SEAHORSE: Marines board Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorses that will transport them in August 1966 to landing zones during Operation Colorado in northern South Vietnam. / National Archives
Helicopters of the Vietnam War
More than just Hueys—a multitude of choppers flew the dangerous skies of Vietnam
For most American combat personnel who served in Vietnam, the classic image of “the helicopter war” was the “Huey,” like the Bell UH-1D. The Huey was ready to back troops up, extract them or rush them to the hospital as the exigencies demanded. There were, however, quite a variety of other rotary-winged craft that made their mark on the Vietnamese landscape. Here are 11 helicopters (Huey included) that played a vital role in the Vietnam War.
Helicopters began proving their worth over Korea in the 1950s, but it was over Indochina that a new generation of rotary-winged aircraft became an indispensable military asset. Vertical takeoff and landing capabilities allowed soldiers to be rushed to the jungles, valleys and hilltops. The copters were equally adept at extracting troops when the operation was completed. Their ability to evacuate the wounded and swiftly convey them to a medical facility was the difference between life and death for tens of thousands of casualties.
As the war expanded, specialized helicopters were developed for a variety of tasks. Cargo carriers brought artillery, ammunition and other heavy equipment to remote fire support bases. When communist-manned 12.7 mm machine guns (known and dreaded by the helicopter crews as “.51-calibers”) became a threat to the troop-carrying “slicks” and medevac choppers, the helos were mounted with a counter-arsenal of guns and rockets, culminating in gunships like the Bell AH-1 Cobra.
The intense combat took a toll on the 12,000 helicopters that served in Vietnam. The Army lost at least 5,195 to combat or accidents. The Marines lost 270, the Air Force 110 and the Navy 32. The South Vietnamese lost 482, and the Australians six. Those casualties were suffered in the course of 5.25 million sorties, during which the machines underwent a rapid evolution with benefits that continue to be felt in both military and civilian uses.
U.S. army helicopters fly in tight formation during assault operations near Bien Hoa, north of Saigon on Jan. 12, 1964. (AP Photo)
Tags: Transportation On The Move Fighter Military Formation Flying Bien Hoa VNM
JOLLY GREEN GIANT: The HH-53's predecessor, the Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, touches down in the tall grass during rescue training in South Vietnam. Initially a principal rescue helicopter for the U.S. Air Force, the HH-3 was phased out and replaced by the larger and more powerful Super Jolly.
(Original Caption) Special Delivery. Dong Ha, South Vietnam: A helicopter drops another howitzer for a contingent of the U.S. 3rd Marine Division that is occupying a high area near the Laotian border. Some 5,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese troops massed to stage a drive against an area near the abandoned allied fortress at Khe Sanh in a search for North Vietnamese regulars and the equipment.
Tags: Vietnam War:CB2 aircraft:CB2 battle:CB2 Dong Ha:CB2 South Vietnam:CB1 medium group of people:CB2 Unspecified