What kind of Army helicopter was this?

This is a factual question about the Korean War and the TV show, MAS*H. What kind of helicopters are used in the TV show? And, are they authentic or an anacronism for the 1950’s?

Just wondering…

  • Jinx

It’s a Bell H-13 (47D). They were definately used in the Korean war, but I don’t know how extensively.

According to one site I looked at, there were 93 in service at the start of the Korean War (US Army, USN & USMC), and around 785 in service by the end of the war.

The Bell H-13 was used extensively in Korea along with the Sikorsky HO2S, but they were largely superceded in 1952 by the Sikorsky HO4S due to it’s larger carrying capacity, higher speed, and longer range. MAS*H tended to use the H-13 throughout the series, probably due to it being cheaper to rent (it is a rather simple 'copter and comparatively easy to keep in flight-worthy condition).

FWIW, the Bell 47 (NC-1C) first flew on December 8, 1945. It became the first helicopter certified for civilian use on May 8, 1946 under Helicopter Type Certificate H-1.

More Bell H-13 trivia: Robert Altman, the director of the original MAS*H movie, also directed a TV show from 1957-59 called Whirlybirds which featured the H-13 prominently. Coincidence, or does Altman have a thing for vintage choppers?

It may be gone now, but the Museum of Modern Art in New York used to have one on display - yes, as a work of art.

Originally there were mostly “E” models in Korea and in 62-63, there were still some although the Hiller H-23’s were being used a lot also. ( As far as small choppers weere concerned)

Bell H-13 E = single fuel tank laterally mounted just behind the bubble. (looked like a big pillow)

Bell H-13 G = dual fuel tanks mounted longitudinally on either side. ( looked like a couple Easter eggs)

Not sure when the “G” came out or if there any used at the MASH level until after the hostilities were over.

Minor point in the frame of the TV show.

Wish more shows had better aviation tech people on them.

I get so pissed at the impossible and stupid concerning aviation.