New Collections

The following is a list of collections added to the Vietnam Archive in the past month. To search all of the Vietnam Archive's collections, go to the Virtual Vietnam Archive.

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Harry Robertson Collection
On October 2, 1934, Samuel Harry Robertson, III was born in Phoenix, Arizona, the first of three sons born to S. Harry Robertson, Jr. and Doris Duffield Robertson. Harry built his first model airplane at age four. As he got older he entered his models in competition, earning five national model aircraft flying records by age 19. At the age of nine, while visiting Luke Air Force Base with his father, Harry observed his first airplane crash. It did not deter his keen interest in flying, and his first airplane ride at age ten - in a Stinson Voyager - only reinforced his desire to become a pilot. By age 15 he began flying lessons at the Phoenix College Flying School. Seeking a career in aerospace, Harry desired to attend Embry-Riddle School of Aviation. But with money tight, he instead worked his way through college at Arizona State University. It was while pursuing a degree in Business Administration and Mechanical Technology that he met his wife, Nancy, and they were married in 1953. In the summer of 1956, two commercial airliners crashed mid-air over the Grand Canyon, and Harry and his brother Jerry offered to help with the cleanup. Seeing body bags taken from the helicopters and loaded into trucks was a sobering and thought provoking experience. Following graduation in 1956, Harry entered the Air Force and began military pilot training at Marana Air Base near Tucson. As a military pilot, Harry participated in the investigation of six military aircraft accidents. Fatal, post-crash fires were particularly vexing to Harry. He spent many thoughtful hours theorizing methods to greatly reduce the crash fire hazard. Harry left the Air Force in 1960, though continued to fly with the Arizona Army and Air National Guards through 1973. It was also in 1960 that he formed Robertson Research Engineers to solicit funding to conduct his crashworthy fuel system research. None was found. Then in February 1961, Harry learned that the Flight Safety Foundation's Aviation Safety and Engineering Research, Inc. with US Army money would fund his effort. Harry knew if research could define the way aircraft came apart in a crash, a practical fuel system could be designed to survive the impact. Over the next seven years Harry and his colleagues crash-tested over 40 full-sized aircraft and hundreds of newly designed crashworthy devices, amassing critical data and knowledge. In 1968 - as the war in Vietnam raged on - the painstaking research and development began to show results. By April 1970 the first new crashworthy fuel system was installed in the Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter. Once the Army decided to convert all of their helicopters to the new fuel-systems, the Air Force, Navy, and Marines quickly followed suit. Prior to the use of the crashworthy fuel systems pioneered and developed by Harry and his colleagues, most severe Army helicopter crashes resulted in fires accounting for over 40% of the fatalities. Since the introduction of the Crashworthy Fuel System into military helicopters, post-crash fire deaths have virtually been eliminated. Harry and his colleagues also wrote all five editions of the U.S. Army's Crash Survival Design Guide - still the leading manual of its type in the world. Harry left Aviation Safety and Engineering Research in 1970, joining ASU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences as a research professor, and co-founded the International Center for Safety Education to administer and conduct the Crash Survival Investigators School. Over 7500 students of this first-of-its-kind school have analyzed actual post-crash evidence, learned crash-safety procedures and participated in hands-on crashworthiness evaluations. The end of 1974 brought a new challenge. Both Hughes Helicopters and Boeing wanted crashworthy auxiliary fuel systems to extend their aircrafts' flying range. For this new project Harry founded Robertson Aviation to develop and manufacture such fuel systems for both military and commercial markets. Crashworthy Robertson Fuel Systems - nicknamed by military users as "Robbie Tanks" - have gone beyond saving lives in civilian and military aircraft types around the world. Today Robertson technology is also being integrated into military ground vehicles, such as tanks and Humvees, and high-performance racecars. To use Harry's words, "There's no reason for someone to survive a crash - and then die in a fire." In recognition of this pilot and pioneering engineer's tireless devotion to aviation safety, we proudly enshrine S. Harry Robertson, III into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Approximately seven linear feet of files concerning the crash of a C-5A Galaxy aircraft during Operation Babylift on 4 April 1975 near Saigon, during the closing days of the Vietnam War, killing 144 of the 301 passengers aboard. Most of those killed were Vietnamese orphans being airlifted out of Vietnam as this was the maiden voyage of Operation Babylift. The collection primarily contains court records and transcripts concerning the subsequent lawsuit filed by Friends For all Children, Inc. vs. Lockheed Aircraft Corporation contending that Lockheed, the manufacturer of the aircraft, was liable for the diagnostic examination costs of the children on board the flight. 21890000000

See the Finding Aid: Harry Robertson Collection