US Marine Corps, April 28, 2014 - MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif by Lance Cpl Christopher Johns, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing – Marines, Sailors, families and former members of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462 celebrated the squadron’s 70th anniversary aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., April 26.
Throughout the past seven decades, HMH-462 made its mark in history as a Marine Corps work horse, attributing their success to the countless missions the squadron flew for both humanitarian aid and combat support. Most recently, the squadron deployed to Afghanistan and returned in February.
A great deal of the squadron’s members, past and present, gathered to pay homage to their history.
The squadron traces its lineage back to April 15, 1944, when Marine Fighting Squadron 462 activated. The Chance Vought F4U Corsair flying squadron moved to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., shortly after joining Marine Defense Aircraft Group 46. The squadron was deactivated and placed in a training status in 1945.
The Marine Corps reactivated the squadron and moved it to Marine Corps Air Station Santa Ana, Calif., as Marine Medium Helicopter Transport Squadron [HMR(M)] 462, Nov. 1, 1957. They flew the Sikorsky HR2S-1 Deuce for heavy-lift support roles, including the aircraft recovery testing of the Mercury Space Capsule.
Retired Lt. Col. William Duncan, HMR(M)-462 commanding officer from May 1963 to April 1964, attended the event. During his time at the event, Duncan shared some of his fondest memories with the squadron. One of them included a flight mission flown into the Grand Canyon National Park by five CH-37s.
“One of the big things I did with 462 was bringing water to the Havasupai Tribe,” said Duncan. “They didn’t have a water source close by, so they had to walk for miles with water on their heads for their families. We attached the tanks under our aircraft and wove through the canyon to get that water to them.”
The Havasupai Tribe made the Marines honorary members of their tribe after they transported 25 tons of materials in four hours to help them achieve a better quality of life.
After 1967, the squadron became known by its current moniker and flew the Sikorsky CH-53A Sea Stallion into combat during the Vietnam War. The squadron continued its dedicated service to Corps and country in countless missions all over the world for decades after their first flights in the war.
Many Marines who worked with the squadron in the past reminisced about their time serving with HMH-462.
“The Marine Corps is a fraternity,” said Sgt. Reggie Johnson, former avionics technician with HMH-462 in 1973. “Coming here, I’ve met men who were with the squadron back then too, and it’s an almost natural friendship. The opportunity to come back and have this wonderful experience is so nice.”
Knowing the past also serves to better the future for Marines currently serving.
“It’s really cool to be able to look back and see how far we’ve come and the advances in technology that we’ve come to use,” said Cpl. Todd Gildersleeve, aviation technician and aerial observer with HMH-462. “It’s good to know where you came from, kind of like knowing where the Marine Corps came from. Not knowing the history and legacies that we carry on today takes away the pride we have in what we do. Without that pride, I just turn wrenches on a helicopter. There’s nothing cool about that, but knowing that there were great Marines and aviators before me doing what I’m doing now makes coming to work fun and enjoyable.”
Taking pride in the squadron’s history and what they do allows Marines to pass on what they know to future generations, explained Gildersleeve.
“Coming up through the ranks and learning my job along the way has made me good enough at what I do to train others,” said Gildersleeve. “It’s nice to know that I’m training the future, and that I’m taking part in molding Marine Corps aviation is huge for me.”
Lt. Col. Jacob Matt, HMH-462 commanding officer, told San Diego’s Channel 6 News how he thought the squadron has been doing throughout its service.
“For 70 years this squadron has excelled, not only in garrison and humanitarian relief and in the states, but working abroad in combat operations they’ve participated in,” said Matt.
As HMH-462 heads into the future and supplies the Marine Corps another tool for its force in readiness, not only can the squadron always look back at the history of the Marines who served before them, but they can take heart in knowing they are making history themselves.