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Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 165 (VMM-165) is a United States Marine Corps Tilt-rotor squadron consisting of MV-22B Osprey transport aircraft. The squadron, known as the "White Knights", is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California and fall under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).


Provide assault support transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment during expeditionary, joint or combined operations. Be prepared for short-notice, worldwide employment in support of Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations.

Vietnam War

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 was activated on July 1, 1965 at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Ana, California as part of Marine Aircraft Group 36, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. During August 1965, the White Knights were reassigned to Marine Wing Service Group 37.

In September 1966, the White Knights deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, where they were assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. From October 1966 to August 1969, the squadron operated from Kỳ Hà, Hue/Phu Bai, the USS Valley Forge, the USS Tripoli, Marble Mountain area near Da Nang, and from the USS Tarawa. On June 6, 1968, HMM-165 had two of their CH-46As shot down in the vicinity of Khe Sanh. There were no deaths on the first incident but the second crash which occurred at LZ Loon, southeast of Khe Sanh, resulted in the death of 12 of the 23 Marines on board.[2]

Vietnam-era squadron insignia.

In August 1969, the squadron redeployed to Okinawa where it was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 15 of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade. In December 1969, the squadron again became part of Marine Aircraft Group 36.

During the early 1970s, HMM-165 participated as part of the Special Landing Force in support of activities in the Republic of Vietnam. During July and August 1972, the White Knights took part in Philippine flood relief operations, flying in food and supplies to local populations. At the end of April 1975, helicopters of HMM-165 played a key role in the evacuation of Saigon, Operation Frequent Wind. At 0500 on 30 April 1075, under direct orders from President Gerald Ford, the crew of Lady Ace 09 evacuated U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin from the US Embassy, Saigon, prior to the Fall of Saigon.

A CH-46 in front of an old blimp hangar at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin.
Post Vietnam and the 1980s

In November 1977, the White Knights moved to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii where they were reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 24, the air combat element of the 1st Marine Brigade. At this time the name of the squadron was changed from White Knights to Hawaiian Warriors. The logo on the tail of the aircraft was changed from a traditional knight to that of a profile of a Hawaiian king that resembled the logo of Primo Beer, causing the squadron enlisted to affectionately refer to themselves as, The Primo Warriors..

In December 1979 at a time of high international tension arising from the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, HMM-165 deployed to the Arabian Sea with the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit (31st MAU) on board the USS Okinawa (LPH-3). Their mission was to deter Soviet Aggression under the orders of then President Jimmy Carter. This policy would later be named the Carter Doctrine. At the same time, the squadron served in a minor support role for the Hostage Rescue Attempt in Iran.[3]

Upon returning to Hawaii in June 1980, the following winter produced a severe storm that damaged electrical lines crossing Oahu and HMM-165 assisted local officials in replacing these downed lines.

In 1981, HMM-165 was again deployed to the Western Pacific and Arabian Sea with the 31st MAU on board the USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3). Their name changed back to The White Knights and replaced the tail insignia with a traditional White Knight helmet. HMM-165 performed humanitarian work assisting the government of Sri Lanka in delivering television transmitters to a remote site providing the people of Sri Lanka full national coverage of their television station for the first time.

During April 1983 HMM-165 became the Air Combat Element (ACE) of the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit. The squadron was reinforced with 2 UH-1s, 4 AH-1s, 4 CH-53s, and 6 AV-8s in addition to its 12 CH-46s and was redesignated as HMM(C)Rein-165. The squadron deployed to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans and completed contingency operations in the Okinawa, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Kenya, and Somalia. The reinforced squadron was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon, where they conducted contingency operations in Lebanon, Cyprus, and Israel from the deck of the USS Tarawa (LHA-1). The squadron returned to Kaneohe Bay in time for Christmas. In December 1989, the White Knights supported American interests, to include reinforcement of the American Embassy, in the Republic of the Philippines during that country's coupe attempt.

The Gulf War & the 1990s

In August 1990, the squadron was sent to Saudi Arabia to participate in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The White Knights returned home from Saudi Arabia in March 1991. HMM-165 was the "last squadron in the Philippine Islands" when they supported the special purpose MAGTF from July to November 1992. From September to October 1992 a detachment was sent to Cambodia to participate in Joint Task Force Full Accounting. The squadron aided the task force in the search for remains of MIA's from the war in Vietnam. In March 1993, another detachment from HMM-165 was sent to Cambodia to participate in Joint Task Force Full Accounting; this time the mission was cut short when the task force base camp was attacked by mortar fire in April 1993.


As a result of the Base Realignment And Closure Committee's (BRAC) actions HMM-165 was reassigned from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Aviation Support Element, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, to Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California on May 15, 1996.

HMM-165 moved to MCAS Miramar, San Diego, California in November 1998 as the result of additional BRAC requirements. In December 1998 HMM-165 was designated the Aviation Combat Element for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Global War on Terror

In July 2001, HMM-165 was designated the Aviation Combat Element for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, HMM-165 deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

The White Knights received orders to deploy to Iraq in December 2002. Beginning in January, HMM-165 deployed on the USS Boxer (LHD-4) and cruised to the Persian Gulf. After offloading in Kuwait, the squadron was tasked with supporting Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) for the duration of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On the night of April 1, 2003, HMM-165 comprised the CH-46 element of Task Force 20, the special team that extracted prisoner of war Army PFC Jessica Lynch.

The squadron redeployed to Iraq in September 2006 attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. On December 3, 2006 a helicopter carrying 16 personnel made an emergency landing on Lake Qadisiyah in Al Anbar Province. Four of the passengers drowned in the incident.[4] They returned to Camp Pendleton on May 30, 2007.

In June 2010, the unit again sailed with the 15th MEU aboard USS Peleliu, marking the last deployment of its CH-46s. The squadron demonstrated its prowess in a wide variety of missions as the White Knights headed up Task Force Ghazi in Khyber, Pakhtunkhwa Province, Northern Pakistan and Task Force South in the Sindh Province, Southern Pakistan in support of Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief operations.

HMM-165 transitioned to the V-22 Osprey on March 1, 2011 and were subsequently re-designated Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (VMM-165).[5] On 6 October 2012, a MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft from squadron VMM-165 land and refueled on board the USS Nimitz (CVN-68). This operation was part of an evaluation of the feasibility of the MV-22 as a potential replacement for the C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery (COD) cargo transport aircraft.[6]

In July 2013, VMM-165 deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon arriving at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, the squadron assumed the duties of assault support for Regional Command Southwest [RC(SW)]. During their seven-month deployment to Afghanistan, the White Knights of VMM-165 conducted assault support, battlefield illumination, VIP transport, and CASEVAC in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) effort in Helmand Province.

Unit awards

A unit citation or commendation is an award bestowed upon an organization for the action cited. Members of the unit who participated in said actions are allowed to wear on their uniforms the awarded unit citation. VMM-165 has been presented with the following awards:

Streamer Award Year(s) Additional Info
U.S. Navy Presidential Unit Citation streamer.png Presidential Unit Citation Streamer with one Bronze Star 1966–1967, 1968,2003 Vietnam War, Iraq
Navy Unit Commendation streamer.png Navy Unit Commendation Streamer with three Bronze Stars 1968, 1968, 1969, 1972 Vietnam War
Meritorious Unit Commendation (Navy-Marine) Streamer.jpg Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer with three Bronze Stars 1972, 1975 Vietnam War
Streamer NDS.PNG National Defense Service Streamer with two Bronze Stars 1961–1974, 1990–1995, 2001–present Vietnam War, Gulf War, War on Terrorism
Streamer AFE.PNG Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamer Somalia
Streamer VS.PNG Vietnam Service Streamer with two Silver and three Bronze Stars July 1965 - April 1971, April - December 1975
Streamer SAS.PNG Southwest Asia Service Streamer September 1990 - February 1991 Desert Shield, Desert Storm
Streamer IQCS.PNG Iraq Campaign Streamer January - July 2003, March - April 2005, November 2006 - April 2007
ACM 1B.PNG Afghanistan Campaign Streamer with one Bronze Star August 2013 - February 2014
Streamer gwotE.PNG Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Streamer March - May 2003, April - October 2015 Operation Inherent Resolve
Streamer gwotS.PNG Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer 2001–present
VGCP Streamer.jpg Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Streamer
See also
  1. Paying Tribute to the 'Lady Ace 09'
  2. "PALACIOS, LUIS FERNANDO - Remains ID announce 11/05/08". pownetwork.org. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  3. [1]
  4. "Incident Date 061203 HMM-165 CH-46E unknown Mechanical failure", USMC Combat Helicopter Association, 08 February 2007
  5. Velasquez, Cpl Gabriel (June 1, 2010). "'White Knights' Ride With Their Trusty 'steed' One Last Time". 15th MEU Public Affairs. USS Peleliu: United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  6. "MV-22 Osprey Flight Operations Tested Aboard USS Nimitz". Avionics Intelligence. PennWell Corporation. October 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-09. and Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Renee Candelario, USN (October 8, 2012). "MV-22 Osprey Flight Operations Tested Aboard USS Nimitz". NNS121008-13. USS Nimitz Public Affairs. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
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