The Library of Congress Veterans History Project Home 
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project
Home » Willie H. Boyd

"Flying helicopters-no matter what they say, I was going to learn to do that, because everybody didn't expect me to do it." (Video Interview, Part 2, 39:03)

   Willie H. Boyd
Collection image
Willie Boyd, 2003
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: United States Medical Department, 45th Medical Company (AA/Air Ambulance)
Service Location: Vietnam; Korea; Europe; United States
Rank: Colonel
View Full Description

In Vietnam, there were racial tensions on top of the usual stress of war, but helicopter pilot Willie Boyd knew that when he and his team were on a mission, everyone was color blind. Boyd flew his air ambulance into dangerous situations, knowing that if he could get an injured man back to the field hospital for treatment within an hour, that soldier had a good chance of survival.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (13 clips)
» Part 1 |  Part 2 
Download: video(1) | 
Download: video(2) (108 min.)
More like this
»AAHM: Next Generation
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (13 items)
The rarity of being an African American pilot; race doesn't matter in the field, but it does in social situations away from the action. (01:29) Quick response to calls for a medical pickup; the Golden Hour of being able to pick up a wounded soldier and saving him; adrenalin overcoming weariness; why war is fought by the young. (03:06) No one in his crew got hurt during either of his tours of Vietnam; on 24-hour stand-by shifts; slept in beds with clean sheets. (01:60)
Making decisions, based on nature of injuries, which facility to evacuate the soldier to; sense of déjà vu on his second tour. (01:20) Wearing sunglasses as a way of blocking out danger. (01:32) Getting a reputation for being lucky after surviving so many runs in rickety choppers. (02:10)
Not talking about his experiences in Vietnam for several years afterwards; taking pride in his accomplishments; dealing with morality of killing in wartime. (02:49) Fighting the so-called white man's war. (02:16) Jane Fonda. (01:13)
The "horse" mission: chopper hovers to pick up wounded and is a better target for the enemy. (01:33) Describing the three times he got shot down. (03:24) Growing up in segregated South in the Civil Rights era. (04:11)
Fighting alongside the ARVN in Vietnam. (01:07)  

Home » Willie H. Boyd
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us