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Online Library of Selected Images -- Picture Data

Photo #: NH 66526 (Extended caption)

Sikorski HO3S-1 Helicopter

On board USS Los Angeles (CA-135) after it crashed while landing on the ship with Rear Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, Commander Cruiser Division Five, and Lieutenant General James A. Van Fleet, Commanding General, Eighth Army, aboard, circa June-July 1951. No one was injured in the accident.
Admiral Burke's account of this accident is provided below.

Donation of Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, USN(Retired), 1969.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 98KB; 740 x 615 pixels


The following is an account of this accident contained in a letter Admiral Arleigh A. Burke sent to Rear Admiral Ernest M. Eller, the Director of Naval History, on 26 February 1969:

Dear Judge: (RAdm. Eller's old Naval Academy nickname was "Judge")

You asked for a description of the helicopter crash on the stern of the USS LOS ANGELES in 1951 to put on the back of your print.

At that time I was Commander Cruiser Division Five which consisted of the LOS ANGELES and a couple of destroyers. We were operating off the East coast of Korea primarily as artillery support for the First ROK Corps who were fighting their way north toward Wonsan. The Corps was commanded by General Paik Sun Yup. I think he was a Major General at the time. We had other duties too, such as keeping North Korean shipping clear of the area and bombarding targets of opportunity.

On this particular morning General Van Fleet was visiting the First Corps Headquarters, and I had gone over in my helicopter to attend the First Corps' briefing. I was the last briefer and briefed as the artillery commander of the First ROK Corps. They didn't have any other artillery but us.

When the briefing was over General Van Fleet and I were going to fly the line of combat to determine the enemy positions and the usual things that one looks for on such a mission. I knew of General Van Fleet's great liking for ice cream, and of course there wasn't any on the beach, so I asked him if he would first like to come aboard LOS ANGELES for a good dish of ice cream.

He would.

The helicopter pilot was the AP. When he started to land in LOS ANGELES he must have become excited by having so much rank in the helicopter and approached the side of the ship too low. Of course the variation in air pressure when the helicopter got over the edge of the ship twisted the helicopter backwards and over on its side, and she crashed real good. The helicopter was dangling on the life net trying to make up its mind whether it wanted to fall overboard or not. Of course there was gasoline all over everything. The crew in the ship pulled it aboard. This took about one minute, I guess. General Van Fleet was on the right side of the helicopter and I was on the left side on the bottom. General Van Fleet asked immediately after we crashed, "What do we do now?" I told him to kick the damned window out on his side and not step on my groin anymore. He crawled out first, or course, and then I followed him.

When we got on deck I didn't know what to say or how to apologize, so I asked him what he wanted on his ice cream. He said "pineapple," and then thoughtfully added that the AP must be shook up a bit and wouldn't it be a good idea for him to have some ice cream too, which he did.

Since that was the only helicopter we had, the next question was how to get General Van Fleet back on the beach. We sent a radio to the First ROK Corps headquarters and asked that he be met with a jeep on a certain part of the beach.

I went in with him in the motor whale boat. On the way in I asked the coxswain how much experience he had had landing through a surf. He said he had been ordered as coxswain of the boat about a week before and had never been through a surf. I then asked the boat officer, an Ensign, if he had had any experience in landing through surf. He said no, he was assigned as boat officer because he was junior officer of the deck. The bow hook and the engineer had equal experience.

I then told General Van Fleet that he was going to be the first General of the Army in a long time to be landed through a surf with a Rear Admiral as coxswain. I then took my position as coxswain. The surf was pretty high, but we made it all right without incident. After I had landed General Van Fleet I waited and waited and waited until he got out of sight in his jeep before I tried to bring that boat out through the surf again, because I wasn't so sure I could do it. However, it worked out all right.

I have just returned from Europe and am about to take off for the Far East. I'll be back near the end of April.

With warmest regards,

Sincerely yours,
//S// Arleigh

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10 November 1999