Forty years ago this April in a small country in Southeast Asia that most of us had never heard of, an event occurred that would, to one degree or another, shape the course of the lives of every one of us.

In the early morning of 15 April 1962, unnoticed by the rest of a sleeping world, an Amphibious Ready Group comprised of the LPH USS Princeton and a few destroyers began launching the 24 HUS helicopters and 3 O1B aircraft of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron–362 to a small WWII Japanese airstrip near a village named Soc Trang in the Republic of Vietnam.

The 250 Marines of the squadron were led by WW II and Korea veteran Lt Col Archie Clapp. They, along with a small Task Unit Headquarters and 250 man MABs Detachment, were the first Marine units to deploy to Vietnam, beginning a deployment that would over the next ten years involve nearly every helicopter squadron in the Marine Corps – and every one of us.

Fortieth anniversaries of any significant historic event are usually cause for the award of honors, tearful remembrance, and overlong speeches. The award of honors is why we’re here this afternoon; remembrance is our constant companion; but if you want a long speech you’ll have to go elsewhere.

We honor Archie’s Angels, as 362 was then known, not only because they were the first, but more importantly because of the standard of excellence and courage they established and passed on to the squadrons that followed them in country.

In addition to being the first to fight, they are credited with a score of other firsts: First to employ surprise, deception, and diverse helicopter tactics, First Eagle Flight or quick reaction force, First night helicopter assault, First helicopter recovery plan, First to employ TAFDs for forward area refueling, First to see the need for fire retardant flight gear, First to identify a requirement for armed escort helicopters and for a Helicopter Coordinator Airborne.

So many firsts that, as one Marine Corps history publication notes,  “they identified almost every area which would eventually require further development in helicopters.”

Marines like Jim Perryman, Denny Anderson, Len Alteno, Frank Quadrini, Curt Ryan, Jim Shelton, and Bob Cramer carried this knowledge and the same high standards to other squadrons, and the Marines they mentored carried them to still others.

The result: a sustained record of operational excellence and personal courage that characterized Marine helicopter operations throughout the Vietnam War.

The heroic deeds these operations inspired, and their cost in lives, evoke memories that will live within every one of us as long as we draw breath. Those memories are a large part of why we are all here in Pensacola. There is not one of us who doesn’t hear the faint echoes of an emergency medevac into a hot zone, the recovery of a wingmen down in Indian country, and the emergency extract of a besieged Recon team. And we still see the faces of those we left behind.

The tradition established at that small WWII Japanese airstrip continues down to this day, and I’m proud to report that the same standards were reflected in the Marine helicopter community’s performance in Afghanistan.

It is only fitting that we, their successors, honor the 40th anniversary of their deployment by offering the Marines of Archie’s Angels a small token of our respect for their contribution to the proud history of our Corps.

It is also fitting that former Commanding Officer of the squadron, Col. Archie Clapp, be the first to be honored.

SNCOs may be the backbone of the Corps, but as all career Marines know it is the Commanding Officer who sets the example that ultimately determines whether a squadron is great or merely a gaggle of guys, a pile of 4.8 boxes, and 24 hunks of aluminum. And as his Marines, a surprising number of whom went on to make the Marine Corps a career, will be quick to tell you, Archie Clapp’s leadership made them a great squadron.

The best evidence of that is the 33 Archie’s Angels who are with us today – 24 of whom are retired from the Corps.

Archie’s Angels: As your name is called, I ask each of you to step up on the stage to receive an engraved plaque honoring the events of 15 April 1962 and your role in establishing forever the proud combat record of Marine helicopter aviation.


Col Archie Clapp

Terry Owens      

Chris Christensen 

Frank Quadrini* 

Bob Cramer * 

Del DuPont

Walt Gould

Mike Shields

Dave Leighton

Early Spiars

Tom Murley

Bob O'Dare

Denny Anderson

Jim Plummer 

Lyman Cokely  

Earl  Rose

Chris DeFries

Jerry Scanlan 

Jim Lary

Jim Shelton

Curt McRaney

Charles Wimmler

Len Alteno  

Jim Perryman

Darcey Clasen 

Bill Rose

Curt Ryan 

Hugh Rothweiler

Tom Hammack

Blake Smith

Jim Losey

Bob Whaley

Charles Wood


It remains only to say, thank you Marines of Archie’s Angels for lighting the way.

Semper Fidelis!  
Tom Hewes Reunion 2002 



                                   SEMPER FIDELIS MARINES


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