History of the American Aviator – Part 8 – The Skies Over Vietnam

With communism again on the march in Southeast Asia, The Vietnam conflict would play on through five US presidents, cause casualties in the millions, as well as end in the eventual fall of South Vietnam. President Lindon B. Johnson authorized the beginning of mass air campaigns in the skies over Vietnam in February, 1965.

Bell UH-1 "Huey" (US Army)

Bell UH-1 “Huey” (US Army)

Up to this point American action had pretty much been limited to training, assistance, and special operations alongside South Vietnamese forces. As the conflict dragged on, the air war consisted of increasingly aggressive named operations including Rolling Thunder, Breakfast, Proud Deep, and Linebacker I & II, the latter of which brought to bear the full ferocity of American military might.Photo Source: Wikipedia

Almost 100 aircraft types, many advanced systems, were used to prosecute air superiority. These include McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II, Bell’s AH-1B Cobra and UH-1 Huey, and Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress, to name few. Vietnam became a valuable testing ground for many of the systems that were in development in the years leading up to the conflict. Like never before, the helicopter played a huge role in many aspects of the conflict, helping define and institute the “Air Cavalry.”

Capt. Charles B. DeBellevue (USAF)

Capt. Charles B. DeBellevue (USAF)

Notable flyboys include Chuck DeBellevue, Duke Cunningham, Willy Driscoll, Jeffrey Feinstein, Hugh Thompson Jr, Ed Freeman, Bruce Crandall, and Charles “Dustoff” Kelley.

Although Vietnam was an eventual political failure for the US, we learned so much about the machines and weapons of war, much of which translated into technology and safety advances we practice today – Paving the way for today’s modern commercial and military aviators.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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