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The scream of the Eagle was heard from Bien Hoa to Song Be, from Cu Chi to Phan Thiet, from Hue to the A Shau Valley, and throughout the I Corps tactical zone.

On 12 Dec 67, the first C-141 Starlifter carrying 10,356 paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade involved in operation EAGLE THRUST, screeched to a halt on the runway of the Bien Hoa Airbase. The operation made military history as the largest and longest airlift directly into a combat zone. The Screaming Eagles were ready for action. Within a matter of days, 2nd Brigade units were forming for in-country training at their Cu Chi base camp southwest of Saigon. Next they moved to Phuoc Vinh to prepare a base camp for the 3rd Brigade. Until late Jan the 2nd Brigade paratroopers spent long hours under the hot tropical sun. Using the 25th Infantry’s tunnel, mine and booby trap course in Cu Chi, the 2nd Brigade paratroopers polished their skill in Vietnam-style combat and acclimatized themselves to the rigors of their new environment.

Small unit leaders who lacked combat experience accompanied elements of the 25th Infantry Div on search and destroy missions. On 12 Dec 67, a 4.2 projectile slide down a mortar tube and blasted over the Cu Chi perimeter to become the Brigade’s first official round fired at the enemy. In Jan, combat missions began. The local VC began to feel the sting of the Brigade’s presence as the paratroopers became more sure of their ground. 216 insurgents fell under airborne guns during the 1st month of combat. By mid Jan word came that the 165th NVA Reg was operating around the village of Chon Thanh near the Cambodian border. The NVA were terrorizing the surrounding area and quickly bringing it under their sway. 2nd Brigade paratroopers were to link up with 11th Armored Cav elements and sweep through the area. Operation CASEY was underway.

Late in Jan, just prior to the TET Offensive, camouflaged C-130 transport planes carried the 2nd Brigade 500 miles north to Hue/Phu Bai in I Corps where they joined the 1st Air Cav Div in launching Operation JEB STUART I. Initially landing and setting up at the Phu Bai airfield, the 2nd Brigade troopers started search operations immediately and soon moved north to LZ Sally.

The NVA Tet attack on the provincial capital of Quang Tri began on the night of 30 Jan 68 when the 812th Reg, 324th NVA Div launched a two-pronged attack, mortaring the cavalry and ARVN firebases and occupying the city. The following day on 31 Jan 1968, the enemy launched the largest single attack of the war, the Tet offensive. 2nd Brigade paratroopers under the operational control of the 1st Cav in the battle of Quang Tri and Hue, blocked the approaches to the city and 2nd Brigade troopers killed 94 enemy trying to slip through the ring. During the following weeks, the score of enemy killed and captured mounted as 2nd Brigade paratroopers cleaned out resistance in numerous villages between Hue and Quang Tri.

In Saigon, one platoon from the 2nd Brigade was making a roof-top assault, storming the American Embassy, which was then under attack by VC commandoes. A firebase, Birmingham, was established 16 km from the NVA stronghold, to support the driving paratroopers, who continued to push westward through the mountains. Enemy supply routes were cut, troop movements were interrupted, and arms caches were uncovered by the onrushing troopers.

Continuing the fight for the area around Hue, the 2nd Brigade rejoined the division after participating in Operation JEB STUART I near Quang Tri City, to join the 82nd, 17th Cav and 58th Inf (LRRP) in Operation CARENTAN I. The campaign was directed against insurgents in Thua Thien province, north of Camp Eagle, the new forward base camp. It succeeded through a series of cordons and night ambushes. Late in the evening of March 21, members of the 2nd Bn., 501st Abn. Inf. repulsed an attack on their night defensive position, sometimes resorting to direct artillery fire to kill 22 enemy.

CARENTAN I terminated on 31 Mar 68, with the launching of Operation CARENTAN II. The new operation was conducted in the same area, northwest from the coastal plains; south from Hue; due west to the A Shau Valley. Operation CARENTAN II proved to be a testing point for the Screaming Eagles. During this operation, the 2d Brigade, 101st ABN Div soldiers heroically attacked and destroyed enemy rear bases and forward headquarters, thus preventing the enemy from attacking the city of Hue. North Vietnamese regulars challenged paratrooper forces almost daily. The normal tactic of hit and run was absent from the enemy’s fighting strategy. The Screaming Eagles earned a reputation among the enemy units. Those who wore the Eagle patch on their shoulder were to be avoided. The mission of CARENTAN II was to continue driving hostile forces from the area around Hue, and to begin clearing operations toward the A Shau Valley for a possible future raid into that area. The first major battle occurred on the famous “Street without Joy” on 11 Apr 68. Assisting the 17th Airborne Cav in the “Street” sweep were 2nd Brigade troopers from the 2nd Bn., 501st Abn. Inf. – A, B & D Companies. A sweep of the Phong Dien village after a night cordon and artillery bombardment resulted in 66 enemy dead and 26 weapons captured.

Operation CARENTAN II terminated on 17 May 68. “Relieve the pressure from the area around Hue,” was their standing order and the Airborne infantrymen did just that as their highly mobile fighting units continually maintained pressure on the enemy and discouraged any future attack of the Imperial City. As a prelude to Phuoc Yen, the classic cordon operation of the Vietnam war, paratroopers from the 2nd Bn., 501st Abn. Inf. followed two Viet Cong into the village of Thon Kim Doi. An NVA company was waiting for the onrushing Screaming Eagles. The paratroopers were joined by the batteries of the 21st Artillery , helicopter gunships and Air Force fighter-bombers and by the morning of the fifth day, became the largest NVA force to surrender en masse to an American unit in the history of the war.

Operation NEVADA EAGLE was the largest single campaign ever fought by the 101st Airborne Division. During this operation the 2d Brigade, 101st ABN Div soldiers not only protected the local inhabitants’ crops but also inflicted heavy losses upon the Viet Cong units and entirely destroyed the 803d Regiment/324th-B Div of the NVA. This operation, designed to secure the coastal lowlands (Thua Thien Province) in I Corps from the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese, began on 17 May 1968 and lasted 288 days until 28 Feb 1969. Thua Thien Province was captured and enough rice was removed to feed ten enemy battalions for the next year. Through these splendid achievements, the soldiers of the 2d Brigade, 101st ABN Div contributed significantly to the fight against Communism to preserve freedom in Vietnam and, at the same time, displayed the indomitable will and the heroic tradition of the US Armed Forces. For its actions, the 101st received the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm.

One of the most important Viet Cong and North Vietnamese supply and staging areas was the A Shau Valley, which ran along the western edge of the Thua Thien Province. Upon the completion of NEVADA EAGLE, the 101st again attacked the A Shau Valley. In a series of operations known individually as MASSACHUSETTS STRIKER, APACHE SNOW, and MONTGOMERY RENDEZVOUS, the Screaming Eagles cut North Vietnamese supply lines, destroyed base camps, and seized tons of supplies. The Division cleared the way for the first friendly armored vehicles to enter the valley and reopened temporary airstrips abandoned years earlier.

On 20 Jun 68, in Hue, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu presented the 2nd Brigade Commander and his paratroopers with the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry w/palm, for their combat record since deploying to I Corps in early Feb 68. At the time of the award, the paratroopers had killed 2,382 enemy, captured 257 prisoners and 724 enemy weapons.

1 July 1968

While NEVADA EAGLE was going on, the 101st Airborne Division changed its name to the 101st Air Cavalry Division on 1 Jul 1968. A year later, on 29 Aug 1969, the Screaming Eagles became the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), becoming the Army’s second airmobile division, in recognition of the transition from parachutes to helicopters. OPERATION SOMERSET PLAIN was a 17-day raid into the valley designed to cut off enemy supply routes from the west. The Screaming Eagles defeated the enemy where they found him, but there was still that foreboding aura hanging over the valley–of darkness, of evil lurking. Now the valley was becoming a dangerous place for the enemy also. The men with the eagle on their shoulders had destroyed base camps, discovered caches of weapons, ammunition and supplies. They would return, Maj. Gen. Melvin Zais, then Division commander, promised.

Photo courtesy of Curt Knapp, taken in Summer ’68 between the 2d Bde TOC (sometimes called the The Head Shed) and the Bde VIP Helicopter Pad. The VIP Parking sign in the foreground is for Jeeps and other ground vehicles. The 2 guys in the front of the entourage walking in from the helicopter pad are Col John Hoefling, the 2nd Bde commander, and Maj Gen Melvin Zais, the 101st Air Cav Division commander. Their respective Huey command and control helicopters are seen in the background. The big white sign on the right welcomes you to the 2nd Brigade ” Ready to Go ! ” of the 101st Air Cav Division. The little placard on the top is a quotation from a VC prisoner, captured earlier. He was referring to the Eagle patch on our shoulders when he said, “That little bird is real mean!” One other interesting thing about this photo is that many years after returning to The World, Curt got reaquainted with now-General Hoefling, and sent him a printed copy of the slide. Then during 2000 Eagle Week while being guided through the 2nd Bde Museum at Ft. Campbell, there…there on the wall…was this picture in a frame!

On 13 Nov 1969 Geronimos of the 2nd Bn 501st Inf boarded 15 Chinook helicopters and began a journey to the blasted wastelands just south of the DMZ. Here elements of the 1st Bde 5th Inf Div had been engaged in heavy fighting against the 27th NVA Regt. The journey first took the Geronimos to Quang Tri, the jumping off poing for a battalion air assault to the DMZ by UH-1H slicks. As wave after wave of helicopters dropped the Screaming Eagles on the barren landscape, men already on the ground set up a defensive perimeter. For the next five days, the troops uncovered NVA base camps, a small cace and finally, found and engaged the enemy in an all night battle. In two days of action 29 NVA were killed. On 18 Nov 69 the Geronimos again boarded Chinooks, this time for the trip home. The six days south of the DMZ had been days of rough fighting and persistent effort and few Geronimos would ever forget the barren and twisted landscape where they had met and overcome the enemy.

Field action throughout 1969 and 1970 centered around support of civil operations in the pacification program. Operation RANDOLPH GLEN was a departure from the more conventional use of combat forces in South Vietnam. The 101st provided technical assistance to government officials of Thua Thien Province . Elements of the 101st worked with the Army of The Republic Vietnam (ARVN) Ist Infantry Division providing security against outside Communist pressure. Operations TEXAS STAR and JEFFERSON GLEN followed with increased emphasis on the Vietnamization of the war effort. Using a network of fire support bases and aggressive patrolling, the Screaming Eagles thwarted enemy thrusts into Thua Thien Province. For its involvement in the many civil affairs programs, the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) received the Vietnamese Civic Action Medal on 23 May 1970.

Although a small task force from the 101st participated in a limited incursion into Cambodia from April to June 1970, the most important test of the airmobile concept came in February 1971 during Operation LAM SON 719. During this operation, the 101st supported Vietnamese forces in their attack across the Laotian border. Designed to cut enemy infiltration routes and to destroy North Vietnamese staging areas in Laos, the operation began on 8 February as the 101st and other American aviation units airlifted South Vietnamese troops into Laos. For many years, the enemy had controlled the area of Laos adjacent to South Vietnam and had built up extensive defenses. When the operation ended on 9 April 1971, less than one Allied aircraft for every thousand sorties was lost, despite the increased enemy use of anit-aircraft weapons, artillery, and armor.

South Vietnamese soldiers of the ARVN 1st Infantry Division, supported by the 101st, invaded the A Shau Valley in Operation LAM SON 720, from April to August 1971, to cut enemy supply lines which cost the enemy both men and equipment.

While in Vietnam, the B-2/501st participated in a total of 34 operations.

6 April 1972

In late 1971 and early 1972, the 101st withdrew from Vietnam and returned to the United States. It was the last United States Army division to leave the combat zone in Vietnam. Seventeen Congressional Medal of Honor awards were given to individuals from the 101st. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and Army Chief of Staff General William C. Westmoreland welcomed the 101st home during official homecoming ceremonies on 6 April 1972 at Fort Campbell.

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