The Bell H-13 SIOUX
H-13 Sioux helicopter was acquired by the Army in
1946 as an adaptation of the commercial Model 47.
It was the first helicopter to enter the US military
in large numbers and the first to arrive in combat
in Korea. It was the first Army aircraft named for
an Indian tribe, a practice which is still in effect
H-13 was used for utility, wire laying, liaison,
reconnaissance and training, but it was most famous
for its medical evacuation in Korea, as seen on the
television show "M.A.S.H."
was the primary training helicopter for the H-19
Chickasaw cargo helicopter pilots in Korea.
served admirably in Korea and Vietnam, and it was
eventually replaced by the more versatile OH-58
Kiowa in 1969.
Transportation Corps helicopter companies used the
H-13 for administrative and observation purposes.
The large bubble cockpit of the Sioux was
distinctive and offered wide visibility for the
H-13 was used to train Transportation Corps pilots
prior to deployment to Korea. Until 1964, it was
also used in the Apollo program to familiarize
astronauts with the auto-rotation sink rate, similar
to the descent rate of the Apollo Lunar Excursion
the fall 1952, the 25th Infantry Division used H-13s
in two remarkable re-supply operations. In the
first, for a period of 7 days, a single H-13
airlifted 20,000 pounds of supplies, equipment,
ammunition, water and food to support a combat
engineer unit on a mountaintop. In the second, for
a period of 10 days, H-13s airlifted 17,000 pounds
of supplies and 25 passengers to aid an infantry
unit 800 yards behind the main line of defense on
most important role of the H-13 in Korea was medical
evacuation. Badly wounded soldiers were moved
quickly from combat zones to Mobile Army Surgical
Hospital units (M.A.S.H.).
terrain of Korea was not friendly for transporting
patients by truck, as the rough roads often caused
patients to go into shock. The smoother and faster
trip by helicopter allowed the wounded to get
medical attention sooner.
Patient litters were mounted on the exterior of the
H-13 on skid racks.
Modifications were made to the H-13 by medical
detachment personnel to improve patient comfort.
Litters were outfitted with removable covers with
Plexiglas windows over the patient's heads. Warm
air was piped from the engine manifold into the
litters to make the wounded soldiers more
comfortable. Plasma bottle holder were mounted on
the exterior of the cabin door openings to
facilitate blood replacement while airborne.
The “Angel of
Because of the extraordinary numbers of wounded
evacuated from the front lines, combat troops
christened the H-13 as the "Angel of Mercy." One
pilot evacuated 922 casualties and logged 545
missions in 700 hours over a 14-month period.
the 23,000 casualties evacuated to field hospitals,
over 18,000 were moved by the twelve H-13 helicopter
detachments. This was the lowest percent of wounded
to die in any war in recorded history at that time.
Above, the H-13 carried needed supplies to the front
en route to pick up the wounded.
Ambulance Detachments in Korea 1951 - 1953
the early months of the Korean conflict, a
helicopter detachment of the 3rd Air Rescue
Squadron, USAF, had the mission of rescuing friendly
pilots downed over water or behind enemy lines.
They received occasional requests from ground
elements to air evacuate casualties from difficult
terrain, and when they had time, they responded. By
August 1950, they were answering so many calls they
found themselves in the medical evacuation business.
8th Army began testing Army helicopters for
ambulance duty, and the 2nd Helicopter Detachment
arrived in Korea in November 1950, equipped with
four model H-13 helicopters. The 2nd was followed
by the 3rd and 4th Helicopter Detachments in January
1951 and the 1st Helicopter Detachment in February,
all equipped with H-13s.
four detachments were re-designated Army Units by
8th Army in May 1951 and attached to surgical
hospitals. In December 1952, they were redesignated
as Medical Detachments, Helicopter Ambulance, under
administrative and operational control of the Army
Vietnam, the H-13 was used for reconnaissance,
despite there being more H-19s and H-23s in
country. The 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry was the
scout unit of the 1st Cavalry. They used the Bell
OH-13S armed with 8 skid-mounted rockets and two
Above, the H-13 is armed with anti-tank missiles.
OH-13 scout teams consisted of two H-13s, covered by
UH-1B gunships flying overhead for protection. They
flew low in the trees, often only a few feet from
the ground in order to spot the enemy.
Above, an H-13 is unloaded from a C-119 in Japan,
March 1952, prior to deploying to Korea.
H-13E Sioux, Light
the beginning of the Korean War, the Army had 56
H-13s in its inventory - the B Models and 4 of the
older YH-13As. All models were used widely by the
first unit to arrive in Korea was the 2nd Helicopter
Detachment in November 1950. Not until 1953 were
the 6th and the 13th detachments added.
the early 1960s, at the beginning of the Vietnam
War, the Army had 861 H-13s in its inventory. The
8th and 57th Transportation Companies arrived in
Saigon in December 1961 with two OH-13Es and 20
Transportation corps returned the OH-13s to the U.S.
because they were not using them - the newer
helicopters were larger and more powerful. However,
the Sioux returned in late 1962 where it proved
useful as an observation helicopter for the cavalry,
infantry, and air assault divisions.
H-13 was powered by a 220 hp Franklin 0-35-5 piston,
air-cooled engine, with a cruising speed of 70 mph
and maximum speed of 85 mph.
“DANCING ROTORS” –
HELICOPTER DRILL TEAM
Bell OH-13 was one of the most popular light
helicopters ever built; it was versatile, agile, and
1948 through 1976, the U.S. military supported
precision flight demonstration teams which
stimulated recruitment and pleased the crowds.
Above, Bozo the Helicopter
Clown, 1952-1964 and 1972-1976
Above, the Army Helicopter
Drill Team, 1948-1951
Above, the Army Helicopter
Square Dance Team, 1952-1961