Veterans for a strong America
Squadron History
Authors Biography
MWSA Review
Comments from Readers
Squadron History
HC- 1 Aircraft
HA(L)-3 Aircrew Roll of Honor
Nha Be
History of Navy Combatsar presented at Texas Tech Symposium
NAS Fallon Dedication

"So that others may live."


  Helicopter Combat Support Squadron ONE [HC-1]
"Fleet Angels"


Cdr Alan J. Billings was Commanding Officer from January 1981 to March 1982.  Helicopter Combat Support Squadron ONE (HC-1), was the oldest combat search and rescue helicopter squadron in the Navy.  Originally designated Helicopter Utility Squadron ONE (HU-1), was established at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1948 as the Navy's first operational helicopter squadron. In 1951 HU-1 was moved to the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California where it achieved operational status. HU-1 was then moved to the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Ream Field, Imperial Beach, California, where it was redesignated on July 1965 as Helicopter Combat Support Squadron ONE (which more accurately described the mission of the command).  Then again in 1976 HC-1 was transferred to Naval Air Station North Island.


The squadron's primary mission of air-sea rescue remained unchanged throughout the years. During the Korean Conflict, HU-1's pilots and aircrew men were among the first into combat and pioneered new techniques of personnel rescue from behind enemy lines; a mission designated as "Combat SAR". For "its extraordinary heroism in action behind enemy lines” HU-1 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. LTJG John Koelsch, one of HU-1's pilots, was decorated with the Nation's highest award, the Medal of Honor for his "extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in Korea." The example he set while in captivity became the basis for the Code of Conduct, the set of standards adopted in 1955 to guide All-American Prisoners of War.


Another HU-1 pilot who came up through the enlisted ranks was also captured during the Korean War. During one rescue attempt, Lt Duane Thorin fell captive on 8 February 1952.  He escaped from a POW camp in July, 1952, but was recaptured.  Repatriated in September, 1953, he was tasked by COMNAVAIRPAC to produce classified analysis of communist purposes and techniques in their treatment of POW's and develop a training program for survival, escape and evasion, and resistance in event of capture, which eventually became the "Code of Conduct".  Commissioned an Ensign in 1955, he served as analyst in the National Security Agency, developed materials for Naval leadership training, and reviewed training practices relating to the Code of Conduct for the Department of Defense.  His novelized account of experiences while a POW titled "A Ride to Panmunjon" was used by the DoD in that regard.


Until 1967, HC-1 was the largest and most active helicopter squadron in the Navy. From Antarctic-bound icebreakers to attack carriers on patrol in the South China Sea, HC-1 covered an extended area encompassing nearly 50 million square miles. As the versatility of the helicopter increased, so did the demands for services. HELSUPPRON ONE accomplished such diversified missions as ice reconnaissance, medical evacuation, logistic support, vertical replenishment, guided missile recovery, photo reconnaissance, ground support with helicopter gunships, National Geographic Surveys, personnel transfers, gunfire spotting, fleet training assistance, mine sweeping, airborne torpedo recovery, and transfer of chaplains throughout the fleet for church services. More notably HC-1 had the privilege of providing services in the recovery of Apollo missions 15, 16, 17 and Skylab missions II, III, IV. Yet, above all, the primary mission of HELSUPPRON ONE was the safeguarding of human life during times of peace and war. The "FLEET ANGLES" of HC-1 amassed over 1679 civilian and military rescues.


In 1967 HELSUPPRON ONE was divided into the following four different squadrons: Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron THREE (gunships) since disestablished, Helicopter Combat Support Squadron THREE (vertical replenishment), Helicopter Combat Support Squadron FIVE (LAMPS Training) since redesignated HSL-31 and subsequently disestablished, and Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SEVEN (Logistics Support and Combat SAR) since disestablished. In November 1978, HC-1 assumed the mission of helicopter weapons recovery support for Pacific Fleet units engaged in Anti-Submarine readiness training using the Southern California Offshore Range (SCORE). In October 1980, HC-1 assumed administrative control of the West Coast SAR Swimmer School.


By the early 1980's, the "FLEET ANGELS" were still flying "so others may live" at North Island. They had an aircraft detachments onboard USS BLUE RIDGE (LCC-19) which provided VIP service for COMSEVENTHFLT, USS Midway, and USS Coral Sea flying the Sikorsky SH-3G "Sea King" Helicopter. In 1984 the squadron received two CH-53E "Super Stallions" which brought heavy lift, vertical onboard delivery to the Pacific Fleet for the first time. On the 1st of June 1989, HC-1 assumed the mission of Fleet Replacement Squadron, Fleet Replacement Aircrew training, and Fleet Readiness Aviation Maintenance Personnel for all of the Navy's UH-3 helicopter crews and all of the West Coast H-3 mechanics.   After more than 46 years of service to the fleet HC-1 was disestablished on 29 April 1994.