January 2, 1963
VC VICTORIOUS AT AP BAC
Ap Bac, South Vietnam (JFK+50) Viet Cong, South Vietnamese communist forces, won their first major victory against ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops here at Ap Bac today.
Ap Bac is a village 50 miles southwest of Saigon.
With a mere 300 guerrilla fighters, the VC were able to claim victory over 2500 of ARVN’s 7th Infantry division.
The battle was initiated at 4 a.m. by South Vietnam Civil Guards who marched toward Ap Tan Thoi from the south but were pinned down by VC forces.
Of the 15 CH21 American helicopters attempting to ferry the South Vietnamese army into the battle, 5 were shot down.*
“Chopper Down at Ap Bac”
*CH21 helicopters were called “flying bananas” because of the upward angle of their aft fuselage. The 1st units arrived in Vietnam between Dec 1961 & Sept 1962. The 1st US casualties in Vietnam came when 4 Army fliers were killed when their CH21 was shot down near the Laotian-Vietnamese border.
CH21C “Shawnee” Helicopter
US Army Photo
The CH21 was designed by Frank Piasecki. His design was the backbone of the US Army air effort in SE Asia until replaced by the UH-1 in 1964.
In 1986, Frank Piasecki received the National Medal of Technology.
President Reagan presents
the National Medal of Technology
to Frank Piasecki (1986)
The CH21 could carry 20 soldiers & had a cruising speed of 98 mph. It could accommodate 1 or 2 M60 machine guns.
In a 5 hour period, the South Vietnamese were turned back in 3 separate assaults on the VC position.
The VC withdrew from the field after their victory.
The Vietnamese Workers’ Party, the ruling party in Hanoi, issued a statement that the Battle of Ap Bac “signified the coming of the new revolutionary armed forces of the south.”**
**The battle of Ap Bac gave support to those US military advisers who thought even with US assistance the ARVN left much to be desired.
Shawnee CH21 over Vietnam