Marine Aircraft Group (Helicopter Transport) 36 was commissioned at Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana on 2 June 1952. While VMO-6 was making history in Korea as the first Marine helicopter squadron in U.S. history to conduct combat operations, MAG-36 squadrons, consisting of HMRs 361, 362 and 363, were devoting long hours to testing and improving the techniques of employing their HRS-1 helicopters in amphibious ship-to-shore movements. MAG-36 took part in many large-scale operations including atomic bomb testing during Operation DESERT ROCK.
On 5 September 1955, MAG-36 moved to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro and attached to 3d Marine Aircraft Wing when the Wing returned from Korea. MAG-36 deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1965 and attached to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. MAG-36 became the first complete Marine Aircraft Group to be transported by sea and arrive in a combat zone when it launched from the decks of the USS Princeton for Chu Lai Base on 1 September 1965.
Upon arrival, they provided resupply, troop lifts, air strikes, medical evacuation, and recon inserts/extracts for troops in the Southern I Corps area of operations. These missions involved a variety of aircraft including UH-1E Gunships, CH-46 Sea Knights, and UH-34 Sea Horses. In the fall of 1967, MAG-36 moved to Phu Bai, and by early 1968 was heavily involved in thwarting the communist Tet Offensive. Throughout the battle for Hue, MAG-36 helicopters supported ground forces in and around the ancient city.
On 4 November 1969, MAG-36 withdrew from Vietnam and relocated to MCAS Futenma, Okinawa Japan. VMGR-152 joined MAG-36 at that time. In 1970, MAG-36 began providing composite helicopter squadrons to the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit afloat; later renamed 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). In early 1973, MAG-36 squadrons participated in clearing Haiphong harbor of mines.
On April 11, 1975, the group provided transport for Operation EAGLE PULL — the successful emergency evacuation of Americans from Cambodia. Following this, the Group deployed all available aircraft aboard 7th Fleet ships for Operation FREQUENT WIND. On 29 April 1975, MAG-36 helicopters evacuated over 7,000 people from Saigon in a 24-hour period.
From the late 1970s through the 1980s, MAG-36 continued to support fleet operations in the Pacific Theater. MAG-36 became the Unit Deployment Program (UDP) linchpin in the Western Pacific (WestPac). As part of the UDP, CH-46, CH-53, and OV-10 squadrons from Hawaii and California deployed to MCAS Futenma for six-month rotations. During these deployments MAG-36 participated in numerous exercises and training deployments to various countries around the WestPac.
In November 1992, the last UDP detachment of OV-10s returned to Camp Pendleton, CA. In the spring of 1993, HMM-262 arrived from Hawaii to become a permanent part of MAG-36. HMM-262 was followed by HMM-265, and these two CH-46 squadrons have formed the backbone of the 31st MEU Aviation Combat Element.
Throughout the 1990s, MAG-36 units participated in a variety of contingency operations. In 1995, MAG-36 units conducted relief operations in Kobe Japan after 6,400 people lost their lives in a massive earthquake and also participated in the withdrawal of United Nation Forces from Somalia during Operation UNITED SHIELD. In 1999, units responded to a no-notice deployment to the Persian Gulf for Operation DESERT FOX and to East Timor for peacekeeping during Operation STABILIZE.
During the first decade of the 21st century, MAG-36 units continued to support Theater Security Cooperation exercises and numerous contingency operations. In 2004 and 2007 respectively, HMM-265 and HMM-262 deployed for Operation IRAQI FREEDOM combat operations. Since May of 2009, VMGR-152 has been providing an enduring two-plane detachment to Afghanistan for Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Nearly every year, MAG-36 deploys as a MEB-level Aviation Combat Element, often supporting Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. In November of 2007, in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Sidr MAG-36 elements deployed to Bangladesh for Operation SEA ANGEL II. MAG-36 supported Operation CARING RESPONSE in May 2008 from Thailand after Tropical Cyclone Nargis impacted Burma. Additionally, MAG-36 has conducted HADR in the Philippines on three separate occasions: during 2004 with Joint Task Force 535, following three back-to-back typhoons in October 2009, and again in October 2010 in the wake of Super Typhoon MEGI. Most recently during Operation TOMODACHI, MAG-36 deployed to mainland Japan immediately following the triple-disaster created by an earthquake, tsunami, and damaged nuclear reactor to provide much needed relief to our host nation.