The ‘Huey’ – Legendary Workhorse of Vietnam War in 30 Pictures


When speaking about the Vietnam War what image comes to mind first? Every war has some iconic machines that exceeded expectations. For the Vietnam War (also known as the Second Indochina War), that title goes to the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, nicknamed the Huey due to its original designation, HU-01. UH-01 was designed in 1955 and produced between 1957-1986.

During the Second Indochina War, over 7,000 Hueys were deployed in numerous forms and roles. Out of that number, over 3,000 were lost. From the start of mass production in 1960 over 16,000 were built in total, including civilian versions.

Bruce Crandall leading a formation of UH-1 helicopters from Alpha Company, 229th Aviation Regiment just prior to takeoff in Vietnam.

The privilege of being the first to use Hueys is credited to the 101st Airborne Division. From the evaluation process, the UH-1 quickly earned the trust and respect of the Army and was pressed into service.

The first Hueys to reach Vietnam arrived in 1962 (and operationally in 1963) and soon became an iconic symbol of the United States involvement in Southeast Asia. The overall performance was impressive. Even so, the UH-1 was constantly being upgraded and made better.

Combat operations at Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, November 1965. Major Bruce P. Crandall’s UH-1D helicopter climbs skyward after discharging a load of infantrymen on a search and destroy mission.

The UH-01B version had a more powerful engine and was able to carry more men. Next, the UH-01C had bigger fuel tanks and a new rotor system. The Huey was adaptable enough that it could be used to test pretty much every possible weapon that could be attached. Many upgrades were “homemade” by the troops in the war zone.

The UH-01 gunships were commonly referred as “Hogs.” A transport version was named “Slick” due to a lack of weapon pods. Helicopters used for medical evacuation were “Dustoffs.” Finally, the “Iroquois”, a multi-task variant, ends the list. Able to fly at over 124 mph, it proved to be indispensable during military operations in Vietnam.

Its light construction and high maneuverability turned out to be priceless in the Southeast Asian environment. There was no other conflict where the role of helicopters was so important. Over the entire war, Hueys conducted over 30 million flights, thus coining a new term – “War of Helicopters.”

UH-1 “Iroquois” in action, date unknown

The service as a pilot of UH-01 had some pros and cons. While one was able to admire the evergreen view under you and avoid the hell on earth that was going on below, the chance of survival was half that of an ordinary infantryman. That’s because the North Vietnamese troops were particularly determined when it came to shooting down American helicopters.

On some occasions, the enemy spared U.S. soldiers on purpose, only to have a chance of bringing down one more Huey as it flew in to pick up the stranded men. An AK-47 was enough for that task. However, despite the risk involved in being in control of this flying machine, the US Army couldn’t complain about a lack of volunteers.

Until this day, the Huey is one of the most recognized helicopters and disputably one of the most attractive especially for all those who were saved by it.

More photos of Huey’s in action…

The UH-1 helicopter, shown here, could carry a flight crew and 12 soldiers. The South Vietnamese operated 861 UH-1s; helicopters totaled more than 40 percent of RVN aircraft.


A U.S. Army rifle squad from the Blue Team of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry exiting from a Bell UH-1D Huey helicopter in Vietnam. The 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, was the air cavalry reconnaissance squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division throughout the division’s service in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972. The “Blue Team” were UH-1 troop transport helicopters, the “Red Team” were UH-1 gunships, the “White Team” Scouts were OH 13 Bell Helicopters.


U.S. Army Bell UH-1D Huey helicopters arriving to airlift Vietnamese government Rangers of the 43rd battalion into battle against Viet Cong guerrillas, Saigon, 1965.


Awaiting the second wave of combat helicopters on an isolated landing zone during Operation Pershing.


Combat assault from a UH-1D helicopter, Co D, 151st (Ranger) Inf., Vietnam, 1969.


The crew of a U.S. Air Force UH-1P Huey from the 20th Special Operations Squadron Green Hornets armed and ready for a covert mission. Notice the flexible ladder that could be extended to pick up personnel when the helicopter could not land.


A VNAF UH-1H Huey loaded with Vietnamese evacuees on the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Midway (CV-41) during Operation Frequent Wind, 29 April 1975.


Helicopters of the 170th and the 189th Helicopter Assault Companies await the loading of troops at Polei Kleng, in the Central Highlands of the Republic of South Vietnam, 1969.


A UH-1D Medevac helicopter takes off to pick up an injured member of the 101st Airborne Division, near the demilitarized zone, South Vietnam, 1969.


The TOW missile system in its airborne configuration (XM26 armament subsystem) became the first American-made guided missile to be fired by U.S. soldiers in combat. The first airborne TOWs had arrived in Vietnam on 24 April 1972, six days after MICOM had received the initial deployment order. This was a notable achievement considering that the system was still in the experimental stage and there were only a limited number of complete subsystems available. The airborne TOW served in Vietnam until 1973.


Members of 5 Platoon 7 RAR waiting for US Army helicopters in August 1967.


A Vietnam Air Force crew from the 211th Helicopter Squadron fly on a combat assault mission July 18, 1970, in a UH-1 Helicopter.


12th Cavalry Air Assault Vietnam, date unknown.


Cavalrymen of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in action during the Battle of Ia Drang.


Recovery of a downed UH-1 by a CH-47 in Vietnam.


A U.S. Army Bell UH-1D Huey helicopter prepares for a resupply mission for Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, during Operation “MacArthur,” conducted 35 km southwest of Dak To, South Vietnam, between 10 and 16 December 1967.


UH-1B Huey during a combat mission near Can Tho, Republic of Vietnam, on 9 November 1967.


U.S. Army Bell UH-1D helicopters airlift members of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, from the Filhol Rubber Plantation area to a new staging area, during Operation “Wahiawa,” a search and destroy mission conducted by the 25th Infantry Division, northeast of Cu Chi, South Vietnam, 1966.


A U.S. Army Bell UH-1D/H Huey lands aboard an ATC(H) of River Assault Division 92, in 1967. The Armoured Troop Carriers were converted LCM-6 landing craft. RAD 92 was based on USS Whitfield County (LST-1169) in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam.


A Bell UH-1E Huey helicopter of U.S. Navy light helicopter attack squadron HAL-3 Seawolves landing on the converted tank landing ship USS Harnett County (LST-821) between combat operations in the Mekong Delta, Co Chien river, South Vietnam, in October 1967. A U.S. Army UH-1B is parked in the background.


A U.S. Army Bell UH-1D Iroquois helicopter rests on a recently installed landing mat at a mountain-top fire support base. The base was under construction by members of the U.S. 3rd Marine Division, 1968.


U.S. Navy SEALS rappel down ropes from a U.S. Army Bell UH-1B Iroquois helicopter to set an ambush in the jungle below during operations in South Vietnam, 1967.


Two U.S. Navy Bell UH-1E Huey of Light Helicopter Attack Squadron 3 (HAL-3) accompany a Patrol Air Cushion Vehicle in the Plain of Reeds, Vietnam, circa 1966.


On 18 July 1970, a South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) UH-1D Huey helicopter hovers above Vietnamese Air Force personnel of the 211th Helicopter Squadron on a combat assault in the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam.


Marine UH-1E (Huey) helicopters touch down with their loads at Fire Support Base Cunningham.


Moments before the U.S. flag was replaced by the Vietnamese flag, Vietnamese Air Force crewmen line up before one of the 62 UH-1 “Huey” helicopters turned over to them on November 4, 1970, along with command of the Soc Trang airfield.


A South Vietnamese helicopter is pushed over the side of the USS Okinawa during Operation Frequent Wind, April 1975. The helicopter, which carried two Vietnamese officers, a woman, and two children, had to be disposed of to make room for the extensive Marine Corps helicopter operation helping to evacuate the city of Saigon.
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