Sunday, June 15, 2008

What I learned today: Surreal helicopter medevac experiences in Korea

The Korean war saw the first widespread usage of helicopters. They were mainly used for medevac. For the first time ever, it was possible to move wounded soldiers quickly to a hospital for emergency treatment. The Bell 47 was the first helicopter pressed into service for this. It's rotors made a distinctive chop-chop sound - leading to the slang "chopper" for helicopters.

All this of course entered pop culture thru M.A.S.H (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).

However, there was a problem.

The Bell 47 normally had only space for a pilot in its bubble canopy. The wounded soldier was placed alone in a stretcher in a small confined dark space made at the back, with noone to tend to him until the helicopter landed.

Now imagine this scene. The soldier gets hit. Usually he would pass out right there on the battlefield from the shock before the medevac happened. He would be placed on a sretcher while unconscious, and loaded onto a Bell 47. Sometimes the chap would regain consciousness in the middle of the flight. As he came to his senses, he would realize that he was alone. And it was dark, and cold, and he was flying in the sky somewhere. The poor fellow in most cases thought he had died and was flying to heaven or hell.

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