"HE WENT WHERE OTHERS FEARED TO GO AND DID WHAT OTHERS FAILED TO DO. HE HAS CRIED, PAINED, AND HOPED . . . BUT MOST OF ALL, HE HAS LIVED TIMES OTHERS WOULD SAY ARE BEST FORGOTTEN."
The helicopter, especially the UH-1 Huey, symbolized the war in Vietnam. It has been called the Jeep of the Vietnam War because of its versatility and being able to go almost anywhere. The Huey is to helicopters, what the DC-3 was to fixed wing aircraft. Even today, the sound of helicopters flying overhead, will cause any Vietnam Veteran to turn his head skyward and think back to those personal memories so many years ago. The first Huey was test flown in 1956, after Bell Helicopter (Fort Worth, Texas) beat out other helicopter designs for a turbine-powered utility helicopter. The lack of continuous power has stymied the development of earlier designs. During the Korean War the Bell Model-47 (MASH) were gasoline -piston powered, but these and other piston powered choppers just could not deliver the sustained power neccessary for heavier payloads. But the use of the gas-turbine engines broke that barrier with the Bell design. The first production model Huey went into service in 1959 and by the end of the military production run, over 26,000 Hueys in various models and configuartion were produced. Today, Bell is still producing commerical versions of the Huey airframe. Thousands of helicopters were deployed to Vietnam between the years of 1961 and 1975, requiring large numbers of personnel to fly and maintain this huge fleet of helicopters. It is estimated that over 44,000 enlisted personnel served as helicopter crewmen and the VHCMA would like to contact as many as possible. An ever increasing number of pilots were also required and by 1967 over 700 new pilots were being turned out every two weeks, for Vietnam service. Helicopter crews did everything that was ever asked of them, and even more, without regard for their personal safety. They were bold and agressive to the point, at times, of being reckless. But one thing for certain, is that they could be depended on and as the saying goes, "arriving just in time." During the Vietnam War over 58,000 US soldiers lost their lives. Of these, 2,465 were helicopter enlisted crewmembers (crewchief, gunners, medics, ect.) and another 1,069 were rotary wing pilots. Thats about 6.1% of U.S. casualties... for personnel considered by some to be no more than flying "truck" drivers. During Vietnam era, over 4600 rotary wing aircraft were lost in Southeast Asia. Not all these losses were the result of hostile action, and as much as we hate to admit, there were more losses due to pilot error and mechanical malfunctions. When all U.S. military forces left Vietnam in 1973, they also left a large amount of military equipment and weapons to the South Vietnamese military. In addition to fixed wing aircraft, over 400 UH-1 Hueys and 36 CH-47 Chinooks were left behind, which eventually fell into the hands of the North Vietnamese Army . @Author unknown