On this day in 1944, for the first time in the history, a helicopter was involved in a military operation. This may indeed seem quite late, since the aircraft were used by the military back in 1911 (that year the Italians used the first military aircraft in Libya).
The first helicopter action consisted of rescuing the crew of a crashed plane on the Asian front. Namely, four Allied soldiers were stuck after their plane crashed in enemy (Japanese) territory. Lieutenant Carter Harman, from the American 1st Air Commando Group, flew to retrieve them with a Sikorsky R-4 helicopter.
Sikorsky R-4 helicopters were the first mass-produced helicopters in world history and the first that entered into U.S. Army service. They had only two seats, and could weigh up to 1,170 kg during take-off, which roughly corresponds to an average modern car. For a helicopter, it is a rather small mass, and even more interesting is that the engine had only 200 horsepower (today’s Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion has over 13,000 hp). However, Sikorsky R-4 could already fly at speeds of up to 120 km/h, and its maximum altitude was as much as 2,400 meters.
Of course, it was quite difficult for Lieutenant Harman to transport four people, given that the helicopter had only two seats, one of which was for the pilot. Still, he managed it in just two runs (two at a time).