Crew of Freighter "Bright Star" Rescued
(From the Jan. '66 MAG-36 Command Chronology)

On 21 January 1966 helicopters from Marine Aircraft Group 36 joined with an Air Force patrol plane and two U.S. Navy ships to rescue the passengers and crew of the Panamanian registered freighter "Bright Star" which was grounded on a reef in the South China Sea.

It was just before daylight when the USS DYNAMIC and the USS NICHOLAS received the first SOS from the freighter.  She was aground and floundering in heavy seas, 35 miles southeast of Chu Lai near Cu Lao Re Island.  Instantly, the Navy rushed to aid the 30 passengers and crew of the disabled ship.

When they arrived a U.S. Air Force patrol plane was circling overhead but, due to the rough sea and waves crashing against the coral reef, neither the seaplane nor the small boats from the Navy ships could get close enough to effect a rescue.  Therefore, Marine Aircraft Group 36, based at Ky Ha, sent two UH-1E "Huey" helicopters from VMO-6.

As soon as the helicopters arrived they started to lift the passengers and crew from the stricken ship.  Hovering just over the superstructure, the copters used their hoists to lift the men from the canted deck.  When the first man was aboard the Huey, he was flown 300 yards to the USS NICHOLAS, where he was lowered to the Navy vessel.  Knowing the Hueys would run low on fuel before the transfer of all could be accomplished, the flight leader requested additional helicopters to assist.

Two Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 choppers responded.  At the same time two more from HMM-261 heard the call from the ship while on a resupply mission south of Ky Ha.  They delayed their original job and headed for the disabled ship.

When the four UH-34D helos arrived, the Hueys had flown 16 of the passengers to safety.  With their fuel low, and the bigger birds to finish the job, the two VMO-6 choppers returned to Ky Ha.

The ship started to break-up as increased winds pounded it against the reef.  The four UH-34s worked with precision and speed to lift the remaining 14 men from the doomed freighter to the safety of the USS NICHOLAS.