History Of




With the fifth WESTPAC approaching, the waters around San Diego saw plenty of HS-8. In January the Eightballers successfully completed their Operational Readiness Inspection and boarded the USS BENNINGTON on 19 February 1964. Aboard the BENNINGTON the TASK FORCE operated in a HUK Group (Hunter Killer) for ASWFORPAC.

Upon entering the waters of Japan the ASW Forces participated in ASWEX Crazy Horse. After Crazy Horse they proceeded to the Philippines and took part in a SEATO exercise called "OPERATION LIGAS". After a brief inport period, OPERATION GILL NET took them back to the Sea of Japan, where their ASW experience was displayed.

On 11 August the Eightballers returned and after the usual stand-down, OPERATION HARD-NOSE put them back in the saddle. During this exercise one of the Eightballer helicopters went into the water, but used her inflatable bags and floated through the night being hooked aboard the next morning.

On November 17th, Commander Eagan, Skipper of the Eightballers, put an H-3 in the water after a servo malfunction. After a two-hour wait, the USS ORISKANY came close abroad and Commander Eagan took off and landed on the deck.

On December 15th, HS-8 completed the 15,000th helicopter landing aboard the USS BENNINGTON.


The beginning of the year saw six members of a capsized lifeboat being rescued by HS-8 on January 19th. The lifeboat was training in moderate seas at the time.

ASWEX, OPERATION SILVERLANCE, was the last exercise before the Eightballers began their sixth WESTPAC, being loaded aboard on the 22nd of March 1965. While in Japan, the famous, "Loosefoot Five" entertained various dignitaries from Japan and the United States, in Hikadate, Hokaido, Japan, with their singing and music on the 28th of June.

Once again the South China Sea brought them back to their friends and allies in another SEATO exercise. This exercise saw HS-8 perform in four days; 741.8 hours, of which 562.3 were ASW, 278 landings, 80 personnel transfers, and 159 cargo transfers.

In July, HELASRON EIGHT saw direct support combat action for the first time. By the close of the cruise, she flew 2,143 combat "V" hops; returning to San Diego on the 7th of October.


January was to begin a very busy year for the Eightballers, beginning with COMPUTEX 1-66 (12-17 January), a combined amphibious exercise. HS-8 was composed of fifty officers, 271 enlisted personnel and sixteen aircraft.

February 20th saw HS-8 extend her humanitarian hand once again to a stricken Chief Steward, U.G. Mablis, aboard the San Pan Hitch. This medivac was flown by skipper, Commander McDonald, and totaled 1,200 nautical miles. The helicopter was re-fueled in-flight by Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft working out of the "Isla Cedros", Mexico. This is the longest known medivac by an SH-3A.

At various times during the year the Eightballers were busy developing and testing various concepts. In preparation for their upcoming November WESTPAC, night rescue procedures in a hostile environment were developed as well as mountain rescue procedures. In-flight refueling procedures were tested as well as the development of small deck landing techniques. They tested the H-3 as a radar platform as well.

The months of March-October saw the many workups needed for a WESTPAC. The Eightballers participated in COMPUTEX 6-66 (7-11 March), Belaying Pin (4-15 July), HUKASWEX 6-66 (4-12 August), Eager Angler (12-21 September), HUKASWEX 7-66 (3-12 October), ORI in October and HUKASWEX 8-66 (8-15 November).

November 4th saw HS-8 once again onboard the USS BENNINGTON for her seventh WESTPAC. Upon arrival in Pearl Harbor a detachment of 43 officers and men were sent to relieve HS-6 of SAR duties in Yankee Station.

In December, of the coast of Taiwan, operating in the Bashi Channel, the Eightballers proved their ASW experience by flying 2,100 hours in thirty days. OPERATION SLEWFOOT was a success as the escorted USS TICONDEROGA and her Wolf Pack of four submarines made their way through the Bashi Channel

December saw thirty-two more officers and men leave the BENNINGTON for the ENTERPRISE, for SAR duties. The end of December saw two combat rescues by the SAR detachments. They were Commander Allen Hill (A-4), and Lt. Barry L. Dolglow (F-4) both rescued in North SAR.

Total rescues for the year were six, two of which were in the Gulf of Tonkin.

For Christmas, the Eightballers were used as the Bob Hope Express, transporting the troupe from South Vietnam to the USS ROOSEVELT and various other ships. Also, December saw HS-8 give medical aid to the USS O'BRIAN after she was hit by shore batteries in the Gulf of Tonkin.

For her outstanding year HELASRON Eight was awarded the Captain Arnold Jay Isbell Trophy for Excellence.


Continuing on her seventh WESTPAC, HS-8 completed seventeen combat rescues. Below is a partial list of personnel that were rescued.

January 3, 1967
This was a particularly rewarding day for the "Eightballers" of HS-8.
A HS-8 helo (#70) operating from BENNINGTON rescued three (3) Naval Aviators in two separate (SAR) Search & Rescue missions within hours of each other.
The first involved a downed A-4 Skyhawk, 18 miles off the North Vietnamese Coast.
The guided missile destroyer, USS WILSON received a "mayday" call from Ensign James Hayes who suspected that his jet had been hit by ground fire.
His distress call was relayed to helo #70 of HS-8.
Minutes later, LTJG Kenneth R. Rose, co-pilot of the chopper, which was already on its SAR station, spotted Ensign Hays in the water.
He was immediately picked up and lowered to the USS WILSON for further transfer to his ship, the attack carrier, USS CORAL SEA.

Not more than two-hours later, the USS WILSON again messaged helo #70 that an F-4 Phantom jet was down 5-miles off the North Vietnamese Coast.
While other aircraft were in the area, providing cover, the busy chopper went in to pick up the crewmen.
LT. A.M. VanPelt and Ensign R.A. Morris were spotted in the water and minutes later both rescued aviators were lowered to the USS WILSON for medical care and were later transfered to the USS CORAL SEA.

"Eightballers" Helicopter #70 was piloted by LTJG James E. Underhill, age 26, of Kirkland, Washington.
The co-pilot was LTJG Kenneth R. Rose, age 25, of Princeton, North Carolina. The chopper's crewmen were, Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare
Technician 3rd Class Floyd N. Wilson Jr., age 22, of Roseburg, Oregon and 3rd Class Aviation Antisubmarine Warfare Technician Leo J. Bettinger, age 21, of Minersville, PA.

Joseph Pires - BENNINGTON HISTORIAN, & Wilson MuDuffie provided the information above

January 15
LTjg Moran A-4 Gulf of Tonkin

January 16
Captain H.B. Spencer F-104 Gulf of Tonkin

February 12
LTjg P. Artrip A-5 Gulf of Tonkin

March 7th
LTjg F.S. Prendergast A-5 Gulf of Tonkin

March 12th
Commander H.G. Bailey Night rescue
LCDR A.R. Henderson A-1 Gulf of Tonkin

March 26th
Lt. R.J. Miles A-4 North Vietnam

April 10th
LCDR. G.W. Shattuck Gulf of Tonkin

On 9 January a tail rotor drive shaft failure occurred on deck with minor damage to two other aircraft.

HS-8 worked with DASH control equipment and effected a controlled pick-up of a dummy over friendly territory.

On the 13th of January an Eightballer received battle damage on an unsuccessful SAR vectored by the USS MAHAN.

The 15th of January saw the rescue of LTJG Moran, but he was declared dead on arrival on board the USS GRIDLEY.

The longest line period was on of forty-five days. Also, HS-8 had a detachment onboard the USS KITTY HAWK in January and once again March for SAR duties.

LTJG Prendergast was rescued under intense enemy fire.

HS-8 had a chance to pioneer the concept of helicopter in-flight refueling, with 374 day/61 night refuelings.

For their bravery the men of HS-8 received 76 Air Medals and Two Silver Stars and one Distinguished Flying Cross.

HELASRON Eight returned 22 May 1967. One and a half months afterward, twenty personnel "volunteered" to augment HS-2 forces on Yankee Station on the 7th of July.

On the 10th of July, Commander Hughes changed commands and became Commander of CVSG-59.

HS-8 still found time to develop smoke-screening tactics while busily planning for the Apollo Rescue Training. September 23rd saw23 more personnel "volunteer" to augment HS-6 at Yankee Station. The Eightballers worked with Underwater Demolition Team Twelve in preparation for the Apollo IV Spacecraft Recovery. After several delays and short cruises, HS-8, on November 9th, at 0937 hours, assisted the Apollo IV crews. Skipper, Commander Massa, did the pick-up.

The end of the year saw seven officers and fifty enlisted personnel transferred to the newly commissioned HC-7.


The Eightballers successfully passed their ORI in March in preparation for their 8th WESTPAC. During their work-ups, HS-8 saw herself in-port at Long Beach (8-12 January, 20-26 February, and 12-18 March).


November 1st saw the re-commissioning of HELANTISUBRON Eight. She had eight new SH-3D "Sea King" Helicopters. There were twenty-five officers and 148 enlisted men who ushered in a new era in Anti-Submarine Warfare.

Two medivacs were completed in the two short months of 1969; from the USS HALSEY (DLG-23) and the other from NAS MIRAMAR.

Joseph Pires - BENNINGTON HISTORIAN, provided the information above


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