UH-1 Huey Gunship vs NVA/VC Forces by Peter E. Davies

Veteran military historian Peter E. Davies’ UH-1 Huey Gunship vs NVA/VC Forces: Vietnam 1962-75 (Osprey, 80 pp. $22, paper; $7.99, Kindle) is the book for anyone who wants to know just about everything about the UH-1 Huey helicopter in the Vietnam War. Rich in photographs and illustrations, this concise book examines and explains virtually every detail about that famed helicopter, from its inception to its war-fighting variants. The Huey, formally named the Iroquois based on the Army’s use of American tribal names for its helicopters, was the backbone of U.S. air mobility warfare in Vietnam.

In this tightly focused study of only eighty pages Davies—aided by illustrators Jim Laurier and Gareth Hector—takes the reader from the first use of helicopters in combat to the development of the gunship as an assault helicopter. Davies goes step-by-stop from concept through design innovation, evaluation, and the emergence of a new capability on the battlefield. He then discusses air mobility in the Vietnam War and how tactics and weapons evolved to meet a changing battlefield.

He also addresses the counterstrategy the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese developed to try to neutralize the challenges of air mobility. In doing so, Davies examines NVA and VC tactics and weapons systems and how they evolved to meet the air-assault threat.

The limits of the helicopter in fighting in the Vietnam were exposed during Operation Lam Son 719 in 1971 when the NVA set up an intensive anti-aircraft artillery defense in Laos, taking a heavy toll on the assaulting helicopter force. 

Although this book is well researched, I found a few minor errors. Davies writes, for example, that the 1st Cavalry Division’s fixed-wing aircraft (the CV-2 Caribous and OV-1 Mohawks) were turned over to the U.S. Air Force in 1966. In fact, the Mohawks remained with the 1st Cav. 

That said, UH-1 Huey Gunship vs NVA/ VC Forces is an outstanding reference book. For anyone looking for a well-informed examination of Hueys in the Vietnam War, this is it.

–John Cirafici

Take Me Home Huey by Steve Maloney and Clare Nolan

At nearly ten-by-twelve inches in size, Take Me Home Huey: Honoring American Heroes Through Art (Take Me Home Huey Publishing, 216 pp. $45) by Steve Maloney and Clare Nolan offers a new historical dimension of the American War in Vietnam. The book explains why and how Steve Maloney took a wrecked and abandoned UH-1H Huey helicopter (#174) and turned it into a unique piece of art to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the conflict: a symbol that celebrates brotherhood, dedication, and self-sacrifice among American service personnel..

Co-author Clare Nolan’s expertise in high-stakes drama storytelling greatly enhances the book’s military value. She has written documentaries and created multimedia productions about war and space for National Geographic and Discovery television channels.

Maloney’s artistic career involves repurposing found objects—especially things originally designed to move. Recognition of his artwork began in 2001 with exhibitions in museums, galleries, and traveling shows, following a successful business career. He had served as a member of the 156th Signal Battalion of the Army National Guard in Michigan from 1963-69. This background, coupled with a fascination with helicopters, focused Maloney on his commemorative goal.

Take Me Home Huey vividly recollects Maloney’s quest for the “perfect canvas” for his project. To start the search, he interviewed American Vietnam War veterans. He tells us what they taught him in two chapters that detail wartime helicopter missions, with an emphasis on the shoot down of Huey #174 in 1969. He cleverly charts the aircraft’s 30 years of service that ended two decades before he found its frame in a scrapyard in Arizona in 2014.

The book comes alive in many ways. Opening its huge pages to double-truck photographs of Hueys and of soldiers in danger and pain made me feel as if I were gliding through a time warp into the past. The dynamic images gave me rushes of nervous appreciation for crewmen and grunts whose survival depended on helicopters.

In equally detailed chapters Maloney explains how he enlisted help from many veterans and well-wishers to find Huey #174 and the parts he needed for its reconstruction. He repeatedly reconfigured the design of his paint job to match veterans’ memories. Thirty-six pages of double-spread photographs show the Huey from different angles. Drawings, slogans, and lists cover the airframe to symbolize and grunts’ dreams and needs from long ago.

When paraded before the public, the Huey #174 has reunited men who had not seen each other for decades. New feelings and truths arise and old feelings are reborn. The flood of emotional impact generated by the helicopter motivated the authors to also discuss PTSD and art therapy as a way to help combat the emotional trauma of war. At every opportunity, they champion veterans’ welfare and sense of community.

Huey #174 spent two years traveling to 29 venues in 11 states from November 2015 to November 2017. By then, the project also included original music and songs, poems, films, and a PBS documentary. At least a million people viewed it in person.

In 2019, Huey #174 became a permanent part of the collection of the Palm Springs Air Museum in California.

The Huey’s website is takemehomehuey.org/sculpture

—Henry Zeybel