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cles that he "got a KC-130 load of CH-53 spares . . . under the nickname
of Floodtide" sent out to the 1st Wing. Observing that the list of parts
included clamps, tubes, gaskets, fasteners and other "mundane items",
McCutcheon exclaimed, "I'll be damned if I can understand why this kind
of stuff is not available in Da Nang or at least Subic [the Navy base
in the Philippines at Subic Bay]."20

While appreciative of the effort upon receipt of the Floodtide supplies on 4 March, General Anderson complained, "One critical item follows another in the history of the CH-53." He stated that during the past week he only had nine of the large helicopters flying for a 33 percent availability rate. According to the wing commander, if only he had replacement windshields to install he could have another 10 of the large aircraft in the air. Adding to Anderson's woes, an enemy rocket attack on Marble Mountain the night before resulted in the loss of one of the CH-53s.21

During the following months, the situation improved, but only modestly.* For example, in April, General McCutcheon again had to arrange a special airlift for CH-53 spare parts with "no appreciable change in their operational readiness." Only a third of the large choppers were operationally ready as contrasted to the number on hand. While not overly concerned about those figures, McCutcheon observed that these statistics become "alarming" when the number of operationally ready aircraft were compared to the number of aircraft assigned. The availability for the CH-53s then dropped to about 25 percent. In August, the arrival of HMH-462 at Phu Bai with 10 additional aircraft bringing the total of the Sea Stallions in Vietnam to 43, provided some relief for the other 53 squadron, HMH-463.** According to FMFPac, this improved the lift capability of the wing by 34 percent.22

While the CH-53 recovered some 167 downed helicopters and one Cessna
0-1B light fixed-wing observation aircraft during the year, the aircraft
continued to have problems. Near the end of 1968, Brigadier General
Homer Dan Hill, the assistant wing commander, provided General Quilter
his assessment about the CH-53 limitations. According to Hill, while
the helicopter could carry about 9,000 pounds total, even under normal
circumstances it could lift no more than 8,000 pounds externally. This
load was further curtailed in the heat and mountains of Vietnam. The
Sea Stallion was not capable of bringing in heavy equipment for the
building of firebases or lifting in the large 155mm guns to these sites.
In order to carry out these missions, the 3d Marine Division relied
upon nearby Army helicopter companies equipped with the CH-54 Tarhe
Sky Crane that could carry an external load of approximately 20,000
pounds. The Army Sky Cranes recovered 41 of the Marine CH-A6s. Hill
pointed to the fact that the Marines very recently lost three CH^6s
that could not be field stripped and "quickly lifted to safety by the
CH-53A." He recommended that the Marine Corps try to procure a heavy-lift
helicopter that could match the Army Sky Crane.23***

While design factors played a role as did a continuing pilot shortage****
in helicopter availability, the one constant problem was the lack of
spare parts, especial-

* Colonel Roger W. Peard, who commanded HMH-463 in the second half
of 1968, observed that he made some changes relative to spare parts
procurement. He recalled that when he took over, four aircraft were
being used to scavage parts for other aircraft, but that the MAG-16
maintenance officer did not believe in creating "hangar 'queens' for
parts." Instead when an aircraft was scheduled for its annual inspection,
good pans were removed to replace parts needed by other aircraft. The
other aircraft was then sent back for rework. While this may have increased
labor costs, no perennial "hangar queens" were created. According to
Peard, "parts shortages persisted, but this system improved availability
of the CH-53A in HMH-463." Peard Comments.

** Colonel Joseph L. Sadowski, who commanded HMH-463 early in 1968,
recalled that during Tet there were insufficient airframes to send a
second CH-53 squadron to Vietnam, "not to mention the training pipe
line for pilots/mechanics and the required flight hours stateside to
accomplish this task." Col Joseph L. Sadowski, Comments on draft, dtd
20Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File).

*** General Carey, who in 1968 served on the wing staff, observed
that through July the availability of the CH-53 was so low, "we frequently
requested use of the CH-54 flying cranes for aircraft retrieval. At
one time the situation was so bad we even considered requesting emergency
procurement of our own flying crane capability." Carey Comments. Colonel
Peard, a former CH-54 squadron commander, observed that relative to
the external and internal lift capabilities of the CH-53A Sea Stallion,
"weight is weight, wherever you put it in or on the aircraft." He stated,
however, that the helicopter could carry an internal load at a higher
airspeed, because of the limitations caused by "load motion, that is
swinging." Colonel Peard acknowledged that the Army CH-54 Sky Crane
was the "undisputed heavy-lift champion . . .," but noted that in contrast
to the CH-53, it did not have a trooplift capability. According to Peard,
General Quilter, the wing commander, "did not like going to the Army
to use the Sky Crane . . . (and directed that] one of the CH-53s in
HMH-463 be stripped of all possible equipment to lighten it as much
as possible and thus maximize its lifting capability." Peard Comments.

**** See Chapter 27 for a detailed discussion of pilot training and
shortages. Relative to the helicopter pilot shortage, in October 1968,
Major General McCutcheon at HQMC witnessed the first six Marine officers
graduate from the Army helicopter school at Hunter Airfield near Savannah,
Georgia. He believed that with the inauguration of this training program
earlier in the year that "finally got the pilot problem whipped inro
shape so that from here on in we should be making progress." McCutcheon
Itr to E.E. Anderson, dtd 10 Oct 68, Ltr No. 93, File A, 1968 Cor, McCutcheon
Papers, MCHC.

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