As early as 1962, American helicopter crews providing fast troop transport for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam discovered that the communist Viet Cong were not too intimidated. They engaged the mobile but vulnerable rotary engine craft with whatever firearms they had on hand, from rifles to cannons. In that same year, newer, more powerful and capacious models of Bell UH-1 “Huey” copters became available for troop transport.
The U.S. Army began fitting the older, smaller UH-1As, Bs and Cs with extra armament—machine guns, Gatling guns or rockets in a variety of experimental arrangements. The Army pressed them into service as escorts for the troop-laden “slicks” (no guns, resulting in a smooth surface) to counter the enemy’s groundfire.
With both sides relying on a good offense as the best defense, numerous encounters involving American or ARVN air assaults pitted deadly cocktails of weaponry packed aboard the U.S. gunships against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese arms, most notably the DShKM 1938/46 “Dushka” 12.7 mm machine gun (known and dreaded among American chopper crews as “.51-calibers” and “helicopter eaters”).
In UH-1 Huey Gunship vs NVA/VC Forces, PeterE. Davies compares the weapons and the tactical doctrines for their use that evolved in the crucible of combat.
Aside from the classic battles between Hueys and “.51s,” he covers the gamut of other weapons employed on both sides and describes the gunships’ use not only by the U.S. Army but also the Navy, Marines and Air Force, as well as the Royal Australian Air Force and Republic of Vietnam Air Force.
With accompanying photographs and color illustrations by Jim Laurier and Garth Hector, Davies’ book, No.112 in Osprey’s “Duel” series, serves up a short but comprehensive overview of the development under fire of a revolutionary form of airborne warfare that is still in use today. —Jon Guttman
This book review appeared in the Autumn 2022 issue of Vietnam magazine.
UH-1 Huey Gunship VS NVA/VC Forces 1962-1975
By Peter E. Davies
Osprey Publishing, Bloomsbury USA 2021
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