FEB 2011 – Sometimes in war people are determined to do everything to save others.

In the Vietnam war, this became a big priority for the USAF due to the large scale of the war covering 4 countries – which was mostly covered in thick jungle growth.

The USAF ability to perform effective Combat Search and Rescue missions was in the early days of the Vietnam War not adequate and wasn’t not set up for such tasks. The rescue forces were mainly designed for a cold war rescue and local base rescue – not a jungle warfare scenario.

The USAF designated the rescue role as assigned to special Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadrons.

Since the 1950s the USAF had been slowly building up rescue operations to create integrated Air Rescue Squadrons. They used a large mix of helicopters and aircraft to save crashed aircrew.

They trained for war and civil operations.

In the beginning of the Vietnam War, the USAF relied upon mainly on CIA operations in Laos and a limited USAF presence for a rescue service in South Vietnam if a pilot was shot down. Here we see what happened when a rescue mission failed….

September 1967, Near Hanoi, North Vietnam — Hanoi, North Vietnam: A young North Vietnamese woman keeps a gun trained on a U.S. Air Force pilot after his plane was shot down near Hanoi September 7th. The pilot was identified as Lt. Gerald Santo Venanzi.

He wears a K-2B flight suit, CSU-3/P g suit and a camouflaged HGU-2A/P flight helmet with MB-5/P oxygen mask.


Initial USAF helicopters were HH-43B and HH-43F Huskies models for local USAF stateside base SAR work. It was nicknamed after 1966 as Pedro.

As an example for local base work, in a two year period from 31 January 1962-1964, HH-43 Crews saved 262 military and civilian lives and assisted 1,473 other persons. Many of these were rescued from precarious situations, and undoubtedly would have loss their lives without the help of the H-43. In addition, Huskies scrambled 12,613 times to assist aircraft in trouble. The Huskie was never intended for use in combat. It was designed as a local base crash and rescue helicopter only.

Huskies first entered Vietnam war service at Bien Hoa and Da Nang in 1964. They served as the first SAR helicopter in the country. Overtime these became used in early stage of the Vietnam Air war for SAR into North Vietnam. Due to limited range they didn’t go far or often.


  • Crew: Four: two pilots, two rescue crew
  • Length: 25 ft 0 in (7.6 m)
  • Main rotor diameter: 2× 47 ft in (14.3 m)
  • Height: 17 ft 2 in (5.18 m)
  • Gross weight: 9,150 lb (4,150 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 ×Lycoming T53 turboshaft, 860 hp (640 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 120 mph (190 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 105 mph (169 km/h)
  • Range: 185 miles (298 km)
  • Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)

Most Pedro units were classified as LBR and they used base (MT) Aero Medical Technicians instead of PJs. All Pedro units had (ABR) Airborne Rescuemen/Firefighters assigned. The normal LBR crew was a Pilot, Copilot, (MT) and two (ABRs). The normal ACR crew consisted of Pilot, Copilot, PJ and (FE) Flight Mechanic/Engineer.

The HH-43s were equipped with a hoist to rescue downed air crews.The hoists was used by the PJ.

The rescue hoist in action. The crew wear a mix of HGU-2A/P flight helmets with boom microphone and camouflage paint and the pilot wears a P-4B flight helmet with a boom microphone.

A Huskie awaits a another mission.

HH-43B sling tows an FSK.

A HH-43 hovering in Vietnam – note how the white HGU-2A/P helmets stand out.

A early form of defence for the Huskie – a sling mounted machine gun

Here we see a meeting of CSAR assets – Huskie and Super Jolly Green

Here we see another interesting photo – Huskie and Jolly on same base… Huskie is racing to a F-105F Thunderchief with RU tailcode which has landed wheels up.

Here we have a film clip of a HH-43 crew training in Vietnam war era on a fire at a base

Few people are aware that the HH-43 was the first USAF SAR helicopter in the war, the last USAF SAR helicopter to leave Vietnam, and that it was credited with more combat saves than either the HH-3 or the HH-53 Jolly Green Giants.

This is remarkable considering that it was unarmed, very small, had a relatively short range.
Another interesting fact is that the blades were made from wood.


The USAF had in early 1960s acquired some CH-3 tactical helicopters for supply and base work.

Some were urgently rushed to the Vietnam war zone and began saving shot down pilots from capture.

Being larger, faster and more room was a good thing for the ARRS squadrons. They were a start but still not adequate.

The CH/HH-3 Jolly Green Giant

The Sikorsky CH/HH-3 was based on the S-61 design and was first developed for the military by the U.S. Navy as the SH-3 Sea King. The first model for the USAF was the CH-3B which was a modified SH-3 which featured a redesigned rear fuselage incorporating a loading ramp for small vehicles and cargo.


Span: 62′ 0″ Rotor

Length: 57′ 3″

Height: 18′ 1″

Weight, Empty, 13,255 lbs.

Weight, Gross, 22,500 lbs.

Maximum Air Speed: 162 MPH

Service Ceiling: 11,100 feet

Range 465 miles

Armament: Two General Electric 7.63mm M60D machine guns

Retractable landing gear was added and with the addition of the aft ramp the tail wheel was moved forward and made steerable. The first flight of the CH-3C was on 17 June 1963. Beginning in 1966 all Ch-3C’s were modified with the T-58-GE-5 engine which changed their designation to CH-3E and an
APU was installed making the CH-3 self-starting. The CH-3 can carry 25 fully equipped troops, but it was best known for use in rescue missions in Vietnam where it gained its nickname the “Jolly Green Giant”.

CH-3E Jolly Green Giant Helicopter

Some were used on Pony Express special operations. The most famous CH-3 was a black painted special operations – called the Black Maria which was used for inserting special operations troops into the Laos and surrounding countries.

Fixed gun mounts were added to the CH-3 for self defence.

Here we see a rather unique photo – a Jolly landing in water…

Soon a special version was modified and built. It was the new HH-3E model. This was beginning of the Jolly Green Giant era. These soon after been deployed were equipped for inflight refuelling with a boom added to the right nose side.

A photo of a HH3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter

The special model ordered for USAF rescue the HH-3E soon came into use.

Here we see a HH-3E inserting special forces noted by their ERDL uniforms.

A HH-3E and it’s A-1 Skyraider escorts over the ocean off North Vietnam.


The HH-53 was the first helicopter specifically designed for combat search and rescue – CSAR – operations.

On March 15, 1967, the HH-53B Super Jolly Green Giant made its first test flight at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. After evaluation, the helicopter was slated for Aerospace Rescue and Recovery operations in Southeast Asia.

The “Super Jolly” was slated to replace the HH-3E Jolly Green Giant. It was faster and had nearly triple the take-off weight of the HH-3. The HH-53B was larger, more heavily armed, and with almost double the shaft horsepower, it had better hover capability and overall performance especially at altitude.

For its combat rescue and recovery role, the HH-53B was equipped with armor plating, self-sealing fuel tanks, three 7.62 M60 or M-134 miniguns and an external rescue hoist with 250 feet of cable.

The external hook had a 20,000-pound capacity.

With the improved performance of the rescue helicopters, such as the HH-53, terrain became a useful ally in Vietnam rather than a hindrance. Ridgelines / karsts and jungle canopy could be used to minimize the effectiveness of enemy fire. Antiaircraft guns, which grew in number and caliber throughout the war, were limited by the same jungle that hid them. Gunners could track their targets only within the confining limits of geographic features. The high speed of the HH-53 over the HH-3 gave it more safety against the gunners.

The HH-53s were operated by the 40th ARRS.

“Crown” and later “King” HC-130P Hercules refuelled the Jollies in flight.

Jolly Green Giants were based in Lima Sites in Laos so they could be close to the Vietnam border to reduce time in transit to a shot down pilot. Here were see a HH-53 at a Lima Site 20A in Laos as a Caribou of Air America does a STOL landing.

Here we see a mix of flight uniforms on Jolly Green crews members – Tigerstripe and ERDL uniforms and standard K-2B flight suits. Some crew wear the SRU-21/P survival vests.

Sept. 4, 1969- Crew that picked up a Laotian T-28 pilot northwest of the PDJ. The crew use of ERDL and Nomex flight suits along with SRU-21/P survival vest is noted.

A HH-53C Parajumper / Flight Engineer manning the rear ramp Minigun. He wears a HGU-2A/P flight helmet with boom microphone, ERDL suit and a monkey harness to keep him in the helicopter. He wears nomex flight gloves.

Here we see the minigun in use by the PJ. He wears a AFH-1 helmet with boom microphone.

He wears standard USAF OG-107 uniform.

The best view a downed pilot could ask for in Vietnam War – a rescue – by a Jolly Green Giant.


The Douglas A-1 (formerly AD) Skyraider was an American single-seat aircraft that saw service between the late 1940s and early 1970s. It was a piston powered, propeller driven left over in the new fangled all flying jet and despite this it routinely outclassed the jets.

It was nicknamed the Spad after the famous WW1 fighter.

The Skyraider had a remarkably long and successful career serving in over 11 services in US, Europe and Africa.

General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 38 ft 10 in (11.84 m)
  • Wingspan: 50 ft 0¼ in (15.25 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 8¼ in (4.78 m)
  • Wing area: 400.3 ft² (37.19 m²)
  • Empty weight: 11,968 lb(5,429 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 18,106 lb (8,213 kg)
  • Max take off weight: 25,000 lb (11,340 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1× Wright R-3550 -26WA radial engine 2,700 hp (2,000 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 322 mph (518 km/h) at 18,000 ft (5,500 m)
  • Cruise speed: 198 mph (319 km/h)
  • Range: 1,316 mi (2,115 km)
  • Service ceiling: 28,500 ft (8,685 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,850 ft/min (14.5 m/s)


  • Guns: 4 × 20mm M2 cannons
  • Bomb load: Able to carry up to 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) of weapons on 15 external hardpoints including general purpose bombs, cluster bombs, torpedoes, mine dispensers, unguided rockets, or gun pods

A Sandy pilot wears a HGU-2A/P flight helmet with a MBU-5/P oxygen mask in a cockpit prior to a mission. Note as similar to other aircrew it is camouflaged to reduce visual detection. He sits on a Yankee ejection seat, with a SRU-21/P survival harness, K-2B flight suit and Nomex flight gloves.

Here we see a A-1E pilot wearing K-2B flight suit, flight boots, SRu-21/P survival vest, camouflaged HGU-2A/P flight helmet with ramshorn dual visor. Note the mission details slipped into his leg strap.

A crew chief is checking the A-1E pilot is ready to go. The camouflaged HGU-2A/P flight helmet with ramshorn visor cover hangs off the side until the pilot is ready to start up the engine.

A-1H Skyraider pilot before flying a mission. Note the dark grey underside.

Note the assorted load out – minigun pod, rocket pod, tear gas munition and what looks like a white phosphorus bomb. The pilot wears a K-2B flight suit, SRU-21/P survival vest, ejection seat harness, B-3 flight gloves and a unit baseball cap.

Note the black undersides of this SOS Skyraiders. The pilot wears K-2B flight suit, SRU-21/P survival vest, unit baseball cap, web belt with pistol ammunition, LPU-2/P under arm type LPU, ejection seat harness and flight boots.

A-1 pilot wears USAF issued ERDL camouflaged 2 piece uniform more effective if shot down than a sage green K-2B flight suit in the jungle. He holds a camouflaged HGU-2A/P flight helmet, SRU-21/P survival vest and ejection seat harness. Note similar SAR weapon load out to other Sandies.

A-1 pilot wearing CWU-27/P Nomex flight suit and on the left wing naplam BLU-27 bomb is his HGU-2A/P flight helmet.

A-1 pilot preparing to climb into a Skyraider cockpit for a mission. Note his Yankee ejection seat harness, SRU-21/P survival vest, Nomex flight suit and gloves. If interest is the gunsight on the cockpit windscreen sill.

To ensure people with an interest in the Vietnam war get a better understanding of

what happened on a typical CSAR mission, this film clip will give a good overall insight to how the packages worked.

Here we see scenes of a CSAR mission in North Vietnam, with Sandies, Jollies and King and Pave Nail working on a RESCAP.

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