Flight Controls: The Social History of the Helicopter as a Symbol of Vietnam

  • Alasdair Spark
Part of the Insights book series


No sound or image is as evocative of Vietnam as the helicopter. The two are synonymous, with the ‘Huey’ as familiar and as required in representations of the war as the six-gun in the Western (plate 9). This prevalence reflects the reality of affairs in the war, but it has tended to obscure the precise importance of the helicopter in determining aspects of the Vietnam experience for Americans, and hence the meanings inherent in its symbolic association with the war. As the archetypal symbol of Vietnam (for instance, on book and magazine covers), the helicopter has only one real competitor, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Unlike the memorial, it has a far more ambiguous and even subversive significance than mere evocation, as the following examination of its wartime social history and pedigree as a ‘symbol in being’ reveals. An important measure of this status is its continuing role in general post-war popular culture as a symbol of the threatening tendencies of technology and state control exposed by the Vietnam War.


Rotor Blade Flight Control American Soldier American Order Helicopter Unit 
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Copyright information

© Editorial Board, Lumiere (Co-operative) Press Ltd 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alasdair Spark

There are no affiliations available

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