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Combat Art Articles

The Grand Rescue

  • Published

The Grand Rescue painting

lithograph       in the press link

Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Darby Perrin
Medium: Oil on masonite 
Date: 2017

In the early morning hours of November 21, 1980, a large fire rapidly spread throughout the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unable to help numerous people trapped on the upper floors of the 26-story luxury hotel, civilian authorities called the consolidated command post at Nellis AFB, Nevada, to ask for assistance.

Fortunately, highly skilled rescue personnel assigned to the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Special Operations Squadron, were at Nellis AFB to participate in the Red Flag 81-1 exercise.  Having already noticed smoke on the horizon and heard reports on the radio, the members of the 302 SOS quickly responded.  Using the hoist system on their CH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopters, the Reservists rode the sling down, climbed onto the hotel balconies, and strapped the survivors in place so that they could be hoisted into the helicopters. 

The 302 SOS were joined during the effort by active-duty Air Force personnel and six UH-1N Iroquois helicopters assigned to the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing, Indian Springs AFS, Nevada, and the 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Florida.  Together, the three units rescued 93 survivors over the course of 38 trips.  Their efforts, as well the devastating impact of the fire taking the lives of 85 people and injuring another 650, received national attention. 

The Air Force Reserve re-designated the 302 SOS as the 302nd Fighter Squadron on September 19, 1985.  The change in mission brought the 302 FS back to its fighter aircraft roots, which began with the activation of the unit on October 13, 1942, at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama.