Jim Davidson: Vietnam Veteran
Jim was called to service in December of 1965. After prequalifying for Warrant Officer Pilot Training School, Jim entered service in New York and soon was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana for Basic Training. Upon completion of Basic Training Jim went on to Fort Wolters, Texas for Basic Helicopter Training. After successfully completing Basic Helicopter School. Jim was assigned to Fort Rucker , Alabama for advanced training where he was instrument rated and taught basic tactics for UH1 Hueys. On December 6, 1966 Jim was awarded his wings as a Warrant Officer 1.
Jim was assigned a Tour of Duty to Vietnam and arrived in January of 1967. He was assigned to 1st Air Cavalry, 229th Aviation Battalion, C Company as a Hughey Troop Ship Commander. A “Slick”. His assignment was to insert and extract troops in the Central Highlands and Coastal areas of An Kea and the Bong Son region. During the tour, Jim racked up 1000 hours of combat flying.
Upon completion of his tour, Jim rotated back to Fort Rucker, Texas where he assumed duties as an Instrument Training Instructor from 1968-1969. While an Instructor, Jim requested an AH1G Cobra Transition at Fort Stewart in Savannah Georgia. The request was granted and he began training for a Cobra Rating. While in training Jim received a direct commision to 1st Leutenant. Before completion of training, 1st Luetenant Davidson was requested along with 7 specially selected pilots to join Lt. Colonel James Booth for assignments with the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, as a part of the 1st Air Cavalry. They were selected because of their skills and experience for special assignment in Cambodia and Laos. As a Cobra commander Jim was back in Southeast Asia. Jim continued combat duty in a Cobra but also saw duty as a Loach pilot as part of Hunter/Killer teams. Loach pilots would fly their aircraft into suspected hot areas to draw fire so that the hovering gunship could take out the hostile fire activity in the zone. The Loach pilot was basically bait.
In 1970, the recently appointed Captain Davidson was on Loach duty as a part of an operation in Cambodia when his aircraft came under hostile fire. His helicopter was incapacitated by ground fire and went down in enemy territory. Jim and his two crew members were now under attack on the ground. Although unhurt, the three were avoiding the enemy for 4 hours while two gunships fired at the hostile forces.
After 4 hours of evasive action, a “Hot Extraction” was made by a Huey after 4 attempts under the protection of the gunships. Jim returned to duty with a new helicopter the following day. His helicopter was recovered and 52 bullet holes were counted in the aircrafts fuselage. Loach pilots had a history of 60-70% casualty rate. Jim is proud of his record of no casualties under his supervision.
After two tours in Vietnam, Jim had logged 2100 hours of combat hours and
participated in 6 of the 17 Campaigns in Vietnam.
In July of 1970 Jim rotated back to the States and began training in Armor School. Upon completion of school, Jim was assigned to Europe where he served as an Executive Officer, a Commanding Officer and an Operations Officer for Cavalry Troops for 3 years.
Jim completed his military career in Alaska in 1973 after packing a lifetime of experience into 8 years of Army life.
During Jim's career in the Army, he was recognized with the following citations:
Vietnam Service Ribbon
Vietnam Campaign Ribbon
National Defense Medal
Air Medal with a V (Valor)
Air Medal with 57 Oak Leaf Clusters ( 57 Air Medals)
2 Bronze Stars
3 Distinguished Flying Crosses
Purple Heart Recipient
While serving his second tour in Vietnam in 1969, Jim Davidson was assigned to Quan Loi Base as a helicopter pilot. The base was subject to hostile fire at times but at the time of Jim Davidson’s injury there was a more aggressive attack on the base which resulted in a mortar attack and intense hand to hand combat with enemy troops. During this firefight Jim was struck by shrapnel in his leg by incoming mortar fire. After tense and violent fighting, the American troops successfully pushed the hostile forces back . Jim was treated for his leg wound at the base after which he continued his assignment as a combat helicopter pilot.
Southern California Quilts of Valor was honored to present to Jim his Quilt of Valor
Submitted by Barbara Winkler