This week I looked in depth at the emerging role of the helicopter during World War II. World War II is the time when the helicopter really started to become a big part of military strategy and its versatility was put on display. Before World War II the helicopter was in early stages of invention while throughout the war it became more advanced and starting to evolve into a more useful form of flight. The German Navy was one of the first nations to start applying the helicopter to military related assignments. They used it as an observation vehicle and an anti-submarine weapon carrier that could take off and land on a small boat. The United States was experimenting with the Kellet KD-1 auto gyro while Japan’s army was producing the same aircraft calling it the Kayaba Ka-1. The Germans then decided that they needed three types of helicopters for three different uses. The first was a coastal helicopter to transport between shore bases. The second was a compact helicopter design that could easily land on ships at sea. The third and final design was an even smaller helicopter that could be carried by submarines. After many trial and error designs and slow production because of lack of competent, educated workers, the Fl 282 Kolibri was designed with Plexiglas cockpits and multiple indicators inside such as an altimeter, fuel and oil pressure gauges, airspeed and rotor RPM, and an ignition switch. Due to the success of this design, one was captured by the United States and the U.S. Army conducted test flights using it and made an improved version influenced by Charles Kaman’s helicopter designs (http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/nazi-rotors-german-helicopter-development-1932-1945-flettner/ http://i2.wp.com/www.defensemedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/FL282-Captured.jpg ).
The United States used helicopters less during World War II than other countries involved. However, the Coast Guard was testing dropping bombs from a Sikorsky YH-4A to use against submarines. The United States also used the Sikorsky YH-4A to complete a medivac out of Burma towards the end of World War II. Starting after World War II the helicopter’s evolution took larger steps towards versatility and had many technological improvements that were displayed in the Korean War and played a huge role in the Vietnam War for the United States. As the versatility of the helicopter grew and its potential use in combat and medivacs was realized, more money was put towards designing them and it started becoming more advanced a lot faster. Next week I will be able to write more about the use of the helicopter by the United States in the Vietnam War because it was much more developed and extensively used.
Thanks for reading this week!