Print by Joe Kline
498th Air Ambulance Platoon
Vietnam medevac missions
by Williams S. Phillips
In April of 1962, the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) arrived in Vietnam with five UH-1 “Huey” helicopters. They took the call sign Dustoff. Over time the number of medevac detachments grew in Vietnam until the entire country had coverage and Dustoff became the universal call sign for all medevac missions.
A Dustoff crew consisted of four people: two pilots, a medic and a crew chief. Usually, one pilot would fly the helicopter while the other acted as the aircraft commander. The commander would navigate, monitor all of the radio transmissions, talk to the unit requesting the medevac and would take over flying if the pilot were injured. The medic kept the helicopter stocked with the necessary medical supplies and the crew chief would maintain the helicopter in top working condition. They would both load the patients onto the helicopter and the medic would administer any necessary medical treatment on the way to the hospital, often with the help of the crew chief. The medic and crew chief would stay with a particular helicopter while the pilots were interchangeable between helicopters. These crews saved many lives and were universally respected by all of the soldiers in the war.
Evac Hospital 93rd, Long Bình, 1966
List of Medical Units in Vietnam
The New Cavalry
During the Vietnam War, the United States relied on the helicopter as never before. The helicopter’s role in combat expanded enormously in this conflict as thousands of “choppers” rapidly transported personnel throughout the war zone. Heavily armed helicopters offered a fearsome component to ground operations as close air support.
From March 1970 to April 71, I had the honor of serving with Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam. We were 100% mobile and made up of three platoons, aero scouts (White platoon) aero weapons (Red platoon) and aero rifle (Blue platoon).
My first duty was radio guy (Blue India) in the bush for the Blues…
AH-1G Huey Cobra ‘Snake’
Aero Weapons platoon
Maintenance hanger and flight line at Phuoc Vinh Airfield
The Maintenance platoon’s main job was to keep Charlie Troop’s aircraft running in tip-top condition, which was critical for the success of our missions.
Did the United States win or lose the Vietnam War?
In late 1972, South Vietnam and the United States were winning the Vietnam War decisively by every conceivable measure. That was the view of our enemy, the North Vietnamese government officials. Victory was apparent when President Nixon ordered the U.S. Air Force to bomb industrial and military targets in Hanoi, North Viet Nam’s capital city, and in Haiphong, its major port city, and we would stop the bombing if the North Vietnamese would attend the Paris Peace Talks that they had left earlier. The North Vietnamese did go back to the Paris Peace talks, and we did stop the bombing as promised.
On January the 23rd, 1973, President Nixon gave a speech to the nation on primetime television announcing that the Paris Peace Accords had been initialed by the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, and the Accords would be signed on the 27th. What the United States and South Vietnam received in those accords was victory. At the White House, it was called “VV Day,” “Victory in Vietnam Day.”
The truth is that our military won the war, but our politicians lost it. The Communists in North Vietnam actually signed a peace treaty, effectively surrendering. But the U.S. Congress didn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
General Vo Nguyen Giap
General Giap was a brilliant, highly respected leader of the North Vietnam
military. The following quote is from his memoirs currently found in the
Vietnam war memorial in Hanoi:
“What we still don’t understand is why you Americans stopped the bombing
of Hanoi. You had us on the ropes. If you had pressed us a little harder,
just for another day or two, we were ready to surrender! It was the same
at the battles of TET. You defeated us! We knew it, and we thought you
knew it. But we were elated to notice your media was definitely helping
us. They were causing more disruption in America than we could in the
battlefields. We were ready to surrender. You had won!”
Fall of Saigon
Fuel tanks jettisoned by U.S. fighter jets
Tactical jet planes heavily rely on the JP-4 fuel loaded on the external fuel tanks. However, the auxiliary fuel tanks represent an additional weight, additional drag, and they will reduce the aircraft maneuverability.
In real combat, external fuel tanks are jettisoned when empty or as soon as the aircraft needs to get rid of them to accelerate and maneuver against an enemy fighter plane or to evade a surface to air missile.
Several thousand drop tanks were jettisoned over Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
And here you can see what happened to some of those that were recovered.
A Combination of Truck Routes and Paths
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a network of roads built from North Vietnam to South Vietnam through the neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia, to provide logistical support to the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army during the Vietnam War. It was a combination of truck routes and paths for foot and bicycle traffic. The trail was actually a 16,000-kilometer (9,940-mile) web of tracks, roads and waterways.