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(HCU-1) HARBOR CLEARANCE UNIT ONE Vietnam & Hawaii Salvors


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I'm wondering if one of these was made in the philippines versus thailand or vietnam?


The grey diver is from a known group here on the forum. Any help would be appreciated.





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Salvage Sailor

They're both PI made. The bottom (white) one is more recent, and may be a copy. HCU-1 was based in the Philippines while teams were serving in RVN and the grey one is an original, also PI made.




Here's an original PI made Vietnam Era patch from my collection which belonged to their CO and came from his personal mementos.  He was the Senior Salvage Officer (DV) NAVSUPPACT SAIGON who oversaw all Salvage Forces in Vietnam, including HCU-1.  He then became the last CO of HCU-1 when they returned to "The World" at Alpha Docks, Pearl Harbor Naval Station. 


NAVSUPPACT Salvors Saigon 1971 - Welcome to Vietnam!










This second mesh back HCU-1 patch is mine post-Vietnam from Pearl Harbor circa 1972-1979 after the Unit relocated from Subic Bay to Alpha Docks, Pearl Harbor with their Salvage Barge, (YRST-1).



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Just to add some additional info on HCU-1 patches, these are more of my own originals from Alpha Docks in the mid 1970's


HCU 1 001.jpg


HCU 1 002.jpg


Two of my gray Mark V helmet originals along with two different white helmet collector copies

Notice that the scroll is flatter on the immediate post-Vietnam grey originals, circa 1972-1979 Alpha Docks







HCU 1 MDSU 1 001.jpg


An original and a first generation MDSU-1 (Pronounced as Mud-Sue-Won) Philippine made patch (also from Alpha Docks where they are still based).  Mobile Diving & Salvage Unit One is the lineal descendent from HCU-1 and still occupies their diving station at Alpha Docks today.


HCU 1 MDSU 1 002.jpg


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Reserve Harbor Clearance Unit Hawaii HCU-1 001.jpg


My Hawaii Reserve HCU-1 patch


Reserve Harbor Clearance Unit Hawaii HCU-1 002.jpg


Salvage 01 001b.jpg


and a photo of the unit on a joint operation at Alpha Docks with the Experimental Diving Unit.  Note the white tapes on the EDU Divers, HCU-1 is in all green.

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1971 020.jpg


HCU-1 Demonstration Dive Tank at Alpha Docks (Still in use by MDSU-1) and a full size decal same as the one on the tank above the Mark V Diver.  It now has a large MDSU-1 emblem in place of the SERVRON 5 emblem.


HCU 1 Decal.jpg

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  • 2 years later...
Salvage Sailor



Alpha Docks, home of HCU-1 after Vietnam, now home of MDSU-1 Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One - Alpha Docks was homeport to the SERVRON 5 Salvage Forces (ARS, ATF, ATS, YRST) with all of the single men living aboard the vessels unless you paid for your own pad 'on the beach'.  It was and still is a Hawaiian paradise, being that it's at the mouth of the harbor, and not in the Naval Base proper which you can see at the top of this photo.   All of the green area in the center and the large long white warehouses are on Hickam AFB.  The large pier and the right side is for the 'Armys Navy' & abuts the old CAC Fort Kamehameha.  The Alpha piers are only in the center and the three small roofed buildings held the Salvage gear (Anchors, shackles, wire, pulleys, pelican hooks, pumps, tools, dive gear, generators, buoys).  That's now occupied by MDSU-1 and this it the emblem on the center building quarterdeck.  But our base was and is considered the Naval Station, not the Air Base.





Fleet Tug USS TAKELMA (ATF-113) & Rescue Salvage USS SAFEGUARD (ARS-25) at Alpha Docks




SERVRON FIVE, our parent command was ensconced in their cool pad tucked away on the Naval Station waterfront with a view of SUB BASE, Ford Island and much of the Pearl Highlands.  Very picturesque and when we were either injured, or killing time between shipping or transit orders, we would often be assigned to temporary duty at SERVRON (along with the sick, lame and lazy rag pickers).  The officers left us alone and the Chiefs were cool because it was Shore Duty and they could put the rag pickers to work.  But for the rest of us, it was Skate Duty on Pearl.  Duty driver, messenger, answering phones while watching ships and subs in the channel & staring at the beautiful scenery of the Ewa plains and the Waianae mountains.  We could get excellent free chow on Sub Base around the clock.  Admittedly, we did have to spiff up and get trimmed because there were Marines and SP's around the Naval gates and various quarterdecks.  This was the homeport of the Third Fleet.






Nobody came down to our place at Alpha docks.  We would enter and exit via the Hickam AFB gates, not the Naval gates.  No Marine gate guards, no SP's, we could park our cars & bikes on the pier and work on them with no hassle.  We would use the Zoomies clubs and nice facilities (35 cent two for one hard drinks during Happy Hour), and the Air Police didn't know what to do with us regarding hair and clothing regs.   We all had beards, mustaches, sideburns, somewhat shaggy hair and the airmen were all 'high and tight'.  Inport we would be on Tropical working hours with Quarters at 5;45AM and Turn To at 6 off at 1:45.  At the docks, we could fish, suntan, go to the beach at the fort, goof off and pretty much do whatever when not aboard ship or on duty.  Then it was all business.



YRST-1 at Alpha Docks 1974, Salvage Barge and Berthing for HCU-1


Although we had Decompression Chambers aboard our ARS type ships, the diving barge did not have one in commission.  But we only had one HM 'Doc' aboard each of them so the Medical Officer (DV) aboard the HCU-1 Salvage Barge (YRST-1) was our Squadron Doctor for "the bends".   Each of our Junk Boats had a crew of about 75 Pirates, uh, officers & men.




This classic photograph is from a friend who shall go unnamed for now.  I use it as my avatar on the forum.  In the photo up above you can see the Salvage Crane on the YRST-1.  My friend was being DEROSed and had his seabag packed, his orders in hand and a voucher for a MAC flight heading for Travis.  All he needed to be finished on his check off list was to orientate his replacement on the Crane controls and the douche was late.  He finally showed up, got a 45 second course on swinging an 8,000 lb. ELLS Salvage anchor aft & aboard, and hoisting but at second 46.....the new guy dropped it onto our cars on the pier.  The Hawaiian Cop is trying to figure out how to write this up and how to cite a Salvage Barge.  My friend didn't stick around.....he said, "initial here buddy, Aloha", and had a flight to catch.



Alpha Docks, home of HCU-1 after Vietnam, now home of MDSU-1 Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One

The YRST-1 WWII/Vietnam Salvage Barge is also still afloat after being towed from RVN, Subic Bay (PI), Apra Harbor (Guam) to Alpha Docks, Pearl Harbor Naval Station.  She is now painted white, renamed, and being used as a berthing barge at Submarine Base, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam




YRST-1 at Subic Bay in 1972, just before she was towed back to Hawaii





YRST-1 Under Tow by a YTB off of Oahu



YRST-1 Quarterdeck at Alpha Docks 1974.  Diver in greens wearing HCU-1 patch



Harbor Clearance Unit One (HCU-1) 'Back in the World' at Alpha Docks (Hickam AFB), Pearl Harbor Naval Station Hawaii

Notice that some of the Divers are also wearing SEAL Tridents.  PS - The Hawaiian local beer in the small brown bottles is Primo.




HCU-1 Fly Away Mixed Gas Team, "# One It's Hard to be Humble", Alpha Docks, Hawaii 1970's



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Salvage Sailor

LCDR Tom Swift, Senior Salvage Officer, NAVSUPPACT SAIGON, 1971 (on the right in khakis)





Swift & HCU-1 Divers hitching rides with HAL-3 SEAWOLVES




HCU-1 on the armed salvage craft upriver








Indian Country - ARVN craft sunk by Charlie with KIA's






Back in the World - Commanding Officer, Harbor Clearance Unit One, Pearl Harbor (Alpha Docks), Hawaii





LCDR Swift with his HCU-1 Divers at Alpha Docks



Navy Diver Reenlistment Ceremony aboard YRST-1.  Note that Tom Swift is now wearing his Diving, Submarine & Sub Patrol badges.





Cleaning up more that 40 years of military junk dumped on and around Canton Island










In Memory of
DECEMBER 31, 1923 - SEPTEMBER 9, 2017
A proud USN veteran of three wars and a long-time retiree-resident of Las Vegas, Tom Swift sailed on his final voyage September 9, 2017. 


Tom was born in Montgomery County, Tennessee and grew-up on a 100-acre farm. Following completion of high school, Tom enlisted in the U. S. Navy. He was assigned to the USS Stingray as a gunner's mate and served on seven submarine combat patrols in the Western Pacific.  Tom is wearing his blues in the center of the photo.




Following the war, he continued his Navy career on both submarines and surface ships, rising through the ranks, becoming a deep-sea diver, a salvage diving officer and instructor.






He saw Submarine combat duty in Korea and combat Salvage duty in Vietnam. Tom was cited for his command of the salvage and diving barge operations in clearing the Mekong River during 1971.



LT Tom Swift, Post Korean War - WWII GM Submariner, Gunnery Officer, Navigator, Navy Diver & future Salvage Commander in RVN


In 1974, he retired from the U.S. Navy as Commanding Officer of Harbor Clearance Unit ONE Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 



There's much more to his huge archive I've not yet scanned but you can see it here --> NAVSUPPACT Salvors Saigon 1971 - Welcome to Vietnam!


1971 001.jpg

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