40th Helicopter Squadron

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40th Helicopter Squadron
HC-130P refueling HH-53B over North Vietnam.jpg
An HH-53B of the 40th ARRS refueling from an HC-130P over North Vietnam, 1969–70
Active1968-1976; 1978-1987; 1993-present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleICBM Defense / Rescue & Recovery
Part ofAir Force Global Strike Command
Motto(s)Deter, Detect, and Defend
ColorsBlue, Yellow, White
EngagementsVietnam War
40th Helicopter Squadron emblem (Approved 10 July 2003)[1]40th Helicopter Squadron.png

The 40th Helicopter Squadron is a missile support unit. As the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron it was a helicopter rescue squadron of the USAF during the Vietnam War.


The squadron was activated as the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in March 1968 with HH-3s which were nicknamed "Nitnoy." Later HH-53s arrived and these were nicknamed "BUFF."

In March 1968, Detachment 2 of the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Udorn RTAFB operating HH-3s and HH-53Bs, was transferred to the 40th ARRS.[2]

The 40th moved to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base on 21 July 1971.

20 August 1972, the local base rescue detachments of the 3d Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Group each operating 2 HH-43s were transferred to the 40th ARRS, comprising:[3]

30 November 1972, with the inactivation of the 37th ARRS at Danang Air Base, 5 of its HH-53s were transferred to the 40th ARRS, while its two HH-43s remained at Danang as Detachment 7 of the 40th ARRS to provide base rescue during Operation Linebacker II.[4]

Following the Paris Peace Accords all remaining US Forces were withdrawn from South Vietnam by 27 March 1973. Detachment 7 at Danang Air Base and Detachment 14 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base were inactivated during this period. Following the withdrawal from South Vietnam the 40th's force level was 11 HH-53s and 14 HH-43s.[5]

The USAF continued combat operations over Cambodia until 15 August 1973 and the 40th provided CSAR support during this period. Following the end of combat operations the 40th kept 2 HH-53s at Nakhon Phanom on 15-minute alert during daylight and 45-minute alert at night.[6]

In July 1974 Detachment 10 at Takhli was disbanded, followed in August by Detachment 3 at Ubon. On 20 February 1975, Detachment 1 at Nakhon Phanom was disbanded. At this time the 40th's force level had dropped to 8 HH-53Cs and 4 HH-43Fs.[7]

The 40th moved to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base on 1 October 1975. On 15 October 1975 with the inactivation of the 56th ARRS its 4 HC-130Ps joined the 40th.[8]

On 31 January 1976 the 40th ARRS was inactivated at Korat RTAFB.[9]

Operations and losses[edit]

  • 30 May 1968, Jolly Green, an HH-3E was attempting to rescue COL Norman Phillips the pilot of a downed F-105, near Savannakhet, Laos. Pararescueman SGT Thomas A Newman descended into a hostile jungle environment to rescue the pilot. Hampered by darkness and concentrated automatic weapons fire, Newman requested the rescue helicopter to enter a nearby orbit, both for the safety of the crewmembers, and to prevent the hovering aircraft from establishing their location for the unfriendly ground forces. When the HH-3 returned, he secured the injured COL Philips to the forest penetrator and protected him with his own body as they ascended to the helicopter. SGT Newman was awarded the Air Force Cross.[10]
  • 25 December 1968, Jolly Green 17, an HH-3E was attempting to rescue MAJ Charles R Brownlee,[11] the pilot of Panda 01 an F-105 shot down near Ban Lathama, Mahaxia District, Khammouan Province, Laos. Pararescueman Airman First Class Charles Douglas King descended by rescue hoist to rescue the injured pilot. With the pilot attached to the hoist, the HH-3E and Airman King were hit by enemy fire, seriously injured, King instructed the helicopter to depart. King was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross,.[12] The bodies of King and Brownlee were not recovered and both were listed as KIA-BNR.[13]
  • 18 January 1969, Jolly Green 67, HH-53B, 66-14430, was hit by ground fire while on a CSAR mission for Sandy 02, an A-1H lost the previous day. Helicopter made an emergency landing 15 km southeast of Tchephone, Laos. The crew and the A-1 pilot were rescued by Jolly Green 70. An airstrike was ordered to destroy JG-67
  • 28 January 1970, Jolly Green 71, HH-53B, 66-14434, on a CSAR mission for the pilot of Seabird 02, an F-105G, was shot down by a missile fired from a Mig-21 piloted by Vu Ngoc Dinh of the 921st Fighter Regiment.[14] The 6-man crew were all KIA.[15][16][17][18][19][20]
  • 30 June 1970, Jolly Green 54, HH-53C, 66-8283, was on a CSAR mission for the crew of Nail 44 an OV-10A, over Savannakhet, Laos. Abandoning the first rescue attempt due to heavy fire, the pilot Capt Leroy C Schaneberg decided to make a second rescue attempt. JG54 was hit by ground fire and crashed. The 5-man crew were all KIA.[21][22][23][24][25] The crash site was excavated in December 1993 and remains were identified as a group on 7 March 1995. Capt Schaneberg was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross.[26]
HH-53B of the 40th ARRS which participated in the Son Tay Raid[note 1]


  • 21 November 1970, 5 of the squadron's HH-53s took part in Operation Ivory Coast, the raid on the Son Tay POW camp.[28]
  • 21 June 1971, Jolly Green 54, HH-53, 66–8285, was shot down over Laos while attempting to recover an AQM-34 Buffalo Hunter drone. Crew were all rescued.
40th ARRS HH-53 as seen from a 21st SOS CH-53 in 1972
  • 27 March 1972, Jolly Green 61, HH-53C, 66-10359, crashed over Stoeng Treng Province, Cambodia, about 10 miles southeast of the city of Siempang due to unknown causes. A pararescue specialist was lowered to the ground at the site of the crash to check for survivors, but due to the intense heat from the burning helicopter, he could not approach near enough to determine if there were crew members inside the aircraft. Some three hours later a second rescue specialist was deployed in the immediate area, who reported the wreckage was still burning, precluding close inspection.The 5-man crew were all KIA-BNR.[29][30][31][32][33]
  • 13 April 1972, Capt. Bennie D Orrell pilot of a Jolly Green, rescued a downed pilot near Tchepone, Laos. Capt. Orrell was awarded the Air Force Cross.[34]
  • 2 June 1972, Capt. Dale E. Stovall[35] pilot of a Jolly Green, flew through intense hostile ground fire to complete the rescue of Captain Roger Locher, an F-4 copilot who had evaded capture for 23 days after being shot down in North Vietnam.[36] This rescue was the deepest CSAR mission into North Vietnam and took place 8 km northeast of Yên Bái Air Base, one of the most active Vietnamese People's Air Force MiG airfields. Stovall was awarded a Bronze Oak leaf cluster in lieu of a second award of Silver Star.[37] Stovall was also awarded the 1973 Jabara Award for Airmanship.
  • 27 June 1972, Pararescueman SGT Charles D. McGrath was on a CSAR mission on Jolly Green 77 over North Vietnam. While penetrating dense jungle to rescue F-4 crewman, Captain Lynn A. Aikman, who had a broken leg, knee, elbow and jaw, SGT McGrath exposed himself to intense ground fire in order to drag the incapacitated Aikman to a suitable recovery area. Seeing JG73 crippled by the hostile fire, he directed air strikes against surrounding hostile ground forces until he was able to secure CAPT Aikman and himself to the penetrator of Jolly Green 57, the backup helicopter. Rising through constant accurate ground fire, he shielded CAPT Aikman with his own body until they were successfully recovered. McGrath and the pilot Capt Dale Stovall were both awarded the Air Force Cross.[38]
  • 27 December 1972, Jolly Green 73, HH-53C, 66-10788, on a CSAR mission for crew of Jackel 33, an F-111A downed on 22 December 1972 over North Vietnam, lost its fuel probe due to enemy ground fire and crash-landed due to fuel starvation. JG-73 was then destroyed by an A-1 Skyraider.
  • 14 June 1973, Jolly Green 64, HH-53C, 66-10362, lost its tail rotor and crashed into the Tonle Sap, Cambodia. 3 of the crew were KIA[39][40][41] and 2 were rescued.
  • 12 April 1975 the squadron supported Operation Eagle Pull, the evacuation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.[42]
  • 29–30 April 1975, 2 of the squadron's HH-53s operating from USS Midway (CV-41) took part in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon.[43]
  • 15 May 1975, 7 of the squadron's HH-53s participated in the recapture of the SS Mayaguez.[44]


  • Constituted as the 40th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron, activated and organized on 21 March 1968
Inactivated on 31 January 1976
Activated on 1 July 1978
Inactivated on 31 December 1987
  • Redesignated 40th Rescue Flight on 1 April 1993
Activated on 1 May 1993
  • Redesignated 40th Helicopter Flight on 1 May 1998
  • Redesignated 40th Helicopter Squadron on 11 October 2005[1]



  • Detachment 1, Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand: 18 March 1968 - 1 July 1971
Detachment 1, Homestead Air Force Base, Florida: 8 January 1981 - 1 October 1985
  • Detachment 3, Ubon RTAFB, Thailand: 20 August 1972 - 20 August 1974
  • Detachment 4, Hill Air Force Base, Utach: 1 July 1978 - 31 December 1987
  • Detachment 5, Udorn RTAFB, Thailand: 20 August 1972 - 30 September 1975
  • Detachment 5, Edwards Air Force Base, California: 1 July 1978 - 31 December 1987
  • Detachment 6 Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico: 1 July 1978 - 31 December 1987
  • Detachment 7 Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam: 11 December 1972 - 10 February 1973
  • Detachment 8 Takhli RTAFB, Thailand: c. Dec 1972 - 31 January 1973
  • Detachment 10 Takhli RTAFB, Thailand: 31 January 1973 - 30 July 1974
  • Detachment 10 MacDill Air Force Base, Florida: 8 January 1981 - 31 March 1981
  • Detachment 12 U-Tapao RTAFB, Thailand: 20 August 1972 - 31 January 1976
  • Detachment 14 Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam: 15 September 1972 - 10 February 1973
  • Detachment 18 Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York: 8 January 1981 - 30 November 1987
  • Detachment 22 Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho: 1 July 1978 - 30 November 1987
  • Detachment 24 Fairchild Air Force Base, Wachington: 1 July 1978 - 30 November 1987[1]





  1. ^ Aircraft, serial 68-10357, is pictured after it was converted to an MH-53M Pave Low IV. During the Son Tay raid its call sign was Apple 1. It is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force


  1. ^ a b c d e Robertson, Patsy (April 26, 2011). "Factsheet 40 Helicopter Squadron (AFGSC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Tilford, p. 81
  3. ^ Tilford, p. 115
  4. ^ Tilford, p. 127
  5. ^ Tilford, p. 128
  6. ^ Tilford, p. 135
  7. ^ Tilford, p. 136
  8. ^ Tilford, p. 154
  9. ^ Tilford, p. 155
  10. ^ "SGT Thomas A Newman, Air Force Cross". Military Times.
  11. ^ "COL Charles R Brownlee". The Virtual Wall.
  12. ^ "A1C Charles King, Air Force Cross". Military Times.
  13. ^ "CMS Charles Douglas King". The Virtual Wall.
  14. ^ Vietnamese Air-to-Air Victories, Part 2
  15. ^ "MAJ Holly G Bell". The Virtual Wall.
  16. ^ "Capt Leonard C Leeser". The Virtual Wall.
  17. ^ "Ssgt William C Shinn". The Virtual Wall.
  18. ^ "SMS William D Pruett". The Virtual Wall.
  19. ^ "Msgt William C Sutton". The Virtual Wall.
  20. ^ "Ssgt Gregory L Anderson". The Virtual Wall.
  21. ^ "Capt Leroy C Schaneberg". The Virtual Wall.
  22. ^ "MAJ John W Goeglein". The Virtual Wall.
  23. ^ "SSGT Marvin E Bell". The Virtual Wall.
  24. ^ "MSGT Paul L Jenkins". The Virtual Wall.
  25. ^ "SSGT Michael F Dean". The Virtual Wall.
  26. ^ "Capt Leroy Schaneberg Air Force Cross". Military Times Hall of valor.
  27. ^ "Callsign 'Apple 1'". National Museum of the United States Air Force. 6 March 2015. Archived from the original on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  28. ^ "COL Warner Britton, Air Force Cross". Military Times.
  29. ^ "CAPT David E Pannabecker". The Virtual Wall.
  30. ^ "CAPT Richard E Dreher". The Virtual Wall.
  31. ^ "SGT James Manor". The Virtual Wall.
  32. ^ "SGT Raymond J Crow". The Virtual Wall.
  33. ^ "A1C Raymond A Wagner". The Virtual Wall.
  34. ^ "CAPT Bennie D Orrell, Air Force Cross". Military Times.
  35. ^ "Biography: Brigadier General Dale E Stovall". U.S. Air Force website.
  36. ^ "Valor: A good thought to sleep on". Air Force Magazine.
  37. ^ "CAPT Dale Stovall, Air Force Cross". Military Times.
  38. ^ "SGT Charles McGrath, Air Force Cross". Military Times.
  39. ^ "CAPT Gilbert A Rovito". The Virtual Wall.
  40. ^ "1LT Francis E Meador". The Virtual Wall.
  41. ^ "MSGT David V McLeod". The Virtual Wall.
  42. ^ Dunham, p. 115
  43. ^ Dunham, p. 186
  44. ^ Dunham, p. 239


  • Dunham, George R (1990). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Bitter End, 1973–1975 (Marine Corps Vietnam Operational Historical Series). Marine Corps Association. ISBN 978-0-16-026455-9.
  • Tilford, Earl (1980). Search and Rescue in Southeast Asia 1961–1975. Office of Air Force History. ISBN 978-1-4102-2264-0.