HMH-462 Phu Bai 1968-69
HMH-462 was initially formed on November 1, 1957 as one of two Marine
Heavy Helicopter squadrons. The HR2S-1 (Deuce) soon gave HMH-462 its nickname
of "Heavy Haulers" by performing lifts too unwieldy to move by conventional means.
After a long history of mission accomplished lifts, the squadron was placed in cadre
status and the "Deuce" was retired from the inventory of Marine aircraft.
On March 31, 1967, the squadron was again activated, this time with an even more
capable "Heavy Hauler"... Sikorski's CH-53. Major R.F. Wiley, the acting
Commanding Officer, accepted the first 53's from departing HMH-463 and the
"Heavy Haulers" were again in business.
Under Lt.Col. R.V. Reese, the squadron began to train replacement pilots for duty in
Viet Nam. HMH-462 was also given the secondary mission of supporting maneuvers
at Camp Pendleton.
On February 1, 1968, Lt.Col. Ronald E. Nelson assumed command from Lt.Col.
Reese. Shortly thereafter, the squadron's mission changed from training replacement
pilots to preparing for WESTPAC deployment. Training for deployment was soon in
full swing. Confined area landings, instrument flight, troop lifts, external pickups
and drops, formation flying and carrier qualifications were the order of the day.
Operating with the Third Marine Aircraft Wing and MAG 56 during this period of
training gave the squadron the opportunity to perform varied missions. Several VIPs
were transported, including General Westmoreland, former President Eisenhower,
and President Lyndon Johnson and his staff. HMH-462 was also called upon for the
emergency medical evacuation of General Eisenhower to March AFB Hospital after
he suffered a heart attack at his residence near Palm Springs.
As a public service, HMH-462 helo-lifted a SeaBee Reserve Unit to a Boy Scout Camp
to make needed post-winter repairs and expansion of the facilities.
Armed Forces Day 1968, the squadron set up a static display of a CH-53A at MCAS
El Toro for public view. During this same period of time, the squadron was awarded
the Minute Man flag for participation in the Savings Bond program.
As the squadron moved into its final months before deployment, training operations
were stepped up. HMH-462 participated in Operation Beagle Leash, a ship to shore
exercise conducted off the coast from Camp Pendleton. During the operation, the
squadron moved a large number of troops and many tons of cargo as a testament to
the long hours of training preceding the operation.
In June of 1968, the squadron displaced to NAAS Fallon, Nevada for aerial gunnery
training, mountainous area navigation and high altitude confined area landing
Returning to Santa Ana, the squadron began to pack its supplies and support
equipment for deployment to Vietnam. The aircraft were flown to NAS North Island
and wrapped in cocoons for shipboard transport.
On August 6, 1968, the squadron's ten aircraft, support equipment and a small
contingency of transport personnel set sail for the Far East on the USS Ogden. The
remainder of squadron personnel were flown commercially to Japan and then
transported on military aircraft to Vietnam.
On August 24, 1968, HMH-462 was welcomed aboard Hue Phu Bai airbase by MAG
36 and began airlift operations within one week.