Lest We Forget: Civilian Yard Workers; HSL-30

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired), and Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

As she entered a drydock, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, wearing hip boots like the others, sloshed around in seawater deep in the ship's innards, dodging hanging cables and peering at the damage as the repair experts tallied up the weeks of work needed. Nimitz turned to the supervisor and quietly but firmly said, "We must have the ship back in three days."

Civilian yard workers swarmed aboard armed with a different arsenal of war—hammers, acetylene torches, and the like—and soon the ship echoed with a cacophony of frantic but purposeful activity. Working around the clock in temperatures sometimes reaching 120°, these workers labored in an eerie world of pulsating light, choking smoke, pungent fumes, and a racing clock. Men collapsed from exhaustion, were hauled topside for some air and a quick sandwich, and then returned to the hell below. One man was found asleep on a scaffold his cutting torch still in hand.

Three days later, the resurrection was complete. Yorktown steamed down the channel, headed for sea and a "rendezvous with destiny," civilian workers spilling from her insides into small boats alongside as she went.

The courage and sacrifice of the men who fought the battle of Midway is legendary, but the miracle began when others fought exhaustion and the clock to do the seemingly impossible. The victory is theirs as well.

Note: This column is normally devoted to Sailors, Marines, and Coasties, but today's Navy is embracing a Total Force concept that sees Active, Reserves, and Civilians as major components of a vital triad. The above story illustrates the thinking behind that concept.

—Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)


Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Light 30 (HSL-30) originally was established at NAS Lakehurst, N.J., on 1 July 1960, as Helicopter Utility Squadron Four (HU-4), formed from a split of HU-2 because of the expanding roles of shipboard helicopters.

HU-4 deployed a wide variety of helicopters on Navy and Coast Guard ships other than aircraft carriers for search and rescue, transport, gunfire spotting, photography, and ice reconnaissance. The squadron was redesignated Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Four (HC-4) on 1 July 1965.

HC-4 conducted the first vertical replenishment (VERTREP) of ships in the Mediterranean in 1965 using UH-46A helicopters. A VERTREP detachment established at NAS Norfolk, Va., was spun off as a separate squadron, HC-6, on 1 September 1967.

By 1969, HC-4 flew only UH-2B Seasprite helicopters, and in 1970 began flying twin-engine HH-2D versions. In 1971, the squadron formed Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mark I detachments, initially flying HH-2Ds but later SH-2Ds, for anti-submarine, anti-surface, rescue, and utility missions from surface combatants. The squadron, which also maintained detachments for the flagships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet and the Middle-East Force, was redesignated HSL-30 on 1 March 1972.

HSL-30 moved to NAS Norfolk in July 1973 and on 17 August 1973 its deploying LAMPS detachments were spun off as HSL-32. HSL-30 became the fleet readiness squadron for training the Atlantic Fleet SH-2D/F community. King Neptune's Horsemen also routinely deployed an HH-2D detachment on board two hydrographic survey ships.

With the replacement of the SH-2F by the SH-60B LAMPS MK III helicopter in fleet service, HSL-30 was disestablished on 30 September 1993, having trained more than 920 pilots, 515 air crewmen, and 1,200 maintenance personnel in the H-2.

—Lieutenant Commander Rick Burgess, U.S. Navy (Retired)

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