“Dustoffs” referred to the universal call-sign for the air ambulance system, usually manned by a crew of four on an unarmed helicopter. A typical “Huey” UH-1 chopper is depicted on the cover of my recently published historical narrative, RECALL, which is a tribute to the crews’ courageous service, fearlessness under fire, relentlessness in their rescue efforts.
In the inhospitable terrain of Vietnam, helicopter rescues were born of necessity, as were makeshift landing zones, often under duress from enemy fire.
There were over 4,000 helicopters performing dustoff missions in Vietnam. The UH-1 was the work horse.
The heroics and efficiency of these crews cannot be understated. Flying into battlefields to rescue the wounded, their chopper’s rotor whomp-whomp was a welcomed sound to the combat troops, knowing expert Medevac was at hand.
The medics who accompanied the Huey’s instituted medical care and resuscitative treatment en route to the nearest field hospital. They made sure airways were preserved, IV fluids were administered, and bleeding was controlled as much as possible. Imagine all this transpiring often under hostile fire.
How good were they? Did the medics have an impact on the outcomes of survival during transport from the battlefield to the nearest field hospital?
The short answer – They had a big impact. The statistics below reflect the improved results from prior wars.
- The average transportation time to a field hospital in Vietnam was one hour, compared to three hours in Korea, where helicopters were first introduced for air med evacuation of wounded to MASH units.
- The faster transport time in Vietnam and the medics’ resuscitation en route gave the wounded a one percent chance of dying if he survived the first 24 hours, an impressive improvement in emergency care.
- In WWII the casualty/death rate was 4.5/100. In Korea it improved to 2.5/1000. In Vietnam, it was reduced to 1/100.
Many vets are a living testimony to their professional and efficient care.
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