Diego Garcia Air Force Base in Action OPERATION
EARNEST WILL, 1987!
the right of this photo are the first 3 B-52s to
deploy to Diego Garcia for an OPERATION.
WAR (sort of) WITH THE AYATOLA! Just like the
Greeks at Marathon, the Men and Women of the
PROPEOPDEMREP Save Western Civilization from the
Persians! (with a little help from The US
Navy, MAC, and Strategic Air Command)
In September 1980,
Iraq attacked Iran, starting a war that lasted
eight years. During the war, both Iraq and
Iran attacked neutral shipping in the Persian
Gulf, attacking 71 ships in 1984 alone.
International diplomatic efforts to stop the
In 1986, Kuwait asked
President Reagan to use the US Navy to escort
it's oil tankers in the Persian Gulf.
Since only US-flagged ships could be escorted by
the Navy, the Kuwaitis renamed and reflagged 14
tankers in early 1987 under the American flag,
using US crews.
In early 1987, the only US
presence between Greece in the Med and DG in the
IO was a small flotilla based in Bahrain, and an AWAC detachment in
Saudi Arabia to support Saudi efforts to control
it's airspace and stop airborne attacks on it's
shipping in the Gulf.
Then, on 17 May 1987, the
Iraqi Air Force attacked the USS STARK
(FFG-31) with two Exocet missiles, killing 37 US
Sailors. Thus began the buildup in the
Persian Gulf area that we are familiar with
The Iranians, meanwhile
were busy mining the Persian Gulf. The UN
Security Council passed Resolution 598 on 20
July 1987, attempting to end the Iraq/Iran war,
and demanded the cessation of hotilities at sea.
US Navy escort operations
for the reflagged Kuwaiti tankers were to begin
in late July 1987. To clear the shipping
lanes of mines to allow safe passage of "US"
shipping, President Reagan initiated OPERATION
EARNEST WILL. Among other things, this
required moving mine-sweeping capability from
Virginia to the Persian Gulf, via Diego
Garcia. The directive to do so was dated
20 July 1987.
They were a little late,
as during the very first escort mission on July
24, 1987 the reflagged tanker BRIDGETON
struck an Iranian mine.
Then, on 31 July 1987, the
first C-5 took off from Dover AFB in Delaware,
flew to Norfolk NAS, and picked up the first
load for the movement of Navy Minesweeping
Helicopter Squadron HM-14 to Diego Garcia.
By 3 August, HM-14 was on Diego Garcia, and was
being loaded onto the USS GUADALCANAL
(LPH 7) for movement on to the Persian Gulf.
This is the
untold, little known, and less-cared-about story
of MAC's JCS Priority
1B1 Special Assignment Airlift Mission 2101 CODE
NAME: "EARNEST WILL" (The only higher priorities
were carrying nukes or the President)
The idea was to take the
Navy minesweeping gear and RH-53D helos from the
C-5s & C-141s and put them on the Guadalcanal, then take the USMC CH-53s and
Chinooks from the Guadalcanal and take them back
to MCAS Cherry Point. It rained steady for the
offload from the states, and I didn't get many
good photos. Above you see some sleds coming
off a C-5 and the RH-53Ds on the Guadalcanal.
Below you see the C-5 line
after the intial offload. At one point in
the evolution we had 12 C-5s, 10 C-141s, 6 KC-10s,
and 3 B-52Gs on the ramp.
The sun came out for
the retrograde, and that's what you see below.
A C-5 ready to be loaded
Getting a Shithook up to the
"mouth" of the C-5 (above).
ABOVE: Each C-5 could
hold 2 CH-53s or 3 CH-46 Shithooks. No
matter which load, it was a tight fit!
BELOW: The Guad's Marines
had to break down their own helos for shipping,
and they had to live in tents beside the flight
line while they did! The Marines on the left
above take a break after prepping two CH-53s,
before getting the next line ready for the next
loadout! They had to do the Chinooks too,
and load them. The right photo is a CH-53
inside the C-5.
Want to know more about OPERATION EARNEST
WILL? Read the book!
Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in
the Persian Gulf 1987-88 By Harold Lee Wise; Published by the Naval
Institute Press; May 2007; 272 pp., 25 photos, map,
diagram, 6 x 9 inches, cloth. ISBN 978-1-59114-970-5.
"Inside the Danger Zone is the untold 'first
chapter' of the ongoing United States military
involvement in the Persian Gulf.
"In May 1987, an Iraqi plane fired two missiles into
USS Stark, a lone U.S. Navy frigate on patrol in the
Gulf. The missiles severely damaged the ship and
killed thirty-seven sailors. This deadly attack, which
Iraq claimed was accidental, brought heightened
attention to the Persian Gulf, and heralded the
beginning of a new era in U.S. Middle Eastern policy.
From then until the end of the Iran-Iraq War, American
forces carried out an unprecedented series of military
operations in the Gulf. A planned tanker protection
mission evolved into a naval quasi-war with Iran and
culminated in the largest sea-air battle since World
"Inside the Danger Zone is a history of the U.S.
military involvement in the Persian Gulf in 1987 and
1988—a time of burning ships, air strikes, and secret
missions—the prelude period to Desert Storm and the
most recent U.S. invasion of Iraq. Based largely on
first-hand accounts from veterans of that era, it is
an up-close, detailed report from the front lines of
'a guerrilla war at sea.' Many of the dramatic
incidents of this period are told in depth with new
information and details never before seen in print."
[mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Thursday, December 14,
2006 10:48 AM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Diego Garcia-Ernest
Will Operation in 1987
Ted, A friend set me the link
within his interest in the recent B-1B which
landed "gear-up" on Diego Garcia. Having
been somewhat involved with Operation Earnest Will
in 1987-88, I looked over the link. Some
corrections for your photo descriptions: - Those are
RH-53Ds, not CH-53s on the deck of the USS
Guadalcanal. The minesweeping helos of HM-14
were ferried via C-5s from Norfolk, then built-up
and loaded onto the Guadalcanal. I am a
"Plankowner" of HM-14, and back when we were
formed in 1978, we were flying RH-53Ds.
Additionally, I was AIMD Officer on the USS
Okinawa, and we came over from San Diego in
November 1987 and HM-14 cross-decked to us from
the Guadalcanal. - If my memory
serves me correctly, it was Operation Earnest
Will, not Ernest Will. But I could be wrong. Bob Heinicke
Thanks for taking the time to
document what went on. I served onboard the Guad
from 1985 to 1988 and was there for the mine sweeping
operations. I still have pictures of our SEAL
team onboard the Iran Ajr before it was scuttled and
video of mines being exploded in the gulf. It is
one of the proudest moments of my life and now there
is a book about it. Again, thank you.
USS Guadalcanal LPH-7
What happened to the USS GUADALCANAL (LPH-7)?
While conducting minesweeping operations in the
Persian Gulf after leaving Diego Garcia, US forces
spotted the IRAN AJR laying mines at
night. "Night Stalker" AH-6 Helos from TF-160
flying from the USS
JARRETT and the USS LA SALLE attacked the IRAN
AJR, and troops from the GUADALCANAL
boarded and captured the ship the next morning. This
was only the second time since the war of 1812 that
the US Navy captured a ship on the high seas.
Remarkably enough, the other was the German U-Boat U-505
and it was captured by the Escort Carrier USS
Our GUADALCANAL (LPH-7) was decommissioned
in 1994, stored with the James River Reserve Fleet,
and sunk as a target in March 2005.
It was my 1/3rd of
Sqd that you guys transported to MCAS
ChPt. This is the 1st time I have
read were a CH-46E was referred to as a
'Shithook', we called them 'Frogs', the
CH-53E were 'Shitters'. We also had names
for the USAF, which I'm shure
you have heard. "Chinooks" were the US Army
CH-47 and I do not remember any being
there. We also had AH-1T 'Cobra' &
UH-1N 'Huey' that were
I was told this was
1st time that the USMC had preformed this
evolution in real time. I was
tasked with procuring materials (my specialty)
& building the racks for
the; rotor heads, transmissions and
blades. The other Avi guys were
assisting in the physical dismantling of the
airframes on Garcia. It was
a ALL hands effort to reassemble, phase and
preform the required test flights @
While some did sleep
tents, the vast majority of us slept on one of
the hanger floors. The
only entertainment were the TVs, VCRs & porn
tapes, supplied by the Navy
prior to their leaving. The Navy always
knows what it takes to keep a
Marine happy. Though some of us were also
treated to a Navy Chief
'Wetting Down' @ the Chiefs Chub...
BTY - The Guad then
rushed-off to break-down (dead in the water) for
5-Days. The remaining 2/3rds
of our aircraft, half went to the Med on small
decks and the remainder stayed
with the Guad…
AC Robertson Avi Chief (ret)
PS - Thanks for the ride...
the Editor: Dear Chief Robertson, I
use the term Shit Hooks because, as an Air Force
jet pilot, I can't tell the difference between
the Frogs and the Shit Hooks! Please
forgive this wayward fly boy... You are
right, there were no Army aircraft on DG at that