The Sikorsky HH-3E on display (serial number 67-14709) had a long and distinguished history. Assigned to the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam, it flew with the call sign Jolly Green 22
in the Southeast Asia War.
On March 14, 1968, a two-ship helicopter rescue team attempted to rescue the aircrew of a U.S. Marine Corps F-4 Phantom
shot down over North Vietnam. One of the two crewmen was picked up, but heavy enemy machine-gun fire forced the rescuers to withdraw before saving the second Marine. Enemy fire had damaged Jolly Green 22,
but its crew made a second attempt to rescue the stranded Marine. Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese had killed the Marine and set up an ambush for the returning rescuers. Despite intense enemy fire, Jolly Green 22
escaped the trap with 68 bullet holes, a shot-out windshield, and holes through the rotor blades.
For their efforts, the four crew members of Jolly Green 22
were nominated for the Air Force Cross, but instead, only three of the crew -- the pilot, Maj. Stuart Hoag; the copilot, Lt. Col. Gerald Lowe; and pararescueman Sgt. James Locker -- received Silver Stars. The flight engineer, Sgt. Dennis Richardson, who dangerously exposed himself to enemy fire and probably saved the helicopter, received the Purple Heart. However, the Air Force reviewed the documentation of the mission, and in 2008, retired Chief Master Sgt. Richardson received the Air Force Cross for his actions under fire in 1968.
During the 32 months this helicopter -- also known as "709" from its serial number -- served in Southeast Asia, the crewmen assigned to it received one Air Force Cross and fourteen Silver Stars for heroism. In addition, they were credited with the rescue of 27 American Airmen.
After the war, "709" participated in another daring rescue mission in the Yellow Sea. On the night of March 30-31, 1979, Maj. James E. McArdle, Jr., and his crew flew this helicopter to save 28 sailors from the Taiwanese freighter Ta Lai after it ran aground. Fighting 15-foot waves and high winds, the HH-3E crew made three trips delivering the Taiwanese sailors to Kwangju Air Base, South Korea. For this rescue, McArdle received received the 1979 MacKay Trophy, which is awarded for the most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons or organization.
Retired after OPERATION DESERT STORM in 1991, this historic helicopter was restored by the museum in 2010.