Friday, July 14, 2017

Operation Steel Pike (1964). The largest peacetime Amphibious Landing Exercise in USMC history...

This film, "Assault at Huelva" profiles Operation Steel Pike, the largest peacetime amphibious landing exercise in history, conducted by the United States Navy and Marine Corps and taking place on the coast of Spain in October to November 1964.

The operation involved 84 naval ships and 28,000 Marines of the 2nd Marine Division, and was commanded by Vice Admiral John S. McCain, Jr.. In the opening hour of the landing, two helicopters collided in mid-air, resulting in the deaths of nine Marines and causing injuries to 13 others. Another Marine was crushed to death by a tank while asleep in his sleeping bag. During the trip over the ships were divided into three convoys sailing under war time conditions with ASW escorts. There were many civilian ships contracted to the Navy to transport military personnel and cargo to the landing area. Once the ships were anchored in place the landings began. There were two or three days of landing men and equipment ashore, then one day of rest for the landing craft. After that, the task force started back loading men and equipment onto the ships. When it was finished, the ships departed for liberty to different ports.

The Ch-34 helicopter is seen in many parts of the film. The Sikorsky H-34 (company designation S-58) is a piston-engined military helicopter originally designed by American aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky as an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft for the United States Navy.

H-34s served, mostly as medium transports, on every continent with the armed forces of twenty-five countries. It saw combat in Algeria, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and throughout Southeast Asia; other uses included saving flood victims, recovering astronauts, fighting fires, and carrying presidents. It was one of the last piston-powered helicopter designs before its replacement by turbine-powered types such as the UH-1 Huey and CH-46 Sea Knight. A total of 2,108 H-34s were manufactured between 1953 and 1970.
Another golden nugget of lost Marine Corps history. Then as today, even training is dangerous.

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