The wounded waiting for the medevacs

Taken from Texas Tech University.

About Dustoff / Medevac

The Vietnam War posed a unique logistical challenge to the military leaders. The war was fought in triple canopy jungle terrain and bad weather, there were constant guerilla attacks and the front line changed from day to day. Often vehicles traveling on the roads were subject to landmines, ambushes and poor road conditions, and some of the areas where heavy fighting took place were so remote there were no roads. All of these factors posed one major problem for the military. How do they transport the wounded safely and in a timely manner to the aid stations and hospitals for proper medical care? The Army’s medical branch decided to revisit an idea that came about in the Korean War – a helicopter ambulance corps. An idea that was implemented with so much success in Vietnam that in most cases a wounded soldier would be in a hospital receiving medical care within 35 minutes of being wounded.

In April of 1962, the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) arrived in Vietnam with five UH-1 “Huey” helicopters. They took the call sign Dustoff. Over time the number of medevac detachments grew in Vietnam until the entire country had coverage and Dustoff became the universal call sign for all medevac missions.

A Dustoff crew consisted of four people: two pilots, a medic and a crew chief. Usually, one pilot would fly the helicopter while the other acted as the aircraft commander. The commander would navigate, monitor all of the radio transmissions, talk to the unit requesting the medevac and would take over flying if the pilot were injured. The medic kept the helicopter stocked with the necessary medical supplies and the crew chief would maintain the helicopter in top working condition. They would both load the patients onto the helicopter and the medic would administer any necessary medical treatment on the way to the hospital, often with the help of the crew chief. The medic and crew chief would stay with a particular helicopter while the pilots were interchangeable between helicopters. These crews saved many lives and were universally respected by all of the soldiers in the war.

Major Charles L. Kelly was the Commanding Officer of the 57th Medical Detachment which was the forerunner of the Vietnam War's medical evacuation units that we referred to as "Dust Off."  He spearheaded the units into what they became famous for, saving lives.

These videos talk about Major Kelly, his prodigy Patrick Brady and the men he commanded.  

DC Wings Over Vietnam The Missions 2of8 Dust Off

Patrick Brady, Medal of Honor, Vietnam War

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