HISTORY OF THE FIRST MARINE AIRCRAFT WING ASSOCIATION
From April 1962, when Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM)-362 flew into the Mekong Delta to set up operations at the Soc Trang airfield in, through April 1975, when helicopters of HMM-164 evacuated the last Americans from our embassy in Saigon, thousands of Marines served proudly as members of the First Marine Aircraft Wing (First MAW) during the Vietnam War. While early missions involved Marine helicopters providing logistical support for South Vietnamese troops in their struggle to drive communist Viet Cong guerrillas from their country, this role quickly expanded when First MAW pilots and crewmen were called upon to perform their traditional role of providing close air support for Marine combat units as American involvement in the war escalated.
Helicopters played an extensive role in First MAW air operations in Vietnam, as Marine pilots flew UH-34's and later CH-46's and CH-53's to transport Marines into landing zones near suspected enemy concentrations, and to evacuate the wounded following combat engagements. Helicopters, supplemented by C-130 transports where there were landing strips, were also used to re-supply Marines in the field at remote outposts. Other Marine pilots, flew UH-1E Hueys, and AH-1 Cobras on photo reconnaissance missions to locate suspected Viet Cong troop concentrations, and to identify potential landing zones for future operations. Many of these choppers also provided armed air cover for combat air operations.
The build up of American troops resulted in the deployment of the Marine Corps' most sophisticated attack and fighter aircraft including the Douglas A-4, and the McDonnell F4B, as well as the maintenance, ordnance, and other support personnel necessary to ensure these Marine aircraft were ready when called upon to provide close air support for Marine ground units or other missions vital to the war effort. All in all, thousands of Marine officers and enlisted men served with the First MAW during the course of the Vietnam War, many of whom lost their lives in their service to their country.
On Veterans Day 1988 a group of Vietnam veterans, who had served with the First MAW, gathered in Washington, DC to attend Veterans Day ceremonies and decided they needed an association to bring them together to remember their past and give them the support to cope with the many personal pressures they faced. Thus was born the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Association - Vietnam Service (First MAW Assn.). Since its founding the First MAW Assn. membership has grown, as have the services it offers its members. The primary goals of the First MAW Assn. are to bring Vietnam veterans who served with the First MAW together every two years for reunions; to keep members informed of activities and issues of interest through a newsletter; and to honor those who died during the Vietnam War while serving with the First MAW.