UNITED STATES ARMY AIR FORCE
U.A. Army Air Corps
10th Air Jungle Rescue Detachment
10th Air Force
Carter Harmon (standing, on the left) who performed the first helicopter evacuation in a combat zone on April 25, 1944, in the highlands of Northern Burma, poses with ground crew in front of the R-4 helicopter.
FIRST AAF HELICOPTER RESCUE
The first recorded use of a helicopter as rescue aircraft by the U.S. Military took place in the China-Burma-India Theater of World War II. A Sikorsky-built R-4 helicopter was used in April 1944 in a dramatic rescue of a downed pilot and three wounded soldiers in the jungles of Burma. The fledgling aircraft was underpowered, which was only made worse by the heat and humidity of the jungle.
Lt. Carter Harmon made the first AAF helicopter rescue, in Burma behind Japanese lines on April 25-26, 1944. First Air Commando sergeant pilot Ed “Murphy” Hladovcak had crash landed his L-1 light plane with three wounded British solders on board. Taxing his YR-4 43-28223 helicopter to its performance limits, Harmon made four flights to the site, making the final hasty liftoff just as shouting soldiers burst from the jungle. He learned later the soldiers were not Japanese, but an Allied land rescue party.
The R-4 was first used in combat in May 1944, after which, Col. Philip G. Cochran, Commanding Officer of the 1st Air Commando Group wrote to a friend, "Today the 'egg-beater' went into action and the damn thing acted like it had good sense."
FIRST OFFICIAL AAF RESCUE UNIT
Sikorsky R-6A's attached to the 14th Air Force provided essential search and rescue services for aircraft crossing "The Hump" into China during the final months of World War II.
Maintenance personnel with an H-5A on Cho-Do Island, located just off the North Korean coast, 50 miles north of the 38th Parallel, in 1952. Rescue aircraft and a ground control intercept radar facility occupied the island despite the nearness to the enemy mainland. (U.S. Air Force photo)
3rd ARS Prepares Casualty for Evacuation
Preparing a casualty for evacuation to a hospital in a 3rd ARS H-5. During the Korean War, men of this unit (later designated a group) earned more than 1,000 personal citations and commendations. (U.S. Air Force photo)
During the Korean War, the increased use of helicopters on rescue missions became a dominant factor in saving lives. By the war’s end, ARS crews were credited with the rescue of 9,898 United Nation’s personnel; 996 were combat saves.