Official Squadron History 1961-1970


The USS Thetis Bay (LPH-6) became the mobile base for the squadron early in 1961 when its helicopters flew on board in March at White Beach, Okinawa with supplies and equipment in preparation for maneuvers in the western Pacific.  The squadron was again reduced to zero strength on 5 July and control was passed to Marine Corps Air Station, New River, North Carolina.                          
           
            On 1 February 1962, the squadron was redesignated Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 162.  In the early part of this year HMM-162 was called on to aid in the hurricane rescue and relief operations in the Gulf Coast area.  During the same period the squadron held mountain training exercises and participated in Operation FOXY, a counter-guerrilla exercise.   

            On 13 June 1962, the squadron was again deployed to the Far East.  As the last of the squadron personnel arrived on Okinawa, the unit itself was assigned to relieve HMR (L)-261 in Udorn, Thailand.  By 26 June, the squadron was flying patrols along the Mekong River in addition to other support missions and road surveys.  On 1 July, the squadron was withdrawn from Thailand, embarking on board the USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) in the Sea of Siam.  The ship then sailed for the Philippines.  After a stop at Manila, the squadron moved ashore at Cubi Point, P. I. To operate in support of the Seventh Fleet's Special Landing Force and to conduct missions for the naval base.  During July,

HMM-162 flew rescue missions in the Philippines when a flood from heavy rains isolated many
 villages from outside support.  In October, the squadron boarded the USS Valley Forge to participate in Operation LONE EAGLE in the Okinawa area.  On 4 January 1963, the officers and men of HMM-162 began to arrive at the Da Nang air base in South Vietnam to conduct flight operations for the next five months in that area. The operation, known as Operation Shufly began 
Palm Sunday, 15 April 1962.  The purpose of the operation was two-fold.  First, the Marines wanted first-hand knowledge of the situation in Vietnam.  Second, Shufly helicopters were to be used to help the South Vietnamese, giving them greater tactical mobility.  One of the major developments to come out of Shufly was the armed helicopter.  The squadron relieved HMM-163.  Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Reinhardt Leu, the squadron flew in numerous operations supporting the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.  After assuming responsibility for helicopter support in the northern provinces of South Vietnam, HMM-162 compiled a solid combat record by its departure in early June.  On 13 March 1963, 3 UH-34Dís from HMM-162 delivered suppressive fire on the enemy during an ARVN troop lift.  This was the first recorded instance of a Marine helicopter providing close air support in actual combat!  On 27 April 1963, HMM-162 suffered the Marinesí first loss of an aircraft in Vietnam that was not recovered, and directly attributed to enemy action.  The UH-34D helicopters had flown 17,670 sorties for a total of 8,579 flight hours and in the month of May alone had amassed over 2,000 flight hours.  Other statistics reflected the growing intensity of the war in Vietnam.  The unit had lost three helicopters--two as a result of operations at extreme elevations and one to enemy fire.  One member of the unit had been killed, Major David Webster, and three others wounded after the squadron had entered the combat zone.   
 The squadron left Da Nang for Okinawa and thence MAG-26, MCAS, New River, North Carolina where it was to rebuild and carry out its training syllabus.  On 12 June 1963 Lieutenant Colonel Oliver W. Curtis took command of the squadron  .  During the summer,
 the squadron fulfilled a commitment for helicopter troop indoctrination held in Norfolk for reservists and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps midshipmen.  It also provided aircraft and facilities for the reserve squadrons HMM-772 and -776 for their annual reserve training and participated in mountain training exercises in the Atlanta, Georgia area.             

           The entire squadron was deployed to Bogue Field, North Carolina for SWAMPEX-163 from 30 September to 4 October.  This was the largest counter-guerrilla operation held by the Marines to that date.  Following those maneuvers, the squadron embarked on board the USS Thetis Bay and sailed for Port-au-Prince, Haiti to aid in the relief efforts of the area stricken by Hurricane Flora. Hurricane Flora packed winds up to 145 miles per hour, killing over 8,000 people in the Caribbean and 7,128 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic alone. HMM-162 dispersed the main group of it's helicopters to Port-au-Prince and a two plane detachment to Barahona in the Dominican Republic.  During a five day period the squadron flew 481 hours and 263 sorties carrying food, clothing, medicine and injured and sick victims of the storm.

In May 1964, control was transferred to MAG-16 in Okinawa.  The squadron soon embarked and sailed on board the USS Princeton for Da Nang.  Its second tour in Vietnam was brief, for after a few months in country, the squadron returned to Okinawa where it then reboarded the Princeton and sailed for Cubi Point, P. I.  The squadron was later cited for its Vietnam

service as part of Marine Task Element 79.3.3.6 with a Navy Unit Commendation.  HMM-162 found itself back in northern Vietnam in March 1965 under the operational control of the 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB).  HMM-162 flew the first Marines ashore during the amphibious landing at Da Nang following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  BLT 1/3 came ashore by air as BLT 3/9 landed by sea on 8 March 1964.  When the Marines hit the beach on 8 March 1965, they were greeted with festivity rather than violence.  On the evening of November 10, 1964, while in Hong Kong the USS Princeton and HMM 162 were ordered to return to Vietnam to provide relief after the country was hit by three typhoons and the worst flooding in over 100 years. There were between 7,000-9,000 people killed and 1,000,000 left homeless in the aftermath of this storm.   HMM-162 flew sorties for seven days carrying food, clothing and medicine to the Vietnamese people.   

On Saturday, November 21, 1964, during one of the sorties, HMM-162 lost one of it'shelicopter at sea.  The Crew Chief Cpl. Richard D. Stack and Lance Cpl. David L. Nipper of Company D, 3rd Recon Bn a passenger were killed. (The photo in the USS Princeton Bullhorn "A Final Tribute" was taken on the hanger deck of the Princeton after the memorial service for Slack and Nipper.)  By June 1965, the squadron had rejoined MAG-26 in North Carolina.  The squadron was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for its second tour in Vietnam.

   The squadron began rebuilding at its New River base and quickly reached operating strength.  On 30 November 1965, it landed on board the USS Guam (LPH-9) and sailed from Morehead City and Onslow Beach for CARIB 5-65 maneuvers in the Caribbean area.  On 8 December, the squadron participated in MEBLEX 2-65, an assault landing conducted on Vieques by the 4th MEB.  Later in mid-January 1966, it took part in Exercise GAUCHO, a test of procedures for the evacuation of U.S. and friendly foreign nationals.  

February 17 found the squadron standing by off Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic during a governmental crisis there.  The squadron finally disembarked in North Carolina on 9 March 1966.  on 29 November 1966, HMM-162 transported Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey during his official visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The squadron returned to New River on 1 May 1967 and continued its main mission of training Vietnam replacement pilots while preparing for transition from the UH-34 to CH-46 aircraft.  During the summer of 1966, the squadron flew over 1000 hours each month, surpassing the 10,000 accident-free hours mark.   

 
On 29 July 1967, the Squadron Commander, Major Charles J. Nesbit, arrived at MCAF New River with HMM-162's first CH-46D, BUNO 153966.  The CH-46D was powered by two T58-GE-10 turbo shaft engines rated at 1250 shp each.  HMM-162 became an operational CH-46D squadron on 10 September, finally retiring its last UH-34D on 27 December. 
            The squadron flew on board the USS Boxer (LPH-4) on 12 March 1968 and on 19 March supported Operation RUGBY MATCH.  On 12 April, the squadron supported Operation VERITAS, a combined U.S.-Brazilian Marine Corps exercise, and in May participated in Operation ESCORT TIGER II off Puerto Rico.  After Operation RACER RUN on 13 June, HMM-162 disembarked at Onslow Beach on 28 June and resumed normal operations at New River.   

During August 1968, HMM-162 dispatched a detachment of 12 aircraft on the Boxer to support Riverine Exercise -68.  During this month, on 23 August, the squadron received its first CH-46F.  On 25 September, the squadron participated in Special Exercise 68 at Onslow Beach. 

            On 21 April 1969, the squadron participated in Special Exercise 69, again in the Onslow Beach area, then during July took part in RESMEBLEX 1-69 which 20 aircraft commanders were carrier-qualified.

Also in July, Lieutenant Colonel Gerald S. Pate took command of HMM-162.  On September 1969, the squadron again deployed to the Caribbean area for about 10 weeks for CARIB 3-69.  It participated in Operation ESCORT TIGER VII, practicing amphibious assaults, vertical envelopments, and replenishment operations.  The unit returned from the Caribbean in December of 1969.   On 26 January 1970, Lieutenant Colonel James A. Roberts assumed command of the squadron, which, early in that year, participated in Operation EXOTIC DANCER III, a joint Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine maneuver involving over 60,000 men.

           During the summer of 1970, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 162 utilized most of its time in the various phases of training.  Pilots and crews returning from Vietnam were oriented back into stateside operations, and the new naval aviators began extensive training to insure a high degree of combat readiness.   

 
            Pilots and crewmembers, demonstrating their flexibility, skillfully participated in numerous emergency medevacs and search and rescue missions of local civilians as well as military personnel.  HMM-162 hosted reserve Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 772 for two weeks in July, providing operational and logistic personnel.  During the month of August, HMM-162 successfully conducted mountain training operations at Camp Mosby, an Army ranger training camp in the Appalachian Mountains.  This valuable training was again conducted in November.  During that month HMM-162 successfully completed shipboard and amphibious operations on the amphibious transport dock USS Coronado (LPD-7).  Included in the operation were carrier qualifications, troop lifts, and cargo transfers.