Few sounds in the world of aircraft are more iconic than the whomp, whomp, whomp of the Huey helicopter blades. It’s also the sound of the “bird” most identified with the Vietnam War.
Now, the Vietnam Veterans of America Local Chapter 218 is looking for the right home to put its Huey copter for future generations to honor and admire.
Community members may have seen the chopper at parades and events over the years since the chapter acquired it in 1993. Hundreds of people have had a chance to sit in the Huey and get the feel of what it must have been like to have been a pilot, crew member or a soldier in need of transport.
For the first time, Chapter 218 is reaching out to the community because is members have been unable to find a place in Santa Barbara to keep the Huey.
Chapter members hope that by inviting the community to help, the right place will be found.
“I joined up with the 1st Air Cavalry Vietnam in August of 1968,” said Peter Bie, president of the chapter. “For the next six months I flew on a ‘lift’ Huey as a door gunner on the right side.
“Our job was to insert troops into the operational area at first light and extract them at the end of the day — and of course, to provide ongoing support.
“Everyone who served in-country, whether they ever rode on one, or just watched them fly overhead, has a soft spot in their heart for these birds.
“Our Huey needs a permanent home within Santa Barbara County; a place where veterans and civilians alike can visit at any time to honor and remember. She’s been with the 218 for 30 years, and we’d like to make sure she’s around for another 50,” Bie said.
Two of the chapter members wrote about the Huey. In U.S. Army Sgt. Hap DeSimone’s he opened his piece by setting the current scene for the Bell Helicopter UH-1.
“It is mostly aluminum with some steel in it,” U.S. Army Sgt. Hap DeSimone wrote about the Huey. “It sits deathly quiet. It doesn’t move. The engine is missing. The radios are silent. The raucous life it lived is invisible to you.
“It is well over fifty years old, loved as one of many, but now one of the few complete aircraft left.”
DeSimone was a radio man in Vietnam and worked on the Hueys. Saying it means a lot to him is an understatement.
“You might not know the name of a single veteran crowding around her, but you know her name: HUEY,” he wrote.
Even civilians know what the Huey meant to those serving in Vietnam. Younger generations know about it from movies and TV shows, albums and other pop culture references.
U.S. Army Huey pilot Joe Danely painted his memories wrote: “As one of more than 100,000 pilots and crew members of the Huey, I have a lot of love for the Huey.
“We carried troops into battle, resupplied them with food, water, and ammo, evacuated them to life saving hospitals, and lifted them out when the battle was over.
“Huey tirelessly, carried us over rivers, rice paddies, beaches, villages, mountains, and deltas. Into and out of pick-up zones and landing zones, mountain tops and river valleys, whether in daytime or pitch-black night!”
This aircraft continues to bring back memories for veterans, and chapter members are anxious to find a new home for it.
Chapter 218 member Ed Foster, who served as a Huey pilot, is taking in the community’s responses; contact him at 805-770-0979.