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Helicopters Play Critical Role in Vietnam

Sept. 27, 1962 - In an effort to fit the aircraft to the terrain, the U.S. military command in Vietnam has added heavily armed HU-1-A turbojet helicopters as escorts for transport copters. The turbojets, armed with heavy machine guns and rockets, will offer improved suppressive fire against Communist ground fire. The Marines’ tactical unit, Helicopter Medium Squadron 163, operates 24 helicopters. It is commanded by Lieut. Col. Robert Rathbun. The unit, nicknamed “Rathbun’s Ridge Runners,” has gained an impressive reputation among Americans in South Vietnam. “They came in here on a Sunday, and on Monday they were out flying a combat mission,” one U.S. Army officer said. “Most outfits would have taken a day or two to get their gear stowed and get ready.” Another Army officer who watched the unit land Vietnamese rangers in a rice field said: “They unload Vietnamese faster than I’ve ever seen. Those boys come out on time, even if it means the last Vietnamese has to exit at 50 feet. I think someone must be back there using a bayonet to get them out.”


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