38th ARRS

Vietnam War

The 38th ARRS was based at Tan Son Nhut, flew only HH-43B/Fs, deployed it 32 aircraft on 24-hour alerts at 14 bases in South Vietnam and Thailand. The only exception was 2 CH-3C’s assigned to Det 1, NKP in 1965 as the first “Jolly Green” helicopters in SEA.

In mid-1965 the Squadron was organized into a number of detachments operating from bases in Vietnam and Thailand as follows:

·         Headquarters Tan Son Nhut Air Base

·         Detachment 1 Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, later relocated to Phan Rang Air Base

·         Detachment 2 Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base

·         Detachment 3 Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base

·         Detachment 4 Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base

·         Detachment 5 Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base operating 6 HH-3Es

·         Detachment 6 Bien Hoa Air Base operating HH-43s and 2 HH-3Es

·         Detachment 7 Danang Air Base operating HH-43s and HU-16s

·         Detachment 8 Cam Ranh Air Base

On September 15, 1965 two more detachments were organized:

·         Detachment 9 Pleiku Air Base

·         Detachment 10 Binh Thuy Air Base

A further 4 detachments were later organized as follows:

·         Detachment 11 Tuy Hoa Air Base

·         Detachment 12 U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield

·         Detachment 13 Phu Cat Air Base

·         Detachment 14 Tan Son Nhut Air Base

May 1967, the HH-3s of Detachment 7 at Danang Air Base were reassigned to the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.

During 1969-70, with US involvement in Vietnam winding down, various Detachments were moved or disbanded as follows:

·         Detachment 10 was disbanded at Binh Thuy AB on 20 December 1969

·         Detachment 9 was relocated from Pleiku AB to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB on 16 February 1970

·         Detachment 8 was disbanded at Cam Ranh AB with the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing on 15 September 1970

·         Detachment 11 was disbanded on 15 October 1970 when all USAF units left Tuy Hoa AB

·         Detachment 2 was disbanded on 15 November 1970 with the return of USAF strike units from Takhli RTAFB to the US.

On 1 July 1971 the entire 38th ARRS was inactivated. Local base rescue helicopters and their crews then became detachments of the parent unit, the 3d Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group.

Operations and Losses

·         20 September 1965, Kaman HH-43 Huskie BuNo 62-4510, callsign Dutchy 41 of Detachment 1, Nakhon Phanom Air Base was on a CSAR for Essex 04, an F-105D piloted by Capt Willis E. Forby, over North Vietnam. The HH-43 was hit by ground fire and crashed in the jungle. Pilot Captain Thomas J. Curtis, Crew Chief Sergeant William A. Robinson, and P.J. Arthur Black were all captured by the North Vietnamese Army and taken to a POW camp in North Vietnam. They were later released during Operation Homecoming. Co-Pilot 1LT Duane W. Martin, was captured by the Pathet Lao and taken to a POW camp in Laos. On June 29, 1966, Martin, LTJG Dieter Dengler and other prisoners overpowered their guards and escaped. Martin was later attacked and killed by a Laotian villager, while Dengler was eventually rescued by a Jolly Green of the 37th ARRS.

·         6 November 1965, CH-3E BuNo 63-9685, attached to Det 1 at NKP, on CSAR for CAPT George McKnight, pilot of Sandy 14, an A-1E over North Vietnam was hit by ground fire. 3 of the crew became POWs while the 4th crewman was rescued. This was the first Jolly Green loss in combat.

·         11 April 1966, an HH-43 of Detachment 6 based at Bien Hoa Air Base was called to medevac wounded of the 1st Infantry Division which were surrounded by enemy forces near Cam My, east of Saigon. Pararescueman A1C William H. Pitsenbarger was lowered by winch and spent an hour and a half treating the wounded and evacuating nine wounded soldiers on 5 Huskie flights. On the sixth approach, Pitsenbarger's Huskie was hit, forcing it to cut the hoist line and pull out for an emergency landing at the nearest strip. Pitsenbarger continued to treat the wounded, collected rifles and ammunition from the dead and distributed them to the men still able to fight and returned enemy fire before being fatally hit. Pitsenbarger was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross. On 8 December 2000 Pitsenbarger was also awarded the Medal of Honor.

·         28 October 1966, HH-43 BuNo 62-4511 callsign Pedro 42 was medevacing wounded of the 4th Infantry Division at night 60 km west of Pleiku Air Base when it was hit by ground fire and crashed. The Flight Engineer and 3 soldiers were killed in the crash, while the copilot later died from injuries.

·         8 May 1967, HH-43 BuNo 63-9715 callsign Pedro 96 of Detachment 7 was shot down while trying to rescue 4 Marines.


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