Vietnam War Helicopter Art by John Brennan

Back in 2009 we ran a query on our Arts of War on the web page for John Brennan, who served as a Flight Operations Coordinator with the 114th Assault Helicopter Company in Vinh Long in 1970-71. Brennan was collecting names that in-country Army helicopter crews painted on their aircraft from 1961-73 for a book he was putting together.

“I have cataloged over 2,550 names to date,” Brennan told us. “I expect that number to exceed 3,000 when complete, and would very much like to include as many personalized copter names as possible. The second part of this book project is a photo collection of helicopter nose art that includes names, artwork, graffiti—everything and anything that was painted officially and unofficially on in-country Army copters.”

Brennan’s 3,000-name-strong U.S. Army Helicopter Names in Vietnam was published in 2011. Now comes his Vietnam War Helicopter Art: U.S. Army Rotor Aircraft (Stackpole, 208 pp., $26.95, paper), which includes scores of homemade pics of helicopters adorned with homemade art. Said art, as Stackpole editor Chris Evans puts it, is “funny, dark, sexy, and even downright strange.”

Brennan offers chapters on different types of helicopters, including the AH-1 Cobra, CH-47 Chinook, OH-6 Loach, and the UH-1 Gunships and Hueys. Each pic has a short descriptive paragraph. Abe Gomes’s photo, for example, of a UH-1H adorned with a painting of the Frito Bandito on its nose, says:

“UH-1H 69-15767. 174th Assault Helicopter Assault Company. Chu Lai, 1971. Nose art by crew chief Keith Jarrett. Served in Vietnam from November 1970 to April 1971, accruing 515 flight hours. Crashed upside down on April 27, 1971, when Jarrett moved the nose art to UH-1H 68-16573.”

—Marc Leepson