 13 to meet and escort a truck convoy when the column suddenly came under intense crossfire from a reinforced enemy company deployed in ambush positions. In the initial attack, Capt. Fritz' vehicle was hit and he was seriously wounded. Realizing that his platoon was completely surrounded, vastly outnumbered, and in danger of being overrun, Capt. Fritz leaped to the top of his burning vehicle and directed the positioning of his remaining vehicles and men. With complete disregard for his wounds and safety, he ran from vehicle to vehicle in complete view of the enemy gunners in order to reposition his men, to improve the defenses, to assist the wounded, to distribute ammunition, to direct fire, and to provide encouragement to his men. When a strong enemy force assaulted the position and attempted to overrun the platoon, Capt. Fritz manned a machine gun and through his exemplary action inspired his men to deliver intense and deadly fire, which broke the assault and routed the attackers. Moments later a second enemy force advanced to within 2 meters of the position and threatened to overwhelm the defenders. Capt. Fritz, armed only with a pistol and bayonet, led a small group of his men in a fierce and daring charge, which routed the attackers and inflicted heavy casualties. When a relief force arrived, Capt. Fritz saw that it was not deploying effectively against the enemy positions, and he moved through the heavy enemy fire to direct its deployment against the hostile positions. This deployment forced the enemy to abandon the ambush site and withdraw. Despite his wounds, Capt. Fritz returned to his position, assisted his men, and refused medical attention until all of his wounded comrades had been treated and evacuated. The extraordinary courage and selflessness displayed by Capt. Fritz, at the repeated risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect the greatest credit upon himself, his unit, and the Armed Forces.
1st. Medal of Honor Recipient
YANO, RODNEY J. T.
2nd. Medal of Honor Recipient WICKAM, JERRY WAYNE
3rd. Medal of Honor Recipient
FRITZ, HAROLD A.