Origins of the ABU
Thoughts from Robert “Bo” Wright A/1/327th
Where to begin…………..well, I might as well start where I came in. In September 1968 I was assigned to A Company 1/327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, the republic of South Viet Nam. The first thing I learned out in the boonies was that the password for the company was ABU. The trooper that informed me of this carried the M-79 and was nick named shotgun. He had eleven or so months in country, so since he had armed me with the password I asked him what was ABU. “He gave me a serious look and said it stood for Airborne Unit”. That made sense to me and I never gave it another thought until I received an e-mail from Charles “Trip” Triplett. Trip mentioned that the name was from the World War II era and was actually an acronym for Alligator, Bear, Unicorn. He said that the ABU had the tail of an Alligator to sweep away enemy resistance, the body of a Bear for the strength to crush an enemy and the horn of a Unicorn to pierce enemy lines. Trip also mentioned that there was a painting of ABU hanging in the orderly room at Camp Eagle. All of this got me thinking and I was very curious about the background and story of ABU. After all, I had spent thirty some years thinking it stood for Airborne Unit !!
I figured a logical place to start would be the division historian for the 101st division, Ft. Campbell, KY., Captain Jim Page. I told him the story and details of ABU as they were related by Trip. He was kind enough to pass along what he knew of the subject. Here is his reply.
You are correct about the origins of the ABU story. Variations of the story do exist, however, yours is the most common. The earliest mentions of the “Abu” seems to originate during the 1st Airborne Battle Group period of the early 1960s. Units starting going to animal names as unit call signs during this period. Units designated B, C and D companies had no problem coming up with animal nicknames (i.e. Bobcat, Cougars and Dogs), but “A” companies had a harder time. So A/1-327 came up with the Abu. FYI, A/1-327 still uses the Abu call sign today.
Capt. James Page
So, at this point Trip’s tale was verified and the next bit was to find out what this ABU looked like. I told what had been uncovered to David Markham. He is the web master for the first battalion of the 327th infantry. David said that somewhere in his archives he had a jpg of ABU. This is the photo below, on the left. Now this was a character that you could really appreciate!
The division historian Jim Page had said that ABU was still the spirit of A Company, 1/327th, 101st Airborne Division. With this in mind, I e-mailed the commanding officer and first sergeant of A Company and told them what had been found thus far. They sent me a jpg of the ABU that hangs in the orderly room at Fort Campbell, seen below on the right. These gentlemen also sent another jpg of the same ABU, last photo.
A Little “ABU” History, contributed by SFC Timothy Archer
Somewhere during all this checking into ABU I got a message from a former ABU by the name of Ken Yeisley. Here is what Ken related to me:
Robert, this is Ken Yeisley, an old ABU. I joined ABU in 1957, at that time the company had just been re designated as A/327 from I/187 when it was called IBU CO. When I was assigned we were told that the IBU/ABU was concocted from a night mare that the I CO. company commander had ..it had a gorilla body and a moose’s head w/antlers and an alligator tail. We ran many miles during PT chanting, with a gorillas body and a moose’s head and an alligators tail that is full of lead down the road and up the hill if the antlers don’t get you, then the gator tail will.
I spent 8 straight years in ABU, but went to Nam with B CO 2/327.
Recently I have been e-talking with another former trooper from A Company, ’68 – ’69 era. He told me that when he was a cherry he was informed that ABU was our password because the NVA could not pronounce it.
Well, none of the ABUs pictured on this page are an exact match to any of the descriptions but all are close enough to support any/all of the story you choose to go with.
Undoubtedly more information will come to light on the origin of ABU. If it comes my way I will add it to what we have now.
Great Job Bo! I can’t add anymore to your research (did hear ABU came from IBU when it was dissolved). Many’s the night that the whisper of “ABU” was a reassuring sound though!
Above the Rest
If you can contact CPT. Lampkin, he used to tell a story about how the ABU came about. I remember some of it .
I also found a passage in a book that told about the ABU and how it came about. I thought Col. David Hackworth’s book “ABOUT FACE” was where I saw it. Anyway I wrote some of it down when I saw it and I’ll send it to you.
It Had the body of a gorilla, the head of a lion, Moose horns, Alligator tail, jump boots, clutching a pistol in the right hand and a knife with blood dripping in the left.
I do have some information that was sent to me about twenty years ago from a guy that was in the original IBU in the 187th. That company went to form A CO 1/327 “ABU.” I’ll dig around for the article, I do remember that he had a tattoo of an ABU on his right calf. His story goes that his entire company had them so on their runs everyone new just who was passing by. Kind of like the Airborne Boogie that still sends chills up my spine.
This is an e-mail I received as a result of this discussion on the “Origin of the ABU”.
My name is Cecil Hutchinson. I was in A 1/327 from Jan 63 to early 64 when I was assigned to HHC 1/327. My platoon Sgt. was John T. [jumping john] Humphries. He was an original IBU in the 187th in Korea. He and several others were in A co. when I was there. He has an ABU tattoo on his leg. If you send me your address I will send you a copy of an article in the post newspaper at Ft. Campbell dated March 29, 1963. The article is about the origin of ABU.
The following is the article sent by Cecil, I’ve had to retype the article to be legible and did my best with the photo. I guess scanned old newspaper items are a real challenge.
ORIGIN OF THE “ABU” “A” COMPANY’S SYMBOL
Troopers walking down 42nd St. must wonder about the fearsome animal called the “Abu” which decorates A Company’s front lawn.
Derived from animal symbols
The Abu is unique in the Battle Group and perhaps in the Division, in that it has a tradition dating back to 1952. It is composite of the five fiercest animals on earth: the moose, the lion, the gorilla, the crocodile and the paratrooper.
I Company has problem
The idea of the Abu was born in I Company of the 187th RCT during a field problem at Mori, Japan in the fall of 1952. Of all the companies in the Third Battalion, only I Company had no name with which to identify themselves. Company L had a Lion, Company M had “Mighty Mouse”, and Company K had a “King Kong” gorilla.
Two heads better than one
The then company commander, Captain Shannon and the executive officer, Lieutenant Patrenus, talked the situation over and came up with the first sketch of the “Ibu” as they named it. The name stands for “I is the best unit”.
Tattooing idea catches
The men liked the idea of Ibu so much that one night four of them went to town with a sketch and had a Japanese tattoo artist tattoo it on the calf of their left leg. The idea caught on and today there are 75 or 80 men with Ibu tattoos.
I Company deactivated
In July, 1956, the pentomic change over deactivated I Company and its men became A Company of the 327th. “Ibu” was changed slightly to “Abu”.
I really like what you are doing with the ABU page. I was in A 1/327 from 1961 until 1966′
I was John Humphries roommate at Ft Campbell. I also have an ABU tattooed on my left leg. There was another trooper who I went to visit in Denver, Co. who has one on his leg. He is Lyland C. Baumann. I have a picture here some place showing the tattoo on our legs when I went for the visit…… Your doing a real bang up Job
David Snyder A1/327
I would like to know if there is anyway to get a photo of the tattoos or what exactly they had put on their calves. I am tattooed with my 101st 1/327 designation and would be interested in ABU also.
JUST TALKED TO JOHN T HUMPHRIES ON THE PHONE, HE IS ONE OF THE ORIGINAL IBU’S THAT LATER BECAME ABU CO 1/327 , IT’S ONLY RIGHT THAT THE TRUE ORIGIN OF “ABU” BE PRESERVED FOR POSTERITY-JOHN SAYS THAT WHEN THE 187 RCT CAME BACK TO JAPAN AFTER THE KOREA WAR THAT ALL THE COMPANIES IN THE 3RD BATT. 187 CAME UP WITH ANIMAL NAMES FOR CO. MASCOTS- LIKE KING COBRA FOR K CO. LION FOR L CO. MIGHTY MOUSE FOR MIGHTY MIKE CO.(NOT SURE OF THIS ONE THOUGH) SO I CO. TOOK PARTS OF MANY FIERSE ANIMALS TO MAKE UP THE ORIGINAL IBU—-A GORILLA’S BODY, LIONS HEAD, MOOSES ANTLERS, AND AN ALLIGATORS TAIL ..OUTFITTED HIM W/MAIN AND RESERVE CHUTES, JUMP BOOTS AND HAD HIM HOLDING A 45 PISTOL IN ONE HAND AND A JUMP KNIFE IN THE OTHER…..TE FIRST MAN TO GET AN ABU TATTOO WAS LOU LOELFEL WHO GOT IT ON HIS ARM THEN 20–23 OTHER ABUS GOT THE SAME TATTOO ON THE CALF OF THEIR LEG. JOHN IS SENDING A PIC OF 4 OF THEM W/ TATTOO ON LEG, –THIS HAPPENED SOMETIME IN 1953. ANOTHER MYTH IS THAT SOME MEN CLAIM TO HAVE SEEN SUCH A CREATURE BOUNDING THROUGH THE HILLS IN THE TRAINING AQREA BUT JOHN SAYS HE SPENT MANY DAYS IN THE AREA AND NEVER SEEN IT!!!( TOUNGH IN CHEEK HERE)
It all started with I Company, 187th Regimental Combat Team. I can’t remember all of the correct dates but on our move back to Japan from Korea in 1952 is about the time. We moved back to Camp Chickamauga, Beppu City on Kyushu Island. The I Company name becoming IBU is correct.
The first man to get an IBU tattoo was Lou Woelfet. He got it on his left arm. Many men, including myself, got one on the left leg. Most of the NCO’s got the IBU on their left leg. The unit returned home to Fort Bragg, North Carolina awaiting the 11th Airborne’s move from Ft. Campbell to Germany.
At that time, once the 11th cleared out, we returned to our old home, Ft. Campbell. We knew we were going to help reform the 101st. Some of us that had been with the 11th felt a little sad..
Then one day we marched onto the division parade field as IBU Company, 187th RCT, and left it as ABU company 1/327th, 101st Airborne Division. ABU was a unit I was very proud to be a part of.
Submitted by “Jumping” John T. Humphries, an IBU and an original ABU
Well it appears that we are not quite out of material for the “Origins of the ABU”
Ken Yeisley recently received a Christmas Card from a former ABU with this ABU patch included. The former ABU is Milton McQueeney. He deployed with ABU on 27 May ’65. His name appears on the deployment roster.
I actually never paid much mind to what ABU meant. I just knew it as the thing to say real fast when you heard it.
i don’t know if you remember a new shake and bake that came out and joined us in the mountains. He thought it would be a good idea to check on his troops positions in the middle of the night. He didn’t say ABU fast enough. Don’t remember if he survived after the medivac.
The story I got in Nam was as follows:
Our unit was a glider unit in WWII, the doors were open to allow access out when the plane landed. When the door finally opened a mist appeared antler of a moose, face of a lion, body of a gorilla, tail of an alligator. He said make follow me into battle and you will be victorious. You will always prevail with less casulities than any unit.
Bo, I was assigned to the 187th about November of 1955. At the time, I was an advisor to the Iranian Army, station in Awhaz, Iran. My orders relieved me of the Iranian assignment, assignment to the 187th effective in January 1956 with tdy to Fort Benning, Ga., to attend the Advanced Infantry Course. When I was first assigned to the 187th it was at Fort Bragg, N. C., and it moved to Fort Campbell during the tdy period. I reported to the 187th at F/C in May of 1956. I had just received promotion to captain and the CO of I Company, a young West Pointer by the name of Alfred E. S. Burkhard, whom I had served with before, was being transferred to become the Aide de Camp to General Lindquist, the guy who served in the 327th during WW2.
Orders were cut assigning me as CO of I company. This was my introduction to the IBU.
The history of how the IBU was adopted as a mythical mascot is a story in itself.
As the CO of I Company, I had to be very careful of what I talked about. The NCOs and soldiers were the best with which I had ever served, including a tour in the Marine Corps during WW2.
When the word came down that the Company was going to be re-designated, the morale dropped substantially, because it meant that the IBU would no longer be the mascot.
I figured that as CO I had to do something even if it meant the end of my career in the military. So I did something brash. I had a meeting with the senior NCOs. This was unheard of in the Company. I proposed that we simply change the I in IBU to A and make it ABU. I could see the morale jump in the NCOs present.
Sure enough I ran into some opposition, however, the Colonel who was going to command the 327th and the Exec thought it was a stroke of a genius. The PIO wrote a page in the Organizational Newsletter about IBU Standing Fast.
The Colonel thought that because of the effect on the morale in the Company that it would be a good idea to have the other companies come up with a mythical mascot. The other companies did. However, I believe that A Company still has the Abu as a mythical mascot and probably nobody recalls the name of the other companies’ mascots.
Look for another email about the Aftermath.
Best wishes, Bob Rogers
After my tour with the 101st, I spent time in Alabama as an Army Reserve Advisor and a Tour in Alaska. I had received a reserve commission in 1950 and completed 21 years of service in 1964, At the time I was a junior major and the active duty limit for Reserve Majors was 2l years.
After I retired I moved to California and ended up working for the Exempt Organization Branch of the Treasury Department. One day I was assigned the job of examining the Elks’ Club in San Mateo, California. Another agent had started the exam and for some reason did not complete it. His work papers indicated that he believed the Club should have its tax exemption revoked.
The first day I was at the Club, I found that the City of San Mateo had adopted my old Company, A/327th. The Company had traveled to San Mateo for Armed Forces Day, participated in a City Parade, attended a dinner and dance at the Elk’s Club that night and then returned to Fort Campbell.
Now, let me ask you a question. Do you believe that I was going to let the organization lose its tax exemption even if it meant that I would lose my job?
Anyway, I completed the audit and recommended no change to the organization’s status.
Our Branch Chief almost fainted, almost fired me, and assigned another agent the job of doing another examination.
The other agent recommended that the Club’s exemption be revoked. I suggested to the Club Manager that they appeal, they did and the Regional Counsel came down on the side of the Club. As far as I know the Club is still tax exempt.
I am very old, senile and a conservative radical. I wear an old ball cap with the combat badge and airborne badge on the front, the llth Airborne Division patch on the left of the Badges and the 101st on the right. On the rear of the cap is the Second Infantry Division. Also, on the cap is the 327th and the 188th, a regiment I was in in the eleventh, insignias.
I still drive around in my old ’97 four wheel drive pick up. When people ask me, Bob, why don’t you get a new truck. I tell them I am a disabled war veteran and disabled war veterans aren’t supposed to ride in new trucks.
Best wishes, and Have a good weekend.