On the morning of Friday, June 30, a group of more than 30 EAA staff gathered in anticipation in front of the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh to witness the special delivery of a unique helicopter that will be on display through EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017.
After a few minutes, a quiet rumbling broke the silence and a police motorcycle escort rounded the corner. A small motorcade followed, with three more motorcycles, a military ambulance and gun truck from the Oshkosh Military Veterans Museum, and finally a large trailer hauling the Take Me Home Huey UH-1 helicopter.
The Take Me Home Huey is a mixed media sculpture built from the remnants of Huey No. 174, which saw combat with the U.S. Army 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, before being shot down on Valentine’s Day 1969 while attempting to land on a rescue mission.
After returning to the U.S. for repair No. 174 served in a number of roles, including flying in Korea during the 1980s and serving as a trainer in Alabama in the ’90s. After a crash in 1997, the Huey was sent to a scrapyard in Arizona, where it sat for a little over 10 years before being rescued by Light Horse Legacy, a nonprofit that restores military helicopters to raise awareness of and provide healing for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Light Horse Legacy partnered with artist Steve Maloney for the creation of Take Me Home Huey.
“The whole scheme is kind of designed to be what a soldier in Vietnam would think about when he wants to come home,” said Dave Barron, CEO of Light Horse Legacy. “Working from the back, the tail is his girlfriend, his car, apple pie. … Then all of the type-set that you see on the cabin are all the different units that flew Hueys in Vietnam. So guys come and it makes it really personal.”
The graffiti overlaying the helicopter lists some of the nicknames of the squadrons that flew with UH-1s. Bags piled on top of the helicopter are Maloney’s representation of the hurried desire soldiers would feel when they saw a Huey to “get the hell out of here.”
A look inside the Take Me Home Huey reveals a number of suspended parts from No. 174 that weren’t able to be fully salvaged.
“[Steve] went through them and he made the artwork inside his view of the chaos of war and the destruction of war,” Dave said.
Also inside is a time capsule, which has been collecting stories and mementos from the Take Me Home Huey’s travels and will be opened on April 30, 2025.
After spending Friday getting unloaded from the trailer, a special dedication was held at the EAA Aviation Museum’s Leeward Plaza on Saturday morning, attended by a number of Vietnam veterans.
Steve Ruby, a Vietnam Battle of Ripcord veteran who served in the 101st Airborne, D Company 506th Infantry, shared the poignant memory that seeing No. 174 brought back.
“I still remember the Huey that came in to get us,” Steve said. “Dustoff 992 with the 326th medical detachment out of Camp Evans. May 19, 1970. We all had been wounded. It was my responsibility to get everyone out. I would be the last one out. When I saw that Red Cross on the Huey I just thought, ‘Take me home.’”