Seawolf Swap

Larry Bradshaw

by Roger Ek, Seawolf 25

The Seawolves, HA(L)-3, a little known gunship outfit in the Delta, was the only helicopter attack squadron ever commissioned by the Navy. It was also little known within the Navy itself and depended on the Army supply line for support, since the Navy had no other Huey's at the time. Given that system, you can imagine the priorities assigned to out requests for supplies by both the Army and Navy.

The Seawolves were a shoe string outfit for sure. We operated out of about a dozen detachments scattered across the Delta and supported the SEALS and river patrol forces, mostly at night. Like most gunship units, we took most of out hits back in the tail. In fact, we reached a point where we had several Hueys sitting at Binh Thuy, ready to fly, except that we had no replacement tail booms. The Army had a repair facility up at Vinh Long, that had moved out for a couple reasons: Vietnamization and the fact that they kept getting mortared. When the repair outfit had moved, they left behind two brand new Charlie-model tail booms, with plywood panels still bolted to the front ends. The Seawolves had old B-Models which were Rucker rejects. (The Cambodians were getting brand new H-Models which they did not know how to fly. I was there and saw the H-Models and talked to the Cambodians who were supposed to fly them. I've got photos. Priorities again.)

The Seawolves finally got two L-Model Hueys for special support operations. (We later got more L-Models and some K-Models). The L-Model was the smallest Huey airframe with the biggest engine, an L-13. I took the first L-Model to Saigon and bought two fifths of Jack Daniels Black Label. I flew the Black Jack up into the Plain of Reeds to a place near Moc Hoa where there was no booze, but they had refrigeration. I swapped the two fifths for two cases of frozen steaks. I flew the steaks down to Vinh Long and swapped them for a Charlie-Model tail boom and an overhauled transmission, still in the can. We loaded the tail boom into the cabin of the L-Model and strapped it in with nylon cargo straps. It stuck out about ten feet on each side. I've got photos.

Then we rigged a strap to the transmission, picked it up with the L-Model cargo hook, and flew it to Binh Thuy. The transmission can was stabilized in flight by a small drogue chute from an OV-10 ejection seat. As we approached from the northeast around sunset, the tower said, "We don't have you in sight, but be advised we have some weird experimental aircraft near your location". Captain Marty Twite said he did not want to know where the tail boom and transmission came from, but he was very glad to get them. We put the C-Model tail boom on a B-Model, which was an authorized modification, but seldom seen.

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