ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
Craig Honaman's Vietnam War Photo
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Captain, Medical Services Corps, U.S. Army
Craig Honaman was a Medical Service Corps helicopter pilot charged with bringing casualties out of the field. They were commonly known as Dustoff Pilots.
Dustoff was a call sign that was established around 1964, very early in the conflict, and it turned out that that call sign became so synonymous with combat casualty pick-ups that the call sign was never changed. Everyone on the ground, and particularly potential casualties knew that if they got wounded they said ‘Call Dustoff' and we would come.
Dustoff missions were particularly dangerous because the helicopter has to land, often for 90 seconds or longer. Whereas other helicopter units would hover briefly while men jumped off, the medevac helicopters had to be stationary on the ground for the loading of the wounded. And of course, they were frequently in harm’s way as the casualty pickups were often in the middle of a firefight.
The most dangerous missions were what they called hoist missions.
You had to hover at the tops of trees and drop a cable with a device to put the patient on and hoist him up. The danger part there is that you are a sitting target and you had to stay absolutely still because the cable on that hoist could get tangled up in trees and that could be very dangerous.
Medevac pilots had the highest casualty rates of all helicopter pilots in Vietnam, with about 33 percent being killed or wounded. But Honaman doesn’t regret it at all.
It’s just an outstanding feeling when you know you’re making a difference in somebody’s life, and to have them be better off because of what you’re able to do.