Some of the enduring images from the Vietnam War era feature military helicopters swooping in to rescue injured or trapped Americans from combat zones.
These UH1C helicopters, known as Hueys to the general public, are known as guardian angels for the soldiers.
Cantigny Park is adding to its collections of 13,000 wartime artifacts with the inclusion of a restored Huey gunship. In the late 1960’s, Huey gunships fired rockets and machine guns, transported soldiers and equipment, and provided a safe haven for the wounded.
“They took me out of there and brought me to safety,” said Vietnam veteran Richard J. Mikolajczyk. “So [there’s] a particular fondness for this particular helicopter.”
Mikolajczyk was one of numerous Vietnam vets recently on-hand at Cantigny’s First Division Museum for the dedication.
First Division Museum Executive Director Paul Herbert dedicated the newly restored First Division Huey, which features a distinctive Confederate flag insignia used by the gunship platoon, “The Rebels.”
The occasion was years in the making.
“We had requested one from the Army in the early 1990’s, so we were on the waiting list for a Huey for a long, long time” said First Division Museum Curator Terri Navratil. “There are a lot of institutions that would love to have a Huey.”
Only 750 of these C-model Huey gunships were manufactured for Vietnam, making the artifact even more unique.
“[It] brings a lot of memories back,” said Vietnam veteran Gary Young. “Even a lot of the guys here have told me the same thing—brings back a lot of memories.”
Some of those memories include the Huey’s distinctive sound.
“These types of Hueys had a special sound with the ‘whop, whop, whop, whop, whop’” said Vietnam veteran Robert “Turkey” Youngberg. “When you hear them coming in, that’s an adrenaline rush for you when you hear them.”
And while Hueys dropped soldiers in and out of hot zones in the war, their presence today helps vets move on. “Today, it’s a healing process, I think because we’ve all been there, done that,” said Youngberg.
When the Huey takes its place at Cantigny, it transitions from carrying equipment and soldiers to carrying their stories forward to another generation.
WANT MORE LOCAL NEWS?
Get daily news headlines delivered to your inbox!Sign Up Today!