The Sikorsky H-19 in Vietnamó1957

During the first week of May 1954 the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu.  A truce was signed in Geneva that divided Vietnam in half and recognized Laos and Cambodia as independent.


The United States did not sign the treaty but did agree to respect it.  It was soon apparent that the U.S. was providing aid to the anti-Communist Republic of Vietnam in the South led by Premier Ngo Dinh Diem.  It also became apparent that Diem was preoccupied with trying to reign over a chaos of racketeers, mobsters, and religious sects---all fighting each other over territorial control.


With the departure of the French, the instability of the sitting Diem government, and the increasing American involvement came the realization that the U. S. military had very little “detailed” knowledge of the territory such as maps.


Coincidentally a U.S. military unit was busily engaged in mapping and correcting the world’s geography.  Therefore, the USAF gave the Air Photographic and Charting Service (APCS) a gigantic task to map the world.


In 1956 a visual reconnaissance of the preferred sites was completed along with determining the logistics required to install and support the teams that would be operating the equipment.


Because of the sensitive political turmoil in the area, and because the U.S. did not want to give the impression of having any military involvement the activities of the 1370th Photo Mapping Group was given the classification of SECRET.


Clark AB became the base of operations and from Clark to the coast of Vietnam U.S. Navy LST ships manned by Japanese civilian contract crews were used to provide platforms for launching the H-19 helicopters


Team members went ashore at Qui Nhon the morning of February 23, 1957 to set up the first site.  The last Air Force personnel departed Vietnam at 1700 hours, 16 May 1957.


The accurate printed maps that were created were provided for use by the combat personnel who eventually followed the photo mapping crews.


The story was provided by Sid Nanson and was published in the Journal, American Aviation Historical Society/Spring 1996


To read the complete story click here


Below is a later picture of  Charles Givens who is the H-19 pilot mentioned in the story


Photo courtesy of Don Larsen via Bill Lyster

Fellow Rotorhead Ron Smitham was the crew chief on this H-21