Fifty years after 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division was among the first units to battle the enemy in Vietnam, original members of the unit will be reunited today during a ceremony at the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center.
About 78 members from across the country are expected for the 9:45 a.m. gathering at the Vietnam Memorial Plaza, said Pat Bieneman, a veteran of the unit.
A wreath will be laid at the memorial and the names of all soldiers killed in action will be read.
The reunion will bring back memories for some in the unit. “It’s a humbling event,” said Chuck Knowlen, an original member of the unit in 1965.
The 9th Cavalry Regiment was assigned next to 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, the unit commanded in November 1965 by then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore, who was co-author with journalist Joe Galloway of the book, “We Were Soldiers Once and Young.”
The book, which was adapted into a movie, detailed how the battalion arrived at Landing Zone X-Ray in Ia Drang Valley where 450 U.S. soldiers were surrounded by 2,000 Viet Cong fighters in one of the first encounters with the enemy.
Billie Williams, commander of C Troop, 9th Cavalry Regiment with 165 soldiers, said the unit was going 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With eight helicopters in the airmobile unit, Williams said they were assigned to actively engage the enemy and fix the enemy. “C Troop happened to be the only troop that was engaged in Ia Drang Valley,” he said.
Williams said Ia Drang was the worst battle. “They had to make sure 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry didn’t get overrun,” he said. “We supported them with aircraft any way we could with gunships and scouts. Moore had to fight them eye ball to eye ball where my people had to fight in the air.”
During the battle, Williams said his unit lost a gunship and crew.
“The people were some of the best in the world and continued that tradition up until the very end until we withdrew from Vietnam,” he said. “Air mobile was a fighting unit. It proved itself time and time again. We would start it and let somebody else finish it.”
Chuck Knowlen was a young captain during the battle of Pleiku at the Ia Drang River.
He led an ambush of a North Vietnamese force with grenades, machine gun fire and other light weapons. “That was the first real fire fight we had,” he said.
Knowlen, 79, said details of the battle were reported by Charlie Black, a war correspondent for the Columbus Enquirer. “He was in the area,” Knowlen said.
- To meet some of the soldiers again will be fantastic, Knowlen said. “It’s wonderful to see them all,” he said.