This is the RH-53 Squadron that gave up an entire squadrons worth of aircraft to accomplish this mission. The Following is a command history of that unit:
This is a good shot of the same type of helicopter that was used on the rescue mission, the RH-53D. Notice the extra fuel tanks on the landing gear pylons. That is why this aircraft was preferable to the normal CH-53, it’s long range!
Right away, when the rescue attempt was planned, arrangements were made to have 8 of these aircraft sent to the Indian Ocean, to be loaded on board the Nimitz. They had to send them in a round-about way.
These are the men of HM-16.
Helicopter Mine Countermeasures
Squadron SIXTEEN (HM-16)
Mine Countermeasures Unit Bravo (MCMUB) was commissioned on 20 September 1974 as a command and control functionary responsible for planning, co-ordinating and executing mine countermeasures operation orders and maintaining the unique Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) equipment used by the helicopter mine countermeasures squadron.
The unit also establishes and maintains the precise navigation systems and provides computer generated clearance plans vital to efficient mine countermeasures operations.
Originally homeported in Charleston, South Carolina, the Command moved to Norfolk, Virginia in the spring of 1976.
Since it’s commissioning, the unit has participated in 18 operations of which 9 have been major fleet level exercise and one, Operation Nimbus Stream, was an executive ordered operation conducted in waters adjacent to Port Said and
Damietta, Egypt. The command has been embarked aboard USS Nashville, USS Ogden, USS Coronado, USS Ponce,
USS Trenton, USS Austin, and the USS Iwo Jima. The unit has also operated from beach sites at Panama City, Florida;
Charleston, South Carolina; Norfolk, Virginia; La Spezia, Italy; Toulon, France; and Rota, Spain.
During each deployment or operation, Mine Countermeasures Unit BRAVO has united with an aviation detachment from
Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron TWELVE to form a complete AMCM organization. The reorganization will
consolidate Mine Countermeasures Unit BRAVO and HM-12 Detachment TWO into a deployable integral fleet squadron
(HM-16) with a quick response world-wide deployment capability.
The Sikorsky RH-53D helicopter is the basic platform in the AMCM Weapon System. The aircraft has a maximum gross
weight of 42,000 pounds and is capable of speeds up 160 knots. In spite of it’s huge size, the RH-53D Sea Stallion has been known to make a few loops from time to time.
By CNO directive, effective 27 October 1978, Mine Countermeasures Unit BRAVO and HM-12 Detachment TWO
would permanently unite to form the “Sea Hawks” of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron SIXTEEN (HM-16),
the final step in a “sweeping change”.
In December 1978, shortly after being established, HM-16 began the first of its shipboard training aboard the USS
Guadalcanal (LPH-7) while conducting an AMCM shipboard training exercise. Squadron personnel were tasked to
demonstrate their capabilities in AMCM operations in preparation for the squadron’s first deployment.
The squadron began its first major deployment in February 1979 at NAS Key West, Florida. During the months of
February and March the squadron set the pace for the HM community by completing over 162 hours of AMCM sweep
operations. During May of 1979 the squadron continued to improve its AMCM skills by operating from the deck of the
USS Shreveport (LPD-12), participating in Exercise Solid Shield ’79. Operations included both mechanical and influence airborne mine sweeping from the flight deck and well decks of the USS Shreveport (LPD-12).
Photo Credits: U.S. Navy
HM-16’s first major OUTCONUS deployment was to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in October 1979. Participating inCANUS MARCOT ’79, a joint U.S. – Canadian exercise, HM-16 was shore based at CFB Shearwater, Nova Scotia while
the majority of squadron personnel where housed at the Holiday Inn, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The squadron’s prime
objective was to clear a simulated minefield blocking this major strategic Canadian port. The documented success of the
deployment and the cooperation developed with the Canadian Forces further strengthened our mutual defense efforts.
Here is a shot of the actual aircraft that took part in the rescue mission. These are RH-53’s, painted brown for the camoflauge effect of the Iranian desert, and to be similar to Iranian aircraft paint schemes. This shot is aboard the
Four days after returning from the Canadian deployment, HM-16 was tasked to execute a no-notice rapid deployment to
the Indian Ocean area. Within a 34 hour period, all personnel and squadron assets were deployed from the commands home base in Norfolk, Virginia. This response stands as a tribute to the superb performance of the members of this command. In April 1980, while stationed aboard USS Nimitz (CVN-68), HM-16 provided the eight (8) helicopters
(RH-53D’s) used in the attempted hostage rescue mission Operation Eagle Claw / Evening Light. On 19 May 1980, the
squadron returned to Norfolk after an unprecedented 193 days continuous at sea.
In October of 1980 the Seahawks once again deployed to Halifax, Nova Scotia for Operation CANUS MARCOT ’80. All
objectives were completed one week ahead of schedule allowing Naval Forces to breakout and complete the exercise.
While in Canada, the squadron was deployed to NAS Key West in late November for special mine countermeasures equipment training in preparation for a 1981 deployment to the Persian Gulf.
From January to June of 1981, HM-16 deployed to the Persian Gulf to act as a forward deployed AMCM contingency
force aboard USS Coronado (AGF-11).
Hm-16 again deployed to Halifax, Nova Scotia in October 1981 and participated in the highly successful CANUS MARCOT ’81, while simultaneously supplying a vertical onboard delivery detachment for two aircraft carriers operating in
the Caribbean OP area.
In June 1982, The HM-16 Seahawks departed Norfolk for a deployment to THIRD and SEVENTH Fleets. While in
California, HM-16 operated from three ships (USS Duluth, USS New Orleans, and USS Denver) and participated in two
exercises. In July, the squadron departed San Diego for West Pac aboard the USS New Orleans (LPH-11). In Japan,
AMCM equipment and capabilities were demonstrated to representatives of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Subsequently, HM-16 conducted a joint MCM exercise with Republic of Korea minesweepers and demonstrated the
capability and effectiveness of the two forces.
In August of 1983, the Hm-16 Seahawks deployed aboard USS Inchon (LPH-12) for participation in MCM ’83. HM-16
worked in conjunction with surface sweeping forces from Belgium, England, and the Netherlands clearing simulated
minefields in the North Sea. It was during this deployment that the squadron established two records for aircraft readiness and flight hours under mine countermeasures tow operations
HM-16 received the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Battle Efficiency Award (2 awards), and the Expeditionary
Medal (2 awards).
HM-16 was officially disestablished on January 1987 when it was decided that a Helicopter Mine Countermeasures
Squadron was needed on the west coast. For funding purposes HM-16 was disestablished and soon thereafter Helicopter
Mine Countermeasures FIFTEEN was to become the second commissioned squadron in the Airborne Mine Countermeasures community.
BRAVO ZULU to all of the Seahawks of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron SIXTEEN.
Here is a shot of that out of the way place that the helicopters went through.This is Diego Garcia, an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean south of India and below the equator. It is a small island, shaped like a V, and is a British owned territory
Here is another shot from the air of Diego Garcia. All of this operation was secret, so secret, that when this helicopter squadron arrived, someone saw them come in, recognized someone and went to say hello while they were in the hanger they were secluded in, and was seized.
When the squadron shipped out to the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, he went with them, and then also on to the Nimitz for the rest of the mission! He was not part of it, but he had to be secluded for reasons of secrecy.
This is the USS Nimitz, the final stop before the mission.
It is one of our largest cariers and most powerful. It is from this ship that the helicopters took off from.
I landed on the Nimitz once. Do you remember how long the Nimitz was deployed at sea without liberty? It was well over 100 days! That’s a long time! Well, the reason I was there that day, was to deliver . . . BEER. . . to the USS Nimitz.
That’s right, Beer.
It seems the Navy wanted to give their sailors a break, knowing that the ships would be deployed a very long time at sea, so they had our ship, the USS Okinawa load on beer while in Subic Bay in the Philippenes. We were told it was for us for a ship’s party, but I now believe it was planned all along. All men on the Nimitz got 2 beers each, and I was one of the men who delivered it.
There was a Sailor along with us on this trip, and his job was a Copier repairman. He has written me several times, but each time I tried to contact him, XXXXX@NSASPOOK.COM was his address, my e-mail told me his e-mail address was not valid! If that Sailor wants to try to contact me, he needs to use a friends e-mail, I would love to chat and say hello! We dropped him off on the USS Coral Sea, shown below.
An interesting sidenote to that day on the Nimitz, when we delivered the beer,it had been sitting on our flight deck for hours, and it is HOT in the Arabian Sea! So, naturally, the beer was hot.
I was draggin the pallet off the ramp of the CH-53 I was on, and the pallet got stuck on something, and slid sideways, and the beer on the side of the pallet got snagged on something on the back ramp and several beer cans got torn.
Well, the beer came spurting out, and at high velocity, too. Quite foamy. Being a red-blooded Marine back then, I grabbed the can and tried to salvage the remaining beer in the can the only way I knew how: I drank it. Or, at least tried to. It was so hot, that it tasted awful and I spit it right out again without swallowing any. And that stale beer smell didn’t go away for a while from my clothes, either.
The same day I visited the Nimitz, I was on the Coral Sea. While this is not my own photo, this is the USS Coral Sea, CVA 43.
We delivered mail from the Nimitz, and took some home for us from this ship. If I remember correctly, this was the final destination of that Copier repairman from our ship.
To the Sailors and Airdales of HM-16:
I was recently contacted by a woman who met some of you many years ago. Here is what she wrote:
Your aircraft carrier was in Belgium in 1983, where I met some of your people in the pub I was working in Ostend, Belgium (pub’s name was Coconut and was on the promenade)
I was invited on board of your ship for dinner in the oficers mess and had a fantastic time. I received a lovely present from one of the officers, a Zippo lighter with the sea hawk HM 16 logo engraved.
I was just wondering how all the crew members are doing, saddly enough I do not remember the names, but I do remember that me and my boyfriend at the time, invited these two officers back at our flat for a nice evening and dinner.
Looking forward to hear from you
I wrote back to her, explaining that I was not HM-16 and asked her if she wanted me to post her message to you all, and she said yes!
Here is how to contact her: