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US Military Helicopters...


...a new Images of War book from Pen and Sword


Title: US Military Helicopters

Author: Michael Green

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47389-484-6

Another addition to the Images of War series by author Michael Green.  The US military helicopter is something of an iconic image in my mind and I am sure for many others as well.  It might be the pictures of the Bell H-13 Sioux flying in to the Korean War MASH as seen in the famous TV series of the same name.  You might think of the white and grey Sea King picking up the Apollo astronauts, the 'Slicks', 'Snakes' and 'Dust-offs' of the Vietnam War, the mean looking Apache from the Gulf War or the Blackhawk, highlighted by the movie Blackhawk Down.

The book takes us much further then these though.  The book is split into 4 chapters which in turn are in an order which gives us a basically chronological sequence leading up to the present day.  It starts with 'Piston Engine Helicopters' which has an opening text that gives us the detail behind the post-WW2 development of the helicopter by the US military, including their involvement in the Korean War.  It also includes the invaluable role in medical evaluation made famous by that film and TV series of MASH.  Added to this are the H-19, known in the UK as the Whirlwind, and the S-58, which became known in the UK as the Wessex.  There are also some odd looking twin rotor machines built by Piasecki.

Chapter two looks at 'Gas Turbine Engine Transport Helicopters'.  The opening 13 pages are text, explaining the benefits of the more powerful Gas Turbine engines and the story of their development and roles.  The best known is of course the UH-1 or 'Huey', a symbol of US involvement in Vietnam.  Larger machines include the Sea Knight and the Chinook.  For chapter 3 the topic is 'Gunships and Attack Helicopters'.  The thin profile of the twin-seat Cobra gunship, with a direct relationship to the term 'Snakes' in Vietnam leads on to the current Apache gunship.  The final chapter tackles 'Special Purpose Helicopters'.  In this we see anti-submarine types such as the Seasprite, the Sea King and the Sea Hawk, unmanned rotary wing equipment, the Super Stallion used for Mine Clearance work, scout helicopters such as the Cayuse and the Kiowa plus the Jolly Green Giant and more modern Blackhawk variants used for the recovery of downed aircrew.  I remember speaking to a Hercules pilot many years ago who flew with these teams in Vietnam.  The helicopters would go in to pick up the downed pilot with a low fuel load, knowing they were likely to be shot at.  Once the pilot was safely on board, they would quickly link up with the Hercules tanker to refuel.  That was done very low and very slow and in the words of the Hercules pilot, the Vietcong could have thrown a brick at them and be likely to hit something.

As well as the background texts for each chapter, the plentiful photos are a mix of archive shots and more modern colour photos of preserved examples in various museums.  All are well captioned and these add even more information to that contained in the background text elements.  An interesting subject, some excellent photos and written by an author who clearly knows his subject.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.


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