Personal Courage

On March 8, 1946, the Bell 47 became the first helicopter certified for civilian use. Adapted by the Army that same year, it became the H-13 Sioux. Thus began the tradition of naming helicopters after Indian tribes.

The Sioux was tiny by comparison to today’s aircraft. Last month, I marveled at one on display at Fort Sam. It weighed 2,500 lbs (as much as a Ford Fiesta), had a 220 hp engine, and had a maximum speed of 85 mph.

In Korea it earned the nickname, “The Angel of Mercy,” performing countless medevac missions. Helicopters were necessary because of the poor roads and the mountainous terrain; long rides in ambulances on bumpy roads killed patients.

One pilot, LTC John “Wild Bill” Hammett, was called “Captain Midnight” by the M*A*S*H unit to which he ferried patients because of his many late night flights. He reminisced in later years that sometimes he had to land and change a spark plug and sometimes he had to land to perform an emergency tracheotomy—he was pilot, crew chief, and flight medic in one. Hammett flew combat missions in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. He went on to train medevac pilots at Fort Sam, and then served as a test pilot at Fort Rucker.

So LTC Hammett, and all others who fly into battle, whether to fight or evacuate the wounded, I lift up as examples of the Army value of personal courage. Thank you all.