By: Doug Sterner
March 30, 2018
A month before the father was to return home, the son’s helicopter came under fire, and Novosel Jr. made an emergency landing. Novosel Sr., with wounded aboard his helicopter, dropped down to pick up his son and the grounded dustoff crew. One week later, Novosel Sr. and his helicopter were grounded. He recognized the pilot coming to the rescue him—it was his son. “I’ll never hear the last of this,” Novosel recalled saying.
“Dustoff.” In 1963 that was the call sign for helicopter pilots who pioneered emergency medical evacuations during the Vietnam War. About 3,000 pilots and crewmen flew unarmed air ambulances, often into heavy fire, to medevac more than 100,000 severely wounded men, and 33 percent became casualties themselves.
Michael “Mike” J. Novosel, a native of Etna, Pennsylvania, took a circuitous route to the cockpit of a UH-1H Huey medevac copter. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps (a predecessor to the U.S. Air Force) in February 1941 to become a pilot but was a quarter-inch shy of the 5-foot, 4-inch requirement for the aviation cadet program and found himself in a pay clerk’s job.
In his 1999 Dustoff: The Memoir of an Army Aviator, Novosel recounted his effort to beat the height requirement. He had read that people are tallest in the morning before they stand and the body compresses, so on the day of the measurement Novosel’s buddies transported him to the medical facility on a makeshift stretcher. He still came up short, but a compassionate medical officer “stretched” his height on paper.
After earning his wings in December 1942, Novosel became a B-24 pilot training aerial gunners in World War II. He placed a pillow behind him in the pilot seat so his feet could reach the rudder pedals. He later flew B-29s on four combat missions in the Pacific. During the Japanese surrender ceremony on Sept. 2, 1945, he was one of 500 pilots to fly in formation over Tokyo Bay.
read more here