How the Vietnam War transformed combat air rescue

Huge advances in helicopter technology saved countless lives 

A U.S. Air Force Grumman HU-16B Albatross (s/n 51-5292) patrolling along the coast of South Vietnam in 1966.
A U.S. Air Force Grumman HU-16B Albatross patrolling along the coast of South Vietnam in 1966. Public Domain via USAF.

In the early years of aviation, air rescue tactics were rudimentary at best. Throughout World War II, the United States in particular had made it their mission to ensure that ditching in the sea did not have to be the death sentence it once had been. Prior to this period, there had simply been no need to develop search and rescue missions. In 1944, the first combat air rescue by helicopter took place in Northern Burma. The helicopter, a Sikorsky R-4, and its crew had rescued three men after their aircraft had gone down behind enemy lines. After this, the sophistication of air rescue would only improve and one of the main reasons for this would be the beginning of the Vietnam War. 

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero subscription to view.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Enjoy the following subscriber only benefits:

  • Unlimited access to all KeyAero content
  • Exclusive in-depth articles and analysis, videos, quizzes added daily
  • A fully searchable archive – boasting hundreds of thousands of pieces of quality aviation content
  • Access to read all our leading aviation magazines online - meaning you can enjoy the likes of FlyPast, Aeroplane Monthly, AirForces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, Aviation News, Airports of the World, PC Pilot and Airliner World - as soon as they leave the editor’s desk.
  • Access on any device- anywhere, anytime
  • Choose from our offers below