The official designation of the helicopter in today's parade is the UH-1C Gunship. It is affectionately known as the Huey. This particular helicopter has been restored by the Darkhorse Group Military Aviation Museum located at the Long Beach, California airport. It has been restored to show the nose art and unit markings of the gun platoon of the distinguished 187th Assault Helicopter Company formed at Forth Bragg, North Carolina in October of 1966. The company was deployed to Vietnam in March 1967 and quickly earned the respect and admiration of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and the Coast Guard.
The 187th did it all. Its lift ships carried troops into battle, expeditiously extracted them from harms way, provided food, water, ammunition, mail and reinforcements. They also supported the fight by carrying the critical command and control element circling above the battle. Whenever the 187th was needed, the distinctive blades of the Huey were heard Platoons, with an M-60 machine gun in each rear door, were commonly called "Slicks" and carried eight to ten troops on combat assaults into jungle landing zones (LZs.) When forces on the ground required assistance, the "Slicks" or "Guns" and their dedicated and fearless crews, flew into harms way to provide critical support. This support varied from providing close in mini-gun and rocket fire, to evacuating the critically wounded.
It is commonly accepted that the helicopter crewmembers suffered some of the highest casualty rates of any of the forces in Vietnam. Usually operating under the threat of intense hostile fire, the 187th amassed an impressive combat record. As one of the most decorated units in Vietnam, in addition to numerous personal awards, the 187th received the Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm. More importantly, the most significant award this unit continues to receive is the never-ending gratitude of men whose lives were saved by the 187th on a daily basis. Thousands of troops on the ground or serving on the numerous and treacherous rivers of Vietnam, looked forward to hearing the distinctive sound of the Huey. Once overhead, that beautiful helicopter and its distinctive sound "spoke" to the troops by reassuring them they would survive yet another day!
The 187th holds an annual reunion and this year we are fortunate indeed that this highly decorated unit is meeting in San Diego. We thank them for participating in this year s Veterans Day Parade and salute them for their heroic and selfless service to our Country.