Operation Chopper occurred on January 12, 1962 and was the first time US forces participated in major combat in the Vietnam War.
In December of 1961, the USNS docked in Saigon with 82 US Army Piasecki H-21 helicopters. A little more than 12 days later, Operation Chopper commenced.
The helicopters transported over 1,000 South Vietnamese paratroopers for an assault on a suspected NLF stronghold 10 miles west of Saigon. The Viet Cong were surprised and soundly defeated, but they gained valuable combat experience they would later use with great effect against US troops. The paratroopers also captured a sought-after underground radio transmitter.
This operation heralded a new era of air mobility for the U.S. Army, which had been slowly growing as a concept since the Army formed twelve helicopter battalions in 1952 as a result of the Korean War. These new battalions eventually formed a sort of modern day cavalry for the Army.
In the first use of the recently-arrived U.S. helicopters, Operation Chopper lifts about 1,000 South Vietnamese paratroopers to an assault on a suspected Viet Cong headquarters about 10 miles west of Saigon.
This was the VC's first large scale engagement with helicopter borne combat troops, which occurred in 1962. Helicopter warfare WAS NEW to the world. Airborne Infantrymen (paratroopers) were born during WWII, the US Army experimented with the new concept of "Airmobile" (helicopter borne) Infantrymen during the early stages of the Vietnam War. By the time of the Ia Drang Battle in 1965 (see film: "We Were Soldiers...), the doctrine of Airmobile Divisions were now validated, and the US Army's 1st Cavalry Division became the 1st Air Cavalry Division. Later, the 101st Airborne Division would become the 101st Airborne (Airmobile) Division. The 101st Airborne was allowed to retain it's "Airborne" tab (above the shoulder patch Eagle's head), instead of replacing it with the "Airmobile" tab.
The Vietnam War