6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK)
Deployment to Vietnam

6th Bn, 56th Arty(HAWK) Shipping Out to Vietnam Aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey
The main body of the 6th Battalion (HAWK), 56th Artillery and 7th Battalion (HAWK), 71st Artillery departed Oakland Army Terminal aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey on 11 September 1965

USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - National Defense Service Medal (2) - Korean Service Medal - Vietnam Service Medal (1)
Bottom Row - United Nations Service Medal - Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal - Republic of Korea War Service Medal

The USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey was an Admiral W.S. Benson Class Transport.

  • Laid down, 15 December 1942, as a Maritime Commission type (P2-SE2-R1) hull, under Maritime Commission contract (MC hull 679), at Bethlehem-Alameda Shipyard Inc., Alameda, CA
  • Launched, 20 February 1944
  • Acquired, by the US Navy from the Maritime Commission, 18 September 1944
  • Commissioned USS Admiral W.L. Capps (AP-121), 18 September 1944, CAPT. Neil S. Haugen, USCG, in command
  • Decommissioned, 8 May 1946
  • Struck from the Naval Register (date unknown)
  • Returned to the Maritime Commission for transferred to the US Army Transportation Service, renamed USAT General Hugh J. Gaffey
  • Reacquired by the Navy, 1 March 1950 and placed in service by the Military Sea Transportation Service (MSTS) as USNS GENERAL J. GAFFEY (T-AP-121)
  • Placed out of service and struck from the Naval Register, 9 October 1969
  • Transferred to the Maritime Administration for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet
  • Reacquired and reinstated in the Naval Register, 1 November 1978
  • Placed in service as a barracks hulk, redesignated Miscellaneous Unclassified IX-507
  • Laid up in the NISMF Pearl Harbor, HI,, (date unknown)
  • Struck from the Naval Register, 25 October 1993
  • Final Disposition, sunk during RIMPAC 2000 EXERCISE as a missile target, 16 June 2000, location: 023° 35 ? 01.0” North, 159° 50’ 00.2” West, depth: 2,730 fathoms

Isn’t it ironic that the ship that transported the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery the first and only HAWK missile battalion ever assigned to an infantry division in combat the Americal Division would meet its final disposition by being sunk by a missile.



USNS General J. Gaffey Information Link

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) Deployment to Vietnam

During the latter part of 1965, the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) was alerted to deploy to Vietnam. The battalion’s equipment was loaded onto trains and transported to Oakland California. Personnel of the battalion departed Fort Bliss, Texas to Oakland California via aircraft from El Paso International Airport on the 9th and 10th of September 1965.
Some members of the battalion departed Fort Bliss, Texas via passenger train Oakland California.

On September 11, 1965 the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery and the 6th Battalion, 71st Artillery sailed from Oakland California to Vietnam on the USNS Gaffey.

The Advance party served as rear detachment, and departed Fort Bliss, Texas by air on 18 September 1965 and arrived in Tan Son Nhut Airbase, Vietnam on September 20, 1965. Upon arrival they were billeted at Camp Alpha and spent the remainder of the month making arrangements for the arrival of the main body.

From Oakland California the USNS Gaffey made a brief stop in Naha, Okinawa and from there proceeded to Qui Nhon, Vietnam. The 6th Battalion, 71st Artillery (HAWK) boarded Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) on September 29, 1965 for there landing in Vietnam. From Qui Nhon, Vietnam the USNS Gaffey proceeded to Vung Tau, Vietnam. At Vung Tau the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) boarded Landing Craft Mechanized (LCM) October 1, 1965 and landed in the South Vietnam. From Vung Tan the battalion flew on C130’s to Tan Son Nhut Airbase, Vietnam.

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) aboard the USNS Gaffey Deploying to Vietnam September 1965

Bud Forster

Sent: Wed 12/08/10 8:47 PM

To: john mayfield



After completing basic ADA officers' course at Fort Bliss in the summer of '65, I talked my way out of a laboratory assignment because 97th Arty Gp Cdr, COL Buchanan, heard me tell assignments officer at HQDA I wanted to go to an operational unit. COL B took the phone away from me and told the HQDA guy that I was just the officer he was looking for - then handed phone back to me. Assignments officer asked me did I really want to do this? Did I know what I was getting into? I certainly admired COL B for what he had said, so I said "this is what I want to do". He said ok and hung up, Then COL B said "Welcome to the 97th Artillery Gp. We have a classified mission - of course that means we are going to Viet Nam." So I finish the basic course and report to the 97th sometime in Jul. I go thru pre deployment training and we depart for RVN w/2 Hawk Bns via troop ship "USNS Gaffney" in late Jul/early Aug 65 arriving Vung Tau
late Aug/early Sep (trip took 29 days as best I remember). 97th HQ was at Ton Son Nhut airbase outside Saigon. As ops officer I worked in ADA CP at TSN, but got sent on special missions all over SVN looking for potential firing battery sites. 97th deployed to RVN with HHB and 2 Hawk bns: 6/56th w/HHB, B and D batteries around Bien Hoa and A and C batteries west of TSN airbase which was west of Saigon. The 6/71st with 4 firing batteries was deployed around Cam Ranh Bay about half way up the SVN coast.
In JAN 66, I was promoted to CPT and given command of C Battery 6/56th soon after. LTC Jim Hollis was 6/56th Bn Cdr. It was a great assignment for a kid barely 6 months out of grad school - so I stayed in the Army for the next 30 years - but commanding the 10th Avn Bn and being Project Manager for the OH-58D scout helicopter were the only 2 assignments as challenging and as much fun as commanding C 6th/56th in the 97th Arty Gp. Despite serving most of my time in the Army as an aviator, I chose the 56th Arty as my regiment and proudly wore the 56th " Night Hides Not" crest until the end of my last day in uniform.

Again as best as I can remember, the 97th and 6th/56th redeployed from RVN to Fort Bliss in 68 or 69. I believe HHB, 97th stood down once redeployued to CONUS.

Hope this helps. I'm a little hazy on the dates, except I know I deployed with the 97th in late Aug or early Sep 1965,

Bud Forster
LTG, US Army (ret)

Bud Forster

Lieutenant General William H. Forster, Ret
Army Aviation Hall of Fame 2010 Induction -Fort Worth, TX
Observe the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery unit crest above his name tag

From College to STRAC HAWK to Vietnam

A recent college graduate and newly minted ROTC 2nd LT in January, 1965, I reported to Ft. Bliss Texas and joined about 50 others to start my Officers Basic Class in Air Defense Artillery (ADA). A few months later I was assigned to a STRAC (Strategic Army Corp - combat groups designated to be ready to go anywhere in the world in 72hrs) HAWK missile battalion at Ft. Bliss. The next month or so was intense. We lived in the desert...moving, setting up, and running ORE's. (Operational Readiness Evaluations). Sleeping in the desert in a bag on the sand is a treat...snakes, bugs, and cold...not to mention the blowing, stinging, sand.

We were operational 24 hours a day...just as we would be in a combat situation...and the USAF played enemy for us. At the time I thought there was nothing quite like being worn slick, asleep, and having an F-14 pass over you in the middle of the night on full burn less than 200 feet off the ground...and blow you right out of your sleeping bag. I learned later that wasn't really so bad. We were finally judged to be in tip-top readiness.

A few weeks later (July) we were told to pack our bags and our gear and our equipment and get ready to leave for an extended tour somewhere. By this time I had become the Battery Firing Platoon Leader.

Shortly, two STRAC HAWK Battalions boarded ship in Oakland and we sailed out under the Golden Gate without any idea where we were going. After almost 30 days at sea, with one stop and liberty in Okinawa, we had a pre-dawn officers call and were told we were in the South China Sea and would soon be debarking., in Vietnam. We could see flashes of gunfire in the distance and as the
sun rose we could see aircraft bombing. The other Battalion off-loaded into landing craft and went ashore near Qui Nhon. We sailed south and the next day offloaded into landing craft and went ashore near Cape St. Jacque...and boarded C-119s to Bien Hoa AFB.

The base was still smoldering from a rocket attack. We slept in Quonset huts until our missiles, radars, and other equipment arrived and was unpacked and readied. My Battery Commander had just been promoted to Battalion staff and I met my new BC. He handed me a map and told me to go find a place somewhere in proximity to Bien Hoa to set up the Battery.
I told my platoon Sgt and the Captain's driver to get their weapons and be ready to leave in an hour or so. Meanwhile I took the jeep and headed to the AF operations center to try and get the lay of the land.

The AF spotted the 1st Infantry (their first Vietnam combat operation was at Bien Hoa on 7/23/65, just a few weeks earlier) and other unit locations for me and told me the area surrounding the AFB was not secure...and although there were no large enemy forces known to be present, to be very alert.

Later that day I was shot at for the first time. I did find a great spot to locate our Battery on a hill north and west of Bien Hoa overlooking the AFB and a curve in the Song Dong river. The hill was home to a Vietnamese Popular Forces Squad+ and their MACV advisor, a 1st. Lt of Russian descent who was possibly the craziest person I've ever known.

I've slept in a hole filled with water and
know what it's like to have every nerve in your body tell you it isn't smart to get out of that hole...but know it has to be done. I know what it's like to see body bags off-load from a flight of Huey's...or to watch while a VC company-sized force who thought they were going to ambush an operation near us on the edge of the Iron Triangle get fooled instead. Instead of ambushing us, they were ambushed. The huey's flared at the last moment and the A-1Es and napalm appeareed We watched them burn and shot them as they ran.
We did our job. I came home without a scratch (not counting amoebic dysentery and some weird fever). I was one of the very lucky ones and compared to so, so many more I had it easy. My great respect goes to the Infantry, Special Forces and Marines...and to the nurses and corpsmen and Doc's. Submitted by Stan, to BlueNC Veterans Day

Fading Memories of My Trip to Vietnam by Jim Ziriax


I also have memories that are getting a little gray.


It was in 1965, September I think, when we left El Paso for San Francisco by train. I was lucky in that I somehow got a compartment on a sleeper car by myself. It was great sleeping on the train. Can not remember how long it took to get to San Francisco. I do remember very well that in San Francisco there were police at most intersections as we came into town. I would later find out that there were threats against us because we were going to Vietnam (even though we were not told where we were going until well out to sea).  I do not remember the equipment being loaded on the train, just making sure everything was working properly.


My MOS was 257 Hawk missile launcher and missile guidance system repair.


On the ship I remember going under a big bridge on the way out of San Francisco, I think it was the Golden Gate Bridge. I slept in a compartment below the mess hall and above the boiler room. It was about 120 degrees in there all the time. They made us get out of there in the morning and not let us back down there until night because of the heat. Six bunks high. Not fun at all.


We stopped in Okinawa for 12 hours. Got off the ship and walked around. It took 21 days to get to Vietnam, I think. I was so bored that I volunteer for fire watch on the upper decks just so I would be somewhat busy. Many nights the ship would run out of fresh water for showers and had to shower in salt water.


When we got close to shore in Vietnam, fighter planes check us out pretty good, or they were protecting us. After we got on shore we flew on C130’s, I think, to Saigon.

Fort Bliss, TX
Fort Bliss, TX 
 Oakland Army Terminal Californnia
Oakland Army Terminal, CA
Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, CA 
 View of Qui Nhon
Port of Qui Nhon, Vietnam
Cape Saint Jacques
Cape Saint Jacques, Vietnam 

Arrival in Country

The Advance party served as rear detachment, and departed Fort Bliss, Texas by air on 18 September 1965 and arrived in Saigon, Vietnam on 20 September 1965. Upon arrival they were billeted at Camp Alpha and spent the remainder of the month making arrangements for the arrival of the main body.

Deployment to USARV (U.S. Army, Vietnam)


                                                                      97th Artillery Group (AD)
                                                                     Motto: "HOOMAU I LUNA"
                                                                              (Always on Top)
                                                                 Arrived Vietnam: 30 September 1965
      Inactivated in Vietnam: HHB, 97th Artillery Group (AD), UIC: WC6S - Inactivated 25 October 1968

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) arrived in Vietnam on 30 September 1965 under the command of LTC James L. Hollis. The battalion was assigned to the 97th Artillery Group under the command of Col. Stephen C. Buckanan. The 97th Artillery Group was composted of the 6th Battalion, 71st Artillery (HAWK) and the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK). The 6th Battalion, 71st Artillery (HAWK) arrived in country on 29 September 1965 and was first stationed at Qui Nhon and relocated to Cam Ranh Bay in 1966. The 6/71st Artillery (HAWK) departed  Vietnam in September 1968. The unit’s previous station was Fort Bliss, Texas.  The 97th Artillery Group (AD) was assigned to US Army Vietnam and under operational control of 7th US Air Force. The Group headquarters exercise command and administration of the two attached HAWK battalions and the 79th Ordnance Detachment (GMGS) (HAWK) and 459th Signal Detachment (Air Defense System Communations) support detachments. The HAWK battalion’s assigned missions were to provide air defense of the Tan Son Nhut/Bien Hoa and Cam Ranh Bay/Nha Trang vital areas.

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) consisted of four line batteries, A,B, C and D and a Headquarters battery (HHB), which was located in the Long Binh, Bien Hoa Airbase, Tan Son Nhut Airbase and Quang Trung area north of Saigon. During the period 21 to 24 March 1966 Headquaters and Headquarters Battery, 6h Battalion, 56th Artillery moved from it's previous location at Tan Son Nhut Air Base to a position six (6) Km ENE of Bien Hoa (Long Binh). The move was a operational necessity and a planned runway at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.

1.      HHB was located in Long Binh

2.      A Battery was located at Tan Son Nhut Air Base

3.      B Battery

4.      C Battery

5.      D Battery

The assigned missions of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) was to provide air defense of the Tan Son Nhut, Bien Hoa, Long Binh and Qui Nhon area. Tan Son Nhut served as Saigon’s civilian airport, Tan Son Nhut served as the headquarters for the U.S. Air Force and Army in the Republic of Vietnam. Bien Hoa was located 15 miles north of Saigon and was the headquarters for the 173d Airborne Brigade, and the 1st Infantry Division, and military detachments from Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea.

Battery Site Selection

  • In the Saigon area, Tan Son Nhut Air Base

                        – A Battery (Quang Trung – 16km northeast of Saigon) (AT808029) (15 Dec. 1966)
                        -  C Battery (Tan Son Nhut Air Base) (XT846518)

                            Link to map  C Btry, 6th Bn, 56th Arty Location on Tan Son Nhut Airbase

  • Long Binh Area/Bien Hoa Air Base

-     Headquarters & Headquarters Battery (Long Binh)

-          B Battery (located northwest corner of Long Binh post, Village of Ho Nai (Widows Village) to the north) (YT079119) (20 Sept. 1966)

-          D Battery

Click here to see a chart of the dates & times of VC/NVA Attacks on Bien Hoa & Tan Son Nhut Airbase
Air Base Defense in the Republic of Vietnam 1961 - 1973

The first ship (Louise Lykes) with equipment arrived on 30 September 1965. The second ship (Bienoit-Victory) arrived on 6 October 1965. All equipment minus missiles was in country by 9 October 1965. The reminder of the month of October 1965 was spent getting equipment operational and improving the sites. The battalion was operational, minus missiles on 15 October 1965.

On 12 November1965 the first HAWK missiles were received and Battery A became fully operational at 0956 hours on 13 November 1965, with the battalion becoming fully operational at 0950 hours on 15 November 1965 and capable of accomplishing its assigned mission. 











  Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery
                                       Long Binh, Vietnam 1967


HAWK Missile Radars in Vietnam Allow Surveillance in US Air Force Electronic

 “Dead Zones”


Location and capabilities of HAWK System Radars will in some cages allow surveillance in areas where US Air Force surveillance radars are limited by masking, ground clutter or electronic "dead zones". Due to this situation, there have been numerous instances, especially in the Cam Ranh Bay - Nha Trang area, where HAWK aided the US Air Force in detection and identification of aircraft. Due primarily to the increased coordination which has resulted from the AF/ADA collocation in the CRC, the Air Force movement and identification section has a better understanding of the HAWK radar capabilities; as a result, HAWK is frequently called upon to aid in surveillance and interrogation of unidentified aircraft. In a majority of the cases, the response from the HAWK units has allowed accurate and timely identification, thereby precluding the necessity for scramble of interceptors to make visual identification. This situation has provided dollar savings in the case of the Air Force, and has added to the prestige of the HAWK System. OBSERVATIONS Emphasis must be given to the use of the HAWK radars in air defense surveillance and identification in AF/ADA joint air defense operations. Furthermore, emphasis must be placed on maintenance of HAWK acquisition/IFF capabilities, and on training of operators in IFF techniques, to insure that the HAWK System will respond to requests in this area of air defense operations. CONFIDENTIAL OPERATIONS REPORT LESSONS LEARNED REPORT 9-66, AD502775

Tactical Combat Moves in Vietnam

On 15 December 1966, Battery A made a tactical move from Tan Son Nhut Airbase to their new location in the Hoc Mon District of Gia Dinh Province (XT808029). 

On December 1966, Battery B made a tactical move from Bien Hoa Airbase to their new location at Long Binh (YT079119). 

Both moves were conducted by echelon displacement with the units maintaining an operational capability on a three hour alert status throughout. Both moves were completed without incident. (CONFIDENTIAL – Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 January 1967).

The month of December was devoted to accomplishing the assigned mission. Operational Readiness Evaluations were conducted by Battalion and 97th Group to insure that the units were capable of accomplishing their mission. During the year 1965 the battalion traveled approximately 529,000 road miles.


The HAWK missile engagement zone   
The maximum slant range of the Basic HAWK missile was 15 miles. This is what was called the HAWK missile          engagement zone. The HAWK missile minimum engagement range was 2 kilometers (1.2miles) A HAWK missile battery provides a 360-degree coverage of a defended asset. The HAWK was an all-weather air defense system.

Mutual Support and Overlapping Fires

If you draw a radius of 15 miles from each firing battery (D Battery-Bien Hoa Airbase, B Battery-Long Binh, C Battery-Tan Son Nhut Airbase, and A Battery Quang Trang)  you will see that the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) accomplished their primary mission of providing air defense against low and medium altitude targets on the Bien Hoa, Long Binh, Saigon and Tan Son Nhut area of the Republic of Vietnam with a bi-base interlocking defense coverage. (See the enganement zone circles for C Battery in the map above). 

Mission Ready
  "I expect that our combat battalions will be used primarily to go after the VC and that will not be forced to expend  our capabilities simply to protect ourselves…. Therefore, all forces of whatever service who find themselves operating without infantry protection… will be organized, trained and exercised to perform the defense and security functions".   

  ---Gen. William C. Westmoreland, 1965

In Support of Operation Attleboro

     During the period 10- 24 November 1966 the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was called upon to form a provisional truck company to move vitally needed supplies to the forces conducting Attleboro. Personnel and vehicles from the batteries were consolidated, and within three hours form the initial notification the first supply convoy was on the road. During the fourteen days of the operation, the battalion’s provisional truck company was credited with moving over two thousand tons of supplies to the forward of operation Attleboro. (CONFIDENTIAL - Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 January 1967)

Operation Attleboro: The 196th’s Light Infantry Brigade Baptism By Fire in the Vietnam War

What began as a small-scale, limited-objective combat training exercise for the 196th Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) on September 14, 1966, unexpectedly developed into a widespread, protracted, multiorganizational battle before it ended on November 24, 1966. The final troop list included elements of the U.S. 1st and 25th divisions, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, several Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) battalions; a Special Forces-trained ‘Mike Force’ and U.S. air support–22,000 Allied troops in all. It was the largest U.S. operation of the war to that date. On November 6, 1966, the corps-level II Field Force Vietnam took control of the operation until the final action on November 25, 1966.

The VC had the advantage of firing from well-prepared positions along firing lanes that were close to the ground, well-concealed and hard to spot. They had also placed snipers high in the trees, tied to the trunks–either to keep them from leaving their firing position or to prevent them from falling out of the trees if they were hit. Tree snipers were to cause their fair share of U.S. casualties

What began as a 196th LIB combat warm-up exercise ended in a massive corps engagement, supported by 22,000 troops, 12,000 tons of tactical air support, 35,000 artillery rounds and 11 B-52 strikes. The VC left 1,106 dead on the battlefield and had 44 captured. Friendly losses were 155 killed and 494 wounded. In addition, Americans had seized 2400 tons of rice, large ammunition caches with over 24,000 grenades, 600 mines, and 2,000 pounds of explosives; and destroyed 68 enemy base camps.

Battery B,  Fire Fight

At approximately 2400 hours, 5 October 1966, loud clicking noises were beard at the southwest, southeast and northwest corners of the site. The incident was investigated by the Officer of the Day and Sergeant of the Guard with nothing found.


 At approximately 0145 hours, 6 October 1966, the security force of B Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery, located at YT082117 was hit by an unknown number of VC (est. 10 persons) with small arms and two automatic weapons. No friendly casualties were sustained. One VC KIA is suspected due to blood found on trail leading from site.


 All bunkers were reporting suspicious noises and movements around the perimeter. The Battery fired flares and as soon as the area was illuminated, the unit started receiving small arms fire from the north and east and automatic weapons fire from the north and southeast. Fire was returned on the automatic weapons and they broke off the engagement. Sporadic small arms fire continued. At the time the first flare went off, a man was spotted under the fence in the northwest corner of the site. Fire was brought on him as he fled. At approximately 0300, a flare ship was contacted, and by 0310 hours, illumination was present over the area. Sporadic small arms fire continued until 0400 hours, at which time contact was apparently broken. An estimated, 150 rounds of small arms ammunition was fired into the area.

An investigation of the area the following morning disclosed the following:

a.       A blood trail leading from the point at the northeast corner of the fence where the attempted intrusion occurred lead toward the village of Ho Nai.

b.      Positions and tracks indicate there were approximately 10 persons occupying the area to the north and east of the site.

c.       The VC apparently were trying to draw fire into the village 600 meters to the  northeast of the site.

·         Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 October 1966,, Captain John H. Little, Artillery Commanding



Battery 81 mm Mortar Training

During the period ending 31 January 1967 Battery “A” trained battery mortar crews on the 81mm mortar and proved their own capability to provide instantaneous emergency illumination with illumination rounds. In addition the battery’s mortar crews plotted preplanned concentration around the battery’s perimeter, paying particular attention to likely avenues of approach. (CONFIDENTIAL – Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 January 1967)

Missiles at the Ready (If They Fly They Die)

From 0545 hours (Zulu), 26 June 1966 until 1245 hrs.( Zulu), 5 July 1966, the defense acquisition radar was placed on surveillance and all firing batteries were raised to a five-minute state of alert (STATE I).  All battery acquisition radars were also put on surveillance. A fire section of each unit was periodically released to a one hour state of alert (STATE III) in order to allow essential maintenance services to be performed. Each unit received a cumulative total of three hours (STATE III) time, resulting in a battalion total of 12 hours STATE III time doing the aforementioned period. The battalion experienced no battery nonoperational time or loss of communication with higher or subordinate headquarters during this time. Overall battalion operational capabilities doing this period is reflected by the 20,430.36 hours the battalion was operational out of 20,818.6 possible hours (98.1%).

From Missile men to Construction Engineer

For the period ending 31 July 1966 the 159th Engineer Group was assigned the mission of supporting the Battalion in the development of administrative and tactical sites for headquarters, A, B. and D. Battery; however, the commitment of the 159th Engineer Group was so heavy that repeated delays were experience, and actually engineer troop support to date been minimal.

The civilian construction firm of Raymond, Morrison and Knudson was awarded a contract to construct the administrative and tactical sites for Battery C. Work began at this site in June, but frequent stoppage has been encountered due to the monsoon rains.

When the 159th Engineer Group realized their commitment was too great, this unit was authorized to draw construction material for the project. During the period the unit has completed the following: Battalion Headquarters (20 x 100’), Orderly/supply room (20x70’), Personnel Administration (20 x 50’), Message Center/crypto facility (20 x 20’), Dispensary (20x50’), Maintenance facility 20x100’ Prefab), EM club (40 x 70’), Dog kennels (20 x 60’), Battalion supply (20x70’),  two showers and two latrines, and 21 concrete pads for troop billets (15 ea 20x70’, 6 ea 20x40’).

Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 July 1966, confidential AD386112

VC Tactics on HHB’s perimeter

HHB 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was situated in an area which was partially secured. The VC tactics used against HHB 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was to attempt to draw fire into adjacent friendly units and the village of Ho Nai (Widow's Village), located approximately 700 meters north of the position. The VC would appear between Headquarters and Headquarters Battery’s perimeter and the village of Ho Nai on numerous occasions.

Because of the situation positive control of small arms fire must be maintained at all times. Personnel were briefed on the hazards involved and instructed to ensure that all fires are kept low to minimize the possibility of inflicting friendly casualties. Hand grenades and command detonated mines were to use in lieu of direct fire weapons whenever possible. Grenade launchers were to use and extend the area covered by fire beyond hand grenade range without endangering friendly areas and provide greater flexibility to the defense then did mines.

 Clearing Fields of Fire at HHB Long Binh

The Headquarters and Headquarters Battery site at long Binh is situated in an area of heavy underbrush which provides good concealment to within 10 to 30 meters of the perimeter. The only means available to the unit for clearing this brush was hand clearing by troop labor. Because of the large area of requirement with Hawk units, both outside and within the parameter itself the area must be continuously kept cleared. A disproportionate amount of available troop man-hours was required for this purpose.

Because of this a chemical defoliate was made available for use by ADA units in sufficient quantity to achieve continuous control of the vegetation in and around battery areas. Estimated savings in man-hours: 1200 man-hours per month.

Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 31 October 1966, confidential AD386103 


HHB 6th Bn 56th Arty Long Bien perimeter 1968 The Rubber Plantation HHB 6th Bn 56th Arty 1968

John Mayfield Perimeter Guard HHB, 6th/56th Arty  Long Bien 1966Gun Truck HHB, 6th/56th Artty 1968

 Fortification and Hardening Program

A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.

- General George S. Patton, Jr.


Headquarters, 97th Artillery Group (AD) initiated and extensive fortification and hardening program in October 1967 for HQ 97th Arty Gp. (AD) and all batteries of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery. This was a major effort to protect personnel and equipment from direct air and ground attack as well as “stand off” rocket/mortar attack. This project was completed prior to the TET offensive and recent. 

NVA Air Threat

The enemy air treat remains marginal. However, the capability to mount harassing attacks is still a real consideration. During the period 6 December 1967 through 14 December 1967 several penetrations of the South Vietnamese border, from Cambodia, were made by unknown aircraft. These penetrations may have been attempts to evaluate U.S. detection and reaction capabilities against high performance aircraft.

 Hawk Missile Batteries to Battle Stations


 An intelligence warning on 3 December 1967 of a possible NVN air attack on SVN on 7 December caused an extensive increase in the air defense posture. COCKED PISTOL (exercise increased alert condition) was declared at 031000H for MSEA air defense region. At Da Nang, Don Muang, and Udorn, all F-102 interceptors were brought to five minute alert status. The 8th, 12th and 366th FTR Wings uploaded four aircraft each to air defense configuration.

 However, within a few hours the Commander, 7AF declared "Fadeout”. Then, on 6 December without increasing the Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON), all F-102s were again brought to five minute alert status, along with four F-5Bs from the 13 Marine Air Group (MAG). Four fighters each from the 8th, 12th and 366th TF Wings were air defense configured and placed on five minute alert. The Marine and Army Hawk Missile Batteries were placed on "Battle Stations."


The F-4s were relieved on 8 December, the USMC Hawks on the 9th, the Army Hawks and one half of the F-102s on 12 December. All air defense forces returned to normal readiness on 21 December. No attacks came, but the warning provided a good coordinated exercise of the air defense forces. Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report, Air Defense in Southeast Asia 1945 - 1971


Operation Central AN/TSQ-73 at Headquarters 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) Vietnam

The AN/TSQ-73 Air Defense Artillery Command and Control system was located in Long Binh at the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) headquarters. The battalion system provides control and coordination of C Battery located at Tan Son Nhut Airbase and A Battery located at Quang Trang they provided primary coverage for Saigon, Tan Son Nhut Airbase and surrounding areas. B Battery located at the northwest corner of Long Binh with the Village of Ho Nai (Widows Village) to the north and D Battery located at Bien Hoa Airbase provided primary coverage for Bien Hoa, Long Binh, and surrounding area.

The AN/TSQ-73 system was an electronic air defense command and control system designed to provide essential tactical command to HAWK firing batteries in defense against hostile aircraft.

The Operations Central (OC) was the tactical command post of the 6th Battalion, 56th artillery command. The OC was capable of either monitoring the engagement or actually making assignments of targets to its batteries.

The Army Air Defense Command Post (AADCP) of the 97th Artillery Group (AD) was located at Tan Son Nhut Airbase. The AADCP provided tactical control for the defense area and designates targets, missions, and missiles. The 97th Artillery Group (AD) was assigned to US Army Vietnam and under operational control of the 7th US Air Force.

The 97th Artillery Group (AD) Army Air Defense Command Post (AADCP) operated in integration with the AN/TSQ-38 Command and Control system (the men referred to the van as the Battery Control Van).

On 28 May 1966 a new 7th Air Force Control and Reporting (CRC) facility at Tan Son Nhut Airbase was established. The 97th Group (AD) collocated with the 7th Air Force CRC. The Command Post (AADCP) provides tactical control for the defense area and designates targets, missions, and missiles


Battery C Tan Son Nhut Photo: Eddie Donato
HHB Long Bien Photo: Larry ONeilBattery A Launcher Area, Tan Son Hunt 1965-65 Photo: Jim Gropper

Btry A Tan Son Hnut 1965-66 Going to Town Photo:Jim GropperBtry D 6th Bn 56th Arty TET 68 Photo: Larry ONeil
TeT 1968

The Battle at Widows Village

That morning (January 31st) a lot of people seemed to be involved in containing all the VC/NVA that were holed up in Widow's Village right next to our compound. I really don't think we their main objective since we were a pretty small compound. I am sure they could of overrun us easily if they had wanted to. The VC/NVA had been in the Village for a month or so from what I understand. Building up supplies and soldiers to hit Bien Hoa, Long Binh and Saigon. They were all over the place and the 1968 TET holiday truce was their cover.

Widows' Village was a small hamlet of shacks sitting just across the dirt road from the huge Long Binh Army complex and the Headquarters for II Field Force Vietnam. Reportedly, widows and children of deceased ARVN soldiers lived there, existing on small government pensions. From time to time we paid them to fill sandbags at our compound.

During the night and early morning, gunships had shot up the village and got a lot of secondary explosions from some of the positions they rocketed. At 0800, Company B 4/39 Inf made a combat assault into the grass helicopter pad in a field opposite II FFV HQ. The LZ was hot, the unit quickly cleared the area and moved through the Widows Village along with a mechanized company and the recon platoon from 1st Platoon, Company B, 2-47th Inf (Mech), 9th Inf Division. They went through the village and encountered a battalion (augmented) of the 88th NVA Regiment and cleared it out at a heavy cost but prevented or delayed an enemy assault on the nearby II Field Forces Headquarters. More than 50 of the enemy perished in the heavy fighting at Widows' Village

There was a lot of indirect fire coming into our compound from both the NVA and the mechanized unit. We had to stay alert and undercover at all times to keep from getting hit. When we did see the VC/NVA outside our positions we would fire on them.

As the afternoon progressed, a company of the 2d/47th ran into heavy contact in the Ho Nai village, north of Highway 1. Action tapered off by nightfall and by that time more than 200 VC were killed, 32 detainees taken, more than 60 crew-served and more than 45 individual weapons captured. Four U.S. soldiers died in the action.

- MSG Larry F. O'Neill

                                    Viet cong attack on Long Bien Ammo Dump, Oct 29, 1966

               Viet Cong mortar attack on Long Bien Ammo Dump, Oct 29, 1966, Photo taken from Richard Carlander's
                                         guard post at HHB, 6th Bn, 56th Artillery, Photo Courtesy Richard Carlander

Tet Tan Son Nhut 1968 Guard until Relieved

30 January 1968 the beginning of the Tet offensive all hell broke loose and in and around Ton Son Nhut Air Base. On January 31, 1968 Battery C, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery and the 79th Ordnance Detachment organized and equipped and a security platoon of one officer and 24 enlisted men to assist the 2d Svc. Bn. (ARVN) in the defenses of the 0-58 Gate, Tan Son Nhut Sensitive area. The platoon served as a quick reaction force during the day light hours and physically maintained the perimeter at the 0-58 gate during the hours of darkness. The man Battery C, 6th  Battalion, 56th Artillery and thee 79th Ordnance Detachment maintained this commitment until they were relieved on 10 February 1968 by an Armored Calvary unit.

Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 30 April 1968, Secret,


Battery A, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Fort Apache

Battery A located in the Hoc Mon District of Gia Dinh Province (XT808029), was isolated for the first three weeks of TET and requiring helicopter resupply of rations, water, ammunition, and POL the men performed the assigned mission and stood ready to defend their battery.

Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 30 April 1968, Secret, AD392027

6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) in Support of the 1st Infantry Div, 25th Infantry Div & 101st Airborne Div.
On 1 February 1968, HQ 97th Artillery Group (AD) mobilized the organic transport capability, augmented this force with additional vehicles from the 79th Ord Det. And the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery to provide thirty-five 2 ½ ton trucks to the Joint Defense Operations Center (JDOC) on an on-call as needed basis. During the period 2 – 20 February 1968, these vehicles were used to support a task force composed of elements of the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions and the 101st Airborne Division deployed in the Saigon/Bien Hoa area.
Operational Report for Quarterly Period Ending 30 April 1968, Secret, AD392027


Stand-off Rocket and Mortar Attack at Bien Hoa Airbase

D Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) was located on Bien Hoa Airbase the recipient of numerous stand-off mortar and rocket attacks. One such attack occurred on12 May 1967, at 0101 hours, Bien Hoa Air Base was attacked with 47 rounds of 122mm rockets as well as 82mm mortars and 75mm recoilless rifles. The attack lasted approximately nine minutes and resulted and eight deaths, 31 injuries, 16 aircraft with major damages or destroyed and numerous structures and vehicles destroyed or damaged on the air base. This was a coordinated attack with the mortars and recoilless rifle firing from east of the base and the rockets firing from an area north-northeast of the installation. Counterinsurgency Lessons learned N0.66, Countermeasures For 102MM, 122MM and 140MM Rockets (U), Library, Nov 27, 1967 Army War College

Rocket Attack D Battery 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Two Injured


Battery D, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery received damage from a stand-off rocket attack against Bien Hoa Air Base on 22 August 1968. Most of the damage resulted from the detonation of a bomb dump located adjacent to the site. Two personnel were injured, but did not require hospitalization. Structural damage to several buildings was primarily the twisting and breaking of rafters and supports. Operational Report of headquarters, 97th Artillery Group (AD) for Period Ending 25 October 1968, Secret 


The Buddhist Tomb at Battery D, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery

In April 1966 the men of Battery D, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery, Bien Hoa Air Base were clearing brush from the top of a hill on their site. The tomb is roughly 30 feet long, with sculptured arches, had reliefs and inscriptions.

The soldiers, members of Alpha Firing Section, immediately began restoration, replacing failed blocks and removing vegetation that had pushed through the foundation. The erected a white picket fence around the tomb.

With the help of a local Buddhist priest, they tried to locate the descendants of the deceased. The missile men called the tomb “Graham’s Tomb.”

The Skoshi Tiger (USAF)

The Skoski Tiger was a special U.S. Air Force Security Police Detachment that patrolled outside the fence of Bien Hoa Airbase. Part of their patrol area was in the northwest sector where D Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) was located. Joe Pizzimenti, 4503rd TFS (P) Detachment
D Battery Stand-off Rocket Attack


 During the Reporting Period Ending 25 October 1968, Battery D, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery, received damage from a stand-off rocket attack against Bien Hoa Air Base. The primary cause of damage was blast from an exploding bomb dump located approximately 200 meters from the battery site. No synthetic detonations occurred on the site. Operational Report of headquarters, 97th Artillery Group (AD) for Period Ending 25 October 1968, Secret

Bien Hoa Air Base POL dump VC Mortar attack  Bien Hoa Air Base POL storage smoldering next morning

Bien Hoa Air Base was Subject to Enemy Rocket/Mortar Attacks 

Bien Hoa Air Base was the subject to enemy rocket/mortar attacks on nine occasions on five dates during the reporting period ending 31 October 1968.  The time/date numberof rounds are as listed below:

010022 August 12 Rds 122mm, 063022 August 4 Rds 122mm, 230025 Aug 17 Rds 122mm,

225830 Aug 11 Rds 122mm, 030008 Sep 1 Rds 107mm, 060208 Sep 4 Rds 107mm,

062608 Sep 3 Rds 107mm, 085508 Sep 2 Rds 107mm, 232526 Oct 10 Rds 107mm

Operation Report – Lessons Learned, headquarters, 145 Combat Aviation Battalion, period Ending 31 October 68 (U)

Special Air Defense Studies - HAWK capabilities against helicopters


Recent reports of unidentified helicopters operating in and below the DMZ have generated a great deal of Army and Air Force interest in improving the capability to detect, identify and engage helicopters. 


At the request of the Deputy Director, 7th AF Tactical Air Control Center (TACC) 97th Arty Gp (AD) units conducted a series of tests of the HAWK capability to detect, acquire, and track helicopters.  The initial tests were conducted in the Tan Son Nhut/Bien Hoa area using units of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) covering the period 17-29 June 1968.  The following items of HAWK equipment were used:


a.       Pulse Acquisition Radar (PAR)

b.      Battery Control Central (BCC)

c.       Continuous-Wave Acquisition Radar (CWAR)

d.      High Power Illuminator Radar (HPIR)


Test conducted prior to 29 June 1968 used normal helicopter traffic flying in the vicinity of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery HAWK batteries.  On 29n June 1968, a controlled target helicopter from the 7th AF flew pre-planned target courses at various altitudes, speeds and azimuths.  All tests conducted during the period demonstrated that:


a.       The PAR has an excellent detection capability against helicopters flying 50 to 800 feet above terrain at ranges from 2 to 25 km.

b.      The CWAR has a limited acquisition capability against helicopters when working in conjunction with the PAR and HPIR.  Acquisition is not always continuous, but a distinct uniquely identifiable doppler signal is provided to the operator by audible tones in his headset, indicating that he has detected a helicopter at a given azimuth.

c.       The HPIR was used to investigate suspected targets and to lock-on and/or manually track helicopters.  The radar was positioned on the helicopter after initial acquisition by the PAR and, in most cases, was able to provide a continuous azimuth on the target.  As with the CWAR, the audible characteristics or changes in the Doppler frequency were uniquely identifiable to the operator as a helicopter.  Because of the spurious Doppler frequency generated by the helicopter, it was difficult to obtain accurate range information.  Height information provided by the HPIR was, in most cases, unusable.

d.      The BCC was used as the main operating center.  The feasibility of collocating an Air Force Controller in the BCC was discussed with 7th AF staff officers.  They indicated that, because of our high quality PAR video and unique audible Doppler tones associated with the HPIR, this concept might facilitate tactical control of aircraft intercepts.

It was further demonstrated that ground observers positioned on towers in the area helped to visually detect and identify helicopters within distances of 6 to 8 kilometers.  Azimuth and approximate ranges of helicopters provided by these observers helped to quickly position the HPIR on close-in targets.


As a result of the initial tracking tests with the equipment listed above, it was concluded that HAWK radar and control equipment could be used to provide helicopter surveillance information which is accurate to within 1 to 2 kilometers of true target position.


The detailed results of these tests were furnished to 7th AF and USARV on 30 June 1968.

On 10 July 1968 the 97th Artillery Group (AD) was requested by the 7th Air Force to participate in the pre-planned helicopter intercept tests to be conducted the night of 12 July 1968.  The tests were to be controlled by an Air Force/Army crew operating in the Battery Control Central (BCC) at Battery C, 6th Battalion, 71st Artillery (HAWK) on Hon Tre Island.  On 12 July 1968 Air Force ground-to-air UHF communications were remoted from the Hon Tre Island Control and Reporting Post (CRP) into Battery C, 6th Battalion, 71st Artillery’s BCC.


The period 121700 to 122300 July 1968 was devoted to extensive preplanned trial intercepts of an Air Force helicopter by the crew of an Air Force A-37 jet trainer.  HAWK radar performance and results were excellent throughout the test.  The Air Force Controller operating in the BCC maintained constant UHF contact with the intercept aircraft and, at all times had high quality PAR video of both helicopter and interceptor.  Constant Doppler returns, remoted from a modified firing console headset, were also available to the controller.  The Controller had outstanding results in vectoring the interceptor to the target helicopter.  With running lights on, the helicopter could be visually acquired by the interceptor crews at distances from four to seven kilometers.  However, a positive identification of the helicopter could not be made by the interceptor crew.  Tests were also conducted by the interceptor crew using an Army Starlight Scope.  These tests produced negative results.  Throughout all tests, the HAWK fire control/Air Force Controller team functioned as required, with no problems encountered.  The interceptor crew had no trouble acquiring the helicopter visually, but could never identify the helicopter markings, configuration, etc.


The Air Force intends to make further study of the test results with emphasis on other types of interceptor aircraft and other possible means of helicopter identification.


In anticipation of the possible requirement to move selected HAWK radar, control equipment, and personnel to the DMZ area for surveillance operations, this headquarters has developed an employment plan which can be implemented quickly should this contingency arise.

6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Awarded the Meritorious Unit Cemmendation

, Washington, D.C., 23 April 1968, GENERAL ORDERS No. 17


II - Meritorious Unit Commendation. By direction of the Secretary of the Army, under the provisions of paragraph 203, AR671-5-1, the Meritorious Unit Commendation is awarded to the following named units of the United States Army for exceptionally meritorious achievement in the performance of outstanding service during the periods indicated:




For exceptionally meritorious achievement in the performance of outstanding service: The 6th BATTALION, 56TH ARTILLERY distinguished itself in support of military operations in the Republic of Vietnam during the period November 1965 to June1966. The members of this unit demonstrated extraordinary perseverance, determination and professional skill in providing air defense for military during installations in the Saigon, Long Binh and Bien Hoa. areas, Arriving in the zone the massive unit buildup, the Battalion had to select and prepare its own tactical missile sites. Through work and personal sacrifice, the members of the 6TH BATTALION, 56TH ARTILLERY succeeded in becoming operational within 2 days after the Hawk missiles arrived in-country. Since that time, the four batteries have assiduously maintained an exemplary record of operational readiness, despite the harsh environment. During frequent firing evaluations, the Battalion has proven its superior ability to engage any hostile aircraft that might threaten. The generous contributions of time and material this unit devoted to civic activities has been of profound benefit to the Vietnamese people in their operational areas. The unrelenting competence and dedicated devotion to duty displayed by the members of the 6TH BATTALION, 56TH ARTILLERY were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect distinct credit upon themselves and the Armed Forces of the United States.  

Locations of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Batteries 
for the period ending 31 July 1968

Headquarters & Headquarters Battery - Long Binh (YT0411)
A Battery - Tan Thoi Hiep  (XT8002)
B Battery - Long Binh (YT0711)
C Battery - Tan Son Nhut Air Base (XS8197)
D Battery - Bien Hoa (XT9714)
(Attached unit - rations & quarters only)
246th Field Artillery Detachment - Long Binh (YT0411)

The Purpose of the TeT Offensive and the Enemy Units that Fought There

At 310300H January 1968, Camp Frenzell Jones (located just north of Long Binh post, near Ho Nai (Widows Village) base camp of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade (Sep)(Lt) and the Plantation (HQ, II FFV)received an estimated 90-100 rounds of mixed 82mm mortar and 122mm rocket fire. At 0430H, two battalions of the 275th Viet Cong Regiment launched a ground attack on the West and North perimeter of this installation while sapper units supported the U-1 Local Forces Battalion harassed the eastern perimeter while attempting to penetrate and destroy the ammo storage area. At least one company of this force attempted to seize the prisoner of war compound. Also at 310300H January, Bien Hoa airbase received an estimated 35 rounds of 122mm rocket fire followed by a ground attack conducted by two battalions of the 274th Viet Cong Regiment. At 0300 hours the Saigon-Cholon-Tan Son Nhut area came under and intensive ground attacks. The major objective of this attack were: (1) seizure of Tan Son Nhut airbase (including the JGS compound and Vice Presidential palace by the 267th,269th, and Ind Battalions which were to have been supported by elements of the 271st and 272d Viet Cong Regiments; (2) seizure or destruction of the US Embassy, presidential palace, and Saigon Radio Station by elements of the C-10 Sapper Battalion & 3d & 4th Local Forces Battalions; (3) seizure of the Chi Hoa Prison and release of prisoners by the 6th LF Battalion. These major attacks were supported by the 1st MF and 2d Local Forces Battalions attacking from the north; the D-16 Battalion from the West; the 5th Local Forces and 506th Battalion from the south, and the 4th Local Forces Battalion from the east.

The primary purpose of this action was to disrupt the government of South Vietnam and the city of Saigon as much as possible, to ensure the government of South Vietnam and the US government “lose face”, and to force in the government of South Vietnam to the conference table with the NFLSVN (the NFLSVN also called the Viet Cong) and/or North Vietnam where they could negotiate from a position of strength. These units were to have been reinforced within 48 hours, according to prisoner reports.

6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) Battery Locations during TeT 1968

Headquarters Headquarter Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery–Long Binh (Rubber Plantation on one side and Ho Nai (Widow Village) on the other.

A Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery-Quang Trung-16km northeast of Saigon (AT808029).

B Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was located northwest corner of Long Binh post, (YT079119).

C Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery- Tan Son Nhut Air Base, northwest area, next to ammo dump and gate 0-55

D Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery- Bien Hoa air Base, hill overlooking the runway, approximately 200 meters the base bomb dump.


6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) in tis Combat Positions in Vietnam
The officers and men of the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) protected the free world forces of South Vietnam from September 1965 thru August 1969. The battalion maintained the iron umbrella of the US Army HAWK Missile Air Defense System. Any enemy aircraft that dreaded enter the HAWK Air Defense Zone when locked on by the battalion radars turned tail and ran. The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery Motto "NIGHT HIDES NOT"

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