First CH-3C’s In SEA


In July 1965, two Sikorsky CH-3C’s arrived at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, to initiate a new era for Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia.   The two helicopters, 63-09676 and 63-09685, were on loan from the Tactical Air Warfare Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.


The helicopters were assigned to the newly fashioned Det. 1, 38th ARS which currently had HH-43’s.  The added speed and range over the HH-43 made the CH-3C a more adequate Aircrew Rescue Vehicle. The “Jolly Green Giant” nickname was originated by the pilots of the CH-3 and therefore these two aircraft were the first “Jolly Greens”.


CH-3C 63-09685 made the First combat rescue pickup in SEA. Using the call sign of “Jolly Green 1”, Capt. Frank Tullo (F105 pilot) was picked up by the crew, Pilot Capt. George Martin, Copilot Orville Keese, Crew Chief Sgt Curtis Pert and PJ Sgt George Thayer on 27 July 1965.  This was the first time the call sign, “Jolly Green” was used in a combat rescue.


CH-3C 63-09676 (later to become the infamous “Black Mariah”) made the second pickup with the call sign “Jolly Green 2”.  On 24 Aug 1965, Maj. Dean Pogreba (F105 pilot) was picked up by the helicopter crew of Captain Phil Stambaugh, Capt George Martin, HM Sgt Francis Hill, HM Sgt James Armenia and PJ Sgt George Thayer. 



On 6 November 1965, CH-3C 63-09685 was shot down during a rescue attempt over North VietNam. This was the first Jolly Green lost in SEA. The crew (Capt. Warren “Bob” Lilly, 1st Lt. Jerry Singleton, Sgt Arthur Cornier) bailed out and except for the Flight Engineer, were captured and held captive by the North Vietnamese for over six years.  FE Sgt. Berkely Naugle was delayed in bailing out and landed a distance from the other crew members and was rescued by Navy helicopters several hours later.


These were the only CH-3C’s to have served with Rescue in SEA.  They were replaced in 1966 by HH-3E’s which had armor, more powerful engines and in-flight refueling capability.  Sikorsky H-3 helicopters served with the 20th Heli Sq, 21st SOS, and ARRS units in VietNam.


CH-3E #63-09676 was returned to the Tactical Air Command in January 1966 and soon assigned to the 20th Helicopter Squadron’s “Pony Express”.  The “Black Mariah” served with distinction in VietNam and after the War and subsequent assignments was selected to be “intered” at the USAF Air and Space Museum, Wright-Patterson AFB, at Dayton, Ohio.  She was placed on display there in 1992. 


(From the Historian: I attended the USAFHPA reunion there in 1992 and had the privilege of once again sitting at the controls of the historic aircraft. We had flown many missions together in 1967-68.)