Huey's visit in Port Clinton kicks up Vietnam memories for many

·4 min read
Crew members from Yankee Air Museum prep the Huey for riders on Saturday.
Crew members from Yankee Air Museum prep the Huey for riders on Saturday.

PORT CLINTON — When 19-year-old Nathan Mayes of Kentucky stepped into the UH-1 Huey helicopter at Liberty Aviation Museum on Saturday, he felt like he was stepping into the stories his late grandfather, Danny Haddix, told him about serving in Vietnam. They were difficult stories that Haddix kept inside for years until he found a trusted ear in his grandson.

“I was the only one he would tell. We still don’t know why he wouldn’t talk to anyone but me, but he would have a western on TV, and he would talk about it,” Mayes said. “Riding the helicopter gives me something my papaw would have done.”

Dozens of people paid for the chance to ride the Huey, nicknamed the “Iroquois,” which was assigned to the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, known as the “Greyhounds,” in 1967 and continued in service in Vietnam until 1971. The Huey is owned by Yankee Air Museum in Michigan, and a volunteer crew brought it to Liberty Aviation Museum.

Helicopter ride reminds teen of his grandfather's war stories

Among the volunteers from Michigan was Bill Stuart, who flew the same model helicopter during his service in Vietnam. Stuart served mostly in infantry, with one year as a Huey pilot.

“I saw lots of combat in Vietnam. You fly as fast as you can and as low as you can to stay out of the way of small arms fire,” Stuart said. “I did combat assaults and resupply after the assault was done.”

Events like the Huey rides at Liberty Aviation Museum help to honor Vietnam veterans and keep the realities of the Vietnam War and its heroes in the public eye.

“I love it,” Stuart said of the event. “When we started wearing our (Vietnam vet) hats, people would say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ Old people used to make me mad because I’d think, ‘Where were you when I got home?’ But the young people really meant it, and that meant a lot to me.”

Jim Wise, a Vietnam vet and Yankee Air Museum volunteer, served as chief pilot on Saturday, taking groups of 10 riders and three crew members into the air for nine-minute rides. Anyone old enough to be out of a car booster seat was welcome to ride, and all ages took advantage of the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of an historic experience.

“This is keeping history alive,” Wise said. “I have fun talking about it. Anytime I can turn jet fuel into noise, it’s a good day.”

Megan Favio, director of adventures for Yankee Air Museum, said the rides help correct misconceptions people have about the Huey.

The first set of riders are all smiles on the Huey moments before liftoff.
The first set of riders are all smiles on the Huey moments before liftoff.

“The Huey has a distinct sound. You can hear it coming,” Favio said. “People love it. They think they know what to expect because of what they see in movies, but it’s completely different when you experience it.”

While a trip above Port Clinton in a Huey is a thrill ride for many, for others, it is an emotional reminder of war.

“This is such a unique experience,” said Jim Priebe, Liberty Aviation Museum communications and marketing coordinator. “It’s a solemn thing for many people.”

Huey offers a unique experience

The last time Dale Wolf of Elyria stepped into a Huey, he was fighting in Vietnam.

“It’s been 52 years since I’ve been on one,” Wolf said. “I was sitting right by the door today. I loved it.”

Bob Fujita, Liberty Aviation Museum director of operations, said many of the riders pre-registered for rides, many were walk-ups, and some were drawn to the museum when they heard the Huey’s distinct roar in the sky. Among the riders were many Vietnam veterans.

“This is one of the most relevant events we do here because we have so many Vietnam vets still around,” Fujita said.

Huey and Cobra helicopter rides will once again be available at Liberty Aviation Museum on July 22 to 25. The Yankee Air Museum will return with its Huey on Sept. 3 and 4.

Liberty Aviation Museum is at 3515 East State Road. For more information, visit LibertyAviationMuseum.org.

Contact correspondent Sheri Trusty at sheritrusty4@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Port Clinton News Herald: Vietnam memories stirred by Huey visit to Port Clinton