Two A-1E Skyraiders (call sign "Sandy") fly cover for a 37th ARRS Squadron HH-53 (shown refueling) as part of a typical search and rescue task force during the mid-1960s. The Sandys helped search for the downed aviator and suppressed enemy ground fire as a helicopter made the pickup. The HC-130P tanker (call sign "Crown" or "King") would orbit above as an airborne rescue command post. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service peacetime force was not equipped to meet the demands of war in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s. As rescue capability increased during that war, ARRS crews saved 4,120 people -- 2,780 people in combat situations.
A-7 jets replaced A-1s for rescue escort in November 1972. An A-7D was flown by Maj. Colin A. Clarke on a successful nine-hour rescue mission for which he received the Air Force Cross as Sandy 01, on-scene commander. About 75 aircraft participated in that search and rescue operation. Maj. Clarke's A-7D is displayed in the museum's Modern Flight Hangar.
Firefighters at Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam, battled a simulated aircraft fire using an HH-43's airborne fire suppression kit plus downdraft from the rotors to open a path for "rescuers" (1970). Designed for base fire and crash rescue, the slow, unarmed Huskie was adapted for rescue early in the Vietnam War with the new nickname "Pedro." Its combat radius of only 75 miles was increased with added fuel drums strapped in the cabin and, before the availability of improved rescue helicopters, HH-43s sometimes flew deep into North Vietnam. HH-43s accounted for more lives saved than any other rescue helicopter in the Vietnam War.
The low- and slow-flying forward air controller, or "Nail," was a frequent rescue force component who served as on-scene commander until Sandys' arrival, helping locate the downed crewman, marking his location with smoke for the Sandys and pickup helicopter, and directing aircraft ground attacks. In 1970 OV-10 Broncos, such as this one at Ubon Air Base, Thailand, began working with search and rescue forces, replacing slower unarmed O-1s and O-2s as FAC aircraft. OV-10s equipped with PAVE NAIL night observation equipment could locate survivors at night or in bad weather and helped development of rescue operations relying more on advanced technology than merely courage, firepower and tactics.