Myth: The United States lost the war in Vietnam.

Based upon the positive experience of the Marines in Korea, the U.S. Army formed twelvehelicopter battalions in 1952. The prospect of nuclear weapons on the battlefield drovethe Army's implementation of the use of helicopters just as it had the Marines. In 1954,Major General James M. Gavin, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, noted thatnuclear weapons, if used in future wars, would be used against land forces. The onlypractical counter-measure against such weapons is to drastically reduce the concentrationof soldiers in the battle zone. Since fewer soldiers will have to cover more ground, therewill exist a greater need for automatic weapons and for a rapid logistics system toprovide them with ammunition. A defense based on dispersion necessitates developing amethodology to rapidly consolidate forces in the field. Air vehicles, includinghelicopters, were deemed the appropriate mechanisms to accomplish these goals. By 1955 the use of helicopters for troop transport and logistics hadachieved limited success within the Army.

Approximately 12,000 helicopters saw action in Vietnam (all services).

Under General Gavin, the position of director of Army aviation was established andfilled from 1955 to 1958 by General Hamilton Howze. Tests were conducted by Howze todetermine the efficacy of the airmobile concept within the context of the Army's NATOcommitments. When an air cavalry brigade was substituted for an U. S. armored division,the air cavalry was superior to armor in holding off Soviet units in West Germany. Thearmy concluded that light forces with high mobility could apply firepower better thanstandard infantry divisions, and that the requirements for small wars appeared to be muchthe same as for nuclear wars against the Soviet Union.


UH-1H Iroquois “Huey” Helicopter - Vietnam Helicopters

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his brother, Tom, served side by side during the Vietnam War. Lieutenant…

The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite and Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King were used by the Navy for anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue. The Air Force flew its CH-3 and HH-3 versions as Jolly Green Giant rescue helicopters. The Air Force also used the Kaman HH-43 Huskie as rescue helicopter.


Why the U.S. military pushed helicopters overboard in …

The first Marine helicopter unit to deploy to Vietnam arrived on April 15, 1962. Theformer Japanese fighter airstrip at Soc Trang in Ba Xuyen Province in the Mekong Delta wasthe Marine base of operations. Their mission, named Operation SHU-FLY, was to haul ARVNsupplies and troops in support of operations against the Viet Cong. The squadron commanderwas Lieutenant Colonel Archie J. Clapp, a veteran of the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns,the first carrier-based raid on Tokyo, and combat support helicopter missions in Korea.

Remembering Vietnam - National Archives Foundation

Relations between the Army and Air Force deteriorated in Vietnam. At the heart of thecontroversy was command and control of helicopters. The Army saw the conflict in Vietnamas primarily a ground battle. Airpower was a supporting element in the Army's task oflocating and destroying enemy forces. As part of the ground forces, helicopters, liketanks and artillery, should be under the control of ground commanders.

Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association - VHPA

Quite naturally, the Air Force held a different outlook. Its air doctrine was morecomprehensive than that of the Army and Marine Corps. Winning and maintaining airsuperiority is the first priority of Air Force tactical forces. Since counterairoperations were not a factor in South Vietnam, the Air Force devoted between 75 and 90percent of its tactical efforts to interdiction operations. Airmenmaintain that airpower is a decisive element of war in its own right and not merely asupporting arm. In this view, the full effects of airpower can only be achieved when it iscentrally controlled and not divided among Army, Navy, and Air Force commanders. The AirForce felt helicopters should be employed under the same tactical air control systems asother aircraft.