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December 14, 2004

Vietnam Combat Huey Helicopter Flown by ULM Professor Now on Display at Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

The helicopter flown in war-time by Ernest Bruce, associate professor of aviation at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, has secured its place in American History. The Huey helicopter, 091, that Bruce flew more than 30 years ago in Vietnam is currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Bruce said, "Seeing the helicopter that I flew in Vietnam displayed in a place of honor gave me a sense of pride and somewhat of a closure for the war experience."

On Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, the exhibit "The Price of Freedom" was opened at the Smithsonian. "I was on hand along with about 15 of my Vietnam comrades," Bruce said. "We were interviewed by the media and spent hours answering question from the visitors that were viewing the helicopter," Bruce said.

Earlier this year Bruce flew the Huey one last time as it made its way to the nation's capital. It was decided that the pilot flying the first leg of the aircraft's journey to the Smithsonian should be a pilot that flew the 091 in Vietnam, so Bruce was contacted and offered the honor of again flying the helicopter.

The story of the 091 began a few years ago when producers of the movie documentary "In the Shadow of the Blade" wanted to make a movie about the famous Huey (UHI) helicopter that was used to take infantry into and out of battle. They found 091 in a Fort Worth aviation museum.

It was restored and put into top flying condition and was then used to make a tour during which Vietnam veterans were interviewed about their experiences during the war. The producer wanted the markings that the helicopter bore in Vietnam placed back on the helicopter. During repair, the history of the 091 was researched and it was learned that the helicopter had served in the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company called the Robin Hoods. A lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967, Bruce was assigned to fly the assault helicopter to take the infantry into battle. The helicopters were painted on the nose with artwork that identified the name of the company. Bruce's company had a hat with a feather painted on its helicopters because they lived in the woods as Robin Hood did.

The 091 was shot down in Vietnam but was repairable. It was sent back to the states, repaired and issued to a stateside unit. Eventually it was declared surplus by the Army and donated to the museum where it was later selected by the Smithsonian to become the highpoint of a final journey for an aircraft with tremendous meaning to millions of veterans, an aircraft with a distinctive sound, what some refer to as the "sound of freedom."

From the Smithsonian National Museum of American History:

The 18,200-square-foot "Price of Freedom" exhibition will survey the history of America's military from the colonial times to the present, exploring ways that wars have been defining episodes in American history. Through hundreds of artifacts and pictures, "The Price of Freedom" will tell the stories of how Americans have fought to establish the nation's independence, determine its borders, shape its values of freedom and opportunity and define its leading role in world affairs. The Huey helicopter will be the largest single artifact in the exhibition.

Among the 700 objects in "The Price of Freedom" will be Andrew Jackson's uniform coat and sword, Colin Powell's woodland camouflage uniform, the nameplate from the "Maine," a regimental flag of Civil War black troops, the surrender furniture from Appomattox Court House, a World War II jeep, and firearms and swords from all periods of American military history. "The Price of Freedom" is made possible through the generosity of Mr. Kenneth E. Behring.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History traces American heritage through exhibitions of social, cultural, scientific and technological history. Collections are displayed in exhibitions that interpret the American experience from Colonial times to the present. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit the museum's Web site at or call (202) 633-1000 or 357-1729 (TTY).

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