As the Marine Corps became more involved in Vietnam, the need for a small utility helicopter became apparent. The Marines evaluated several types, but ultimately settled on the Army Huey UH-1B/C model to meet their needs. However, the Marines requested several modifications to the standard B/C model. One important change was the use of aluminum for the body as opposed to the Army's use of magnesium. Magnesium had a tendency to corrode when exposed to salt air or water, and the Marines wanted a material that would resist corrosion while operating from or being transported on Navy ships. The Marines also requested a rotor brake so the engine could be shut down quickly on the decks of ships. This modified Huey model was designated the UH-1E, and was used exclusively by the Marines during Vietnam.
The UH-1E was used for C&C, medevac, visual reconnaissance and observation, and most other light utility roles. At first Marine Corps Headquarters resisted the use of the UH-1E in a gunship role. Eventually, however, it approved the development of armed gunship configurations. Instead of using the Army weapons mount system, the Marines developed their own field expedient weapons platform called the TK (Temporary Kit). Before the acquisition of the UH-1Es, the Marines had attempted to arm some UH-34 Seahorse medium helicopters with a prototype flexible mount system for the M-60 machine gun. This was called the TK-1 kit. Though the armed UH-34 was not a success, the Marines began arming UH-1E gunships with a modified weapons mount kit called TK-2. This kit was used on Marine gunship-configured Hueys throughout the Vietnam War.
In April 1967 the Marines also began using an Emerson Electric chin turret called the TAT-101 on their gunships. This chin turret carried two M-60 machine guns with 500 rounds.
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1966 - UH-1E VMO-2 A rocket-armed UH-1E as photographed at Dong Ha (I Corps) in 1966. Marine Observation Squadron (VMO) Two deployed to Vietnam in May of 1965. Shortly thereafter they received their first UH-1Es. In 1968 VMO-2 received OV-10A Bronco fixed-wing aircraft to supplement their helicopter assets. In April 1969 they received their first AH-1G Cobra gunships, and a month later all the squadron's UH-1Es were transferred to HML-167. At the end of 1969 the Cobras were transferred to HML-367, and from that point VMO-2 flew only fixed-wing OV-10's. In April 1972 VMO-2 was relocated to Camp Pendleton, CA.
The UH-1E illustrated here carried 2.75 inch rocket pods, but side-mounted M-60 machine guns were not installed. However, this Huey did carry defensive M-60s mounted on a metal post and swivel mount that differed from the Army's M23 mount system in the cargo doorway. The cargo doors were removed from the ship. This Huey, like most Marine UH-1E's had a tail boom-mounted antenna. Also notice the lack of the vertical VHS antenna fin on the cabin roof. Many (but not all) UH-1Es lacked the vertical VHS antenna fin. Instead, Marine Hueys often carried a VHS antenna dome or housing on the cabin roof - see the rounded hump or dome on the roof in the illustration. This helicopter carried high visibility markings on the cabin sides - vertical white stripes and red-painted step panels. There was also a vertical red stripe on the engine cowling. The tailboom had a wide, high visibility yellow band near the rear with a red arrow and the words "DANGER" and "KEEP AWAY" painted in black. A six-digit aircraft number was painted in white on the rear of the tailboom, and a larger, two-digit number was painted on the tail. The "MARINE" legend on the tail boom was painted in black, but on early war aircraft it could often be seen painted in white. Early war helicopters also carried a full color national insignia just forward of the MARINE legend.
|1967 - UH-1E gunship VMO-6 A UH-1E gunship with VMO-6 based at Ky Ha near Chu Lai (I Corps) in 1967. VMO-6 was tasked with flying armed escort for Marine transport helicopters, so most of their Hueys during this period were gunships. Marine rotary aircraft during this period wore more subdued markings. The high visibility yellow tail boom band has been removed. The aircraft number is painted in flat black on both the frame behind the pilots' doors and the tail. The national emblem has also been removed from the aircraft. The only high visibility markings that remain are the red step covers and vertical stripes on the cabin sides and engine cowling. Like most Marine UH-1Es, this aircraft has a tail boom-mounted antenna and rounded housing on the cabin roof.|
|1967 - UH-1E gunship VMO-3 This gunship flew with VMO-3, based at Phu Bai in I Corps. Number 21 had a TAT-101 chin turret in addition to the normal gunship armament. VMO-3 was the first Marine unit to fly UH-1E gunships with chin turrets. This aircraft's rocket pods were painted white (by 1967 most rocket pods were painted OD). There was a vertical red stripe on the engine cowling. The aircraft number was painted in black behind the pilots' doors and on the tail. This Huey gunship was destroyed by an NVA rocket hit on January 29, 1968 while on the ground at Khe Sanh. Click button to see difference between Army and Marine gunships armed with turrets.|
|1968 - UH-1E slick VMO-3/HML-367 A UH-1E slick as photographed in 1968. VMO-3 became HML-367 in April 1968. The unit began painting the tail booms and tails of its Hueys flat black. The unit logo, a cobra rearing up on a red disk, outlined in yellow, was placed forward of the horizontal tail plane. The MARINE legend was removed from their aircraft with this paint scheme. The aircraft number was painted in black on the cargo door, and in white on the tail. Interestingly, the tail boom antenna normally seen on Marine Hueys is not present. This aircraft also did not have the large rounded housing on the cabin roof usually seen on Marine UH-1Es. HML-367 also flew Huey gunships with chin turrets until the beginning of 1970. These gunships carried the same paint scheme and markings.|
|1970-71 - AH-1G HML-367 At the end of 1969 HML-367 turned over its Huey UH-1E gunships to HML-167. In place of the old E models they received new Huey Cobra gunships. Aircraft VT-1 was the first Cobra assigned to the unit. HML-367 Cobras flew with colorful nose art depicting the face of a Cobra with bared fangs. The aircraft number appeared in black underneath the cockpit, and on the upper rear corner of the tail. The aircraft serial number was painted in black at the bottom of the tail. Marine units usually displayed a six-digit a/c number rather than the Army practice of displaying a five-digit number. HML-367 moved from Phu Bai in December 1969 to Marble Mountain Air Facility at Da Nang. They remained at Marble Mountain until they left Vietnam in June of 1971.|
|1975 - UH-1E slick HML-367 HML-367 relocated to MCAS Futenma on Okinawa when they left Vietnam in June, 1971. After leaving Vietnam, high visibility markings were once again placed on Marine helicopters. Aircraft numbers and the MARINE legend are painted in white. The color national emblem reappears on the tail boom. The yellow warning band at the rear of the tail boom also reappears. HML-367 Hueys carried the unit logo on the nose at this time. Six UH-1Es from this unit participated in the final evacuation of Saigon in April 1975 ("Operation Frequent Wind"). They flew from one of the carriers operating off the coast during the evacuation.|