Those of us who met the enemy on the ground have the greatest respect for the heroic and courageous helicopter pilots who fought with us and for us in more ways than one. This is a video of their story. You will see why we grunts, reconners and ground pounders called them our Angels.
You will hear the personal accounts of several helicopter pilots here in this film. Their complete disregard for themselves as they did whatever was necessary to help the troops in the ground will come out very clearly in their own words as they casually describe their experiences and their thoughts here.
Some of these pilots were medevac pilots whose sole mission was to get the wounded out of harm’s way and back to the medical care they desperately needed as quickly as possible. That usually meant that they had to fly into hot landing zones (LZs) and to remain there, under fire while the wounded would be loaded onto them, then take off through the gauntlet of enemy fire on the way out. It was harrowing work, but without their dedication to their brothers on the ground and their unimaginable courage and skill, there would be a hell of a lot more names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
Others had the primary job of transporting troops to a battlefield in support of others who were under attack and in need of reinforcements, or to extract them from a battlefield. Again, they knew that they were going to attract enemy fire, but they went in hot and steady to accomplish their missions. But they went into it with a fierce determination.
They knew that those on the ground needed them to accomplish thier mission.
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The reality is that over the course of the Vietnam War 12,000 helicopters were deployed. By the end of the war almost half had been lost, along with 5,000 pilots and crewmembers. Theirs was a profoundly hazardous job, but they did it for others. They knew that they were the lifeline that was needed and they provided it with great valor and committment.
Those of us who benefitted from the courage and dedication of those Marine Corps and Army helicopter pilots will never be able to thank them enough. We all have our stories about how they “saved our bacon” on more than one occasion.
Maybe that is why, to this day, we all still look up whenever we hear the telltale sounds of rotary blades in the distance.
The Veterans Site sends its profoundest thanks to all who served as helicopter pilots, crews and door gunners in Vietnam. You have our eternal respect and honor. You truly were our Angels in the Sky.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.