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Vietnam. The Helicopter War. Lesson Objectives. • Describe the tactical and geographic considerations that supported the introduction of airmobile operations in Vietnam. • Understand the technical and logistic advantages and limitations of the helicopter in war.

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slide1

Vietnam

The Helicopter War

slide2

Lesson Objectives

• Describe the tactical and geographic considerations that supported the introduction of airmobile operations in Vietnam.

• Understand the technical and logistic advantages and limitations of the helicopter in war.

• Describe and analyze the role of helicopters in the American execution of the Vietnam War.

slide3

Major Issues

The Helicopter War

What is the “air mobility concept” of the US Army?

• Why was it originally developed?

Why was the helicopter particularly valuable in Southeast Asia?

• In what ways were helicopters used?

What were some of the operational and logistic concerns of the use of helicopters in Southeast Asia?

Generally describe the use of helicopters in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley (November 1965)

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The Helicopter War

"What would we do [in Vietnam] without helicopters? We would be fighting a different war, for a smaller area, at a greater cost, with less effectiveness.

We might as well-have asked:

'What would General Patton have done without his tanks?'"

General William Westmoreland

Quoted by Lieutenant General John J. Tolson, USA

Airmobility 1961-1971, Chapter 13

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The Helicopter War

... the growth of the airmobile concept did not take place in the framework of guerrilla warfare. It was conceived out of the necessity to disperse on the modern battlefield under the threat of nuclear weapons and still retain the ability to mass quickly for decisive actions, then disperse again. The actualities of Vietnam have since obscured these origins and have led many people to the assumption that airmobility was designed for and limited to counter-guerrilla contingencies. The very nature of the terrain in Vietnam with its jungles and mountains has led many to connect helicopter operations to this type of terrain. Indeed, the opposite is true. Airmobility worked in Vietnam in spite of the tremendous problems of working in the jungles and the mountains of an undeveloped country. The helicopter overcame the obstacles of limited landing zones, primitive road nets, restricted observation, and high density altitudes as no other vehicle could. But, in the open countryside of Europe or a desert in the Middle East, the airmobile force has far greater flexibility and many more options than even the armored forces of Rommel in North Africa. Vietnam represented only a fraction of the possibilities for airmobile tactics.

"Conclusions"

Airmobility 1961-1971, Chapter 13

Lieutenant General John J. Tolson, USA

Vietnam Studies series, CMH Pub 90-4

Washington: Department of the Army, 1989

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The Helicopter War

The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.

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The Helicopter War

The problem in Vietnam is terrain — jungles, mountains, rivers. Maneuver's a nightmare. That's why we came up with a plan to use helicopters. Leap in and out of battle.

Dialogue from the movie “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

Source

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Early

H-34 Choctaw

H-21 Shawnee

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Medium Helicopters

CH-3

CH-46 Sea Knight

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Heavy Helicopters

CH-53 Sea Stallion

CH-47 Chinook

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Uses

Troop Transport

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Uses

Medical Evacuation (MedEvac)

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Uses

Long Range Patrol (LRP) Extraction

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Uses

Aircraft Recovery

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Uses

Cargo Hauler

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Helicopters in Vietnam

Uses

Mine Sweeping

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The Helicopter War

"What would we do [in Vietnam] without helicopters? We would be fighting a different war, for a smaller area, at a greater cost, with less effectiveness.

We might as well-have asked:

'What would General Patton have done without his tanks?'"

General William Westmoreland

Quoted by Lieutenant General John J. Tolson, USA

Airmobility 1961-1971, Chapter 13

slide20

The Helicopter War

Why did the U.S. Army adopt the Airmobile* doctrine?

• Concept not specifically developed for Vietnam

• Conceived to move forces around an atomic battlefield

• Ideally suited for Southeast Asia

* using helicopters to move forces around the battlefield

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The Helicopter War

The problem in Vietnam is terrain — jungles, mountains, rivers. Maneuver's a nightmare. That's why we came up with a plan to use helicopters. Leap in and out of battle.

Dialogue from the movie “We Were Soldiers” (2002)

Source

slide22

Helicopters in Vietnam

Where do you land them?

slide23

Super Bombs

REQUIREMENT: Large explosive to quickly clear Landing Zones (LZs)

Post-WWII large conventional bombs from storage

SOLUTION:

B-36 Peacemaker

M121 15K lb. Bomb

M121 Warhead

slide25

Super Bombs

BLU-82 Bombs

Innovate!

What do you do when you run out of M121’s?

slide27

BLU-82 Bomb Employment

Instant Landing Zone!

slide28

BLU-82 Bomb

UGA Students?

slide29

Reality

Popular Culture

BLU-82 Bomb w/ Daisy Cutter Fuse

“Daisy Cutter Bomb”

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The Helicopter War

Battlefield Mobility

Ia Drang Valley - 27:36