On 8 January 1966, the 37th ARRS was activated at Danang Air Base operating 5 HU-16s on loan from the 31st ARRS and the 33rd ARRS and with a Detachment at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base. The squadron was responsible for aircrew recovery over North Vietnam, Laos and the Gulf of Tonkin.
On 30 March 1966, 2 HC-130s were delivered to Detachment 1 at Udorn RTAFB. A further 3 HC-130s were delivered to Udorn in June 1966.
On 16 January 1967, the squadron’s HC-130s at Udorn RTAFB were transferred to the newly-formed 39th ARRS. Also on 16 January Detachment 2, 37th ARRS was designated and organized at Udorn RTAFB operating HH-3Es.
HH-3 over South East Asia
On 2 February 1967, all 5 HU-16s assigned to the 37th ARRS were transferred to the 33rd ARRS at Naha, Okinawa.
September 1967, Detachment 2 at Udorn RTAFB received its first 2 HH-53Bs.
May 1967, Detachment 1 38th ARRS operating HH-3s at Danang Air Base was reassigned to the 37th ARRS].
March 1968, Detachment 2 at Udorn RTAFB was transferred to the 40th ARRS.
The 37th ARRS remained at Danang until it was deactivated on 30 November 1972. 5 of its HH-53s were transferred to the 40th ARRS at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, while its two HH-43s remained at Danang as Detachment 7 of the 40th ARRS to provide base rescue during Operation Linebacker II.
Operations and losses:
18 October 1966, Crown Bravo, HU-16B Tail No 51-7145 was on an SAR orbit north of the DMZ when it radioed a Navy ship that it was returning to Danang. This was the last contact with the aircraft and no trace of the plane or 7 man crew was ever found.
6 February 1967, Jolly Green 05, HH-3E BuNo 65-12779 had rescued CAPT Lucius L. Heiskell, pilot of Nail 65 an O-1F FAC when it was hit by ground fire and crashed near the Mu Gia Pass, North Vietnam. Heiskell, the pilot, copilot and flight engineer were KIA-BNR, while the pararescueman Duane D. Hackney survived the crash and was rescued by Jolly Green 36.
16 February 1967, Jolly Green 56 took off to rescue the pilot of Dusty 71 an F-100 shot down over Laos. The helicopter received ground fire and the pilot CAPT Angelo Pullara, was hit and killed. The helicopter returned safely to Saravane, Laos. The Dusty 71 pilot was rescued by Jolly Green 37.
27 October 1967, Jolly Green 20, HH-3E Tail No 66-13283 was on a CSAR mission over Laos when it was hit in the engine by ground fire while hovering. Aircraft was destroyed by bombing. Survivors and ground party rescued by Jolly Green 07.
9 November 1967, Jolly Green 26, HH-3E Tail No 66-13279 and Jolly Green 29 were scrambled to extract the 5 surviving members of a Special Forces reconnaissance team that had suffered heavy casualties in Laos. JG29 successfully extracted 3 indigenous team members before being hit by ground fire, it departed and made an emergency landing at Khe Sanh. JG26 extracted Special Forces SP4 Joseph G. Kusick and MSGT Bruce R. Baxter, both wounded, but JG26 was then hit by ground fire, crashed and burst into flames. A recovery team was inserted into the area and reached the crash site, but due to fading light, it was impossible to inspect the wreckage at that time. On the morning of 10 November, the pilot CAPT Gerald O. Young was rescued after evading capture for some 17 hours after the crash. Later that morning the wreckage was searched and the charred remains of SP4 Kusick were recovered. The Copilot CAPT Ralph Brower, the Flight Engineer SSGT Eugene L Clay, the Pararescueman SGT Larry W. Maysey]and MSGT Bruce Baxter were all KIA-BNR. CAPT Gerald Young was awarded the Medal of Honor..
9 June 1968, Jolly Green 23 HH-3E Tail No 67-14710 was on CSAR for 1LT Walter R. Schmidt pilot of Hellborne 215 a USMC A-4C shot down over the A Shau Valley. Voice contact was established with 1LT Schmidt, who reported he possibly had a broken arm and leg. Several attempts at pickup were made by the lead helicopter, Jolly Green 22, but it was driven off by intense ground fire. After suppressive fire was put in, JG23 moved in to attempt the pickup, JG23 reported taking hits and then caught fire. The pilot attempted to land in a small clearing, but the helicopter exploded when it hit the ground and burned intensely. There were no indications anyone survived the crash. Pilot Lt Jack Rittichier, Co-Pilot CAPT Richard C. Yeend, Flight Engineer SSGT Elmer L. Holden and Pararescueman James D. Locker were all KIA-BNR. The remains of the crew were returned and identified in September 2003. 1LT Schmidt remains MIA presumed dead.
5 October 1968, Jolly Green 10, HH-3E Tail No 65-12782 and another Jolly Green were scrambled to extract a Special Forces reconnaissance team callsign Carrot Top in Laos. The first JG went in under heavy ground fire, received damage to its fuel lines and had to abort the mission and return to the base. JG10 was shot down about 500m from the pick up point. The Pararescueman was able to pull the Pilot from the burning helicopter, but before he could return JG10 exploded, killing the Copilot Albert D. Wester and the Flight Engineer Gregory P. Lawrence who were trapped inside. Another Jolly Green was sent out to rescue the Special Forces team and the 2 survivors from JG10.
24 October 1969, Jolly Green 28 HH-3E tail No 66-13281 dropped pararescueman TSGT Donald G Smith to rescue the pilot of F-100 Misty 11A over Laos. As TSGT Smith and the pilot were being raised, hostile fire rendered the hoist inoperative and the cable was sheared, dropping them fifteen feet to the ground. TSGT Smith’s position was surrounded by hostile forces and JG28 was downed by hostile fire. TSGT Smith controlled and directed the aircraft providing suppressive fire, resulting in the safe recovery of all downed personnel and he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions
15 April 1970, Jolly Green 27, HH-3E Tail No 66-13280 and another Jolly Green were scrambled to rescue the survivors of a downed UH-1 near Dak Nay Puey, Kontum Province, Vietnam. JG27 made three rescue attempts, but was brought down by ground fire. The Pilot CAPT Travis H Scott was killed on impact. The copilot, MAJ Wofford, dragged the other two crewmen from the burning aircraft. The second HH-3 evacuated the survivors of the first HH-3 but was unable to rescue personnel in the downed UH-1. The Flight Engineer TSGT Gerald L. Hartzel and Pararescueman SSGT Luther E Davis later died from their injuries. MAJ Wofford was awarded the Air Force Cross and CAPT Scott was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross.
21 November 1970, Banana 01, HH-3E Tail No 68-12785 was deliberately crashed in the Son Tay POW Camp as part of Operation Ivory Coast.
25 November 1971, Jolly Green 70, HH-53C Tail No 68-10366 crashed into the Song Na River, Gia Dinh, South Vietnam while on a CSAR mission. All 4 crewmen were killed.
3 April 1972, Jolly Greens of the squadron made two attempts to pick up LCOL Iceal Hambleton Bat 21 Bravo near Quang Tri, South Vietnam, both times, they were driven off with heavy damage to their aircraft. On 6 April Jolly Green 67 HH-53C Tail No 68-10365 was designated to make the rescue attempt, but as it came to a hover over Hambleton, it was raked by heavy fire. JG67 aborted the rescue attempt and tried to maneuver to safety, but the enemy fire continued and JG67 crashed in a huge fireball a few km south of the pickup point. The fire was intense and lasted several days. All 6 crewmembers were killed. The remains of the crew were returned in June 1994 and were buried as a group at Arlington National Cemetery in November 1997.
18 August 1972, HH-53C Tail No 68-10361 was destroyed on the ramp at Danang by a Vietcong 122mm rocket.
Detachment 1, 38th ARRS
3d Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group
Danang Air Base, South Vietnam (1966–1972)
Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand (1966–1968)
Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand
HH-53B & C (1967–1972)