The Vietnam War was long and arduous. It cost the United States a total of 58,220 troops, with 40,934 of them killed in action. The overall number of wounded sits at 304,000. These staggering numbers gave the military time to reflect on how effective they could be at evacuating wounded troops from the battlefields.
The wounded were airlifted out of combat and transported to medical staging facilities (picture mini-hospitals, not tents). If not for the rapid response of transporting troops, there would have been many more lives lost in Vietnam.
Field hospital staff perform surgery on the wounded in Vietnam near Quang Tri.
Looking at statistics, 4.5 percent of wounded troops died during air transport in WWII. But in Vietnam, only one percent of wounded died during transport. This means the improvements made from war to war were drastic, not only in medical training but in the types of aircraft used in aeromedical evacuation and transport. The critical factor in bringing down these high casualty rates were U.S. Army dust-off missions.
During this time, the Army established specialized medical crews which utilized Huey helicopters to swoop in and collect the injured on the battlefield. The Air Force already appointed a number of planes dedicated to aeromedical evacuation, but they were only used for transport from medical staging facilities back to the United States.
The capabilities of the Huey helicopter were just more convenient than having a larger plane land on the battlefield. The Huey could quickly drop in anywhere, anytime to pick up their patients and transport them safely to an air staging hospital.
A Vietnam-era dustoff mission.
There's no doubt that the distinctive sound of the Huey's chopper was a comfort to the wounded troops on the ground, waiting to get out of the hell they just experienced. The Huey meant safety and comfort from the military's best medical personnel.
Today, the dust-off missions continue, flying in and outside of the wire. They still airlift America's wounded back to the safety of military bases overseas, aiding in the overall survival rate of our wounded warriors. An amazing 92 percent of U.S. troops wounded on the battlefield will survive their injuries.