3.5" wide x 4" tall
45th Medical Company Air Ambulance
During 1967 a new medical company, the 45th, brought in new equipment and pilots. In July 1966 the 44th Medical Brigade, which had become operational 1 May, asked the U.S. Army, Vietnam, to deploy another air ambulance company. Col. Ray L. Miller, brigade commander, noted that since January monthly medical evacuations in South Vietnam had risen from three thousand to over five thousand. Combat damage was taking a heavy toll on the Dust Off aircraft. But Miller's superiors decided to wait for the arrival of some new air ambulance units already scheduled for Vietnam. As an interim measure they assigned six nonmedical helicopters to the evacuation units, three for each of the two air ambulance companies. The 45th's deployment was postponed a year.
In March 1967 General Westmoreland told the Commander in Chief, U.S. Army, Pacific, that his theater needed 120 air ambulances but had only 64 on hand. Even if he received forty-nine more, to which the approved troop list entitled him, he would lack seven aircraft. In April the U.S. Army, Vietnam, informed U.S. Army, Pacific, that in light of its growing forces, it had taken several steps to reduce the shortage of air ambulances. Its stopgap measures included giving the 498th and 436th air ambulance companies more nonmedical aircraft, giving basic medical training to those assault and transport crewmen who might find themselves evacuating the wounded, and even designating certain aircraft in the airmobile assault units to carry a medical corpsman during attacks. Since he thought that these measures were makeshifts only, Westmoreland urged that the new air ambulance company and four detachments be shipped to South Vietnam as soon as possible.
By mid-1967 U.S. troop strength in South Vietnam approached 450,000, and General Westmoreland was asking for even more soldiers. U.S. Army, Vietnam, at last asked for another air ambulance company and four more helicopter ambulance detachments. If granted, this request would place a total of 109 air ambulance helicopters in South Vietnam.
In late May 1967 the 45th Medical Company (Air Ambulance), stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, received notice that it would soon leave for Vietnam. It had been on deferred status since 1965 with twenty-five obsolete H-19 helicopters. Since the company was unable to acquire its last twelve authorized pilots before departure, it deployed without the pilots for one entire flight platoon; too many aviation units were forming 56 and deploying for all to have their full complement of pilots. Before departing, the unit picked up twenty-five new UH-1H's with powerful Lycoming L-13 engines. These aircraft could be fitted with hoists for in-flight loading of the wounded, and they also carried new DECCA navigational kits. By 13 September the 45th was fully operational at Long Binh, about twenty kilometers northeast of Saigon. The airfield section leader kept some of his men busy building a heliport tower, and proved adept at scrounging. His crash rescue team soon had a bright red fire truck. He liberated a 3,000-gallon fuel bladder for JP-4 helicopter fuel and another with pumps for the aircraft washrack.
The 45th soon committed itself to giving twenty-four hour standbys at several bases around Saigon. One aircraft also gave daylight support to the Australians in the Saigon area. At Long Binh the company kept three standby aircraft for nearby evacuations and another for VIP or medical administration missions. From June through September alone, nine of the aircraft were damaged in combat. In October the 93d Evacuation Hospital started using the 45th to transfer most of its patients to a casualty staging facility near Tan Son Nhut, saving the injured the discomfort of riding in ground ambulances over the congested and dusty streets of Saigon.