Sealord History

Sealord History

by Don Thompson

I arrived home from HAL-3 on 20 October 1971 and flew HH-1K 157180 at NAS Jacksonville Air Operations SAR Detachment on 04 November and 8 December 1971. I left active duty 21 Dec. 1971. The Jax SAR Det also had HH-1K's 157178 and 157179.

My research at Bell Aircraft indicates that Bell made 27 HH-1K's, 8 UH-1L's and 45 or 90 TH-1L's. The HH-1K's were built as air station search and rescue (SAR) aircraft and went directly from the Bell factory to NAS Air Operations Departments throughout the Navy, primarily as replacements for SH-34J SAR and UH-34G/D model helicopters. Deliveries of the “Kilo” Huey's started in May 1970 and by November of that year three had been sent to Vietnam to serve with US Navy squadron HA(L)-3.

The 8 UH-1L's were ordered for HAL-3 and all went directly to HAL-3 to become Sealords aircraft. The first 4 arrived at HAL-3 in November 1969. As mentioned, the 27 HH-1K's were ordered as Air Station Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft. The 45 TH-1L's were ordered primarily for the Training Command (TRAWING 5) in Pensacola. These 3 types of H-1 aircraft were all similar and similar to Marine UH-1E's. The Marines bought 192 UH-1E aircraft and 20 TH-1E's although I can only find bureau numbers for 158 total. Navy and Marine UH-1's had subtle differences from Army UH-1's to include all aluminum construction (no magnesium), the installation of rotor brakes, radar altimeters, roof mounted rescue hoist, Navy compatible avionics and minor electrical changes. All UH-1L, TH-1L and HH-1K aircraft also had the 540 rotor head, the large fuel tank, and the T-53L-13, 1400 shaft horse power engines.

Below are the 8 Navy UH-1L's, all were Sealords aircraft at HAL-3. A total of 3 UH-1L's were written off in 1970 and 1971. 157851 and 157857 were written off before I got to HAL-3 August 7, 1970 and 177853 after I left on August 4, 1971.

157851 Written Off 01 Jun 1970
157852 (I flew Jun/Jul 71)
157853 (I flew May/June 1971) Written Off 23 Dec 1971
157854 (I flew Jun/Jul 1971),
157855 (I flew May/Jun /Jul 1971)
157856 (I flew Jul 1971)
157857 Written Off 05 May 1970
157858 (I flew Sep. 1970)

As UH-1L's were written off as losses, the Navy replaced them with HH-1K's. Deliveries of the “Kilo” Huey started in May 1970 and by November of that year three had been sent to Vietnam to serve with US Navy squadron HA(L)-3. HAL-3 Sealords had at least 4 HH-1K's as follows:

157187 (I flew in May/Jul 1971) Written Off 18 Oct 1971
157200 (I flew in Jun/Jul 1971) Survived the war. Now may still be at Pacific Aviation Museum at Hanger 37, Ford Island, Pearl Harbor.
157202 (I flew in Jun 1971) Survived the war and written off 19 Mar 1976)
157203 Written Off 29 Nov 1970, Pilot ran out of gas in Gulf of Thailand between an LST and the coastline near Det 6 at Son On Doc.

About my 3rd day at HAL-3, August 10, 1971 or so, I heard a racket in my room in the barracks, opened the door and saw a helicopter blade sticking out of my barracks building. I ran towards the flight line to find and found a Sealords aircraft lying on it's side. There were no injuries but the aircraft was trashed. That was 157856 which was apparently rebuilt as my log book shows that I flew it in July 13, 1971. That could be a log book entry error.

In May of 1978 I was flying out of NAS Whiting Field on a Naval Reserve annual training (AT) at HT - 8. At night I was doing maintenance turns on HT - 18 aircraft. Some of the aircraft bureau numbers looked familiar and I discovered that several of the old HAL - 3 Sealords UH-1L's had survived the war and were soldering-on training Navy helicopter pilots at HT - 18. I'm now sorry I didn't copy down the bureau numbers of them.

HAL-4 and HAL-5 had a number of HH-1K's after the war and a number were destroyed to the point of being written off. Let me know if you need additional information about HAL-4 and HAL-5 HH-1K aircraft. I secured former HAL - 5 HH-1K Bureau number 157188 through AMARAC in Tuscon, Arizona for the National Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. I sent the HA(L) - 3 paint scheme to former HA(L) - 3 personnel Dennis Russell at HA(L) - 5 at Point Magu and he painted it in HA(L) -3 colors. It was then flown to the Bell plant in Arlington Texas and on to Pensacola. Captain Dick Catone rode on the entire fight from Point Magu to Pensacola as our HA(L)-3 representative. It was accepted by Museum Director Captain Bob Rasmussen from me at the Seawolf Association Reunion at the front (East) entrance to the museum on April 17, 1989.


HAL - 3 was authorized 33 gunships and 11 slicks but they rarely, if ever, had those numbers. The Army supplied HAL-3 with B, and later C model, gunships at a level equivalent to their own units. If Army units were operating with 75% of their authorized aircraft strength HAL-3 would have around 25 Army UH-1B/C aircraft which was a pretty common number for us. Towards the end of 1971 and the first couple of months of 1972, just prior to stand-down, I think HAL-3 may have actually had 33 UH-1B/C gunships. When HAL-3 would receive C model aircraft they would fly them 100 hours and then perform an engine change to I think a T53L -13 engine which converted the aircraft to a M or "Mike" model. This was a huge improvement. The C model had the newer 540 rotor system and larger fuel tank and, with the larger engine, the Mike model was vastly superior to the B Model. It was still limited to 9,500 pounds maximum gross weight and 95 knots with external stores, but it had great "Legs" and on-station time.

Destroyed during external hoist operation, 2 crewmen injured 10/18/71
Assigned 11/1/71. Damaged by ground fire, 1 crewman wounded 4/29/71
Assigned 11/1/71
Lost over Gulf of Thailand to unknown causes, no casualties 11/26/70
Crashed on approach to Binh Thuy, all 3 crewmen killed 6/1/70
Assigned 12/11/69
Assigned 12/11/69. Destroyed in landing accident, both pilots injured 12/22/71
Assigned 12/11/69. Damaged by ground fire, one crewman wounded 1/9/71
Assigned 1/22/70. Damaged due to engine failure near Vi Thanh 10/12/70
Assigned 1/22/70. Crashed on takeoff at Binh Thuy, no casualties 8/13/70
Crashed at Long Phu due to tail rotor control failure, one crewman injured 4/26/70
Assigned 1/22/70