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Sikorsky HRS-1: The First Combat Troop Transport Helicopter
Of the three world-changing inventions that emerged from World War II, only two were credited with inaugurating new eras: the jet engine and the atomic bomb. But it can be argued that the third, the helicopter, had as big an impact on how wars would be fought as the other two. For the Army and Marine Corps, the period between the Korean War and today could be thought of as the Helicopter Age, and the machine that ushered it in was the Sikorsky HRS-1.
On September 2, 1951, Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (HMR) 161 arrived in Korea with 15 HRS-1 helicopters. The first practical utility helicopter, the HRS-1 was built to carry eight troops or 1,500 pounds of equipment and cruised at 100 mph. “That, of course is under perfect sea-level conditions,” says Roger Connor, curator of rotary wing aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum. “On a good day in Korea [when lift was not degraded by low air density]‚ HMR-161 was lifting four, maybe five, guys at a time. In the summer it was three.”
In October, the 1st Marine Division faced the problem of getting a reconnaissance company to the top of a roadless mountain. Estimating a 15-hour trudge for a rifle company to make it to the mountaintop, officers called in the helicopters. In four hours, HMR-161 transported 224 fully equipped Marines and 17,772 pounds of cargo to the post, performing the first helicopter troop transport in combat.
I watched them depart on the train to San Diego to ship out from Hangar one at than LTA 1951. I was Line Chief in VMO-2 that just formed from HMX-1 & the first unit at LTA.