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The Army Held The Line

In an epic game, with a nail biting ending, it boiled down to who wanted it the most. Just when West Point thought that they had the game signed, sealed, and nearly delivered, the Midshipmen of the US Naval academy rallied to let West Point know that the game was not over.

In honor of the US Military Academy's prolific victory in this year's Army-Navy Game, we pay tribute to US Army Aviation that has, and will continue to meet the needs of the modern-day warfighter. In 2021, the family of Hal Moore started a petition to rename Fort Rucker to that of Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the first black brigadier general in the USAF and one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. The Naming Commission later recommended that the fort be renamed in honor of Chief Warrant Officer Michael J. Novosel, an Army aviator. The post was officially renamed Ft. Novosel on April 10, 2023.

CWO4 Novosel served in the United States Army Air Corps military during World War II in which he flew the B-29 Superfortress. He also would serve in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In order to serve in the Vietnam War, he gave up the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve and became a chief warrant officer and fly helicopters in the Army. This would prove critical years later.

He served his first tour in Vietnam flying medevac helicopters with the 283rd Medical Detachment. His second tour in Vietnam was with the 82nd Medical Detachment. During that war, Novosel flew 2,543 missions and extracted 5,589 wounded personnel, among them his own son Michael J. Novosel Jr. The following week, Michael Jr. returned the favor by extracting his father after he was shot down. Had Michael Novosel Sr not opted to join the Army, this rescue would not have been possible.

He was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor, the United States' highest military decoration, for his bravery in conducting a medical evacuation under fire in the Vietnam War. On the morning of October 2, 1969, Novosel set out to evacuate a group of South Vietnamese soldiers who were surrounded by several thousand North Vietnamese light infantry near the Cambodian border. Radio communication was lost and the soldiers had expended their ammunition. Without air cover or fire support, Novosel flew at low altitude under continuous enemy fire. He skimmed the ground with his helicopter while his medic and crew chief pulled the wounded men on board. He completed 15 hazardous extractions, was wounded in a barrage of enemy fire, and momentarily lost control of his helicopter, but when it was over, he had rescued 29 men. He completed his tour in March 1970. He would later write of his exploits in his book, "Dustoff: Memoirs Of An Army Aviator".

Fighting and flying in Vietnam too brave, innovative, and daring men like Novosel. Labeled as "Crazy Cowboys" or "brave fools", had to write the book as they went along in this much different type of war. Conventional wit and wisdom did not apply in this unconventional war. The rotorcraft aviator would have to be cut from a different cloth than that of his jet jockey counterparts in the US Air Force, Navy, and Marines. In order to survive, caution would have to be thrown to the wind, oftentimes, literally.

Over 10% of Vietnam's casualties were helicopter crew members and most of that 10% were door gunners. The average lifespan of a door gunner on a UH-1 Huey in Vietnam was only two weeks. Many door gunners were initially infantrymen. When door gunners were being shot and killed at alarming rates and were in hot need, many infantrymen were given hazardous duty bonusses or promotions on the spot in order to meet the need.

There were about 11,846 U.S helicopters that served in the Vietnam War. The U.S records show 5,607 helicopter losses with the Huey losing about 2200. The Vietcong were able to effectively shoot down low and slow flying helicopters by using a tactic known as "hosing." This involved amassing a coordinated stream of small arms fire ahead of the aircraft's flight path, making it difficult for the pilot to navigate and increasing the likelihood of hitting the helicopter.

The designation OH stands for “observation helicopter,” but don't let the name fool you; flying an OH-6 was the single most dangerous job in Vietnam.


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