Pages

March 20, 2011

End Of An Icon


The old Huey gunship is gone. Once the signature aircraft of the Vietnam War, the UH-1, Bravo, Charlie through November series helicopters are no longer used by the US armed forces. From San Diego:

The Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 (HMLA-469 ) and Marine Light Attack Training Squadron 303 (HMLA-T 303) honored the UH-1N Huey in a farewell ceremony at MCAS Camp Pendleton Friday afternoon.

The UH-1N "November" model huey is being replaced by the next generation, UH-1Y "Yankee" helicopter, which flies faster, lifts more and deploys more powerful weapons.

For one vet, the Huey arouses strong memories:

"If smell is a memory nudge, sound is a sledgehammer and for a Vietnam veteran, none is more powerful than the distinctive rotor slap of a Bell UH-1 helicopter. Heard fading in from the distance, it was the war's constant soundtrack and only a Huey's unmistakable wop-wop-wop brings the memories flooding back.




[...] As a military aircraft, the UH-1 was unique for its wide use and its direct contact with virtually everyone in Vietnam. Sure, everyone knew about B-52s and F-4s, but we actually climbed into and flew around in Hueys. In my part of Vietnam, they were just as often called Slicks as Hueys. The origin of the term may be two-fold. Before the AH-1 Cobra appeared in 1967, UH-1s had been fitted with side-mounted guns—improvised gunships. Those without guns were "slick-sided" or just Slicks. The Marine origin of the term may refer to the UH-1's ability to fly without the internal seat frame arrangement, just a "slick deck." Either way, the UH-1 made its mark.

And so did the pilots who flew it. At Fort Bragg, I served under an E-7 who'd been badly wounded and yanked out of an LZ blasted in the jungle by a 500-pound bomb by a UH-1 shot full of holes. In telling this story, his eyes would glaze a little, but one thing he said about the pilots stuck with me: "Those sons of bitches were crazy." He meant that as a supreme compliment and nod of respect and nobody hearing the story would take it any other way."

The initial HU-1, the "Iroquois" (Bell Model 204), was first delivered in 1961. The HU-1 became famous as the Huey and was the Army's initial and most successful turbo-shaft powered heliocopter. HU stands for "Helicopter, Utility" and it indeed was designed to perform a variety of tasks. In 1962 the armed forces adopted a uniform system for designating aircraft and the HU-1 became the UH-1.

The UH-1C was primarily developed as a weapons platform with a more powerful UH-1B turbo engine and redundant hydraulic systems. The UH-1C was eventually replaced by the Cobra during the Vietnam war but was still used extensively. The Cobra has since been replaced by the AH-1Z.

The UH-1N (Bell Model 212) was introduced in 1970 - it's primary advantage was that it was a two-engine chopper. This was a greatly desired safety feature, especially for the Navy and the Marines as these craft would have to traverse stretches of water.



The successors, the UH-1Y and AH-1Z (attack) series have rotors designed to withstand small arms fire, 25% greater lift capability and 50% greater range than the UH-1N. They are able to keep up with other air capable resources that they're supposed to be escorting such as Blackhawk (UH-60) choppers.

The legend lives on, but without the characteristic wop wop wop - the new birds have four rotors instead of two.

19 comments:

LoneIslander said...

Good info bro, I didn't even know they were starting to replace them now.

sig94 said...

Lone - I think that the UH-1Y's started arriving in mid 2000's or so.

Greybeard said...

Thanks for this.
Chu Lai '68-69 in Charleys, I have 3000 hours in various iterations of the old bird. All good things come to an end, but there are still several civilian agencies using the two-bladed version and my old ears are attuned to hear it before anyone else even has a clue.

You did Yeoman work and saved many lives old girl.
We'll NEVER forget you.

fuzzys dad said...

Another Icon slips into the cold pages of a history book.But never forgotten by the men she served and saved.

sig94 said...

Greybeard - thank you and may God bless you for your service.

sig94 said...

FuzzyD - There is a special bond between man and machine that is unique to soldiers. Except for my father-in-law (may he rest in peace). He hated Sherman tanks. More precisely, he hated what the Germans did to the Shermans.

WomanHonorThyself said...

thanks for posting ..one of my best friends fought in Nam...God bless ya.

sig94 said...

WTH - The guys who risked their lives in these birds are something. I was in a chopper just once in my life and that was enough.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

Congratulations on passing 1300 followers Nickie and Sig.

wop wop wop is a sound I heard every day for a year. I also used to love to watch the Cobras lunch missiles in the morning. I would stop their forward motion. My favorite by far was "Puff the Magic Dragon" lighting up the sky and that sound was special. It sounded like a group of high octane sewing machines. Who'd a thunk our secret weapon would be a DC3.

Thanks for the memories Sig!

sig94 said...

Thanks Odie - and indeed thank you for your service.

Teresa said...

Thanks for the great info, Sig. Can't say I've ever been in a helicopter before but the men who served in Vietnam and rode in these are brave heroes.

Nickie Goomba said...

Heroes still walk among us, but their footsteps are muffled by the screeching of whores and circuses. It's an American tragedy.

Rhod said...

Cu Chi/Tay Ninh '66-'67, Greybeard.
Thanks.

sig94 said...

Teresa - amen dear lady. Those who place themselves in harm's way deserve all our heartfelt thanks.

sig94 said...

Nickie - your "advisors" with no necks and less sense of humor just walked all over my hapless tulips on their way to inform me that "wop wop wop" is perhaps not the words through which the literary device onomatopoeia is achieved and still retain my full complement of testicles and unbroken bones.

Soooo, from now on we will use "whomp whomp whomp" to describe that characteristic atmospheric disturbance which accompanies the flight of the Huey.

sig94 said...

Rhod - and thank you sir for your service. God grant you and your comrades in arms many, many more years with friends and family.

I must be getting sentimental in my dodderage. There's something hitting my keyboard. Damn...

Chopperjohn said...

I was at Cam Ranh Bay during '67-68. I loaded thousands of tons of bombs on F-4C Phantoms. I knew of the Hueys and their service.
Chopperjohn

sig94 said...

Chopperjohn - thanks for stopping by and God bless you for your service.

Jim V said...

If you notice as well, on the UH-1Y they have put the tail rotor back to the port side as it was on the older models