MS retires Vietnam era "Huey" helicopter

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Some Vietnam veterans say the Huey revolutionized how American soldiers went to war.

Tom Payne, of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association said, "It was the beginning of what was to be proven as a real way for combat troops to be moved around and for combat assaults against an enemy. An enemy that no longer had a front line like World War II. "

In Vietnam, soldiers say Hueys saved lives through combat and non-combat missions. Unarmed Hueys were instrumental in medi-evacing wounded soldiers often while under fire.

"Very well designed helicopter machine, this one was made in such a way that nothing really vulnerable was all in one spot. So if you took rounds from the enemy, it might get one. So if one system was hit, electrical, hydraulic or whatever the others still worked," Payne said.

In the early 1970s, the Army gave thousands of Hueys to state National Guards including Mississippi.

Adjutant General William L. Freeman said, "They've performed a lot of missions all across this great state, the Gulf Coast, North Mississippi. The most recent missions being at Camp Shelby doing med-evac."

After Hurricanes Camille and Katrina, Huey pilots delivered supplies along the devastated Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Coast resident William Tisdale says he flew Hueys for 40 years.

"I flew it in Vietnam. I flew it after Katrina," said Tisdale. "For me, Katrina and Vietnam were a lot alike for me. They're both a lot of gut wrenching experiences. I hate to see it go, but I enjoyed flying it."

Mississippi National Guard officials say they're going to the Black Hawk helicopter. Officials say many other national guards across the country are also moving to more modern technology.

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