Vietnam Archive Dustoff / Medevac Resources
About Dustoff / Medevac
The Vietnam War posed a unique logistical challenge to the military leaders. The war was fought in triple canopy jungle terrain and bad weather, there were constant guerilla attacks and the front line changed from day to day. Often vehicles traveling on the roads were subject to landmines, ambushes and poor road conditions, and some of the areas where heavy fighting took place were so remote there were no roads. All of these factors posed one major problem for the military. How do they transport the wounded safely and in a timely manner to the aid stations and hospitals for proper medical care? The Army’s medical branch decided to revisit an idea that came about in the Korean War – a helicopter ambulance corps. An idea that was implemented with so much success in Vietnam that in most cases a wounded soldier would be in a hospital receiving medical care within 35 minutes of being wounded.
In April of 1962, the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) arrived in Vietnam with five UH-1 “Huey” helicopters. They took the call sign Dustoff. Over time the number of medevac detachments grew in Vietnam until the entire country had coverage and Dustoff became the universal call sign for all medevac missions.
A Dustoff crew consisted of four people: two pilots, a medic and a crew chief. Usually, one pilot would fly the helicopter while the other acted as the aircraft commander. The commander would navigate, monitor all of the radio transmissions, talk to the unit requesting the medevac and would take over flying if the pilot were injured. The medic kept the helicopter stocked with the necessary medical supplies and the crew chief would maintain the helicopter in top working condition. They would both load the patients onto the helicopter and the medic would administer any necessary medical treatment on the way to the hospital, often with the help of the crew chief. The medic and crew chief would stay with a particular helicopter while the pilots were interchangeable between helicopters. These crews saved many lives and were universally respected by all of the soldiers in the war.
About This Subject Guide
This subject guide is meant to give the user a broad overview of the collections most relevant to Dustoff / Medevac research. More collections may be available inside the Virtual Vietnam Archive. Click on the links to the moving images, photographs or oral histories to view the material through the subject guide. Clicking on a finding aid will send you to a document describing an entire collection with either a box or folder level listing of the collection's contents. The finding aid will give you a general idea of what is contained in the collection.
Many of our documents are scanned and available online. You can find the individual documents by searching the virtual archive. Below is a list of keyword combinations that you can use in the Advanced Search module to find individual documents. http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/.
- Dust off