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"I looked over and he had his hat on backwards and his head stuck out the window, and he says, 'I'm helping you watch.'" (Video Interview, 28:10)

   John Howard LaVoy
Collection image
John LaVoy [2005]
War: World War, 1939-1945; Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Marine Corps; Marine Corps; Marine Corps
Unit: HMM-364 (Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron)
Service Location: Pacific Theater; United States; Hawaii
Rank: Colonel
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Though he initially enlisted to serve in World War II, LaVoy came to love flying so much he made a career in the Marines. Over 28 years, LaVoy served during three wars (he flew helicopters in Korea and Vietnam), watching as the Marines came more and more to rely on helicopters. In his early flights during the Korean War, LaVoy found himself improvising to compensate for the lack of sophisticated equipment. Once, during a flight to Seoul, his passenger, a general, couldn't resist leaning out of the aircraft to act as LaVoy's navigator.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (63 min.)
 Other Materials
»View List (2 items)
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»Helicopters: The Multi-Mission Aircraft
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Coming home after a year's service in the Pacific Theater; getting married to his sweetheart correspondent; home for 9 months; rushed back to Philippines to prepare for invasion of Japan. (03:26) Transferring from Reserves to active duty; loving flying so much he decided to stay; stationed in Tsingtao, China after WWII; making an emergency landing in Shanghai; hurting his back leaving the plane; befriending an Anglo-American couple imprisoned during the war who had lost all their possessions; helping them get back on their feet; in gratitude, she gave him precious objects she collected as payback for favors; taking home a trunk full of goodies to his wife. (04:06) Late 1940s, Marines getting into helicopters; part of early training class; sent overseas during Korean War as helicopter pilot; rescuing wounded people off the front lines and flying them to hospital ships; getting R & R every six weeks to go to Japan; flying was difficult; no navigation aids; terrible weather; flying under power lines but over the trucks; flying Bell helicopters as seen in MASH; flying sideways when the windshield frosted up; a general helping him to see his way through; how the Korean War was like World War I; comparing his experience to what was shown on MASH. (05:42)
Little time for recreation, working seven days a week; did some hunting; Korean boys went along to fetch for them; fired on one day by a North Korean gun boat during a hunt one day; seeing Bob Hope twice, once at Christmas. (02:31) After going back to the States, recalled for duty after the time truce was signed; fear was that the Chinese would reinforce and make another push; as time went by, tensions easing; Executive Officer of transport squadron; in Japan heading a composite squadron; saw a lot of Japan. (01:59) Preparing squadron to go to Vietnam at end of 1963, when U.S. was still training and advising; his was only squadron there as a complete unit; stationed in I Corps; dangerous flying; lost 8 airplanes, but no men; sent to Headquarters Marine Corps back in the States. (03:46)
Ten years after he left Vietnam, his oldest son was there doing the same thing in the same places; very frustrating thing; military's hands tied by the politics of the situation; should have not committed any troops there. (01:15) Making friends in the service he wouldn't have made anywhere else; Marine Corps is a close organization; his son served and made colonel, and he has two grandsons who have served in the Marines; family has 60 years total in the Marines. (00:45) 
 Other Materials (2 items)
Biographical information Map of the occupation of the Marshall Islands, January 29-April 23, 1944 

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  October 26, 2011
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