Dust-Off: Predictors of American Medevac Losses During the Vietnam War

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The United States and its SEATO allies were involved respectively from 1960 - 1975 and 1962-1972. By the end of these periods, the United States committed approximately X number of troops and lost approximately 58,740. The primary SEATO ally, Australia, committed almost 500,000 troops, of whom almost 500 were lost. An important technological innovation, the helicopter, played a significant role in the mortality rate which the troops supplied. The Bell UH-IH, broadly known as the “Huey,” became the “Dust off” for the medical evacuation of troops wounded in the field. Indeed, “dust off” informally entered the vernacular as the need - or act of- evacuation of personnel from an L-Z [Landing Zone] often designated as “hot,” which meant that enemy troops were in close proximity.

The symbol of the International Red Cross, worn by non-combatant medical personnel - not to mention emblazoned on the Huey its self - theoretically protected medics and their assistant as much as possible. The rules of war, however, seemed seldom applied to medics, Corpsmen, enew, and pilots who flew into the “hot” landing zones. As this paper will suggest, despite extraordinary measures to identify as clearly as possible the non-combat “Medevac Hueys” from the more ominous Hueys, equipped with a door gunner, firming an M-60 automatic machine gun. As Vietlong consistently refused to respect the Red Cross, American Medevac defended their aerocraft on both doors with MO Machines and in addition to the Red Cross Painted their Hueys white rather than green. Ironically, as the data suggest, specific factors - not least the bright white Hueys - because predictor of loss of crew members, patients, if not the helicopter itself.


American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting (ASTMH)


Atlanta, GA