“Find ‘Em, Fix ‘Em, And Kill ‘Em”: Air Cav in Vietnam

John "Doc" Bahnsen


Doc Bahnsen came from an influential family in Georgia. His grandfather was the first state veterinarian, and his father was an Army Reserve officer who worked as a federal soil conservationist for Wilcox County and ran a CCC Camp. Both Doc and his younger brother, Peter, both graduated from the United States Military Academy. Doc initially branched Infantry, but during his assignment to Germany, he transferred to Armor. As a junior officer, he completed both the fixed wing and rotary wing (helicopter) courses. Later while he was teaching Armored and Air Cavalry tactics at the Armor School, he began developing concepts for synchronizing armor and aviation on the battlefield. In October, 1965, he deployed to Vietnam and during that tour, he flew missions out of Tan Son Nhut, Bien Hoa, and Long Binh. Three years later, in October, 1968, he returned to Vietnam to command an Air Cav Troop. During his time in Vietnam, he was awarded 5 Silver Stars, and 4 Bronze Stars, among other awards and decorations. After returning from Vietnam, he commanded 1st Battalion, 32nd Armored from 1969 to 1971 in Germany, and later he commanded the 1st Aviation Brigade before becoming the Assistant Division Commander of the 2nd Armored Division. In this interview, Doc Bahnsen describes his childhood, and how his upbringing influenced him to attend West Point. He talks about his experiences at the Academy, and some of the influential leaders who helped shape his career. He explores his initial assignments, and explains key aspects of the developing Air Cav doctrine. He relates, in detail, some of his memorable experiences in Vietnam, and concludes by covering his five leadership lessons for young leaders.


name John "Doc" Bahnsen
institution USMA
graduation year 1956
service Infantry / Armor
unit 3rd AVN CO, 3ID; B CO, 1st BN, 68th AR; 118th AVN CO, 145 Combat AVN BN; 11ACR; 1st BN, 32nd AR; 1st AVN BDE; 2AD
specialty Aviator
service dates 1956 1986