Seven Nation Conference

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HS-6 PRESIDENTIAL DETACHMENT

Manila, Philippine Islands, October 1966

During our 1966 WESTPAC Cruise (June 9 to December 17,1966) HS-6 received word that a Seven Nation Conference was to be held in Manila, Philippine Islands, and that the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson would be attending.

The initial contacts, as I understand, advised the squadron that it would be impossible to load the Presidential Helicopter (an executive version of the SH-3) into an Air Force C-141. We understood the chopper was 6" too tall for the transport’s cargo hold, and that this fact had just been discovered. Originally, the Secret Service advised we might have to furnish an aircraft to them. It would be rebuilt with Presidential Parts (1/2 time components a.k.a. "Gold-Stripe" parts), and be flown by the President's regularly assigned pilots. Following this we learned that the USAF C-141 could, in fact, transport the Presidential helicopter. However, there was a request for support helicopters.

Originally, two of our regular squadron SH-3As had their mission equipment removed and then the interior had cloth placed inside, and covered seats were installed, so the chopper could carry dignitaries. They actually looked pretty good. In addition to the inside remodel, the A/C were thoroughly cleaned and polished. They cleaned up real nice, and we were exceptionally proud of what our HS-6 maintenance personnel had accomplished.

Inside of VIP Bird

Our Skipper, CDR Warren Lockwood, advised Lt. Don Nichols and me that we were to get our crews together as we would be going to Naval Air Station Sangley Point, Manila. Our mission was to provide whatever support the Presidential party requested. At NAS Sangley Point, we had our own little flight line and by the time the Presidential party arrived in Manila, we had 5 or 6 HS-6 helo's in our group.

Indian Gal flight line at Sangley Indian Gal 63 gets airborne Presidential helo among the Indian Gals

Don Nichols was picked to carry a Secret Service sharpshooter that was trained to fire from helicopters.   In the event the President were to come under fire, or encounter hostile conditions, Don's mission was to get the shooter there and help control the situation.

 

My crew drew the duty of rescuing the President, should that be necessary. Part of our training was to rendezvous with the President's limo, come into a quick hover, pick the President up in the sling and get him out of the area ASAP.   To practice this, the Secret Service would load a number of agents into the Presidential limo and start driving down the runway at Sangley. We would be circling out over the bay, maybe ¾ to 1 mile away.   As the Presidential motorcade drove down the runway, it would suddenly "come under fire." The limo driver would floor it, and give us a call. We would intercept the limo, and as they were slowing down, we would go into a hairy hover. The crewman would already have the "horse collar" going down. As the car stopped, we would rock over from our flare, and a bunch of Secret Service agents would jump out of the limo. One of them portrayed "the President'. The group kept him encircled as they dropped the "horse collar" over him. As our crewman lifted the “President” off the ground, we departed, and retrieved him in forward flight.   I recall asking an agent, 'What about Lady Bird, do we pick her up also?"  The reply was, "No one else exists in the world, just the President."

 

Air Force One at Sangley

Presidential motorcade

 

Don and I had to be airborne and in designated areas any time the President was out of the Embassy. Our detachment provided transport for a lot of people and a certain amount of cargo. I know there were at least two "scrambles" for emergencies—one was to take a crowbar across the bay, because President Johnson needed his clothes for a special dinner, and his staff could not get the lock open on the suitcase.  The other was a quick run that turned out to be a pick up of the President's dirty laundry.

Indian Gals and the President's helo on the ground in the US Embassy compound, Manila

President Johnson's helo on the ground in the Embassy compound

This was great duty and we spent a lot of time flying. Our "flight gear" consisted of fore & aft caps and a regular khaki uniform. The crewmen wore whites. We also wore head­sets, instead of helmets. While carrying passengers, we had the opportunity to explore the island, and we also enjoyed being around the President's pilots and his wonderful helicopter.

Khakis and Whites at Sangley W.P. Mathews, Rick and Billy Moseman Bill Waechter looks like an airline pilot flying in his khakis and fore & aft cap! Philippines Countryside Corregidor Island, Manila Bay

After the Seven Nation Conference ended, we flew back aboard the Kearsarge and proceeded to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The President's helicopter was also aboard. En route to Kuala Lumpur we crossed the Equator. There was a big Shellback initiation, followed by a large steak barbecue. This all occurred on the flight deck. There was also a "swim call" for those brave enough to get in the water.

Following the "stand down" day we proceeded to offshore, Kuala Lumpur. The President's helicopter was launched to pick up Mr. Johnson and carry him to meetings in Malaysia.   Don Nichols and I each launched to accompany the helo; however, the Malaysian government denied us entry into their airspace, so we circled offshore in case we were needed. We didn’t get to see the country, but it sure was a nice cruise from Manila to Kuala Lumpur.

Upon completion of the Presidential Support mission, our Maintenance team went to work, and in a very short time all aircraft were again fully equipped and mission ready.

I never cease to be amazed at how talented and capable Navy personnel are. HS-6 rose to every occasion we encountered. This says a lot for the fine leadership we had also.

Ron Clarke

President Johnson's VH-3A on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I guess when they say "Plane Guard" this is another meaning of the phrase.

I have a Certificate of Merit and a Letter of Appreciation for participating in the detachment. Thought these might add a little more spice to the page. I also have a LBJ Zippo cigarette lighter that was given to us. As Ron mentioned about the uniform of the day I and all the other maintenance personnel (I believe I was the senior enlisted on the Det) were issued 4 pair of white nylon coveralls that we had to wear when getting near the a/c. We also had to change if any type of soil got on the coveralls. I still have all four sets and I wore them when ever I did any physical work on a/c after I made Chief while I was still in the Navy.

Vic Graf

Letter of Appreciation Certificate of Merit

Read about HS-6's contribution to the conference as reported in the Ream Field Echo - article courtesy of Ric Williams.

Updated: 06/03/15