Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 204th Quartermaster Battalion was constituted on 31 May 1940 and activated at Compton, California on 10 June 1942. The battalion was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 204th Quartermaster Gas Supply Battalion. It was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 204th Quartermaster Battalion on 10 December 1943. It participated in the Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, North Apennines and Po Valley Campaigns of Italy. It was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 13 October 1945.
It was converted and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 204th Transportation Corps Truck Battalion on 1 August 1946 and activated at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was again redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 204th Transportation Truck Battalion on 20 May 1947 the reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Transportation Truck Battalion on 16 May 1949
On 25 June 1950, North Korean tanks rolled across the 38th Parallel and invaded the Republic of Korea. The 24th Infantry Division led the first units of the US Eighth Army into Korea on 30 June. After a series of setbacks, they bought time for the rest of Eighth Army to stabilize the Pusan Perimeter. On 15 September, X Corps landed at Inchon with the 1st Marine and 7th Infantry Divisions and the North Korean Army began to withdraw.
In 1950, the 52nd Transportation Battalion deployed from Fort Benning, Georgia, for the war in Korea. The 377th Transportation Company arrived at Inchon at D+8, 23 September 1950. It joined up with several 513th and 515th Transportation Truck Companies of the 52nd Transportation Battalion. In mid-October the 377th Truck Company was detached from the 52nd, picked up troops and equipment and force marched 350 miles to Pusan. They ran into sporadic enemy fire north of Taegu but arrived at Pusan in 36 hours.
Because of his success with the landing at Inchon, General Douglas MacArthur decided to pull the X Corps out and conduct landing on the other side of the Korean peninsula. On 26 and 29 October, X Corps landed at Iwon with the 1st Marine Division and 7th Infantry Division then opened up Hamhung as the main port of operations. They advanced to the Chinese border and the 3rd Infantry Division then arrived as the X Corps reserve.
The 52nd Battalion arrived at Hamhung and picked up control of the 377th TC again. The 377th TC then received its taskings directly from the X Corps Transportation Officer. In the third week in November the 377th TC was attached to the 7th Infantry Division and moved to Pukchong.
On 29 November 1950, the Chinese Communist Army (CCA) conducted a large scale infiltration attack across the Chinese border to cut off and destroy the 1st Marine Division and the 7th Infantry Division defending around the Chosin Reservoir, Korea. The 3rd Infantry Division was the X Corps and defended the route of withdrawal. The Army’s Task Force Faith, organized around the 31st Infantry, fought desperately buying time for the 1st Marines on the other side of Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir. The Marines absorbed what remained of TF Faith and fought their way back to a near completed airstrip at Hagaru-ri with LTC Faith being killed in the fight. While the Marines evacuated their dead and wounded, the Chinese infiltrated past the Marines and established roadblocks along the ten mile mountain pass between it and Koto-ri. The trucks of the 52nd Transportation Battalion drove up to bring the Marines and Soldiers back to the safety of the port of Hamhung for further evacuation by sea.
In October 1950, 47-year old, Lieutenant Colonel John Upshur Dennis Page was assigned to the X Corps Artillery. He had spent World War II training artillerymen at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and saw no service overseas but was eager to finally experience combat in Korea. On 27 November, Page arrived with the X Corps at Hamhung. Two days later, Page left X Corps headquarters and was attached to the 52nd Transportation Battalion with the mission to establish traffic control on the main supply route to Marine positions and those of some Army elements on the Chosin Reservoir plateau. For the next 11 days, Page would serve in the role as a Transportation Corps officer.1 He and his driver, CPL David E. Klepsig, fought their way past a Chinese machinegun position and reached Koto-ri.
Having completed his initial mission, LTC Page was free to return to the safety of Hamhung but chose to remain on the plateau to aid an isolated signal station, thus being cut off with elements of the Marine division. After rescuing his jeep driver by breaking up an ambush near a destroyed bridge LTC Page reached the lines of a surrounded Marine garrison at Koto-ri. He then voluntarily developed and trained a reserve force of assorted Army troops trapped with the Marines. By exemplary leadership and tireless devotion, he made an effective fighting unit available. In order that casualties might be evacuated, an airstrip was improvised on frozen ground partly outside the Koto-ri defense perimeter which was constantly under enemy attack. During two such attacks, Page exposed himself on the airstrip to direct fire on the enemy, and twice mounted the rear deck of a tank, manning the machinegun on the turret to drive the enemy back into a no man’s land.2 On 3 December while being flown low over enemy lines in a light plane, LTC Page dropped hand grenades on Chinese positions and sprayed foxholes with automatic weapons fire from his carbine.
On 5 December, Major General Oliver P. Smith (USMC) ordered his Marines to withdraw to Kot’o-ri. Meanwhile Lieutenant General Almond, Commander of X Corps, organized a defense of Hamhung-Hungnam area around the 3rd Infantry Division. MacArthur ordered the 3rd ID to Wonsan for withdrawal to assist Eighth Army in the west. On 1 December, the trucks of the 52nd Battalion transported them to Wonsan, and then MacArthur changed his mind and returned the infantry back to Almond. The 52nd Battalion delivered the infantry back to the Hamhung-Hungnam area on 3 December.
MG Smith needed a mobile force organized around a battalion of infantry to clear the ten miles between Kot’o-ri and Chinghung-ni. He asked LTG Almond to provide a relief force for his Chinghung-ni force. Almond tasked the 3rd ID with the mission. On 6 December, the 3rd Infantry Division, which was in the rear, formed Task Force Dog around the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry with a battalion of artillery and company of combat engineers. The 52nd Truck Battalion, commanded by LTC Walden C. Winston, provided the mobility for TF Dog. TF Dog would relieve the Marine garrison at Chinhung-ni so they could clear the road north to the Marines fighting their way back from Koto-ri.
On 7 December, TF Dog left Majon-dong and reached Chinghung-ni without enemy resistance. The 377th TC had hauled 325 reinforcements from Hamhung to Changjin Reservoir area. They ran into COL Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller’s 1st Marines at Kot’o-ri. On 9 December, the Marines fought their way out of Kot’o-ri. The next day the Marines passed behind FT Dog. They loaded up on the trucks of the 52nd Battalion for the trip south. The Chinese made several attacks on the withdrawing Marines at Sundong and swarmed onto the road as the regimental supply train started through town.
Task Force Dog was formed around the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment; 92nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion (self-propelled); Company A, 73rd Engineer Combat Battalion; a platoon of Company A, 10th Engineer Combat Battalion; 3rd Platoon, 3rd Reconnaissance Company; 52nd Transportation Truck Battalion; a detachment from the 3rd Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion (self-propelled); and a detachment from the 3rd Infantry Division headquarters, commanded by BG A. D. Mead. Task Force Dog had security for Chinhung-ni and two battalions of the 65th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division took positions to protect the road south of it, but did not have enough men to occupy all the key terrain and adequately defend the route. So on 8 December, the 65th Infantry sent G Company to Sudong where one platoon took up position on the north side of the road and the rest of the company occupied the hills west of the road about a mile south of Sudong. Likewise, the narrow roads and steep ridge made for poor radio communications between the two groups.3
A force of Chinese infiltrated as far south as Sudong. 50 or more Chinese infiltrated the village of Sudong and set up ambush positions west of the road and neither element of G Company knew this. Just after dark on the night of 10 December, an estimated Chinese force of 200 attacked G Company positions south of Sudong but were repulsed with heavy loses. An approaching Marine column halted while the fight took place and upon the withdrawal of the Chinese, the Marine column continued unmolested. After the news of the attack reached Task Force Dog headquarters at Chinhung-ni, they halted all road traffic south of there. Shortly after dark the Marine Liaison Officer to Task Force Dog received word the road below Sudong was clear and reopened the road for traffic. Nightlong 155mm artillery fire on the enemy positions on the west side of the road missed their target by 250-300 yards due to a meteorological error. So the barrage had no effect on the enemy.4
LTC Page had flown down to Hamhung to arrange for artillery support of the Marine column. He joined the rear guard of the retreating column. Page manned the machinegun on a tank several times to repel enemy attacks on the flanks of the column.
On the night of 10 December, the 1st Marine Regimental Train reached the bottom of the pass and as it entered Sudong, Chinese rushed from around the huts firing their submachine guns and throwing grenades at the convoy. The attack killed several drivers and set at least five trucks ablaze thus halting the column. LTC Page, his Marine jeep driver, PFC Marvin L. Wasson, and another marine dismounted and ran up the road to the scene of the fighting. One Marine stopped to fire at the enemy, while Page and Wasson ran past burning vehicles, tripping over fallen Marines reaching the head of the convoy where they “plunged forward into the heart of the hostile position.” In the flickering light of the burning trucks, Page and Wasson charged into about 30 enemy soldiers firing as they ran. Their audacity surprised the Chinese, causing many of them to run away having lost several of their fallen comrades. One threw a grenade which wounded Wasson in the head and arm. Page told Wasson to turn back and he would provide covering fire. Wasson staggered back and turned once to see Page charge after running Chinese. He did not return, but his fearless action bought enough time for LTC Waldon C. Winston, Commander of the 52nd Transportation Battalion, to organize the Marines and Army truck drivers into a counter-attack.5
Wasson, now bandaged, returned to the fight firing the 75mm recoilless rifle while a machinegun covered him. Wasson fired several white phosphorus rounds at a hut which he felt was the enemy strong point. The hut erupted into flames while Chinese soldiers ran to escape a fiery death only to be met by machinegun fire. Wasson then helped push the burning trucks with ammunition off the road to clear a path for the convoy. The fight lasted for several hours and Winston’s counter-attack drove off the last remnants of enemy resistance as the sun came up. The Chinese ambush at Sodung killed eight Americans and wounded 21, and destroyed nine trucks and an armored personnel carrier. As the convoy passed through Sodung, it came upon the dead body of Page in the road with 16 dead Chinese near him. When Task Force Dog passed through the village later that afternoon, they saw five trucks still smoldering beside the road and four American dead, three badly burnt that had not yet been carried away.6
The US Marine Corps rewarded LTC John U. D. Page posthumously with the Navy Cross, but when his story became known in 1957, and act of Congress awarded him the Medal of Honor, due to the lateness of the delay.7
Only 21 of the 48 vehicles of the 377th TC returned from the ambushes at Kot’o-ri. The 515th Transportation Truck Company helped evacuate the 1st Marine Division and 7th Infantry Division at Hungnam, Tangyang, Wonju and from Pyonggang to Hamgye. A platoon became cut off by the enemy for a period of two weeks. It successfully continued its mission evacuating combat units despite casualties and loss of equipment to enemy action. From 11 through 24 December, X Corps evacuated Hamnung and arrived at Pusan. Meanwhile, the Eighth Army fell back to below the 38th Parallel.
In 1951, the front lines had stabilized into a static war similar to World War I. The 52nd Truck Battalion had elements of 5 to 17 truck companies in which it supported X Corps out of Wonju. Temporary truck organizations were created whenever necessary. The battalion ran operations 24-hours a day with trucks driving 12 hour shifts. There was no schedule for departures. They left as needed supplies whenever the trucks were loaded. They were anywhere from five to ten miles behind the front lines. It would take about three hours to reach the front. They would drop off their cargo then return. During the winter, they would sometimes stop along the way to cook their meals. The entire trip might take eight to ten hours. Trucks usually traveled in convoys of 12 to 15 trucks, all from the same company with one jeep for the convoy commander in the lead and a wrecker in the rear. No one had radios. Because they would be sniped at by enemy soldiers along the way, the trucks had ring mounted .30 caliber machineguns per every two trucks. This did not scare the enemy so they replaced the .30 calibers with .50 calibers and that seemed to discourage enemy ambushes.
In mid-May the X Corps Transportation Officer directed the 52nd Battalion to provide 40 trucks to assist the move of the 3rd ID from south of Seoul to Soksa-ri. Anticipating the loss of 40 trucks, COL John K. McCormick, G4 of X Corps, instructed the technical services to canvass their units for trucks not hauling essential cargo. The 4th Signal Battalion, 1st and 2nd Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, 520th Quartermaster Battalion, 69th Ordnance Battalion, and the 8224th Engineer Construction Group offered up 50 to 60 ¾- and 2 ½-ton trucks, called the “Truck Bank.”
The 515th Truck Company earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation for its support of the X Corps during combat operations from 7 November 1950 to 6 May 1951. It transported 28,682 troops and 23,241 tons of supplies over a total of 1,021,171 miles. It was also cited for its performance during the operations at Hamhung where the platoon was cut off.
Under the direction of the 52nd Truck Battalion, a separate truck group was established to haul ammunition exclusively. Many of the vehicles were taken from units of the 52nd and others were borrowed from other units. A control point for ammunition was established at Wonju. To prevent confusion, vehicles were dispatched in serials of five to ten. At the control point the drivers could get a meal at a 24-hour kitchen and a service station provided second-echelon maintenance. Normally twenty vehicles an hour entered the ammunition dump. From the Wonju, the trucks delivered ammunition to APS No. 50 at Hongchon. There the ammunition was usually transferred from tailgate to tailgate of the front line division trucks.
On another occasion, X Corps only had a few hours to gather 300 trucks for a troop movement. The 52nd Battalion furnished 200 while the MPs commandeered another 94. There was no time to notify the parent units of the trucks that their vehicles had been taken nor time to make arrangements for fuel and feed the drivers. They had to scrounge the best they could.
The 515th Truck Company earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation for the period 1 May to 31 October 1952 for hauling supplies and equipment to front-line combat units. Drivers frequently worked on a 24-hour daily basis to transport 25,000 tons of cargo and over 20,000 personnel over 500,000 miles.
After two years of negotiations, the belligerents agreed to an armistice on 27 July 1953, and established the 38th Parallel as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This ended hostilities and from then on both sides of the DMZ.
It was reorganized and redisignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Transportation Battalion on 1 April 1954 and inactivated in Japan on 10 May 1955.
The 52nd was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 52nd Transportation Battalion (Helicopter) on 13 October 1955. It was reactivated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 7 November 1955. It later moved to Fort Ord, California and was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion on 22 December 1962.
The 52nd Aviation Battalion “Flying Dragons” deployed to Vietnam and arrived on 19 March 1963. It supported the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) during the US advisory role in the Vietnam War. The battalion move to Pleiku in the mountainous central highlands. Fog combined with 7,000 foot peaks made flying even more dangerous in the valleys and emergency LZ's were hard to find.
Do Xa Operation, April 27 - May 4, 1964
“Do Xa used to be an impenetrable Viet Cong's sanctuary due to its intricate configuration. This enclave is a deep valley nestled against the Annamite Mountains right at peak Ngoc Linh, which raises so high (8,524ft) that sun's rays hardly reach the grounds of this valley. Because it is at the junction of three Provinces (Kontum, Quang Tin and Quang Ngai), the Viet Cong used it as an infiltration gate of troops leaving the Ho Chi Minh Trail along Laos to enter the Center areas of South Vietnam. It was also used as ammunition and food caches, as well as resting areas and field hospitals. Since ARVN troops were unable to penetrate this area, it was designated as a free firing and bombardment area. Consequently, when airplanes returned to the base after air raid missions, the pilots freely discharged their unused ordnance onto this area.
“On Monday April 27, 1964, General Do Cao Tri, 2nd Corps Commanding General, launched the Do Xa Campaign (Operation Quyet Thang 202) aiming directly at the valley of Khe Nuoc Lah, the impenetrable sanctuary of NVA General Nguyen Don. He entrusted the planning and design of this operation to Colonel Nguyen Van Hieu, his Chief of Staff, with the assistance of General Lu Lan, who was holding the position of 2nd Corps Deputy Commander.
“The Forward Command Post was established at Quang Ngai airport. The main core of the forces that took part of this campaign was divided into two groups. Group A was composed of three Rangers Battalions under the command of Major Son Thuong. Group B was composed of units of the 50th Regiment, belonging to the 25th Division, under the command of Major Phan Trong Chinh. These two Groups were reinforced with the 3rd Airborne Battalion (Captain Ngo Quang Troung who lead the Airborne Battalion received a battlefield promotion to Major in this campaign). Prior to that period, while serving at the 1st Corps as Deputy Chief of operations, Major Hieu had cooperated closely with the American Marine Corps in Danang through his relation with Major Wagner, USMC, an advisor for the ARVN 1st Corps. This close relationship had eased the way for the US Marine Corps Command at Danang to acquiesce Colonel Hieu's request for transportation assistance: the US Marine Corps Command went out its way (its operational areas were within the 1st Corps) and dispatched one H-34 helicopter squadron, the HMM-364 USMC squadron, which was reinforced with five UH-1B US Army gunships and two UH-34s from the VNAF to ferry troops into Do Xa's enclave. In addition, the US Army 52nd Aviation Battalion lent troops transport and the VNAF also provided two Skyraiders to cover troops insertion.” Nguyen Van Tin, Do Xa Campaign, 22 February 2000,
“The U.S. Army aviation support for the assault on the Do Xa Valley (also referred to as Sure Win 202 by U.S.M.C.) involved the entire 52nd Aviation Battalion, which included both the 117th Avn Co, Qui Nhon and the 119th Avn Company, Pleiku. I flew with the 117th on that assault. My UH-1B and crew flew the ARVN troops in, the first day and remained for the following four days for resupply and med-evac missions. We also flew out 150-200 captured weapons and ammo, including two US-made 30 cal machine guns, plus TNT used to make booby traps.
“There was an Army H-37 from the 339th Trans Co flown by Captain Kerry Foster. I can remember talking to Kerry as we checked out the 50 cal holes in the side of a downed VNAF Skyraider.
“That was one nasty assault! The 52nd Avn Battalion flew into an LZ that would only take two Hueys at once and it was in a very narrow valley. We were strung out in a line a mile long. Sixteen flights of two ships each could hardly be called a formation. We were under constant automatic weapons fire from ridgelines on both sides of the valley. Each Huey made seven landings in that LZ, which included at least two burning wrecks. As soon as the ARVN troops were out the doors, we climbed as high and fast as we could back to Gia Lang for more troopers, then back to that tiny, busy LZ.” William E. McGee (Courtesy of Vietnam Center Archive)
The 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB) was stationed at Camp Holloway, Pleiku. It was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 52nd Aviation Battalion on 25 January 1965. It was later assigned to the 17th Aviation Group on 1 March 1966. After the US combat units arrived and took over ground combat operations the 52nd CAB primarily provided support for the 4th and 25th Infantry Divisions as well as the ARVN units.
On or about August 1966, the Commander of the 52nd CAB, began organizing, equipping and training the Pathfinder Detachment to conduct combat operations by October 1966. The mission of the pathfinder was to provide forward air to ground assistance and navigation to all US and Allied Army aircraft and through formal coordination, all US and Allied Airforce aircraft.
The initial detachment members were all infantry trained, out of the ten enlisted members, eight were airborne qualified, and most of them were assigned to the 52nd Battalion shortly after completing jump school, never being assigned to a regular infantry unit. This provided a real challenge to the training cadre in their preparation for combat.
By May 1967, the detachment was operating in three locations of II Corps area of operation. Jackson Hole, the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry, Bam me Thuot with the 155th Combat Assault Helicopter Company and out of Camp Holloway itself. At Jackson Hole and Bam Me Thuot the pathfinder's provided air trafic control at these sites and also pathfinders were being forward deployed with infantry company or battalion establishing new fire support bases or resupply missions.
November 1967, the detachment was challenged by providing support by establishing, coordinating, and operating all the air to ground resupply missions to both the 1st Brigade of the 4th Infantry and the 173rd Seperate Brigade (Airborne) during the battle of Dak To. Which at the same time providing pathfinder support to Bam Thuot and a new brigade fire support base located at the Oasis.
31 January 1968 TET Offensive begin the following morning seven pathfinders were ordered by the 52nd Battalion Commander to assist the 57th AHC at Kontum in securing their perimeter for the next eight days while other pathfinders provided support for Dak To, Oasis and Bam Me Thuot. During the year 1968, the pathfinder role was expanded by Major Robert Morrison, the 189th Assault Helicopter Company Commander. Major Morrison where and whenever his aircraft were deployed on combat assault or extraction a pathfinder team would be on the ground to provide air to ground assistance.
On 25 November 1968, the battalion was reorganized and redsignated as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion. In 1970 spearheaded flight support for the NE Cambodian operations. It left Vietnam on 28 April 1972.
It was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 52nd Aviation Battalion on 21 June 1979. It was again reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion on 16 October 1987 then inactivated in Korea 16 October 1988. It was redesignated as the 52nd Aviation, a parent regiment under the United States Army Regimental System on 16 January 1996.
1 LTC Roy E. Appleman, Escaping the Trap; The US Army X Corps in Northeast Korea, 1950, College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1990.
2 LTC John U. D. Page Medal of Honor Narration.
3 Appleman, Escaping the Trap; Billy C. Mossman, Ebb and Flow; November 1950-July 1951, Washington, DC: Center of Military History, 1990.
4 Appleman, Escaping the Trap.
5 Appleman, Escaping the Trap.
6 Page MOH Narration; Appleman, Escaping the Trap; “Springing the Chosin Reservoir Trap,” LTC Roy E. Appleman Papers, US Army Historical and Education Center.
7 Appleman, Escaping the Trap.