Local Hero

Having tootled around a largish chunk of southern and eastern Nebraska three years ago in search of jet aircraft up poles and elsewhere, it occurred to me that there are a couple of much more local aviation memorials which I haven’t looked at in any detail. I hope to rectify this during the summer break.

A few weeks ago (heavens, It was April 3!) I thought I’d take a trip to the aviation memorial nearest my home, and went to see the UH-1 “Huey” helicopter that’s been in the town square in Girard, Kansas since 1995.

UH-1 Huey: Girard, Kansas
UH-1H 64-13632 in Girard. April 2019 – Photo by me.

Most of the preserved historic aircraft you see these days were kept back as trainers or had been stuck in maintenance units until they outlived their usefulness and were crated for a museum. Surviving combat veterans are rare but not impossible to find. If you read my earlier posts you may have read my thoughts on a certain F-105 in Nebraska. It is a genuine Vietnam Veteran with a confirmed air-to-air kill but it’s still stuck high on a pole beside Interstate 80 marking the way to the Strategic Air and Space Museum, or whatever it may be called now. After all the recent flooding up around there I wonder if it still is there (the Museum and the F-105), but that’s another story.

UH-1 Door showing serial number
The UH-1H in Girard showing it’s definitely 64-13632. April 2019 – Photo by me.

I was ready to believe that this helicopter would have led a dull existence before being put out to grass, but the story turned out to be a little different. Having noted its serial number, consulted Joe Baugher’s website and a couple of other sites, it transpires that this very helicopter (UH-1H serial number 64-13632) is a genuine combat veteran from Vietnam.

Wikipedia says that the UH-1H was the result of upgrading the UH-1D to the Lycoming T53-L-13 engine, and relocating the pitot tube from the nose to the roof. The UH-1H was the most numerous variant of the Huey family. 64-13632 was built as UH-1D-BF and upgraded in this manner.

64-13632 seems to have been accepted by the US Army at the end of 1965. The aircraft served in Vietnam from October 1966 until November 1968, firstly with the 498th Medical Company, then the 176th Aviation Company, followed by the 116th Assault Helicopter Company. While serving with the 498th Medical Company in May 1967 it was involved in a couple of incidents, striking a ship’s mast while evacuating personnel in gusty conditions on May 14th (the ship moved), and coming under small arms fire while evacuating personnel on May 31st. The helicopter was hit five times by 7.62mm rounds and some crew members were wounded during this incident, but the aircraft’s mission was completed.

UH-1H 64-13632. Girard, Kansas
UH-1H 64-13632. Girard, Kansas. Front view also showing the Crawford County Courthouse and the Kansas Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. April 2019, Photo by me.

During 1969 and early 1970 64-13632 was transferred to the US Navy and carried the BuNo 413632. much to Joe Baugher’s interest. This seems to have happened a lot to Army UH-1s moving to the US Navy in a temporary capacity.

After a couple of months with the First Army at Fort Knox, 64-13632 was transferred to the Kansas Army National Guard where it served the remainder of its military life, apparently retiring in 1975.

Where it was for the next few years is not all that clear to me, but by early 1995 the aircraft had moved to Girard, where it was dedicated as part of the memorial to Vietnam Veterans, and Veterans of other wars, and where it stands to this day. Long may it continue to do so.

Vietnam Memorial -  Girard KS
Vietnam Memorial – Girard KS. Photo from April 2019 by me.
UH-1 Huey
UH-1H 64-13632. Girard, Kansas. It’s a mobile phone picture. I could have stood closer. I could have photoshopped the flagpoles. I didn’t. This is what I came to see. Photo by me, April 2019.

For a detailed breakdown of the history of 64-13632, visit http://www.176thahc.org/176AC_DB/64-13632.html