The Freedom Shield

The 191st Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam

Maj. John D Falcon

Veteran accounts of assault helicopter actions at the height of the Vietnam War.
Date Published :
April 2020
Publisher :
Illustration :
20 images
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612008608
Pages : 384
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Arresting accounts of flying troops into hot LZs and medevacking the wounded under fire in Vietnam from a pilot who was there.

The Freedom Shield brings together stories of veterans of the 191st Assault Helicopter Company, tasked with carrying troops into battle, attacking enemy positions and evacuating the wounded in their UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" helicopters. The unit was assembled from a hodgepodge selection of hand-me-down aircraft, used equipment and overlooked personnel—its appearance belied the invaluable work the crews of the 191st would undertake during the Vietnam War. This narrative of the Company, told through collected stories of veterans, defines a breed of soldier newly minted in Vietnam: the combat assault-helicopter crewman.

The 191st pilots, crews, and support personnel vividly share the details of what it was like to be at war, forced to rely on your fellow crewmembers for your own survival. Their accounts of helicopter combat at the height of the Vietnam conflict accurately recreate the sights and sounds of the battlefields, the fear and horror of watching close friends torn to pieces, their feelings on returning to base. Their message is infinitely clear: 'The price of freedom is painful.'

About The Author

Major John D. Falcon achieved field-grade rank in the US Army and retired as a major stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia. He commanded Army units in several different countries, including the United States, and served as a Vietnam War helicopter pilot, flying over five hundred combat missions. In retirement he lived alongside his high school sweetheart and wife, Irma, and remained near their son, Christopher, and daughter, Monica, on a farm in South Georgia. He considered his tour of duty with the 191st Assault Helicopter Company the most memorable assignment of his Army career.


Chapter 1: Ben Tre—A Bloody Fight
Chapter 2: Birth of the Assault Helicopter Company
Chapter 3: Patnode Commanding
Chapter 4: Combat Ready
Chapter 5: Airmobile Schemes
Chapter 6: The Load Bearers
Chapter 7: A Combat Assault from Lead’s Cockpit
Chapter 8: Lethal Climate
Chapter 9: Night Sampan Ambush
Chapter 10: Human Wave VC Attack
Chapter 11: Tet Offensive: The Communist Buildup
Chapter 12: The Tet Offensive Begins
Chapter 13: New Bounty Hunter Six Enters the Fight
Chapter 14: Griggs Commanding
Chapter 15: Crew Trust
Chapter 16: Maintenance Crew Crash
Chapter 17: Petric Commanding
Chapter 18: Quiet but Deadly
Chapter 19: The Hardest Blow
Chapter 20: Schmidt Commanding
Chapter 21: Battle at Ap My Thuan
Chapter 22: The Natural
Chapter 23: Mental Impacts of War
Chapter 24: Conner Commanding with Bearden as Top
Chapter 25: Nighthawk Down
Chapter 26: The Final Call
Killed in Action
Index of Names


“The story of the 191st Assault Helicopter Company’s combat actions in Vietnam is one of heroism and dedication to duty. It is a vivid picture of young American soldiers full of P and V and the ‘want to’ needed to get the job done with bullets flying in all directions. An adrenaline rush is the order of the day. Read this book to gain new respect and admiration for the Vietnam-era veterans who fought in this unpopular war—they were truly magnificent!”

- Brigadier General John C. “Doc” Bahnsen, Author of American Warrior: A Combat Memoir of Vietnam

“An amazing story of perseverance and will. The author accurately chronicles how the 191st Assault Helicopter Company was assembled, during the haste of the Vietnam buildup, with secondhand equipment and filler personnel to become a crown jewel among aviation units in battle. A true testament of American mettle that we all still admire and envy.”

- COL Alan B. Renshaw

“This is a refreshing new perspective of the men inside the Hueys, who played such an important role in the conduct of the Vietnam War. How frequently the victorious accounts of combat units in Vietnam failed to credit the pilots and crews who risked everything so ground forces could do their job. Countless narratives mention these warriors only as inanimate objects. . . . This book speaks of the flesh and blood of those who flew those missions.”

- COL Paul Patton Winkel Jr.

“A riveting firsthand account of a combat assault-helicopter company in Vietnam. The book provides an invaluable number of Vietnam lessons learned, which flared up again in the more recent desert wars. A must read for aviators and commanders of combat units.”

- COL Francis W. Matthews

“The author brings you up close and personal to the human side of helicopter warfare and the heart-wrenching fears and pains felt by the pilots and crews. A well-written account of how the tactical employment of airmobile assets can provide battlefield solutions as well as failures. Honest rendition of some intelligence and communications failures that resulted in extensive collateral damage on assaulting forces. Provides an extraordinary insight for ground commanders preparing for airmobile combat.”

- COL John J. McGinn

“Climb into the cockpit with 191st Assault Helicopter Company Huey pilots and experience combat assaults firsthand. Feel what it was like . . . flying into the Vietnamese jungle, never sure what might be waiting. Imagine yourself being one of the several sitting-duck ground targets receiving incoming small-arms fire while waiting for troops to load or unload. Nobody leaves the LZ till the last ship is ready. Listen to the clatter of the M60 door guns and the music of the lumbering Charlie-model gunships close overhead, pouring welcomed suppressive fire into the hostile tree lines, allowing the slicks to escape once more . . . usually.”

- COL Dennis L. Butler

"Readers will truly understand the nature of combat at the tactical level during intense engagements and ordinary missions that abruptly became life-and-death struggles."

- The VVA Veteran

"...a useful example of how veterans make sense of their service decades later."

- On Point: The Journal of Army History

"The book was written in a third-person style that generates an easily readable story complete with shoot-‘emups, heroes, screw-ups, and everything and everybody in-between, but it still accomplishes the goal of illuminating the unit’s significant combat contributions."

- Air Power History

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