US Navy Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three (HA(L)-3) Seawolves Vietnam 1966-1972 (5 1/2 Years) (Narrative still in progress, email Unit Administrator with questions or comments.)
US Navy Vietnam Gunship Ops began in the summer of 1966 using 8 borrowed Army UH-1B Helicopters from the Army's 197th Armed Helicopter Company to form the nucleus of a Navy armed helicopter unit.
Pilots and crewmen for the new venture were initially drawn from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron One (HC-1) based at NAS Ream Field, Imperial Beach, California.
The first eight pilots and enlisted crewmen of HC-1, Detachment (DET) 29, arrived in Saigon, Vietnam on 4 July 1966, followed on the 17th and 29th of July by DETS 27 and 25, respectively and Combat Operations in Vietnam began on 19 September 1966. DET 21, last of the original HC-1 detachments, was not deployed to Vietnam until several months later, arriving during the last week of November 1966.
HC-1 DETS officially became HA(L)-3 established on 1 April 1967 originally home based at Vung Tau, with operations later moved to Binh Thuy permanently on 1 May 1969 after Seabees completed enough construction of the base to move.
LCDR Joseph B. Howard, (Acting CO) Apr 1967 - May 1967
CDR Robert W. Spencer, May 1967 - May 1968;
CAPT Arthur H. Munson, May 1968 - Apr 1969;
CAPT Reynolds Beckwith, Apr 1969 - Apr 1970;
CAPT Martin J. Twite, Apr 1970 - Apr 1971;
CAPT Charles O. Borgstrom, Jr., Apr 1971 - Feb 1972;
CDR William J. Mulcahy, Feb - Mar 1972
HA(L)-3 operated NINE DETS throughout the Delta in addition to the Sealords operating out of Binh Thuy.
DET 1 – Originally HC-1 DET 29, August 14, 1966 began operating from the USS Tortuga (LSD 26) with Army split crews until August 30, 1966 when DET 29 relieved Army Fire Teams. 10 days later moved to the USS Comstock (LSD 19) and November 11, 1966 the USS Jennings County (LST-846). Moved to the Gulf of Thailand in 1969 and operated alternately from 4 LST's, USS Garrett County (LST-786), USS Terrell County (LST-1157), USS Windham County (LST-1170) and USS Washtoe County (LST-1165). During the construction of an Advanced Tactical Support Base (ATSB) called Sea Float, DET 1 operated there during the day and went back to the LST at night. When Solid Anchor was completed on 1 September 1970 near Nam Can on the southern tip of the Ca Mau Peninsula, DET 1 relocated there permanently. DET 1’s area of operations is the southwest Ca Mau Peninsula supporting Naval Craft, SEAL Unit’s, and Vietnamese Marines in the CauLonRiver and southern Mekong Delta area. Support provided by DET 1 was part of an effort to establish the government of South Vietnam in this area for the first time in many years and providing security for the nearby village of Nam Can allowing local people to sell their goods to government agencies rather than at a fixed price to the Viet Cong.
DET 2 – Originally HC-1 DET 27, based at Nha Be part of Military Region III in April 1967, the only DET that didn't move to another location during the squadron's existence. Assigned the mission of keeping the Long Tau shipping channel to Saigon open, and patrolling the Rung Sat Special Zone flying overhead cover for special interest ships including ammunitions ships and tankers. If a ship was sunk in the channel, Saigon would be cut off from the sea until the ship could be refloated and removed. DET 2 became a "Double DET" with 4 aircraft and crew in June 1969.
DET 3 – Originally HC-1 DET 25 based at Vinh Long Army Airfield. They moved to an LST off Ha Tien September 1969 and finally to Ca Mau on 5 August 1970. Previously DET 3 had night staged at Vinh Gia and the To Chau Civilian Irregular Defense Group Camp. There were two air strips at Ca Mau; the Long and Short strips. Facilities at the Long strip were minimal for quite a while. The Seawolves had to sleep in the open and eat C-rations. Conditions eventually improved and a permanent staging structure built, living in the Province Senior Advisor’s (PSA) compound. Area of operation was the southern and eastern U Minh Forest; the Dam Doi Secret Zone in Solid Anchor’s area of operation, and throughout the southern Ca Mau Peninsula, often providing support for DET’s 1 and 6.
DET 4 – Originally HC-1 DET 21 deployed to Vietnam in November 1966, operated from the USS Garrett County (LST-786), under the command of OinC LCDR George (Rocky) Rowell. Flew with Army gunship companies and entered combat early 1967 when it was re-designated HC-1 DET 4 just prior to commissioning of HAL-3 in April. DET moved to Dong Tam in early 1969 and later to Ben Luc. They supported the PBR’s and other Riverine Warfare Units. Operation Giant Slingshot, their primary mission to interdict Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops infiltrating into South Vietnam from the Parrot’s Beak and Angel’s Wing area of Cambodia, also placing strikes on Dufflebag activations.
DET 5 – Activated in 1968, stationed aboard the USS Hunderton County (LST-838) on the Co Chien River. July 30, 1968 DET 5 moved to PBR Mobile Base (MB) II at Thuong Thoi. DET 5 moved to YRBM-20 off Rach Gia in the Fall of 1968, then to YRBM-16 in November 1968 to Dong Tam, and finally to south of Chau Doc on the Bassac River a few miles from Cambodia. They operated an interdiction program known as “Tran Hung Dao I”, ostensibly to keep the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese from infiltrating from Cambodia into South Vietnam. Operations also included the Tram Forest and Seven Mountains area.
DET 6 – Activated in 1967, operated from Dong Tam, moved to USS Garrett County (LST-786) at the mouth of the Song Ong Doc River night staging, then land based at Song Ong Doc. Moved to Phu Loi May 1971.
DET 7 – Established at Binh Thuy until June 1969, operating from a small helipad by the Bassac River in front of the enlisted barracks. It was just SEALS, PBR guys, Seawolves and a few FASU Binh Thuy enlisted men. The pad had two trailers on it for the officers and one for the enlisted separated by a walkway with corrugated steel for a roof surrounded by wire. In April of 1969, the Seabee Detachment finished enough of the new base across the street for the DET to move there. DET later moved in June 1969 for Tay Ninh for what was supposed to be temporary, but ended up permanent. In 1970, DET 7 moved to Dong Tam and remained until stand-down.
DET 8 – Activated in July 1969, the first new detachment created since squadron established, operated from Tay Ninh with DET 7, then to LST near Rach Gia. May 1970 staged off USS Hunderton County (LST-838) at Long Xuyen near Cambodian border. July 1970, returned to Rach Gia.
DET 9 – Activated at Binh Thuy in September 1969, then moved to YRBM-21 near An Long. June 1971 moved from YRBM at Tan Chau to USS Vernon County (LST-1161) off Kien Hoa and Vinh Binh. October 1971 relocated to Binh Thuy also staging out of Thanh Phu.
SEALORDS – January 1970, Sealords were added to provide logistics to the DET's and support various U.S. Navy and Free World Force Units, based at Binh Thuy. Also involved in combat missions with SEAL insertions/extractions, and medivacs.
FINAL DAYS OF HA(L)-3 IN 1972
26 January – HA(L)-3 commenced stand-down.
1 February – CDR Mulcahy relieved CAPT Borgstrom as CO of HA(L)-3. HA(L)-3 commenced a 60 day stand-down period in preparation for disestablishment.
3 February – DET 6 at Phu Loi was disestablished.
6 February – DET 1 at Nam Can was disestablished. LT Ralph M. Tea (DET 8) wounded during an air strike.
10 February – DET 7 at Dong Tam was disestablished.
14 February – DET 5 at Chau Doc was disestablished.
18 February – DET 8 at Rach Gia was disestablished.
19 February – DET 4 at Ben Luc was disestablished.
23 February – DET 3 at Ca Mau was disestablished.
25 February – CNO Admiral Zumwalt arrived in Saigon for a two day tour of Vietnam to include Binh Thuy.
26 February – DET 2 at Nha Be was disestablished.
1 March – DET 9 at Binh Thuy was disestablished.
6 March – The last HA(L)-3 Seawolf gunship was retrograded and the last Sealord flight flown by HA(L)-3 CO CDR Mulcahy, pilot and HA(L)-3 XO CDR Nichols, co-pilot.
9 March – The first HA(L)-3 Sealord was retrograded.
11 March – The last HA(L)-3 Sealord was retrograded.
16 March 1972 – HA(L)-3 completed stand-down procedures and was officially disestablished.