Bell UH-1 Iroquois

Huey brings the cavalry

Riflemen of the 1st Cavalry Division deploying from a Huey troop transport.

Perhaps the most famous helicopter of the Vietnam War was Bell Helicopter’s UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the “Huey,” a nickname derived from the craft’s older HU-1 designation (HU-1, when read phonetically, appears to spell out H-U-I, hence the name). While the chopper’s designation would change to UH-1 with the adoption of the tri-service aircraft designation system in 1962, the moniker stuck; the fast, adaptable, and reliable Huey had already endeared itself to the soldiers and marines who received the turbine-engined “slicks” over their aging, piston-powered counterparts like the H-21 and the H-34. The Huey’s turbine engine relied on air intakes, rather than mechanical pistons, to generate energy, and was faster, more efficient, and less prone to mechanical failure than older piston-engined craft. Not only was the Huey more reliable than its competition, but more versatile; with a few minor alterations, any Huey could quickly be converted from troop transport to air ambulance to gunship. The Huey was officially adopted by the US Armed Forces in 1959, with many thousands built and over four thousand lost to enemy fire, more than any other aircraft in the war.

[1] Sotham, John. “Huey.” Air & Space Magazine (May 2000).

[2] Shoreline Aviation. “Piston Engine Aircraft vs. Turboprop Engine Aircraft,” last modified December 12, 2011.