The 69th Armor Regiment was constituted on 15 July, 1940, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in the Regular Army and initially assigned to the 1st Armor Division. It was reassigned to the 6th Armor 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 1st Battalion remained with the 6th Armor Division as the 69th Tank Battalion; the 3rd Battalion was redesignated as the 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion and participated in most of the key amphibious assault campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations. It 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 PTO distinguishing itself at Saipan and Tinian and was also awarded the Navy Presidential Unit Citation.
The 69th Tank Battalion participated in most of the major ETO actions and campaigns with the 6th Armor Division including…Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. The unit was deactivated in 1946. Redisignated as the 69th Medium Tank Battalion in August, 1950 and reactivated in Korea. In November, 1951, it was again redesignated as the 89th Medium Tank Battalion and assigned to the 25th Infantry Division. The unit spearheaded no fewer than ten campaigns, from 1951 through the Armistice in 1953 with the 25th Division and earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation.
The 89th Medium Tank Battalion returned to Hawaii with the 25th Infantry Division 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 Armor Regiment. With the remaining elements of the 69th and 89th Tank Battalions, the 69th Armor Regiment was redisignated the 69th Armor, a parent regiment under the new system.
Lieutenant Colonel (Major General, Retired) R.J. Fairfield, Jr. assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 69th Armor on 31 July, 1965. No stranger to the Regiment, LTC Fairfield had seen previous service as Commanding Officer of A company and as S3 of the 89th Medium Tank Battalion 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, AN-GRC 12 radios. Contrasting with the old Battalion M48A2 vehicles, the new A3 models still featured the 90mm cannon, a M2HB cupola mounted .50 caliber machinegun and a 7.62mm, M72 coaxial machinegun. Moreover, it now boasted a V12 Continental Diesel engine which more than doubled the tank's combat range and significantly reduced the hazard of fire.
The Battalion shipped from Okinawa to Vietnam and, and true to the policy at the time, was fragmented, with the Battalion HQ, trains, A and C companies going to Cu Chi supporting the main elements of the 25 Division, while B Company joined the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Division in Pleiku.
A Company was committed within two hours of its disembarking from LSTs in Saigon, as a reaction force to combat in the Filhol Rubber Plantation west of Saigon.
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 again, 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 assorted 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 in Vietnam.
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 Central Highlands area of enemy infiltration.
1st Platoon, B Company earned a special Presidential Unit Citation in August, 1966 for their actions at LZ 27 Victor, a small Korean enclave in the triple canopy jungles of the Ia Drang-Chu Pong mountain area, where nine months earlier, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) fought savage battles with infiltrating North Vietnamese units.
LTC Fairfield was promoted and subsequently reassigned as command of 1/69 Armor passed to LTC Clyde O. Clark. The bulk of the Battalion was moved in May of 1966 to Qui Nhon via LST, then overland along the infamous QL (Highway) 19 to join B Company at Camp Enari near Pleiku, the home of the 4th Infantry Division.
LTC (Lieutenant General, Retired) Paul S. Williams, Jr. took command of 1/69 Armor in March of 1967 and continued operations in support of the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Company A was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division until October, 1967. During this period Alpha Company supported the three Sky Trooper brigades in heavy combat operations along the South China Sea coast, distinguishing itself in savage fighting against Main Force Viet Cong, 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 Citation.
A Company completed its mission with the 1st Cavalry in October, 1967 and returned to Camp Enari with Battalion HQ. Earlier, in September, the Battalion, along with the other elements of the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division became part of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division 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…on QL 19, between Qui Nhon on the coast and Duc Co on the Cambodian border; and on QL 14 between Dak To in the north to Ban Me Thout in the south. These routes were notorious for ambush actions dating back to the French Indochina War of the 1950s. The Battalion was instrumental in keeping these vital roads open for re-supply of units heavily engaged with the North Vietnames during the heavy battles around Dak To and Kontum in November, 1967.
During a reaction force operation just prior to Tet in January, 1968, Sp5 Dwight Hal Johnson, gunner on B11, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.
1/69 Armor played a critical role in the defense of Pleiku, Kontum, Dak To and Hwy 19 during the Jan/Feb. 1968 TET offensive. 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 Jiang 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. A Company had previously decimated this same unit in the streets of Pleiku during TET. Nearly 200 of the enemy were killed during this two day action with no U.S. KIA.
LTC Theodore S. Riggs took command of the Battalion in March, 1968, prior to its displacement to An Khe. Meanwhile, B and C Companies were placed OPCON to the Republic of Korea's 'Tiger' Division, headquartered near Qui Nhon at Camp Townes to support Operation Maeng Ho 11. B Company elements engaged units of the 18th and 22nd NVA Regiments, as well as the 2nd VC Main Force Regiment in heavy combat between 10 and 25 April in the area of Ky Son, inflicting over 100 enemy KIA.
LTC (MG Retired) Stan R. Sheridan assumed command of 1/69 Armor in September, 1968 as the Battalion forward HQ again moved, this time west to the area of the Oasis, HQ of the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division along QL 19W, conducting numerous reconnaissance-in-force operations north and east of Duc Co and along the Cambodian border. Also during this period, a provisional detachment of tanks taken from each line company, 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 west of Pleiku and along the coastal plain during 1969 with both the 4th Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. B Company was given the mission of reaction force and route security between Dak To and the besieged Special Forces border camp of Ben Het. Bravo Company's 1st 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 and 4 March. 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 PT 76b tanks and BTR50 fighting vehicles.
LTCs Leo M. Brandt, Donald J. Pagel and MAJ George Latturner each commanded the Battalion for short periods, from April to December, 1969. The Battalion continued to support the 4th Infantry Division along the Hwy 19 corridor, from Qui Nhon to Duc Co during the period, where it fought hot actions in and around LZ Schuller, 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. the 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 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, 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 1st Battalion, 69th Armor in Vietnam and underscores the reasons why the Battalion was honored as the most decorated tank battalion in United States Army history.
The 1st Battalion was again reactivated and assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany in 1975. It was subsequently deactivated in late 1991 with the Regimental Colors returning to the 2nd Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 2nd Battalion at Fort Benning, and the 3rd Battalion assigned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, were organic to the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). As part of the 197th Brigade (Separate), 2/69 Armor spearheaded the assault of the 24th Infantry Division and the 18th Airborne Corps into Iraq during Operation Desert Storm in February, 1991. 3/69 Armor similarly operated with the 24th Division during this massive assault.
Both Battalions have had subsequent deployments to the Kuwait desert in support of Coalition forces. 3/69 Armor has also deployed to Kosovo as part of KFOR and peace keeping operations in the former Yugoslav republics. Both battalions continue to operate with the now 3rd Infantry Division (following redesigination of the 24th)(Mechanized) as part of the Army's Rapid Deployment Forces and have distinguished themselves both in armored combat and as key elements of the ready force of the United States Army.
In July, 1994, a monument was erected and dedicated to the tank Soldiers of the 69th Armor Regiment, from all battalions, in Armor Memorial Park at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
In June, 1996, a M48A3 tank was obtained from Vietnam, refurbished and placed in the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox. It is one of only three in the U.S. and painted as B11, is a lasting memorial to the tankers of 1/69 Armor in Vietnam. The proud and valorous heritage of the Battalions of the 69th Armor 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 into the 21st Century as part of the Army's Heavy Force.
SPEED AND POWER