69th Armor Unit Crest

69th Armored Regiment Unit History

Written By

Jim Walker, 1LT Company A 1st Bn 69th Armor

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The 69th Armored Regiment was constituted on 15 July, 1940 in the Regular Army and initially assigned to the lst Armored Division. It was reassigned to the 6th Armored Division in February, 1942 where it remained until September of 1943 when elements of the Regiment were broken up and reassigned. The Regimental Headquarters and lst Battalion remained with the 6th Armored Div. as the 69th Tank Battalion; the 3rd Battalion was redesignated as 708th Amphibian Tank Bn. and participated in several key amphibious campaigns and distinguished itself on Okinawa where it was awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation.

Part of the 2nd Battalion was redesignated the 109th Amphibious Tank Battalion and also participated in key amphibious operations in the Pacific Theater, distinguishing itself at Saipan and Tinian by also winning the Navy presidential Unit Citation.

The 69th Tank Battalion participated in most of the major ETO actions and campaigns with the 6th Armored Division including Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. The unit was deactivated in 1946. Redesignated as the 69th Medium Tank Battalion in August 1950, it was again assigned to the 6th Armored Division. Subsequently inactivated in 1956, it was relieved from assignment from the 6th Armored Div.

The 708th Tank Battalion was subsequently reorganized and redesignated the 89th Medium Tank Battalion and reactivated in Korea in August, 1950. In Nov. 1951, it was again redesignated the 89th Tank Bn. and assigned to the 25th Infantry Div. The unit spearheaded no fewer than ten campaigns, from 1951 through the Armistice in 1953 with the 26th Div. and earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation.

The 89 Tank Bn. returned to Hawaii with the 25th Inf. Div. where it remained until deactivation in 1957.

With the inauguration of the regimental combat arms system, the formerly splintered elements of the 2nd Battalion were reconstituted into the regular Army as the 69th Armored Regiment. With the remaining elements of the 69th and the 89th Tank Battalions, the 69th Armored Regiment was redesignated the 69th Armor, a parent regiment under the new system.

LTC (MG Ret.) R.J. Fairfield assumed command of the lst Battalion, 69th Armor on 31 July, 1965. No stranger to the Regiment, LTC Fairfield saw previous service as Commanding Officer of A Company and as S3 of the 89th Tank Bn. in Korea in 1952.

The 1st Battalion was alerted to begin preparations for deployment to the Republic of Vietnam in December of 1965. Deployment commenced on 25 January, 1966 with the Battalion laying over in Okinawa to take over 52 new M48A3 tanks and familiarize crews with the new series radios. Contrasting with the old Battalion M48A2's, the new A3 models still featured the 90mm cannon, a M2HB, cupola mounted, .50 cal. machine gun and a 7.62, M72 coaxial machine gun. Moreover, it now boasted a Vl2 Continental Diesel engine which more than doubled the tank's combat range.

The Battalion shipped from Okinawa to Vietnam and, true to the policy at the time, was again fragmented with the Bn. Headquarters, trains, A and C companies going to Cu Chi with the main elements of the 25th Infantry Div. B Company proceeded to Pleiku and took up operations with the 3rd Bde. of the 25th Infantry.

The Battalion's first major combat operation took place in April, 1966 in the tangled jungle growth of the Hobo Woods and along the trails of the Filhol Rubber Plantation northwest of Saigon. This operation proved the value of Armor in reducing the number of friendly casualties while significantly increasing losses to the enemy. 69th Armor tankers learned on-the-job the importance of rear and flank security, the effect of canister in dense jungle, the exaggerated needs for constant maintenance halts and the value and down-sides of various OVM and equipment. The 52 ton M48A3 more than earned its stripes during this initial two week blooding and the unit set the example for future tactical employment of Armor.

Similarly, B Company's actions along the Plei Me/Duc Co corridor, paralleling the Cambodian border set the tone for future savage fighting Battalion elements would encounter in this critical area of enemy infiltration. 1st Platoon, B Company earned a Special Presidential Unit Citation in August, 1966 for their actions at LZ Victor, a small Korean enclave in the triple canopy jungles of the Ia Drang - Chu Pong mountain area.

LTC Fairfield was promoted and subsequently reassigned as command of 1/69th Armor passed to LTC Clyde O. Clark. The bulk of the Battalion was moved in May of 1966 to Qui Nhon via LST. Traveling overland along the infamous QL 19, the Battalion rejoined B Company at Pleiku, home of the 4th Infantry Division.

LTC Paul S. Williams, Jr. (LTG Ret.) took command of 1/69 Armor in March of 1967 and continued operations in support of the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Div. A Company was detached in March and moved to Qui Nhon and via LCI, to Bong Son where it was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) until October.

During this period of attachment, Alpha Company supported the three Sky Trooper brigades in combat operations along the South China Sea coast, distinguishing itself in the savage fighting for countless fortified village complexes in Binh Dinh province and the Bong Son plain area. For its actions and the extraordinary heroism of its soldiers, A Company was awarded the Valorous Unit Award.

A Company completed its mission with the lst Cav in October and returned to Camp Enari with Battalion HQ. Earlier, in September, the Battalion, along with other elements of the 3rd Bde. 25th Inf. Div. became part of the 3rd Bde., 4th Infantry Div in a swap of brigades in place. LTC William Grant assumed command of 1/69 Armor as the Battalion was given the mission of securing the primary routes of communication between Qui Nhon on the coast and Duc Co on the Cambodian border. These routes, Hwys 19E and W, and 14N and S, were notorious for ambush actions dating back to the French Indochina War of the 1950's. The Battalion was instrumental in keeping the roads open for resupply of units heavily engaged with the NVA during the Battle of Dak To in November, 1967.

During a route security/reaction force operation just prior to Tet, in January, 1968, SP5 Dwight Hal Johnson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.

1/69th Armor played a critical role in the defense of Pleiku, Kontum, Dak To and Hwy 19 during the Jan/Feb Tet offensive of 1968. The Battalion displaced its forward headquarters in March, from Hwy 14S to Camp Radcliff in An Khe, under the operational control of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and was again involved in fighting along the coastal plain near Bong Son. A Company was charged with the security of Hwy 19E between An Khe and Mang Yang Pass, and on 10 April, routed a regimental size ambush attempt on a convoy which effectively destroyed the NVA 95B battalion as a fighting force. Over 200 of the enemy were killed during this two day action with no U.S. KIA.

LTC Theodore Riggs took command of the Battalion in March prior to its move to An Khe. Meanwhile, B and C Companies were placed OPCON to the ROK "Tiger' Division, headquartered at Camp Townes, Qui Nhon, to support Operation Maeng Ho 1 1. B Company elements engaged units of the 18th and 22nd NVA Regiments, as well as the 2nd VC Main Force Regt. in heavy combat between 20 and 25 April in the area of Ky Son, inflicting over 100 KIA.

LTC (MG Ret) Stan R. Sheridan assumed command of 1/69 Armor in September, 1968 at LZ Uplift. The Battalion provided support to the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) along the Bong Son Plain and in the An Loa Valley. On October 18, 1968 the Battalion Forward HQ again moved, along with A and B companies, this time west to the area of the Oasis, HQ of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division along Highway QL19W, where they conducted numerous reconnaissance-in-force operations north and east of Duc Co. C company remained at LZ Uplift to support the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) and sent its 1st platoon to LZ Schueller to conduct operations along Highway QL19E in support of the 1st Battalion 50th Infantry (Mechanized). Also during this period, a provisional detachment of tanks from the line companies was detailed to support elements of the 101st Airborne Division and the 44th ARVN Regiment in the Phan Thiet - Song Mao area.

The Battalion continued operations east and west of Pleiku and along the coastal plain during 1969. B Company was given the mission of Rapid Reaction Force and route security between Dak To and the besieged Special Forces border camp of Ben Het. Bravo Company's lst Platoon, detailed to provide additional firepower to the SF camp, fought what was to be the only engagement between U.S. and NVA armor on the night of 3-4 March 1969. Obviously surprised by the presence of the U.S. tanks, the enemy fled the field after the B Company M48s destroyed several of the assaulting vehicles.

LTCs Leo M. Brandt, Donald J. Pagel and MAJ George Latturner each commanded 1/69th Armor for short periods, from April to December, 1969. The Battalion continued to support the 4th Infantry Division along the Highway QL19 corridor, from Qui Nhon to Duc Co during the period, where it fought hot actions in and around LZ Schueller, An Khe, Plei Djereng and Plei Me.

LTC James L. Marini took command in December, 1969 and continued operations until the Battalion stood down with the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division and returned to the U.S. in mid-1970. 1st Battalion, 69th Armor distinguished itself in fierce combat in all areas of its operations during over four years of deployment in the Republic of Vietnam. The unit and its component line companies were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Award, the Meritorious Unit Award, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the Vietnam Civic Action Award First Class. Individual soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor, several Distinguished Service Crosses, numerous Silver Stars and countless Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts for their extraordinary heroism in combat with the enemy. This selfless dedication to duty, to the Battalion and to themselves exemplifies the role of the soldiers of the 1/69th Armor in Vietnam and underscores the reasons why the lst Battalion, 69th Armor was honored as the most decorated tank battalion in the United States Army.

The lst Battalion was again reactivated and assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany in the mid 1970s. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions were assigned to Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, GA respectively. As part of the 197th Brigade (Separate), 2/69 Armor spearheaded the assault of the 24th Infantry Division into Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in February 1991. 3rd Bn 69th Armor similarly operated with the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) during Desert Storm. Both battalions continue to operate with the 24th Infantry Disivion (Mechanized) as part of the Rapid Deployment Force structure and have distinguished themselves both in armored combat and as key elements of the ready force of the U.S. Army.

The proud heritage of the Battalions of the 69th Armored Regiment continues, embodied in the exceptional professionalism and combat proficiency of today's Armor soldiers of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. Those brave men riding with the Black Panther continue to lead the way today, and into the 21st Century


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Creation Date: Thursday, April 5, 1996
Last Modified: Thursday, August 22, 1996
Copyright © Ray Smith, 1996