1960: History of the Golden Knights Chapter 1-5

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This history was compiled, edited and/or written by Regina A Hudson

from the Golden Knights Alumni Assn: http://www.goldenknightsaa.com/history/chapter1-5.asp

Skydiving was new, exciting and getting a lot of attention, both civilian and military. The successes of the early teams captured the attention of the Airborne Division Commanders (and promoted their support), and of people like General William Westmoreland and General Dwight Beach who both supported the Sports Parachute Clubs and took every opportunity to showcase the demonstration team.  It also captured the attention of some upper military commanders or "brass" who started considering how to apply free fall parachuting as a tactical advantage in troop insertions.

1960 - Members of the Original HALO Project.

1960 - Pope Air Force Base (AFB), NC - Members of the HALO Project. HALO means High Altitude deployment from the aircraft and Low Opening of the parachute. The project was a successful exploration of using free fall parachuting as a troop insertion technique. The Jump Master for Project HALO was Roy D Martin. --- Standing [l-r] - _____, Thomas F. Mertzig, Richard F Ward, Gary Powers, Sherman Williford, Norman E Charland, Richard G (Dick) Rainford, Harold R Lewis, _____ James E Lewis, _____, CPT James E Ray (Project OIC) Kneeling [l-r] - _____, Joseph G Saunders, _____, 2LT Roy D Martin (Project Jump Master, Charles E Yost, Alva J English, _____ (possibly Paul S Newman) ---- Help us place these people above: Robert Bailey, William M Carroll, James O Chapman, Gilbert Hamilton, WC Loyd, Paul Newman, Morris Swan Not Pictured: 1LT Jack R Cantrell, SSG David E Bolton (Project NCOIC, Rodger C. Hale, Richard Dunphy, Lee RK Smith (photographer of this picture and HALO Project Team Parachutist)
Unless otherwise noted, captions read from left to right.

Eventhough they were part of a sport parachute club (SPC), the  parachutists from the 82nd and 101st were still considered STRAC (Strategic Army Corps) for demonstration and tactical purposes.  In April of 1960, General Dwight Beach directed the the 82nd SPC  (commanded by OIC, 2LT Roy D. Martin) to participate in the tactical operation: Tower Moon, an exercise to evaluate using free fall parachutists in special operations.

At the same time the 101st SPC from Ft Campbell, KY was performing sky diving demonstrations, and also participating in tactical exercises. The exercises in both locations were testing the viability of inserting troops using night infiltration. At both Army posts, test participants made a series of night jumps from various aircraft (the H-34, the H-21, and the U1A Otter). To jump at night, they had to improvise lighting for their altimeters. The altimeters help the jumpers determine when to open their parachutes during free fall.

The tests were considered successful because the ground forces did not detect the jumpers as they infilitrated the exercise field.  Although four of the jumpers were "captured" after landing, the Field Training Exercises (FTX) demonstrated the potential for using night jumps at high altitudes for tactical infiltration. LTG John W Bowen, commander of the 18th Corps, and General Beach were impressed.

Upon the success of these exercises, the US Army pursued a more challenging project: HALO or High Altitude Low Opening. More than twenty experienced sky divers were selected to participate in project AB 1459, the HALO test project.

The participants were members of the 82nd SPC, the 101st SPC, and the Airborne & ElectronicsTest Board.  Although all the parachutists in the project held parachuting licenses, their selection for the program was based on experience and professional conduct. 2LT Roy Martin, the most experienced officer in the group at license C-67, was selected Jump Master for the project. [See Supplemental Information for more about Jump Masters]

The 44 test jumps of Project HALO were rigorous and varied.  They included jumps during the day and at night, on land and over water, and with or without extra equipment and/or weapons.

The jumps were made from altitudes up to 27,500 feet and from the following aircraft:

  • C-130 Hercules [Lockheed]
  • AC-1 Caribou  [De Havilland]
  • H34 Choctaw  [Sikorsky]
  • SA-16 Albatross   [Grumman]
The Amphibian "Albatross"

The efficacy and potential for HALO operations was undeniable, and would be used in a variety of military and humanitarian applications in the future. The members of the STRAC parachuting Team and the sport parachuting clubs had admirably achieved their mission of representing the US in national and international competitions, promoting the prestige of the US Army, enhancing recruiting efforts, and fostering a sense of esprit de corps both within the Airborne services and without. And as soldiers first,  however, their skills had strengthened the resources of the US Army in many more ways.

Three of the participants in the early Project HALO would become original members of the United States Army Parachute Team. Three more would soon join them. They are:

  • 2LT Roy D. Martin
  • SFC Harold R. Lewis
  • PFC Lee R. K. Smith
  • SP4 Jim Lewis  [joined later]
  • SGT Joe Sanders [joined later] and
  • PFC Sherman H. Williford [joined later]