UH-1D 64-13670 Huey Helicopter

The Bell Iroquois UH-1 (Huey) is the most widely used helicopter in the world and its distinguished service in Vietnam also makes it the most recognized. This aircraft was brought to Vietnam Veterans Memorial by the New Mexico National Guard in May 1999.

The Role of The Huey in Vietnam

Due to their mobility, Hueys took the place of the traditional cavalry.  It was during the Vietnam War helicopters evolved into an essential asset on the battlefield.  Huey missions included troop transport, ferrying cargo, air assault and medical evacuation  In the jungles of Vietnam, Hueys made it possible for wounded soldiers to be in a hospital within one hour, dramatically increasing survival rates.

Remarkable advances in aviation took place during the Vietnam Era. Pilots pushed the envelope and developed amazing flying skills. Throughout the war, experimental items were in country for evaluation. One of the many experimental pieces of equipment for Hueys was a smoke generator. The smoke was produced from a ring of nozzles around the turbine exhaust and was created using a reservoir of oil. On March 19, 1967, while our Huey was assigned to the 121st AHC (Soc Trang Tiger and Viking Platoon), a smoke apparatus was installed and the aircraft was given the name “Viking Surprise”. This was one of the first of many Hueys to be outfitted as a smokeship.

Smokeships were used to provide cover for ground operations. When troops were being inserted smokeships would go in first and lay down a layer of smoke around the landing zone to obstruct the vision of any VC or NVA in the area. The smokeship was followed by a pair of gunships firing to clear the area. Finally the Hueys carrying the troops would drop in. If the wind was light the smoke would stay close to the ground for as long as five minutes giving the troops time to unload.

Only six days after the smoke generator was installed, Viking Surprise was involved in an intense rescue operation.  At approximately 8:30 am, during a troop insertion at LZ Alpha, two battalions were ambushed and one of the Hueys was shot down.  Two Hueys that attempted rescue were also shot down.  Two additional companies sent in to secure the LZ were pinned down and all troops needed immediate evacuation.  Viking Surprise was requested to go in and provide maximum cover.

Viking Surprise put smoke down and four rescue ships were able to safely land.  Due to winds the smoke kept drifting away so the pilot of Viking Surprise made as many as 13 passes flying as low as 50 feet to lay down additional cover smoke.  In the battle thirteen helicopters were damaged and one crashed on the way back to base.  Viking Surprise was damaged so badly it was sent to Corpus Christi to be repaired.  In Corpus Christi 135 bullet holes were counted, six of which had gone through the pilot’s compartment. After it was repaired, this aircraft returned to Vietnam for duty with the 118th AHC (Bandit and Thunderbird Platoon).

Researched, written and created by Kate German, Heritage Educator, New Mexico State Parks