Helicopters, Air Cavalry and the Reshaping of War as We Knew It

One of the worst things you can do in a time of war is to underestimate your enemy, and that was exactly what the US and its allies did in Vietnam. The Vietnamese were proving to be a cagy, resourceful and resilient enemy on the battlefield. When things were going south in the Vietnam War, America then decided it needed to adapt a new strategy there. That was when the introduction of air cavalry to the battlefield first became a reality.

The concept of using air cavalry in Vietnam was nothing new among military thinkers; the first use of airborne assets to insert troops quickly to gain an advantage was first done in WWII by the use of gliders. What they lacked in WWII was an aircraft that was created specifically for that purpose but that was not a problem after full scale development and implementation of the helicopter was put in place. During fluid situations on the battlefield, the ability to react with speed is the key and America’s switch to a mobile air cavalry fit the bill well there.

Helicopters were first used on the battlefield in a support role in 1951 in Korea. The French were the first to actually pioneer the use of air mobile troops in the war in Algeria in 1955; their shortcomings there led the Americans to reshape how they would use air mobile tactics on the battlefield in the future. American commanders began to envision being able to move and support a whole division of soldiers by means of helicopter. Shortly after that, the 1st Cavalry Division – Airmobile was born.

HueyThe concept of airmobile divisions being used effectively was simple. The military would spot the enemy, get a small number of troops in the area to quickly engage them, support the troops with air cover and then reinforce the troops and bring in artillery support pieces too. All this while resupplying the troops and evacuating the wounded at the same time.

The first major use of a large number of helicopters that could defend, attack, supply and insert troops on the battlefield in rapid fashion was in Vietnam in 1965.  The area was known as the La Drang Valley. The helicopter of choice for the mission was the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, which would eventually become unofficially known as the Huey. After 34 days of intense fighting, the Americans emerged victorious but at a high cost.

Today, the concept of mobile air cavalry has advanced even further. With sophisticated helicopters such as the UH-60 Blackhawk moving troops and supplies and the ultra-deadly AH-64 Apache helicopters providing air support, the tactic of inserting troops quickly by air into a battle has never been done better.

As with all military efforts of this type, it is the bravery, dedication and skill of those men and women doing their jobs that make it all work. This article salutes all those past and present that serve or have served in air assault positions and continue to keep our nation safe, secure, strong and proud.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Craig Smith

Craig has been writing for several years but just recently made freelance writing a full time profession after leaving behind 26 years working in the swimming pool construction industry. He served four years in the US Air Force as an Imagery Interpreter Specialist in Okinawa, Japan and at SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. As a staunch supporter of law enforcement personnel, emergency medical technicians, firemen, search and rescue personnel and those who serve in the military, Craig is proud to contribute to the US Patriot blog on their behalf.
Craig Smith
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