The World’s Best Pickup Truck

A mainstay of air transportation, the Huey provided the soundtrack to the Vietnam War

(Lt. Col. S.F. Watson (U.S. Army) Collection/NASM)

Boeing Carries a Bell UH-1

(Lt. Col. S.F. Watson (U.S. Army) Collection/NASM)

The first Bell UH-1s arrived in Vietnam in 1962, and were used as medevac helicopters to support the South Vietnamese Army. In October of that year, armed Hueys were used to escort Army and Marine Corps transport helicopters. By 1964, there were 300 -A and -B models in Vietnam.

In a 1964 end-of-year memo to all engineering personnel, Bart Kelley crowed: "We managed to keep the UH-1 series going with no more than the normal number of crises." That year Bell Helicopter Company delivered the first UH-1Fs.

As company commander of the 62nd Aviation Company "Outlaws" in Vietnam in 1964, Tom Anderson usually flew in the Command and Control (C&C) ship. The mission was supporting the South Vietnamese; Anderson would fly with the commander of the Vietnamese unit they were supporting and an American advisor. Each would have his own FM radio, used to communicate with ground troops. In addition, Anderson had two UHF radios, with one channel tuned to his slicks (troop transports) and the other to his gunships. He monitored a third channel that allowed him to call in Air Force or Navy close air support when needed.

“I got so I could monitor three different radio communications at one time,” he says. “When things got hot and busy, I’d have to decide which one I didn’t want to listen to, but I was almost always listening to two channels—my gunships and my slicks, because that’s how I would communicate with them.”

"We had Bs for both our 'slicks' [transport and medevac helicopters] and our 'gunships' [attack helicopters]," recalls Anderson. "The B was adequate for the time, but lacked both the power and the capacity to perform all of the tasks that came our way. We were always trying to come up with another mission it could do. We hung guns and rockets on the thing and called it a gunship."

Above: A Boeing CH-47 Chinook carries a Bell UH-1 in Vietnam, circa late 1960s/ early 1970s.


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