Pete Johnson – 1st cdr

Lawrence H. Johnson (Pete), Colonel, U.S. Army, former Commander, 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry, age 75, died January 14, 1999 in Destin FL. COL Johnson is survived by his wife, Muriel, and his son, Hank. Colonel Johnson activated, formed and trained the squadron at Fort Knox, KY in 1966 for deployment to Vietnam. He named our squadron, “RUTHLESS RIDERS”. Colonel Johnson was our first commander at Fort Knox and for our first year in Vietnam, 1967 to 1968. His cremated remains were buried in Barrancas National Cemetery, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, FL on May 14, 1999. Colonel Johnson retired in 1973.

Pete Johnson
Pete Johnson

UH1 Flown by Pete Johnson
UH1 Flown by Pete Johnson

A Day in the AO with the Squadron Commander, LTC Pete Johnson! (by Bob Young)

TET of February 1968 is a month old and this is a bright and beautiful day in March. Today “Ruthless 6” will join A Troop’s reconnaissance near Kontum. The mission is to gain contact with the enemy and capture prisoners. The squadron commander loaded up his crew, copilot Captain Bob Young, crew chief SP5 Michael Lill (below)and door gunner Mike Manger. This reconnaissance is flown low and slow on the treetops. The door gunners are the first lines of observation and defense in the C model. (Hank Johnson Photo)

Old 66-038, UH-1C, the command ship, didn’t have a strong engine. We never hovered at the required 6600 RPM. During the roll to takeoff we always got the low RPM warning prior to effective lift. Once in a dust out, the Colonel bleed it down to 5800 just before we made transition. He had the “touch”. The C model doesn’t fly well in the thinner air of the Pleiku highlands. Two 7.62mm gattling guns are mounted outboard. The door gunner and crew chief each man a M60 machine gun. A few weeks later at Ban Me Thout; I took a round in my arm flying 038. We were trying to stop the NVA from overrunning an American lead Vietnamese team. (Bob Young Photo)


Passing the city of Pleiku on the right. The foothills and mountains of Kontum and Dakto are ahead. Pleiku is a wild and western type of town on the edge of the Vietnamese influence. Reminds me of our old western towns of years ago. A little lawless and where almost everybody has a motorbike. Two years earlier there might have been only about 2 or 3 bikes in the whole town. The Vietnamese were, and still are, hard working and good people. (Bob Young Photo)

Passing a smoking fuel tanker on the road to Kontum. There is not much traffic on the road today. Something is going on and the locals are staying out of site. The engineers bulldozed the trees and brush away from the roads to help make ambushes more difficult. The brush piles probably made good ambush locations. The still smoking tanker sets next to one. It may have hit a mine that the NVA put out every night. (Bob Young Photo)

A US tank platoon and infantry squad in the defense waiting to be attacked! Armor is supposedly an offensive weapon used for high-speed break through to deep objectives. It is not designed to set and wait to be attacked. The NVA correctly used the speed and mobility of their armor in 1975 to move quickly onto Saigon and end the war. Do you think our tanks did much today? (Bob Young Photo)

Had to check the Kontum River on the way to the area. No river traffic today. What’s in the tree line? No wingman and on the way to join A Troop as a cavalry scout. (Bob Young Photo)

A Montagnard village with its buildings built off the ground. These are proud and independent people who live in the Central Highlands. Hunters and farmers who wear loincloths and the women go bare breasted. They make great wine, or so I’m told. They are the minority race and distrust the Vietnamese. In a land with so little, they get even less. Many are soldiers in American lead forces. (Bob Young Photo)

We are near the area of operations. A Troop has gained contact and is employing artillery, fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships. Looks like another good day for the Cavalry. (Bob Young Photo)

The fight or reconnaissance in force is really engaged and well under control of A Troop. The infantry will soon go in and gather up the materials and intelligence left behind. We will get a good ideal of what units are in the area and pass the information up to higher headquarters. The boss likes what he sees. He wants to look further out. (Bob Young Photo)

The boss moves out towards the trails that lead in from the North. He wants to see what is moving into or out of the area. He doesn’t want an enemy surprise. We top a small ridge and there on the trail below us is a NVA courier team moving toward the battle. Everybody lets lose and we win. It is a significant intelligence find. The bullet tracers start a grass fire and the back dots cover inappropriate parts in the photo. (Bob Young Photo


Part of today’s catch. A Troop put their rifle platoon into the site to pick up the courier material of maps, orders and weapons. An officer and 5 or 6 guards and guides were in the group. A good find of enemy troop information, order of battle and future plans. It is a good day for the U. S. Cavalry. (Bob Young Photo)


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