National Geographic : 1962 Nov
Helicopter in South War Viet Nam Article and photographs by DICKEY CHAPELLE INSIDE THE HELICOPTER that morn ing I felt the heat of tension as soon as we were off the ground. In newspapers back home the reports al ways seemed so cool and somehow detached from life: "Troops of the army of South Viet Nam were airlifted aboard U. S. helicopters today into combat against Red guerrillas." To borrow confidence, I reminded myself that the men around me were professionals: an American Marine helicopter team-two pilots and crew chief-and a squad of veter an South Vietnamese infantrymen (page 725). I shifted my gaze from the men and stared out through the helicopter's square loading hatch, a gaping hole in the right wall of the fuselage. The sunlit rice fields of Ba Xuyen Province seemed to sink beneath us as the formation of 16 helicopters cast dragonfly reflections on the standing water below. Oddly, the utter serenity of the mirrorlike water increased my tension. It brought home a banality that was nevertheless bedrock truth-it was too nice a day to die. Or to kill. Or to manhunt. But that was what the men were here for, and I was going along to photograph them and write their story. 723 Work horses of war, United States Army helicopters fly above rice fields near the South China Sea. They epitomize the "wholly different kind of force" - in the words of President John F. Kennedy-needed to meet the challenge of "war by guerrillas, subversives, insur gents, assassins; war by ambush instead of by combat." KODACHROME© N.GS. The author, knee-deep in muck, risks her life on a patrol with the army of the Sea Swal lows (pages 736-7). Dickey Cha pelle won the wings above her jacket pockets for parachute jumps with United States and Vietnamese forces. She began her career as a war correspond ent on Iwo Jima during World War II. The Overseas Press Club recently gave her its high est honor, the George Polk Me morial Award, for her reports on fighting in South Viet Nam.