March 09, 2011
Although not called to active duty for the Vietnam War, Delaware Army and Air Guard members fulfilled vital roles which made possible the heavy commitment of active forces there. From the start of the build-up in Vietnam, numbers of individual Delaware Guard members, especially aviators, volunteered for active duty.
The first unit contribution came in the fall of 1964, when the Army was testing the concept of the Airmobile Division in response to requirements from Vietnam. Since the Army had no active "Duster" units, Delaware's Second Battalion, 198th Artillery, was called on to support the Army's 82d Airborne Division in a full-scale field test of the concept. Successful results of the test led to the almost immediate organization of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and its deployment to Vietnam.
Late in 1965, the Delaware Air Guard began a regular schedule of cargo flights to Vietnam and operated several each month, in addition to its regular flights to Europe and the Caribbean. The Air Guard carried 60% of the cargo it would be expected to carry if it were an active unit in Federal service.
Early in 1966, a number of Army Guard enlisted specialists volunteered for six months service as instructors at Fort Bliss, Texas, when the Army found it lacked men capable of training new personnel on the intricacies of the M-42 "Duster". In this select force were seven Delaware units - the five batteries of the First Battalion, 198th Artillery, the 116 MASH, and the 1049th Transportation Company, comprising about one-third of the Delaware Army Guard strength. Other Delaware units contributed to their readiness by furnishing fully trained replacements to the Selected Reserve Force units when necessary.
Following the Viet Cong's Tet Offensive of January 1968, President Johnson and his political advisors debated various reserve mobilization plans, as requests for more troops poured in from Saigon. In April, the new Secretary of Defense announced the mobilization of 76 reserve component units.
Nationwide, thirty four Army Guard units with 12,234 personnel reported for active duty in May '68. Eight of these units, with 2,729 members, were deployed to Vietnam. An additional 4,311 were sent to the combat zone as fillers.