To: Historian, USAFHPA
Thanks for your prompt reply.
You are correct in concluding that the 34 was a transition machine for the fixed wing HU-16 units to go rotary. During that time Bell was building brand new Huey's for Rescue and the reserve units were among those to be the first to receive them. To get something new direct from the factory was not an experience Reserve units of any kind were used to so we felt pretty good about that.
An additional note regarding the Hq concern about high altitude flying might have stemmed from the fact that the ASW mission H-34's we got were commonly referred to as "Sea Bat". That became even more ironic when with the HU-16 our mission was air sea rescue, and then when we got the Sea Bat we no longer had an over water mission? One has to wonder.
You're having logged H-34 time at high altitude will help you appreciate the irony of what I'm about to share. It turned out that the 304th was the first of the 4 units to become operational in the H-34. To demonstrate that, the unit Commander laid on a cross country mission for 8 aircraft to Hamilton where the Western Reserve Region HQ was located. When that Hq found out about the plan they objected, being worried that the Navy machines would be in trouble trying to make the high altitude legs between Oregon and California. One can only speculate that they had concern that these particular Navy machines were ASW models, and as such were not designed for high altitude operation. They chose not to approve the plan but our unit experience in and around Mt St Helens, Mt Hood, and Mt Jefferson all had proven the 34 to be fully capable, so "our" mission was on.
The Hq had also objected as we would have no mission capability left at PDX, however we had crews and 2 operational 34's standing by at PDX. When Hamilton Approach got the call of a flight of 8 HH-34's it caused a great deal of interest as no one there had seen any AF H-34's, much less a flight of them. They landed in trail, taxied to the ramp in trail, and using the rotor brake all shut down at the same time, demonstration team style. As you have no doubt discerned by now the Commander had put this together as a morale booster to cap off the months of tedious transition training that had just been completed.
For your most interested viewers, aircraft 710 has the a "straight leg" gear which our crews found preferable to the "bent leg" which were also part of the fleet. It is shown fully extended just prior to takeoff. The bent leg tended to "float" or "dance around" during touchdown, making positive taxi control more difficult.
The first picture shows the birds as they marshaled into ramp at Hamilton. One of the birds cannot be seen as the ramp was not wide enough for all 8 to sit side by side.
David Wendt - one of the 304th pilots - is responsible for the twin Huey photo showing the original Rescue Colors scheme. It was taken during a training mission on Government Island, which is located near Portland in the Columbia River.
The total number of HH-34's operated has been verified at 31 while the specific number of those coming directly from the Fleet Reserve is still in question. Seen in picture 5, 48943, which is now a part of the Hill Museum fleet, was operated initially by the 304th (PDX tower in the background), transferred to the 302nd and then was sent to Hill. The 304th was based at PDX and the 302nd at Luke. These pictures were either taken on the PDX ramp or, in the case of the PJ's on the hoist, in the Columbia River Gorge area near Portland.
In the interest of providing the best information to those interested in "our" history, and to reflect similar data in other related official or military oriented web sites I'm certain you want to include the most accurate information you can. I am happy and available to assist where I can should you someday decide to include rotary experiences, such as Mt St Helens, performed by the reserve units.
Felix J McLarney, MSgt, USAF Ret