CH-3B Open Ocean Rescue

Otis AFB, MA.

09 April 1962

Our CH-3B open ocean rescue mission took place on a Friday afternoon. I had just finished a post flight on an H-21 and was about to leave the hangar when I heard the phone ring. I figured it was an irate wife wanting to know when her husband would be home. The longer the phone rang the more urgent it seemed to me so I ran upstairs and answered it.

The call came from Base Op's informing me we had a rescue mission some 150 miles out and to get the "B" model out and ready to go ASAP if not sooner. The flight crew and medic were on their way. Since I was by myself and no one to help with the towing action I took it upon myself to do it alone. The blades were folded which really helped getting the aircraft out of the hangar.


Just as I was driving the tug and tow bar back into the hangar the crew arrived in nearly full panic.  Captain Winden told me there was a man on the Ursla M. Norton out of New Bedford that



had a ruptured appendix and that we need to launch in a hurry. Number one engine was started and the blades were spread into flight position then number two was started. After all of the pre-taxi checks were completed we lifted out of the chocks and were boring a hole through the wind at 140+ knots.


As we got "feet wet" Op's informed us the little fishing boat did not have an operational radio but we could identify the vessel with the inverted American flag on the stern. Not the best news but better than none at all. The further out we flew the more small fishing boats we saw especially as we flew past one of the Texas Towers. Most of them were Soviet vessels around the mother ship. So now it was "guess where the little boat is".


After about 20 to 30 minutes we spotted the boat bobbing up and down in rather high waves flying the inverted flag. The patient was already on the lorry stand on the stern ready for pick-up. As we maneuvered over the boat the mast was a huge obstacle and eventually wound up between the sponson and fuselage. I was calling out directions the best I could with changing conditions. I had a handful of hoist cable as well as the *"joy stick" which was all but useless in the high winds so I let Capt. Winden take control of the aircraft.


This is a 1996 photo of the Ursula M. Norton in the New Bedford harbor, which had been re-named in this photo as the Marrisa Ann

I got the litter basket on the lorry stand just barely as the boat crew loaded the patient in and fortunately strapped him in really tight. They gave me a thumbs up sign, I started to bring the basket up then bad luck struck. The basket got entangled in one of the wires to the mast but like the dedicated soul I was, I kept on reeling the basket up. Just as the basket got untangled the patient’s suitcase and hat flew out of the basket and into the drink.


The medic and I took a look at the patient and noticed a small red bump on his forehead which was not life threatening. By now we were heading east back to Otis. The pilot informed Op's we had the survivor on boardand was in bound to Home Base. As we flew over

Martha's Vineyard the forward fuel tank low level light came on and I'm thinking we might have to swim home before this is all said and done.


About 30 miles out the aft tank low level fuel light came on, by now there was a small bubble of fear right behind my belt buckle. We still had not seen dry land and at 150 knots we were bring fuel as if there was no tomorrow. When we did finally touch down at Otis on a single engine, the remaining engine flamed out so the ambulance had to come to us on the active runway to retrieve the patient who was not is the best of shape by any means.


About two weeks later MSgt McDowell, the helicopter Section NCOIC was giving my name, home town, rank and Wife's name to someone on the phone. I asked him who he was freely handing out my information to. He told me the man we rescued was claiming we had given him a bad case of Amnesia and was suing me and the crew for a million dollars! Talk about pucker time!!!! He let me stew and fume for an hour before he told me that was the base historical office wanting to know the details of the mission.


Unfortunately I do not remember the co-pilots name or the medics name but will do some research and if I locate the names I'll pass them on.


We did receive the Wing "S" award from Sikorsky in a ceremony in the Wing Commander's office complete with coffee and cake then back to work. Our certificates were signed by Igor himself as well as Mr. Lee President of Sikorsky Aircraft.


For years we held the record for a rescue mission, non in-flight refueling, some 300+ miles. I would imagine by now that record has been broken which is fine with me, let someone else have the fun.




*"Joy Stick" - The "fun part" of the new aircraft (CH-3B) was the "joy stick" on the left side of the cargo door that would give the hoist operator 11% authority to maneuver the aircraft during a rescue mission.