The iconic helicopter of the Korean War was the Bell H-13, which was featured in the television series M*A*S*H, and that of the Vietnam War was the Bell UH-1 “Huey,” shown in the film Apocalypse Now carrying a Navy PBR. But for the past half-century the iconic helicopter of the Marine Corps has been the CH-46 Sea Knight, generally referred to as the “phrog.”
The aircraft—based on earlier designs by helicopter pioneer Frank Piasecki—was developed in the late 1950s by Boeing Vertol with the company designation Model 107 for evaluation by the U.S. Army as a medium-lift transport helicopter.1 That service ordered ten in 1958 as the YHC-1A. But only three were produced plus five modified, more powerful aircraft as the YHC-1B, later named Chinook and, in 1962, changed to CH-47A.
The Marine Corps decided to procure the YHC-1A in quantity, becoming the HRB-1 in the Navy’s designation scheme and being named Sea Knight; it was changed to CH-46A in 1962.2
1. This column is based in part on Norman Polmar and Floyd D. Kennedy Jr., Military Helicopters of the World: Military Rotary-Wing Aircraft Since 1917 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981). The author also appreciates the assistance of Col Rick Herrington, USMC (Ret.), and James Caiella in developing this column.
2. H = helicopter, R = transport, B = Boeing.
3. These engines were the same as in the HSS-2/SH-3 Sea King helicopters.
4. See LtCol William R. Fails, USMC, Marines and Helicopters 1962–1973 (Washington, DC: Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1978), 99–108.
5. CAPT Jack Caldwell, USN, “Naval Aircraft in the Next Decade,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 101, no. 4 (April 1975), 85.