"Doc" William Horner and "Pineapple" 1970
Doc Horner remembers:
"I had just come in from road security.
Piney was on perimeter guard that day."

Welcome to the Blue Tiger Home Page

The Blue Tigers of Delta Troop, 3/17th Air Cavalry served in Vietnam from October 1967 to April 1972. We were a cavalry reconnaissance troop. Our parent organization, the 3rd Squadron of the 17th Air Cavalry, was an independent air cavalry squadron with a TO&E of three air cavalry troops and one ground cavalry troop.

The Blue Tigers' main duty in Vietnam was to serve in the reconnaissance arm of II Field Force, Vietnam. IIFFV was the corps-level command for all combat divisions and brigades in III Corps. We worked directly for IIFFV from December 1967 to May 1971.

Delta Troop was II Field Force, Vietnam's cavalry reconnaissance and security force. In addition, IIFFV teamed its dedicated ranger company with a Blue Tiger reaction force platoon, giving IIFFV its own independent intelligence-gathering capability. After the IIFFV ranger company was withdrawn from Vietnam in April 1970, Delta Troop added long-range reconnaissance to its repertoire.

On occasion, II Field Force, Vietnam farmed out the Blue Tigers to IIFFV's subordinate combat brigades and divisions. Delta Troop was OPCON to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, the 11th ACR, the 1st Cavalry Division, the 9th Infantry Division and the 25th Infantry Division at various times for short-term reconnaissance missions.

The Army did not waste much paper keeping track of the Blue Tigers in Vietnam. II Field Force, Vietnam kept no known records of Delta Troop's activities beyond a few notes in an obscure document known as the IIFFV G-3 Duty Officer's Log. Furthermore, even though the squadron's troops served with many different combat brigades and divisions on temporary assignment, the Army historians assigned to divisions during the war wrote mainly about the division's organic units, only occasionally noting the presence of the Blue Tigers.

The result is that there are few public records of Delta Troop's activities, with large gaps of time unaccounted for. We have taken on the task of filling the gaps in the record from private records. We started with goal of writing a month-to-month calendar of Delta Troop in Vietnam. We have achieved that goal, and gone beyond it.

Our sources are our brothers-at-arms, like Bob Bennett who saved a mimeographed squadron newsletter, like Bill DeMusey whose mother saved a letter written home from Vietnam, and like a dozen other Blue Tiger veterans who saved photos and memories. We have been very careful to verify all statements with at least second-party confirmation (third-party confirmation is often possible) before publishing any piece of our history, because accuracy is our duty. The true story of Vietnam is a long, strange trip all by itself. We do not need to muddy the waters further with inaccuracy or embellishment.

This page is a gateway to the words and photographs of men who were there. We hope that any Delta Trooper who surfs across these pages will drop us an email, if just to say "hi". There is no history of Delta Troop unless we write it. Your contribution, maybe just a photo or letter, is unique and important to that history.

You can email the webmaster Bill Nevius for more information about the pages.

Delta Troop Pages

(You can use the Site Map to find a specific page quickly)

Delta Troop's history in Vietnam is so complex that it is difficult to see the jungle for the trees. This section details the chronology of Delta Troop in Vietnam, defines the relationship between Delta Troop and II Field Force, Vietnam, shows Delta Troop's Area of Operation, and compares Delta Troop's Vietnam experience with an ideal air cavalry deployment. It also contains twenty-eight articles by Charlie Black of the Columbus (Ga) Enquirer on the various troops of the 3/17th.

The Delta Troop Roster 1967-1972 and the Delta Troop Honor Roll. John Dungan maintains the list of all the men who served with Delta Troop during the Vietnam War. Find a friend, or add a name.

John Dungan, Jasper McElwee, and John Beauchamp trained with D Troop in the United States, got on the boat, and were among the first-to-arrive in Vietnam. These guys really know the inside story of the early Delta Troop history in Vietnam.

Bob Bennett and Randy Condos saved a whole bunch of stuff from their tours with Delta Troop. Take a look at a Hawk magazine article about Delta Troop, a "yearbook" about the Blue Tigers from mid-1969, and a few articles about Delta Troop in December 1969 from a 3/17th rag called the "Redhorse Review".

Bob Bennett, Bill DeMusey, and Don Miller are teamed together again after thirty years in this tour de force of Delta Troop in 1970. Bob Bennett's Redhorse Reviews, Bill DeMusey's letters home, Don Miller's pictures, and Bob Bennett's six pages of photos tell us what happened, and who did it, in 1970.

Jerry Smith, Rick Dormeyer, Sterling Withers, Andy Hicks, Chris Halasz, Thomas McGuire, Billy McCall, and Bill Nevius joint-ventured these pages. The result is a series of photo essays on the life of a cavalryman in Vietnam. It is a unique collection of photographs, showing how we spent most of our time.

Ray Cormier and Mark Aaron, HHT, 3/17th Air Cav, write the final chapter for Delta Troop in Vietnam. Ray provides the final After Action Report for Delta Troop in Vietnam - one thousand six hundred and ten days after the Troop arrived in Vietnam. Mark tells the story of Delta Troop coming home - drunk, disorderly, and dispirited. I guess there is not much more to say. Unless it is to reflect a bit on the legacy of the words and expressions that came out of Vietnam. (Contains graphic language, unsuitable for minors)

The Blue Tiger Tradition

Delta Troop's Maroon Beret

The 3/17th Air Cavalrymen have always had a penchant for distinctive headgear. In fact, the 3/17th Air Cavalry started the Cavalry Stetson tradition at Ft. Benning in 1964:

The most distinctive uniform item worn by air cavalrymen in Vietnam was the Cav hat. This tradition is believed to have been originated in early 1964 by LTC John B. Stockton (Commander of 3/17 Cavalry) at Fort Benning, Georgia. The hat was adopted in an effort to increase esprit de corps in the new air cavalry squadron and was meant to emulate the look of the 1876 pattern campaign hat worn by cavalry troopers long ago. Once units deployed to Vietnam, the custom slowly spread to other air cavalry units, and by the cessation of hostilities, virtually all air cav (and some ground cav) units had adopted the Cav hat. (Source: ("The Stetson Cavalry Hat")

Delta Troop carried the tradition of distinctive headgear in the air cavalry a step further. The Secretary of the Army authorized D Troop to wear a maroon beret in September 1967 at Fort Knox, just before the troop shipped to Vietnam. The Army reauthorized the Blue Tigers to wear the beret in Vietnam in June, 1970. The Blue Tigers wore the maroon beret throughout the Vietnam War.

One reason the Blue Tigers sought authorization to wear the maroon beret was that they were prohibited from wearing the Cavalry Stetson that the other troops of the 3/17th wore. Delta Troop's relations with the other 3/17th troops never fully recovered from the insult. Another reason for the beret was to mark the elite training Delta Troop underwent in the U.S. prior to shipping to Vietnam. While the other 3/17th troops trained in 1967 to bring helicopters to combat in Vietnam, Delta Troop trained in Ranger and Special Forces camps for the ground reconnaissance. The troop trained at the Ranger camp in Dahlonega, GA, and with the 19th Special Forces Group in West Virginia.

How well the Blue Tigers were trained was evident when the unit was sent to Dahlonega, Ga. for five days of practical application of Ranger techniques. D Troop was given a set of practical problems to solve during modified war games. The Blue Tigers not only solved the problems, but beat the special forces unit at their own game. The men were awarded the Special Forces red beret for their accomplishments in Georgia. (Hawk Magazine, a publication of the 1st Aviation Brigade, February, 1970)

John Dungan, one of the 1967-1968 Blue Tigers, remembers the specific events in the United States that led to Delta Troop being authorized its red beret:

This is the story as I remember it.

All the troops were training in their own field and cross training in their special areas. As for Delta Troop, we were the ground troops of the 3/17th Air Squadron. You might say "We were the eyes and ears of the Combat Arms", as they said in Armor Training in AIT. However, we were a different unit than the one we trained for in AIT. We had infantry, mortar, and armored scouts in the troop, and we had to train as one unit. We were not sure what we were. We knew we had to depend on each other to fulfill our mission, so we cross-trained in each other’s MOS.

After several months together getting the training down to a science, we moved on to more challenging training. We went to Atterbury, Indiana and trained with the rest of the 3/17th Air Cavalry Squadron. A,B, and C Troops flew missions against us, and we attacked them in return. Everyone knew we were in a serious game, and each troop had its share of victories and share of mistakes during training.

After Atterbury, Indiana, we conducted training exercises in the Mountain Ranger Camp in Dahlonega, Georgia. Then we moved to Camp Dawson, West Virginia to train with the West Virginia National Guard and elements of the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the West Virginia National Guard. An incident in this training is where the Red Beret started.

We took our training very seriously. We played to win. Losing to the opponent was not in our blood. On one mission, the Special Forces told us they were going to kick our ass. Our blood boiled. We had some real knock-down, drag-out firefights. We took our jeeps to places no average person would go. The infantry and mortar teams supported the armored scouts, and we would call fire missions in on the Berets.

However, our procedures were not getting the job done because the Green Berets did not play by the rules. As a result, we decided it was time for a different mission - No Rules! We set up an ambush for the Special Forces Group, and we captured one of the SF’s. We tied him to a tree, left him naked and took his beret.

In doing that, we were treading on dangerous ground. The Green Berets’ blood was up. After much strong discussion between the 3/17th and the Special Forces, things only got worse. Later that night, someone from the Special Forces stole our D Troop guidon.

The next morning, Top mustered the troop. After he chewed us out for the Green Beret ambush, he added that we just might make it in Vietnam yet. Then he marched us over to the Special Forces Headquarters, and we called them out. Top told them to have his guidon back in front of his tent by the next morning. If they did not, Top told them that we were going to level their camp. He gave the command and we marched back to our campsite.

The next morning the flag was back were it belonged. However, we kept the green beret we had captured for outdoing the Special Forces that day.

After returning to Fort Knox, we got to thinking about all the training we had completed. We had Ranger training and had trained against the Special Forces, but we had nothing to show for it. We knew we could not wear a Ranger Tab or Special Forces patch. We respected the Rangers and Special Forces, knowing that they earned every bit of respect they trained for. We felt the same way. We were proud of what we had accomplished. So we approached our CO and Top to see if we could get our own berets.

We still had the green beret we had captured. We found the beret maker’s name on the inside of the beret. We sent off a letter to the company to see if we could get a beret of our own to wear. We decided on the red color because we were told that red was the color worn by the first Beret’s in England.

While in the States, we were not allowed to wear the Beret until it was approved. Just before we were to ship out for Viet Nam, we got approval to wear the Red Berets. The rest of the Squadron had approval to wear the Stetson cavalry hats. It seemed right because we all trained hard for a mission that was about to be placed upon us. This is what I remember of the beginning of the berets and cavalry hats in the 3/17th Air Cav.

- - - John Dungan - BlueTiger 67/68

Delta Troop shipped to Vietnam wearing the maroon beret, and wore it throughout the war. Orders reauthorizing the unit's distinctive cover were issued in 1970 in Vietnam. It was reported in the squadron's newspaper that:

June 2 [1970] was another red-letter day for the Blue Tigers, for they were once more authorized to proudly wear the red beret. This mark of distinction was initially awarded to D Troop in early 1967 when they went through an intensified period of Ranger Training at Dahlonega, Georgia, before departing for RVN. At the end of the training, the Tigers were given a set of tactical field problems to solve. They not only solved the problems in record time, but broke many records held by the training committee there. For their outstanding job, Delta Troop was awarded the Special Forces Red Beret. Since that time, the Tigers have continued to perform in a manner upholding to the Red Beret. (Redhorse Review, a 3/17th Air Cavalry publication, July 1970)

The Blue Tigers were always proud of their distinctive maroon berets. On the rare occasions when the troop's platoons were brought together for a stand-down and a party in Vietnam, the Blue Tigers recognized distinguished guests with the honorary award of the Red Beret:

  • The middle of the month [of March 1970] brought all Blue Tigers together for the first time in six months. It was a time of gay festivities, renewed acquaintances, and all the beer or soda one desired. A band and live female entertainment gave the men a chance to forget all worries and have a good time. As a conclusion to the party, LTC Gordon T. Carey of Belair, Maryland, commander of the 3/17 Air Cav, was welcomed as an honorary Blue Tiger and presented with the Red Beret. (Redhorse Review, a 3/17th Air Cavalry publication, April 1970)

  • After the Cambodian invasion, Col. John C. Hughes brought a congratulatory cake to the Blue Tigers, and was presented a Blue Tiger maroon beret. The July 1970 Redhorse Review said: "The highlight of the Tigers' stay in the area came on June 25, when Colonel John C. Hughes' (commanding officer, 12th Aviation Group, Combat) Corn Cob 6 chopper landed at FSB Rob. Colonel Hughes brought a large cake with the words, 'Well Done Blue Tigers' written on the top. He also had congratulations from Lt. General Michael S. Davison, II Field Force commander. LTG Davison recognized the men for their outstanding performance and record in the area".

Col. Hughes (seen here with his new beret about 45 degrees clock-
wise from correct) with Capt. Bryner, Blue Tiger 6, at the field party.
Photo from the Bob Bennett Collection

The Blue Tigers of Delta Troop retired the maroon beret after the troop was deactivated at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1972. When the 3/17th Cavalry was reactivated in the mid-1980's, the ground cavalrymen of the squadron became the Apaches of A Troop, 3/17th, and they donned the Cavalry Stetson that the entire squadron wears today.

The Blue Tiger Legacy


The Apaches of Alpha Troop At the Draper Award Ceremony, Fort Drum, N.Y., 1999, above
The Blue Tigers of Delta Troop, Lai Khe, Vietnam, 1971, below

In 1999, officers and men of the current 3/17th Cavalry and the Vietnam veterans of the 3/17th Air Cavalry found a renewed interest in each other. Folks from the current 3/17th were interested in the history of the 3/17th, and they found our websites to be a good source of information about the air cavalry in Vietnam. For our part, we needed historical information available only in the squadron files, and we asked for some help in finding it.

A few emails and telephone calls found several more areas of common interest. Soon, we added coverage of today's 3/17th Cavalry to the Silver Spur, Burning Stogie, and Blue Tiger websites, and the current 3/17th created a museum at squadron headquarters to hold donated aritfacts and memorabilia from Vietnam.

The webmasters created the Greybeard Project as a focal point for both the current 3/17th and Vietnam veterans. It acknowledged the mutual interests of the two groups, and served well before September 11, 2001. After 9/11, the Greybeard Project was a conduit to get information from the troops to interested veterans. As soon as the Apaches shipped to Afghanistan, people involved in the Greybeard Project shipped CARE packages and children's Christmas cards to the men in the field.

Recently, the ground cavalry Apaches have been reassigned as part of Defense Department realignment, and the 3/17th is now all air cavalry. In response, the Greybeard Project has been superceded by a group of Silver Spur veterans who are building on the base that the Greybeard Project built. In spite of all the change, the mutual respect between the two groups of warriors remains. The current 3/17th honored the 3/17th Air Cavalry veterans by renaming the newly-helicoptered Alpha Troop as the Silver Spurs and by renaming the Desperadoes of Delta Troop as the Blue Tigers.


Click to find pages about who and what
the 3/17th U.S. Cavalry was in 1999-2003.

today's 3/17th

Click the logo to visit
today's 3/17th website.

The Greybeards

And the question inevitably arises, Who are these Greybeards? The answer is that they, too, were soldiers once and young. These days, they enjoy attending the occasional reunion, but they also spend a good deal of time finding some way to aid and assist our troops in the field.

John Dungan and Bob Bennett at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
for the Silver Spurs Veterans Day 2000 Reunion. Click here to see
more pictures of the Silver Spurs Veteran's Day 2000 Reunion
pictures from the Blue Tigers' point of view.

The graphics and intellectual property at this site are the private property of the donors exclusively, and are protected by copyright law. Any commercial or for-profit use without permission is illegal and is expressly denied. Not-for-profit, educational, and similar organizations may be granted use of material contained herein upon application to Bill Nevius.