Heroes in Hueys: The Pilots and Crews of the Vietnam War
The life of a pilot was both dangerous and demanding in the unpredictable, unorthodox conditions of Vietnam. Regardless of the mission, pilots flew as if expecting they’d be fired upon, and quite often this assumption proved correct. Speed and efficiency were drilled into these men above all else; if a pilot was slow to land, or lingered too long in a hot LZ, this inaction could cost him not only his own life, but the lives of his passengers and crew as well. Rescue and emergency response crews had to go from ‘at rest’ to ‘in the air’ in less than sixty seconds, knowing even the slightest delay could mean the difference between life and death for a wounded man or a downed crew.
The duties of helicopter pilots were not entirely dominated by firefights and daring rescues; oftentimes, the job was as mundane as any other, with scheduled flight plans being related to pilots by their briefing officer during their morning routine. As most pilots were officers, many were given minor administrative duties when not in the air, and had to juggle these positions alongside the task of flying missions. Most missions entailed the coordinated movement of men and supplies between landing zones, although the threat of attack was always present, even on such mundane flights. Mail, rations, and medical supplies, as well as vehicles and ammunition, were among the crucial resources US Armed Forces relied on to keep fighting in the dense, untraversable rainforests of Vietnam, terrain that would have been logistically impossible to resupply without the brave service of helicopter pilots.
Click here to view the US Army educational video, "A Day in the Life of a Helicopter Pilot," circa 1967. Or, to hear veteran helicopter pilots describe their personal experiences in the line of duty, click here.
 “Vietnam helicopter pilots describe the war from the cockpit,” YouTube video, posted by “Military Times,” April 18th, 2018.
 “CH-47 Chinook in Vietnam War - A Day in the Life of a Helicopter Pilot (1967), U.S. Army,” Wikimedia Commons video.