Last updated on 11/23/14
Search VHPAMuseum.org Courtesy of Google

View My Guestbook

Sign My Guestbook

Geo Visitors Map

Last updated on 11/23/14

Site established on 3/22/01



D Troop, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment


Click here to visit Delta Troop 3/17 Air cav, 3rd Platoon, Vietnam 1969 to 1970

  

This sign on the left stood outside the troop hooches at Dian.

Image courtesy of Blue Tiger web site via Bill Nevius.

Delta Troop was a cavalry reconnaissance troop that served in Vietnam from October 1967 to April 1972. Our parent organization, the 3rd Squadron/17th Air Cavalry, was an independent air cavalry squadron. The squadron, and even its component troops and platoons, served with many different combat brigades and divisions on temporary assignment.

The squadron was the reconnaissance arm, when it was needed, of the corps-level II Field Force, Vietnam from December 1967 to May 1971. II Field Force, Vietnam teamed the squadron with II FFV's ranger company (until it was disbanded in April 1970), giving II FFV its own reconnaissance and intelligence capability anywhere in III Corps Tactical Zone. Delta Troop supplied mounted cavalry reconnaissance and an aero-rifle platoon reaction force to the effort throughout the period, and added long range reconnaissance after April 1970.

The 3/17th Air Cavalry most closely matches the more widely documented 1/9th Air Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division in composition and structure. Each squadron had three air cavalry troops, one ground cavalry troop, and an assigned ranger company. The main distinction was that the 1/9th Air Cavalry provided reconnaissance and intelligence to the 1st Cavalry Division, while the 3/17th Air Cavalry provided it directly to the next level up in the military hierarchy, II Field Force, Vietnam.

Delta Troop and the 3/17th Air Cavalry's independence gave commanders in III Corps Tactical Zone firepower and mobility on a moment's notice. However, the short-term assignments from II FFV to combat brigades or divisions condemn Delta Troop and the other troops of the 3/17th Air Cavalry to be wanderers through the history of American forces in Vietnam. Army historians, assigned to divisions during the war, spot a 3/17th troop or a platoon here and there now and then, but it is impossible to find coherent records of Delta Troop's activities over time.


The 106 mm recoilless rifle is a pretty distinctive "artifact" of those of us who didn't drive helicopters in the air cav in the nam.

Image courtesy of Jerry Smith and the Blue Tiger web site

The maroon beret was authorized for D 3/17 in 1967, as the unit shipped to Vietnam, and was reauthorized in 1970.   Some of the troopers wore a tab over the 17th Cav unit crest on their berets.  I believe they read "recon". The only beret decoration authorized was the 17th Cav crest.

Images and information courtesy of Bill Nevius 

The Story of Delta Troop's Maroon Beret

Although the 82nd Airborne wears the maroon beret today, Delta Troop, 3/17th Air Cavalry wore the maroon beret throughout the Vietnam War. The Secretary of the Army authorized Delta Troop's maroon beret in September 1967 at Fort Knox, just before the troop shipped to Vietnam.

With the recent controversy over the adoption of black berets by all Army personnel in 2001, some interesting facts on the Army's authorization for beret wear have come to light. It appears that actual authorization of the wear of a beret was very limited during Vietnam. Beyond Delta Troop's authorization to wear a maroon beret, only Special Forces and a few armored and armored cavalry units had the Army's blessing to wear a beret:

  • President Kennedy authorized the green beret for Special Forces soldiers in September 1961.

  • Some armored units and armored cavalry units were authorized the black beret in Vietnam.

  • The Rangers were not authorized the black beret until after Vietnam. The black beret was authorized for use in 1975 for people who are qualified as Rangers and assigned to Ranger units, according to Lt. Col. Russ Oaks, a spokesman at Army headquarters at the Pentagon.

  • Similarly, airborne troopers were not authorized the maroon beret until after Vietnam. It was actually worn first in September 1973. In September 1978, the Army chief of staff, Gen. Bernard W. Rogers, ordered that all uniform items not authorized by Army regulation, including maroon berets for airborne troopers, had to be set aside. In 1980, Army chief of staff Gen. Edward C. Meyer reinstated authorization of the maroon beret for paratroopers.

That's me on the left, Lee (Kit Carson Scout) in the middle, and John Beachamp on the right. The picture was taken in 67." - Courtesy John Dungan "D" troop 3/17th Cav. 1st Plt. Scout 1967-68

The 3/17th Air Cavalrymen have always had a penchant for distinctive headgear. In fact, the 3/17th Air Cavalry is responsible for starting the Stetson Cav hat tradition among Air Cavalry units. In a published history of the Air Cavalry hat ("The Stetson Cavalry Hat"), C. Jenkins points out the Stetson tradition of the Vietnam War originated with 3/17th Air Cavalry at Ft. Benning in 1964.

The most distinctive uniform item worn by air cavalrymen in Vietnam was the Cav hat. This tradition is believed to have been originated in early 1964 by LTC John B. Stockton (Commander of 3/17 Cavalry) at Fort Benning, Georgia. The hat was adopted in an effort to increase esprit de corps in the new air cavalry squadron and was meant to emulate the look of the 1876 pattern campaign hat worn by cavalry troopers long ago. Once units deployed to Vietnam, the custom slowly spread to other air cavalry units, and by the cessation of hostilities, virtually all air cav (and some ground cav) units had adopted the Cav hat.
- - -©Winged Sabres

Delta Troop carried distinctive headgear in the Air Cavalry a step further. Stetsons were nice, but Delta Troop was different from the other troops of the 3/17th. While most of the 3/17th troops trained in 1967 to bring helicopters to combat in Vietnam, Delta Troop trained in Ranger and Special Forces camps for the ground war. The troop trained at the Ranger camp in Dahlonega, GA, and with the 19th Special Forces Group in West Virginia.

How well the Blue Tigers were trained was evident when the unit was sent to Dahlonega, Ga. for five days of practical application of Ranger techniques. D Troop was given a set of practical problems to solve during modified war games. The Blue Tigers not only solved the problems, but beat the special forces unit at their own game. The men were awarded the Special Forces red beret for their accomplishments in Georgia.

- - - Hawk Magazine, a publication of the 1st Aviation Brigade, February, 1970

John Dungan, one of the original Blue Tigers from 1967, remembers the specific events in the United States that led to Delta Troop being authorized its red beret:

This is the story as I remember it.

All the troops were training in their own field and cross training in their special areas. As for Delta Troop, we were the ground troops of the 3/17th Air Squadron. You might say "We were the eyes and ears of the Combat Arms", as they said in Armor Training in AIT. However, we were a different unit than the one we trained for in AIT. We had infantry, mortar, and armored scouts in the troop, and we had to train as one unit. We were not sure what we were. We knew we had to depend on each other to fulfill our mission, so we cross-trained in each other’s MOS.

After several months together getting the training down to a science, we moved on to more challenging training. We went to Atterbury, Indiana and trained with the rest of the 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron. A,B, and C Troops flew missions against us, and we attacked them in return. Everyone knew we were in a serious game, and each troop had its share of victories and share of mistakes during training.

After Atterbury, Indiana, we conducted training exercises in the Mountain Ranger Camp in Dahlonega, Georgia. Then we moved to Camp Dawson, West Virginia to train with the West Virginia National Guard and elements of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the West Virginia National Guard. An incident in this training is where the Red Beret started.

We took our training very seriously. We played to win. Losing to the opponent was not in our blood. On one mission, the Special Forces told us they were going to kick our ass. Our blood boiled. We had some real knock-down, drag-out firefights. We took our jeeps to places no average person would go. The infantry and mortar teams supported the armored scouts, and we would call fire missions in on the Berets.

However, our procedures were not getting the job done because the Green Berets did not play by the rules. As a result, we decided it was time for a different mission - No Rules! We set up an ambush for the Special Forces Group, and we captured one of the SF’s. We tied him to a tree, left him naked and took his beret.

In doing that, we were treading on dangerous ground. The Green Berets’ blood was up. After much strong discussion between the 3/17th and the Special Forces, things only got worse. Later that night, someone from the Special Forces stole our D Troop guidon.

The next morning, Top mustered the troop. After he chewed us out for the Green Beret ambush, he added that we just might make it in Vietnam yet. Then he marched us over to the Special Forces Headquarters, and we called them out. Top told them to have his guidon back in front of his tent by the next morning. If they did not, Top told them that we were going to level their camp. He gave the command and we marched back to our campsite.

The next morning the flag was back were it belonged. However, we kept the green beret we had captured for outdoing the Special Forces that day.

After returning to Fort Knox, we got to thinking about all the training we had completed. We had Ranger training and had trained against the Special Forces, but we had nothing to show for it. We knew we could not wear a Ranger Tab or Special Forces patch. We respected the Rangers and Special Forces, knowing that they earned every bit of respect they trained for. We felt the same way. We were proud of what we had accomplished. So we approached our CO and Top to see if we could get our own berets.

We still had the green beret we had captured. We found the beret maker’s name on the inside of the beret. We sent off a letter to the company to see if we could get a beret of our own to wear. We decided on the red color because we were told that red was the color worn by the first Beret’s in England.

While in the States, we were not allowed to wear the Beret until it was approved. Just before we were to ship out for Viet Nam, we got approval to wear the Red Berets. The rest of the Squadron had approval to wear the Stetson cavalry hats. It seemed right because we all trained hard for a mission that was about to be placed upon us. This is what I remember of the beginning of the berets and cavalry hats in the 3/17th Air Cav.

- - - John Dungan - BlueTiger 67/68

Delta Troop shipped to Vietnam wearing the maroon beret, and wore it throughout the war. Orders reauthorizing the unit's distinctive cover were issued in 1970 in Vietnam. It was reported in the squadron's newpaper that:

June 2 [1970] was another red-letter day for the Blue Tigers, for they were once more authorized to proudly wear the red beret. This mark of distinction was initially awarded to D Troop in early 1967 when they went through an intensified period of Ranger Training at Dahlonega, Georgia, before departing for RVN. At the end of the training, the Tigers were given a set of tactical field problems to solve. They not only solved the problems in record time, but broke many records held by the training committee there. For their outstanding job, Delta Troop was awarded the Special Forces Red Beret. Since that time, the Tigers have continued to perform in a manner upholding to the Red Beret.

- - - Redhorse Review, a 3/17th Air Cavalry publication, July 1970

The Blue Tigers were always proud of their distinctive maroon berets. On the rare occasions when the troop's platoons were brought together for a stand-down and a party in Vietnam, the Blue Tigers recognized distinguished guests with the honorary award of the Red Beret:

After the Cambodian invasion, Col. John C. Hughes (Corn Cob 6), CO, 12th CAG, brought a congratulatory cake to the Blue Tigers at FB Rob. He was presented a Blue Tiger red beret (seen here on his head about 45 degrees clockwise from correct) by CPT Bryner, Blue Tiger 6, at the field party.

The middle of the month [of March 1970] brought all Blue Tigers together for the first time in six months. It was a time of gay festivities, renewed acquaintances, and all the beer or soda one desired. A band and live female entertainment gave the men a chance to forget all worries and have a good time. As a conclusion to the party, LTC Gordon T. Carey of Belair, Maryland, commander of the 3/17 Air Cav, was welcomed as an honorary Blue Tiger and presented with the Red Beret.

- - - Redhorse Review, a 3/17th Air Cavalry publication, April 1970

It is not clear exactly when the Blue Tigers of Delta Troop retired the maroon beret after the troop's service ended in Vietnam in 1972. When the 3/17th Cavalry was reactivated in the mid-1980's, the ground cavalrymen of the squadron became the Apaches of A Troop, 3/17th, and they donned the Stetson Cavalry hat that the entire squadron wears today.





All images remain the personal property of this site and the contributor of the photo. You may download them for your personal use but they may not be published or used on any other site without written permission from the webmaster and the contributor.