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.
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On 1 July, the squadron was withdrawn from Thailand,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.
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.
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
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
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
| 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 184.108.40.206 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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.