“Riders on the storm. Riders on the storm. Into this house we’re born. Into this world we’re thrown.”
—The Doors, 1971
In 1967, the U.S. Navy established Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three, commonly known as HA(L)-3, unclassified call sign: “Seawolf.” The in-country formation and disestablishment in 1972 was a historic first.
The Navy stood up three “brown-water” task forces to combat communist infiltration along the coast and interior waterways. Operation Market Time operated “Swift Boats” patrolling along the coast and initially the large rivers.
Operation Game Warden operated “patrol boats, river” (PBRs) on the canals and smaller rivers, while the Mobile Riverine Force supported the Army’s 29th Division, which had its own integral air support (helicopters) and forward air controllers for Tac Air. Game Warden was supported on a catch-as-catch-can basis by individual U.S. Army aviation units until they finally cried “uncle!,” relating they had more than they could handle supporting their own units, let alone covering the Navy’s growing needs. That situation spurred the call for integral support of Game Warden—hence, the birth of the Seawolves.
HA(L)-3 initially consisted of nine detachments, each with two helicopter gunships and two four-man crews per Huey, stationed in various locations throughout the Mekong Delta. They were based aboard barracks ships positioned in the large rivers and on offshore LSTs (landing ships, tank).
The Army ended up loaning the Navy 30 to 35 “war-weary” UH-1Bs. After the Navy repainted and rearmed the Hueys, the Seawolves proceeded to carve a name for themselves in the history books. I was just a small part of it when I arrived in 1969.
By Lt. Cmdr. Bud Barnes, USN, Retired As told to and written by James P. Busha
Read the article from the April 2016 issue of Flight Journal. click here.