HC-7 RESCUE 39 (1) 22-May-1968 (Wednesday)

UH-2A Kaman Seasprite helo Clementine Det 108
USS Halsey (DLG-23) Routine Day (2)
22 miles off North Vietnam coast
Water: 84⁰ Air: 83⁰ Wind: 12 knots Sea State: less than 1

Pilot – LT Andrew “Andy” J. Curtin
Co-pilot – LTJG Robert K. Doane
1st crew – ADJ-3 Finlay R. Williams
2nd crew – ADJ-3 Gary “Doug” D. Fiihr

Alert received – 1648: Common SAR
Vehicle departed – 1655 : 15 miles
Arrived on scene – 1702: no search required
Located survivor – 1702 : Steer from USS Halsey, visual with vectors from wingman
Begin retrieval – 1702: Parachute
Ended retrieval – 1704 : returning to USS Halsey
Survivor disembarked – 1707 : USS Halsey

A-4F Skyhawk 154974 NF-502 “Flying Eagle 502” VA-212,
(Rampant Raider) USN
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)

LCDR Richard S. Thomas

Lt Cdr Thomas and his flight was on a Iron Hand mission when Lt Miller’s Crusader was shot down. He was directed to take his flight to Vinh and provide RESCAP for any rescue that might be attempted. As he flew just to the east of the city at 3,200 feet, his Skyhawk was hit in the wing root by flak. Lt Cdr Thomas headed out to sea with his aircraft on fire, all his cockpit warning lights flashing and his fuel dropping rapidly indicating a massive fuel leak. Eventually the fire burned through the wing spar and the wing separated from the fuselage at which point Lt Cdr Thomas ejected. He was picked up by a Navy SAR helicopter. (5)

USS Halsey and USS Hanson (DD-832) providing SAR coverage at the south SAR station. Shuttling between SH-3A helo “Big Mother” on deck and UH-2A “Clementine” in hangar with the logistic helo “Protector” flight quarters were busy all afternoon. 14:49 Clementine remained on deck. At 16:05 Halsey sets SAR alert. (11) 16:12 Clementine launches and awaits steer to SAR scene. 16:48 Clementine receives confirmation of SAR in progress. 16:55 USS Halsey transmits vector to helo. USS Halsey observes pilot in the water, bearing 077⁰ at 2.4 miles, Clementine uses the data quickly sights the parachute and initiates the rescue. 17:04 Clementine returning to Halsey to lands at 17:07. Remaining on deck for 23 minutes, Clementine launches to clear the deck for Big Mother No. 72. 17:42, Big Mother has LCDR Thomas aboard and lifts off for USS Bon Homme Richard. 17:50 Clementine is recovered, and the ship secures from SAR alert… A GREAT DAY ! (3)(11)

1) Numbering as per HC-7 Rescue Log (accumulative rescue number)
2) HC-7 1968 Command Report
3) HC-7 Det 107 Rescue report
4) Map – Google Earth
5) “Vietnam – Air Losses” By: Chris Hobson (with permission)
6) Loss aircraft location data provided by: W. Howard Plunkett (LtCol USAF, retired)
10) HC-7 History collection; Ron Milam – Historian
11) USS Halsey – Deck Logs

(Compiled / written by: Ron Milam, HC-7 Historian – HC-7, 2-1969 to 7-1970, Det 108 & 113)