Monday, March 14, 2022

The Georgia National Guard’s First Helicopter

By Major William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


Sixty-seven years of Georgia Army National Guard rotary wing aviation are represented in this collage.

The Georgia Army National Guard has one of the largest non-attack rotary aircraft inventories in the entire National Guard. The Marietta-based 78th Aviation Troop Command flies helicopters from support facilities in Marietta, Winder and Hunter Army Airfield and has supported combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as peace keeping missions in Kosovo. Georgia National Guard helicopters have also provided critical support to emergency response operations ranging from hurricanes to wildfires. But how long has the Georgia Guard flown helicopters?

The first helicopter assigned to the Georgia National Guard was delivered to Fort Bragg for assembly in March 1953 and was delivered to the state shortly thereafter. The helicopter was a single-engine H-13 and was assigned to the Division Artillery of the 48th Infantry Division. Lieutenant James H. Strickland, aviation officer of the 48th Infantry Division, put the new aircraft through its acceptance tests. It was one of 88 helicopters delivered to the Guard in 1953 with H-13 helicopters assigned to the First, Second and Third Army areas.[1]

FORT MCCLELLAN, ALA 1954 – Georgia National Guard Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Division’s 121st Infantry Regiment get a close look at the
first helicopter in the Georgia National Guard Inventory during annual training at Fort McClellan, Ala. in the summer of 1954. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The H-13 joined the fixed-wing complement of aircraft assigned to the 48th Division which included L-20 Beavers and L-19 Bird Dog observation aircraft.

The Army Aviation Section of the 48th Infantry Division based at Cochran Field in Macon, Ga. in November 1950. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Strickland debuted the H-13 at the 1954 annual training of the 48th Division at Fort McClellan, Ala. Taking a photographer aloft, Strickland collected aerial imagery of the training area. The following year, the H-13 flew missions as part of Operation Minuteman, a nationwide rapid alert exercise that placed more than 318,000 National Guardsmen on mobilization alert April 21, 1955.[2]

FORT MCCLELLAN, ALA – An H-13 helicopter of the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Infantry Division Artillery sweeps in low over field lodging
during annual training. Georgia National Guard Archives

Strickland and the H-13 were called to respond to state emergencies beginning with the search for a missing hunter in Effingham County in 1956.[3] In March, Maj. Gen. Georgia Hearn became the first Adjutant General of Georgia to visit units by helicopter as he travelled about the state as part of Muster Day recruiting efforts.

The H-13 became a staple of Georgia National Guard aviation in the 1950s as other units, such as the 48th Reconnaissance Squadron, fielded the aircraft. By the end of the decade, the Georgia Army National Guard had four H-13 helicopters assigned. First Lieutenant Robert Sprayberry, future state aviation officer, completed rotary-wing training December 21, 1957 and was assigned to the state headquarters detachment. Sprayberry flew senior leaders of the Georgia National Guard and provided aerial assistance to the governor’s Operation Deathless, a Labor Day weekend safety mission in 1958.[4] In November 1962, Major Sprayberry flew Governor Ernest Vandiver to Marietta, Calhoun, Lavonia and Hartwell for armory dedication ceremonies.[5]

ATLANTA, September 1958 – Georgia Army National Guard Col. W. R. Robinette, Lt. Col Emmett. Plunkett and Capt. Robert Sprayberry plan
aerial surveillance of highways near Atlanta during Operation Deathless, an information campaign created by Governor Marvin Griffin to reduce
traffic fatalities over the Labor Day Weekend. – Georgia National Guard Archives.

The H-13 remained in service through 1965 and was phased out in favor of the H-23. By 1967, all H-13 in service with the 48th Armor Division had been replaced.


FORT STEWART, GA, July 1967 – H-23 helicopters assigned to the 48th Armor Division participate in Governor’s Day activities at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

[1] “First Helicopter for Georgia NG Delivered for Assembly at Bragg.” The Georgia Guardsman, March 1954, 1.

[2] “Operation Minuteman.” The Georgia Guardsman, March, April, May 1955, 8-10.

[3] “Springfield Battery Hunts Lost Hunter. The Georgia Guardsman, January February 1956, 15.

[4] “Operation Deathless Holds Ga. Fatalities to 8 as Guard Patrols Hwys. Labor Day.” The Georgia Guardsman. September October 1958, 8=9.

[5] “Four New Armories Dedicated in Marietta, Calhoun, Lavonia and Hartwell.” The Georgia Guardsman, September December 1962.

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