Sunday, December 31, 1989

The Fighting Aces

C Co. 2-34 Armor, traces its origins to the 34th Armor Regiment, which was formed on Oct. 1st, 1941 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The 34th Armor Regiment was initially assigned to the 5th Armored Division. When the United States entered WWII after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the 5th Division moved to Camp Cooke, California to defend the west coast against a possible Japanese invasion. When the invasion didn’t materialize, the 5th Armored moved to Camp Irwin, in the Mojave Desert, to train in desert operations for deployment to North Africa to battle Field Marshal Rommel’s Afrika Korps. In 1942, after months of training, the Division moved to Mcminville, Tennessee and began training on river crossings in preparation for a European theater mission. Tankers that had been battling the dust and heat of the Mojave only weeks before were now encountering mud and snow as their main adversary.

In July of 1943 the Division moved to Pine Camp, N.Y. to prepare for overseas movement. On 20 Sept. 1943, the 34th Armor was broken up and reorganized. The 1st Battalion consisting of Companies A, B and C were designated as the 772nd Tank Battalion under the command of LTC Richard Jones. The present 2-34 Armor would derive from Co. B, 772 Tank Bn. From Sept. of 1943 to January of 1945, the Battalion continued to train at numerous posts throughout the United States.

On 26 Jan. 45, the 772nd loaded its Sherman and Stuart tanks on the “SEA ROBIN” and set sail for France. Arriving at L’Harve on 8 February the Battalion began rolling east to the front. On the 24th of March, the Battalion was attached to the 44th Infantry Division. Three days later, the Battalion crossed the Rhine and participated in the final push into the heart of Hitler’s Thousand year Reich; and C Company led the Division’s attack on Mannheim, Germany. From the 29th of March to the 30 of April, the Battalion thundered across Germany, destroying all resistance they encountered. By the end of the war the Battalion halted its move near the town of Tarrenz, Austria and began occupation duties until the 26th of June.

Returning stateside, the 772nd Tank Bn. Was inactivated at Camp Shelby, Mississippi on 14 November, 1945. From 1945 to 1963, the Battalion went through numerous re-designations and changes. On 1 October 1963, the 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor was officially activated at Ft. Irwin, California as part of the 4th Infantry Division.

On 3 August, 1966 the battalion alerted for movement to the Republic of South Vietnam. Arriving at Vung Tau on 10 September, C Company began conducting limited operations with the 173rd Airborne. The company participated in numerous operations in the III Corps area while still staying close to the Battalion HQ at Long Binh. In 1967, the company began to participate in larger combined arms operations while being detached from the Battalion. Operation Junction City, which immediately followed Operation Cedar Falls, would begin the start of a legend.

On the night of Feb 28 to March 1st, C Company held off a 6 hour attack from a determined Viet Cong Battalion. The next morning the C.O. told the soldiers to place “ace” of spades cards on the dead VC as a symbol of death. The VC feared the symbol of the spade and their buddies would find these cards. This idea quickly caught on and the “Fighting Aces,” were born. The company also began the tradition of stenciling the Ace of Spades on their tank turrets. This was to serve as a warning to the enemy, that when they saw these spades, death was coming.

Only weeks later on March 21st, The Fighting Aces again distinguished itself in combat. Working with the Battalion in search and destroy operations near the former village of Soui Tre, the recently established Firebase Gold came under attack from the 272nd VC main force regiment. In a pitched 4-hour battle the Fighting Aces turned an enemy victory into a defeat and the Presidential Unit Citation was awarded to both the Dreadnaught Battalion and the Fighting Aces.

The Fighting Aces would stay in the III Corps area for the remainder of 1967. On the eve of the Tet Offensive, the Fighting Aces began a series of attacks that took it away from the Dreadnaught Area of Operations and to the DMZ in the I Corps sector, over 800 miles away. For the remainder of their time in Vietnam, the “Fighting Aces” would be attached to various units including the 101st Airborne Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 5th Infantry Division, and the 3rd Marine Division. Most of their time was spent after 1968 with the 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry. Working the northern area of Vietnam as road security, convoy escorts, stationary pillboxes and occasionally being sent on search and destroy or clearing operations.

The highlight of working in I Corps was that C Company was the first armor unit to roam free in the infamous Ashau valley after a road was established into NVA country along the Laotian border. The Fighting Aces were present at the battle of “Hamburger Hill,” but were held in reserve. In 1970, the Company departed Vietnam and returned stateside to rejoin the rest of the battalion at Ft. Carson, Colorado. Here they traded in their aging M48A5s for new M60A1s.

From 1970 to 1987 the Fighting Aces participated in numerous REFORGER exercises, NTC rotations and occasional humanitarian assistance missions as part of the 3rd Bde, 4th I.D. (M). In 1987, the Dreadnaught battalion was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (M) at Ft. Riley, Kansas.

For the next three years, the company would continue to train for combat. Their M60A3 tanks were replaced by the M1-IP with the 105mm in 1989. On September 2nd 1990 war clouds again loomed on the horizon when Iraq invaded its small neighbor Kuwait in a border dispute. For the third time in the last 45 years, the Dreadnaughts were on the move. When the call came on Nov.8, 1990 The Fighting Aces were ready. Arriving in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 1st 1991, the company began training for desert combat and received brand new M1A1s with the 120mm smoothbore cannons. When Desert Storm began on Jan. 16, 1991, The Fighting Aces had taken up positions along the border with Kuwait. On the 24th of Feb., after weeks of training and rehearsing, the Fighting Aces were selected above every other unit in the First Infantry Division to lead the division’s attack into Kuwait.

Initial resistance was light but on the evening of the 26-27 of Feb. the “Fighting Aces” fought in the battle to seize Objective Norfolk, in which TF Dreadnaught completely destroyed two Battalions of the Iraqi Republican Guard’s “Tawakalana” Division. When the cease fire went into effect, The Fighting Aces acted as part of General Schwartzkopf’s guard force at Safwan. The Fighting Aces redeployed to Ft. Riley on May 8th, 1991.

For the next fourteen years, the company would focus on deploying and training in its newly designated area of operations: Korea. The Dreadnaught battalion was to be the tip of the spear if US forces were attacked. The company deployed numerous times to the National Training Center and to Foal Eagle, a deployment exercise that took them to Korea annually.

On the Sixth of January, 2005 the Fighting Aces boarded aircraft once again and headed to Kuwait. They and their tanks arrived in-country (Iraq) on the 23rd of January, 2005. The “Fighting Aces” continue as a living legacy to our predecessors who fought on the battlefields of Europe, the jungles of Vietnam and those who came before us in the desert sands of Kuwait and Iraq. No matter where our country may call us to fight, the men of The Fighting Aces remain loyal to the unit and each other to survive and accomplish the mission.

After 34 years, we continue to honor our motto: C Company, 2-34 Armor, “Fighting Aces: An Ace until death”.

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