Helicopters

Introduced to naval aviation during World War II by the U.S. Coast Guard, the helicopter earned its stripes in Korea, performing a variety of tasks ranging from combat search and rescue to spotting naval gunfire to transporting troops and supplies.

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HO3S helicopters of HU-1 operated in detachments on board U.S. Navy carriers and other vessels throughout the Korean War. Whether as plane guards plucking fliers from the water after a launch or landing accident or rescuing downed pilots over hostile territory, they performed heroic service. In fact, the first helicopter pilot to receive the Medal of Honor, Lieutenant (junior grade) John Koelsch, flew the HO3S. In this photograph taken on board USS Bairoko (CVE-115), a helicopter pilot snubs his nose at carrier pilots by recording a "trap" using a tailhook temporarily installed on his aircraft. Note the rescue sling mounted atop the fuselage.

In Korea the Sikorsky HRS demonstrated how the helicopter could change the face of a battlefield. On September 13, 1951, under the codename Operation Windmill I, HRS helicopters of HMR-161 flew history's first combat resupply mission, delivering 18,848 lbs. of cargo to ground troops over seven miles of rough terrain. Eight days later, this time as part of Operation Summit, the squadron carried 224 troops and 17,772 lbs. of cargo in relief of Republic of Korea troops on Hill 884. It was the first helicopter landing of a combat unit in history. In this photograph, an HRS-1 of HMR-161 flies to a designated patrol area to disembark marines of a patrol.

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The open clamshell doors on this HRS-2 of HMR-163 reveal the helicopter’s Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine.

WHIRLYBIRDS
U.S. Marine Helicopters
in Korea
by Lieutenant Colonel Ronald J. Brown
U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired


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