LTC Ace Alan Cozzalio embodied the spirit of Army Aviation and Air Cavalry; past, present and future. He was an exemplary leader and visionary who developed aviation policy and tactics based on his combat experience. He was one of the most decorated soldiers of the Vietnam War. In his two tours, he was shot down by enemy gunfire six times and awarded every medal for valor, except the Medal of Honor, some multiple times.
Following flight school in late 1967 he was assigned to Vietnam, serving with D Troop, 3rd of the 5th Air Cavalry. On January 25, 1969, after extending his tour, he displayed extraordinary and selfless courage when he attacked and destroyed a fortified NVA machine gun bunker that had pinned down a 90-man infantry company for over two hours. After other pilots had made several unsuccessful attempts to destroy the bunker, Ace swapped his AH-1 Cobra for one of the troop’s OH-6s, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he attacked the bunker head-on with mini-guns blazing, landing on top of it while his crew chief tossed a grenade into the bunker gun port. For his actions, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
As the role of the air cavalry evolved in Vietnam, he was instrumental in developing scout tactics and later assisted in the development of a combat aviation handbook for the Army. Following Vietnam, he was assigned to 1st Armored Div., and in 1984 assumed command of the 4th Aviation Training Battalion at Ft. Rucker, AL.
In 1987, he medically retired from the Army after 20 years and returned to the family ranch in Hornbrook, CA where he lived until his death six years later at age 46.
Ace Cozzalio’s gallantry and leadership has left a legacy for future generations of Army aviators.