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The CH-46 Phrog

WHEN MA­RINE CORPS squadron HMM-265 de­ployed ashore at Mar­ble Moun­tain in South Viet­nam 49 years ago, it achieved a ma­jor mile­stone in air­mo­bile war­fare. The unit was fly­ing the Boe­ing Ver­tol CH-46A Sea Knight, known al­most univer­sally as the “Phrog” for the way it squats on its back gear and for its ten­dency to bounce when be­gin­ning to taxi. With the Phrog’s in­tro­duc­tion, the Corps be­came the first mil­i­tary ser­vice to adopt “ver­ti­cal en­vel­op­ment,” a tac­tic to by­pass en­emy strong­points with he­li­copters and re­store the ini­tia­tive to the at­tack­ers.

A suc­ces­sion of pi­o­neer­ing re­cip­ro­cat­ing-en­gine he­li­copters—the HRP-1, HUS-1 (UH-34), and HR2S-1 (Ch-37)—proved the va­lid­ity of the ver­ti­cal en­vel­op­ment doc­trine, but by 1958 those air­craft had reached the lim­its of their ca­pa­bil­ity, and tur­bines of­fered the best op­por­tu­nity for im­prove­ment. The Corps set­tled on a vari­ant of Ver­tol Cor­po­ra­tion’s Model 107, be­gun in re­sponse to a French re­quest for im­proved per­for­mance in the he­li­copters the French mil­i­tary flew in the Al­ge­rian in­sur­gency. At first glance, what would be­come the CH-46 did not seem to be a great im­prove­ment over the HUS and HR2S, but the re­al­i­ties of South­east Asia’s high-den­sity al­ti­tudes and the he­li­copter’s sim­ple, util­i­tar­ian design en­abled it to sig­nif­i­cantly out­per­form its pre­de­ces­sors in nearly ev­ery con­ceiv­able cat­e­gory. The Corps ul­ti­mately ac­quired more than 400 CH-46S, which went on to serve as the main­stay of Ma­rine medium-lift ca­pa­bil­ity through vir­tu­ally ev­ery con­flict the United States has en­gaged in since the mid-1960s.

With the im­pend­ing con­ver­sion of HMM-74 to the Bell-boe­ing MV-22 Osprey, the Phrog has reached the sun­set of its op­er­a­tional ca­reer. To cel­e­brate its legacy, the Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum will host the farewell to one of the great work­horses of Ma­rine Corps aviation. On Au­gust 1, Buno 153369, ap­pear­ing in a pol­ished ver­sion of its Viet­nam­era paint scheme, will ar­rive at the Mu­seum’s Steven F. Ud­var-hazy Cen­ter in north­ern Virginia for a cer­e­mony com­mem­o­rat­ing its ser­vice. Af­ter the event, the air­craft, on loan from the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Ma­rine Corps, will go on dis­play at the Ud­var-hazy Cen­ter.

Hav­ing ex­ten­sive Viet­nam ser­vice with HMM-364 “Purple Foxes,” num­ber 153369 is a wor­thy air­frame for the honor. One of its pi­lots, First Lieu­tenant Joseph Dono­van, was awarded a Navy Cross for a haz­ardous res­cue flown on April 21, 1969. Ex­actly 41 years later, his daugh­ter, Cap­tain Eileen Dono­van, also as­signed to -364, flew 153369. She is now fly­ing the Osprey and help­ing to usher the Corps into a re­mark­able new era of ver­ti­cal en­vel­op­ment ca­pa­bil­ity, as no­table as that her­alded by the ar­rival of the Phrog.




Wash­ing­ton, DCChan­tilly, VA

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