United States of America
House of Representatives
Proceedings and Debates from the 108th Congress, First Session
June 16, 2003
Mr. HAYES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of the 35th Anniversary of the deployment of the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division to the Republic of Vietnam. In late January 1968, the United States had 500,000 soldiers deployed in the Republic of Vietnam. The Soviets had become increasing belligerent on the Inter-German boundary, and the North Koreans had fired on the USS Pueblo, seized the ship and held the crew hostage. The world situation was tense and the United States military was stretched thin in many directions. On January 31st, 1968, the Vietnamese New Year, North Vietnamese forces initiated a coordinated attack throughout South Vietnam. The largest enemy offensive of the war was later named the Tet Offensive. General William C. Westmoreland, Commander of American Troops in Vietnam, was facing a direct attack on his headquarters in Saigon, the Marines were surrounded and in danger of being overrun at Khe Sanh and the communists had captured the imperial City of Hue. In conversations with President Johnson, Westmoreland requested additional troops be sent from the States immediately. Westmoreland clearly stated his preference for “airborne troopers”.
During the Vietnam War, the 82nd Airborne Division was the nation’s strategic reserve, though during the winter of early 1968 it was manned at only about 60% strength. Recognizing the criticality of the situation, President Lyndon Johnson approved orders committing a brigade of 82nd. A decision was made to send the 3rd Brigade, though it took substantial numbers of soldiers from 1st and 2nd Brigades to bring the 3rd Brigade to full strength.
The alert came at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, February 12th, 1968 and the advance party, led by Colonel Alexander R. Bolling, Jr., departed 24 hours later with the main elements beginning their departure on the following day.
The lead combat element, the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was engaged in hostile operations by that Sunday, the 18th of February – only six days after the initial alert. It took 155 C-141s and a number of C-130s to lift the 3,600 men and equipment of the Brigade 12,000 miles to Chu Lai, a trip that took 30 hours.
Over eighty percent of the soldiers had already served at least one tour in Vietnam. Additionally, many had also served in WWII, the Korean War and in the Dominican Republic conflict.
The Golden Brigade fought bravely and successfully to open Hai Van Pass, driving the communists from Hue, opening the roads to the A Shau Valley to control Nui Khe Mountain. Following the Brigade’s redeployment to the southern part of the country in September of 1968, they took the war to the enemy in the Michelin Rubber Plantation, the Iron Triangle and along the Song Be River.
In twenty-two months of combat, the Golden Brigade won eight campaign streamers for their battle flag. 227 men paid the ultimate price and gave their lives, and another 1,200 men were wounded in action. The youngest troopers are now in their mid fifties, and some of the officers and noncommissioned officers have departed this world. It is fitting and proper that during this 35th Anniversary year, a grateful nation acknowledges their sacrifice, valor and selfless service.
Airborne – All the Way!