Korean War Helicopter H-13 Sioux

Bell H-13 Sioux enter war in Korea

By the late 1940s, the newly designed Bell H-13 Sioux had displayed remarkable performance and reliability. It was quickly adopted by the armed forces for a number of roles, especially rescue and reconnaissance. War-torn Korea became the proving ground for the helicopter, since this war saw the first mass employment of rotary-wing aircraft.

Korean H-13 in medical service

The most dramatic and publicized use of helicopters in the campaign focused on the medical evacuation of combat casualties. Although Korea’s geography precluded an adequate road system, the emerging helicopter could overcome this problem and easily negotiate the rugged terrain. Its speed, flexibility, and ability to provide patient comfort significantly shortened the time span between wound and surgery. Many casualties were so critically wounded that evacuation by any other means would have diminished any chance for survival.

Eighty percent of all front-line evacuations in Korea were attributed to U.S. Army H-13 Sioux helicopters, as well as a smaller contingent of Marine Corps HTLs. The Army operated the H-13B, H-13C, H-13D and H-13K throughout the conflict, almost exclusively for medical evacuation. Most new in direct support of three of the four Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) units, with the fourth supported by U.S. Air Force helicopters. It was that selling which the popular M*A*S*H TV series was based.

Navy HTL enter Korea

Due to an urgent shortage of helicopters in the Marine Corps brought on by the Korean War, ten Navy HTL-4s were turned over to Marine Squadron VMO-6. Besides medical evacuation, the Marines flew artillery spotting missions with their H-13s. The USMC HTLs eventually replaced the H03S-1, becoming the primary Marine medical evacuation helicopter. Army and Marine H-13s flew other missions which included resupply, reconnaissance, radio relay, and ship-to-shore transport.

Extensive use of the H-13 Sioux and HTL in Korea accelerated the development of larger and more powerful helicopters. The lessons learned in medical evacuation during the Korean and Vietnam Wars led to the development of civil medical evacuation by helicopter that is significant in saving lives today.