Vietnam War Helicopter Door Gunners: "Shotgun Rider" circa 1967 US Army UH-1 Huey 29min
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Published on Aug 17, 2012
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"This film is about the helicopter door gunner, nicknamed 'Shotgun Rider.' He was a new addition to the helicopter crew, and the film shows him as he performed some of his various duties in Vietnam, after a rigorous training program."
also see: Shotgun Rider Training
Public domain film from the National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and 1-pass exposure & color correction applied (cannot be ideal in all scenes).
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
A door gunner is a crewman tasked with firing and maintaining manually directed armament aboard a helicopter. The actual role will vary depending on the task given on a particular mission...
The role of "Door Gunner" originated during the Vietnam War, when helicopters were first used in combat in large numbers. The original personnel who served as early Door Gunners aboard CH-21, UH-34, and UH-1 helicopters in Vietnam, were enlisted men, with a designated and specially trained 'Crew Chief' serving as both the aircraft's maintenance manager and a Door Gunner. And normally, a second enlisted Soldier served as a second Door Gunner (such as on a UH-1, and UH-34, which both used two gunners (one on each side of the aircraft)). Later, as the War progressed, the Door Gunner position sometimes used a non-aviation rated/trained Soldier or Marine, that volunteered for Door Gunner duties.
For the majority of the Vietnam War, the principal weapon of the Door Gunner in Vietnam was a Medium Machine Gun (MG), initially, a M-1919A4 .30 Caliber MG, and soon thereafter, the M-60 7.62mm MG became the standard helicopter door armament system. However, when a helicopter was not armed or outfitted with a dedicated MG for door armament, the Door Gunner was forced to use a rifle, or a carbine, as a defensive weapon. (Thus, some Door Gunners in Vietnam are sometimes seen using an M1 Carbine, an M14 rifle, or an M16 rifle, as their only weapon.) (In the very first U.S. Army helicopter units (flying CH-21 helicopters) that began flying combat missions in Vietnam in 1962, some helicopters were not armed with a door MG, and the Door Gunners thus carried an M1 Carbine, or an M14 rifle, as the sole door weapon.)
Initially, the Door Gunner's MG weapons were mounted on swiveling mounts (on a pintle mount) in order to retain and steady the door armament weapon, which was usually an M60 machine gun. As the War progressed, using bungee cords to suspend/retain the MG weapons became a common practice for Door Gunners, as the newfound maneuverability of these 'bungeed' MG weapons allowed for increased angles to shoot from. Further, some Door Gunners simply did not use any retention device with their MG weapons (such as a pintle mount, or a bungee cord), and instead, they simply hand-held the weapon for a maximum level of maneuverability of fire. This practice was commonly termed as using a "Free 60", referring to the directional freedom of an unrestrained M-60 MG.
Door Gunners were normally restrained for safety within the aircraft, by either using a standard seat lap belt, or if the Gunner wanted freedom of movement within the aircraft while still being retained, he used a "Monkey Harness", which was a GI safety harness worn on the torso, and anchored to the aircraft floor, or cabin wall. The "Monkey Harness" allowed a Door Gunner great movement, while preventing them from from falling out of the helicopter completely, i.e. if they leaned outward on the helicopter skids, to get a better firing angle.
The Door Gunner position was not a particularly popular one, due to the inherent vulnerability of manning a machine gun in the open door of a helicopter. According to popular legend, the door gunner on a Vietnam era Huey gun ship had a life-span of 5 minutes... Today, helicopters like the UH-60 have two machine guns firing out of two windows located behind the pilots. The CH-46, CH-47 and CH-53 have an additional gun that is fired from the rear ramp. The UH-1 (still in use by the U.S. Marine Corps) is still manned as it was in the Vietnam War, actually firing from an open cabin door...
The Bell UH-1 Iroquois is a military helicopter powered by a single, turboshaft engine, with a two-bladed main rotor and tail rotor. The helicopter... first flew on 20 October 1956. Ordered into production in March 1960... more than 16,000 have been produced worldwide.
The first combat operation of the UH-1 was in the service of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. The original designation of HU-1 led to the helicopter's nickname of Huey...
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