August 31, 2018 Everyone is familiar with the colorful nose art adorning aircraft in wartime. Helicopters in Vietnam were no exception, sporting a riot of unsung combat masterpieces. After the war, the business of painting aircraft returned to its usual staid, peacetime uniformity—but not entirely.
A few maintenance crew Michelangelos quietly pursued their craft well into the late-1970s and subsequent decades, as we discovered after receiving UH-1H 71-20203 from the US Department of State earlier this month. There was nothing about the bland, green exterior that hinted that this Huey held a secret, but inside the radio compartment lay a surprise: painted on the interior surface of the hatch was the hidden nose artwork you see here.
If the object of art is to give life a shape, one needs little imagination to picture the events that inspired this creation. But we can do little more than imagine, as—unfortunately—the historical documents of this Huey have not survived. Still, this nose art gives us an evocative glimpse into its past and puts a name to a helicopter that might otherwise have been anonymous.
July 10, 2018 Retired Wisconsin National Guard flight medics Brenda Falk and sister Margaret Hafemann-Falk visited with their father, Robert Falk, who served as a army helicopter crew chief during the War in Vietnam. Like their father 30 years earlier, Brenda and Margaret both flew missions in UH-1 Huey helicopters, including UH-1V 74-22524, which is currently undergoing restoration at our facility.
(Retired Army National Guard flight medics Brenda Falk and Margaret Hafemann-Falk stand in front of their former helicopter with their father Robert Falk. From L to R: Treasurer Jim Ottman, Brenda Falk, Robert Falk, Margaret Hafemann-Falke and board member Kent Smith)
December 26, 2017 A collection of photos, awards and personal effects belonging to the late Maj. Harry William Hagen Jr. was recently donated to the museum by his daughter, Jennifer Donahue, and her husband Brian. Hagen enlisted in the US Marine Corps during the Korean War before joining the Air Force to become a pilot. He flew a number of aircraft types before transitioning to helicopters during the War in Vietnam, flying the large Sikorsky HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" in the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, a unit famed for rescuing pilots downed in North Vietnam. During his tour with the 37th ARRS in 1968, Hagen was credited with the rescue of no fewer than 22 airmen and soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. For his repeated acts of heroism he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on five occasions.
(Left) Hagen and his Sikorsky helicopter, photographed in 1968 when Hagen was an Air Force captain serving in Vietnam
November 27, 2017 Helicopter restoration in our new workshop began, appropriately enough, on Veterans Day. Volunteers are working on a UH-1B attack helicopter that survived several tours in Vietnam and a capstone tour in Hollywood after the war. The goal of the restoration team is to return this aircraft to its appearance near the end of the Vietnam War. Photographs and logs of former crew are being consulted to ensure that the physical configuration and markings will be historically accurate. Although intended for museum display rather than actual flight, this helicopter will be visually indistinguishable from an operational aircraft when restoration is complete.
(Right) Volunteer Dr. Rosemary Marusak disassembles the glazing of our UH-1B Huey in preparation for an inspection of the airframe. The aircraft will be examined for evidence of corrosion and other problems requiring treatment before proceeding. (Helicopter Conservancy Photo)
November 3, 2017 We completed a week-long move into our new facility at the New Richmond (Wisconsin) Regional Airport. This building was the result of a lengthy search to find a suitable location and will initially serve as a restoration workshop before its ultimate conversion into a museum. Our thanks go out to all of the volunteers and neighbors who came out to help, as well as Bob MacDonald and LaVenture Crane & Rigging for lift services at both ends of the move.
(Left) Moving into our new hangar (Helicopter Conservancy photos)
November 7, 2016 A UH-1V Huey medevac formerly of the 832nd Air Ambulance Company, Wisconsin Army National Guard, has been undergoing restoration of its cabin this year. The helicopter now awaits a new tail boom and exterior repainting to return it to its appearance during assignment to the 832nd. This helicopter will ultimately become the centerpiece in an exhibit on the history of medevac operations.
(Right) Ken Eward and an assistant install first aid kits inside the restored cabin. (Far right) The refurbished cockpit (Helicopter Conservancy photos)
September 22, 2016 After clearing a number of bureaucratic steps, we received a group of Huey parts offered to us by the Wisconsin National Guard. In 2014, the WI Air National Guard allowed us to salvage several needed parts from a derelict airframe for use in restoring our Hueys for museum exhibit. Volunteers spent a number of weeks working in cold, windy weather at Hardwood Range to rescue the parts, which then went through a lengthy process of safety checks and administrative procedures prior to release. Our thanks go to the Air National Guard for their hospitality and enthusiasm for this project.
(Far left) Wisconsin Air National Guard MSgt. Douglas Maas removes the transmission of a derelict Huey for donation while (left) HC volunteer Jim Ottman recovers tail rotor parts. (Helicopter Conservancy photos)
September 20, 2016 The last of several UH-1 airframes donated by the Federal Government in 2015-16 arrived at our headquarters today. These airframes include a medevac of the Wisconsin National Guard which we plan to restore and exhibit, along with several hulks to provide parts for helicopters undergoing restoration. A number of generous souls helped us to inspect and transport the helicopters from Florida and we greatly appreciate their help.
(Right) UH-1 helicopter fuselages are loaded at a US Dept. of State storage facility in Florida for transport to Wisconsin. (Photos courtesy of Jan Drabczuk)
December 4, 2013 Retired army helicopter pilot Steve Bookout, who once painted "nose art" and other colorful graphics on the helicopters of his unit during the Vietnam War, now has the opportunity to recreate his artwork on the helicopter he once flew as a member of the 120th Assault Helicopter Company. Beginning with the tail fairing, Bookout plans to recreate the custom graphics he originally applied in 1969-70 as the aircraft is restored to its former appearance.
(Far left) Helicopter pilot and army veteran Steve Bookout looks through the windshield of the Huey he flew in Vietnam. Bookout is recreating the artwork he once painted on this helicopter as a unit artist. (Left) The newly-painted tail fairing (Helicopter Conservancy photos)
September 9, 2013 A number of veterans of the 120th Assault Helicopter Company "Razorbacks" arrived to reunite with the UH-1B Huey they flew during the Vietnam War. Although this was the first time they had seen their helicopter in four decades, their memories of this helicopter and their experiences in it were still acute: "Seeing this old girl brings back a range of emotions: a few bitter, but many good—I'm glad to be able to see and touch her one more time," remarked a former crew chief. The veterans brought photo albums and their stories to share over beer and bratwurst.
(Left to right) Steve Bookout, Ed Trammell and Eric Anspaugh pose for a photo next to the UH-1B Huey helicopter that got them home safely from a number of hair-raising missions during the Vietnam War. (Helicopter Conservancy photo)