By Phil ReidingerSeptember 25, 2013
The most recent addition to the Maj. Gen. Spurgeon Neel pergola at the Army Medical Department museum is a H19 helicopter affectionately named "Matilda". John D. and Michael R. McWilliam restored and donated the helicopter in honor of their father Col. Robert McWilliam a solo pilot and 30 year veteran aviator.
The dedication ceremony is October 15 at 9:30 a.m. in the Neel Pergola at Ft Sam Houston.
McWilliam began his career as a solo pilot in 1955 at Landstuhl Germany flying the H-13. He transitioned to the H-19 which he also flew at Fort Sam Houston. McWilliam transition to the UH-1 "Huey" which he flew during two tours in Vietnam. The first tour, 1962-1963, was with the original DUSTOFF unit the 57th Medical Detachment in Nha Trang. During his second tour he
served as commanding officer of the 54th Medical detachment in Chu Lai, 1967-1968.
"Matilda" arrived in pieces from Keller, Texas and was assembled on September 21 at the museum. Developed by Sikorsky as the model S-55, the versatile aircraft was know by Army and Air Force aviators as the H-19. To the Navy and the Coast Guard, it was the HO4S and to the Marine Corps it was known as the HRS. A true utility helicopter, it was an early workhorse used
for troop transport, medical evacuation, Air Sea rescue, and cargo within its lift capability. If the cargo was too bulky to fit inside the cargo compartment, it could be moved externally by the using the cargo hook located externally under the fuselage and in line with the main rotor shaft.
According to an article by Col. (ret) Robert Driscoll, Medical Command historian, titled "U.S. Army Medical Helicopters in the Korean War", the H-19 was routinely used to transport cargo and also contributed to medical evacuation during the last 2 months of the conflict. Originally the
helicopter was used to transport patients between hospitals in rear areas. Much larger than the H-13 helicopter the H-19 could carry six litter patients internally versus the two external litters on the H-13. Driscoll notes that the helicopter employed by the 6th and 13 Transportation Companies was the primary transport of former prisoners of war during Operation Little Switch and Operation Big Switch transporting a total of 5,674 former prisoners during 1, 173 sorties.