Once the idea was born to create a sculpture to honor Vietnam veterans, artist Steve Maloney needed a canvas.
He chose the Huey helicopter, an iconic symbol of the war, that every soldier of the Vietnam era would know, and would likely have come into contact with during his service.
The decision to use the iconic Huey helicopter gave Steve the biggest canvas of his life.
Finding a suitable huey was the first challenge.
He decided to partner with Light Horse Legacy, an Arizona non-profit organization, which located a discarded Huey at a scrapyard in Arizona.
When discovered, the boneyard Huey was a wreck inside and out, with no windows or doors and a detached tail boom. It took the veterans and Sea Cadets of Light Horse Legacy over half a year to restore the helicopter’s fuselage.
Upon delivery of the restored and painted huey#174, artist Steve Maloney began its transformation into a work of art. This process took enormous effort.
He began by combining images and patterns which his studio assistant Lauren Bechelli masterfully illustrated for printing onto a vinyl wrap that would be adhered to the helicopter fuselage and tail boom.
Next, he needed a studio large enough to fit the Huey. The Palm Springs Air Museum stepped in with the loan of an outdoor space, where a team of volunteers erected a pair of military tents, which served as a makeshift studio. From here, Steve used his creative skills to turn the huey into an artistic memorial by applying his designs.
For the helicopter’s main fuselage, he created a camouflage pattern, overlayed with Vietnam helicopter squadron names and unit nicknames that servicemembers would recognize instantly. To Steve, the helicopter’s long tail boom was reminiscent of a soldier’s arm ready for a tattoo. He decided to cover it with images of things from home that soldiers long for, like their 60’s muscle car, their girlfriend and Mom’s apple pie, rendered in 1960s pop-art style.
The journey from boneyard into a work of art.
For the interior, Maloney used suspension of various helicopter parts and instruments that were part of the original aircraft. He intended these to represent the mental and physical trauma experienced by soldiers during the war.
Steve: “ To me the interior cabin is a sacred area, like a heartbeat of the helicopter. Symbolizing an example for heroic missions of all medevacs, the interior cabin, where wounded were transported to safely and the dead were brought home.”
Follow along as the artist breaks down his thought process for each section of the aircraft.
At the heart of the cabin lies a custom-made Take Me Home Huey® time capsule containing personal photographs, letters home and other items donated by veterans and their families during the project’s national tour from 2015-17.
The capsule has been filled with memories and tributes like photographs, artifacts and letters from Vietnam Veterans and their family members.
The time capsule will be opened at the Palm Springs Air Museum, on April 30, 2025, on the 50th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the historical date that marked the end of the Vietnam War.
“My warmest thanks to everyone who contributed to the Take Me Home Huey Time Capsule.”
– Steve Maloney
Designated HU-1 until 1962, and immediately nicknamed ‘Huey,’ the Bell UH-1 Iroquois was the first turboshaft-powered helicopter to enter large-scale production. About 7,000 hueys served in the Vietnam War, as troop transporters (slicks), for close air support (gunships) and for medical evacuation of the wounded (medevacs/ dustoffs).
The Huey helicopter that became the Take Me Home Huey® sculpture had the serial number 67-17174. We call it Huey #174.
Hueys saved many lives during the Vietnam war.
Using the aircraft’s serial number, Dave Barron (Light Horse Legacy) spent months researching through records tracing the history of the aircraft and ultimately finding the surviving crew members. He learned that in late 1968, Huey #174 was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), in South Vietnam, where it served as a slick, before it was transferred in February 1969, to the 1st Cav’s 15th Medical Battalion.
15th Medical Battalion medevac crews consisted of a pilot, aircraft commander, medic, crew chief and a door gunner. Unlike most in the Army, 1st Cavalry medevacs carried two machine guns, as they were expected to provide air support to ground troops when needed.
In Vietnam, medevacs were among the most dangerous missions, often flying into the heart of the battle. While attempting a medevac on Valentine’s Day, 1969, Huey #174 was shot down, killing two of the crew: Gary L. Dubach, the crew chief, and the medic Stephen Schumacher.
During its 30 years of service, Huey #174 served U.S. Army units in the United States, Thailand, Vietnam, and South Korea.
View the complete history of Huey #174 in the timeline.
Click on the image to see the timeline
From 2015 to 2017, Take Me Home Huey® traveled to 29 prominent venues in 13 states, including major art and history museums, as well as places of honor for veterans. Hundreds of thousands from all over the world viewed this colorful ambassador and took in its powerful message of healing.
Map of Take Me Home Huey® Exhibitions
Veterans, especially those from Vietnam, were immediately drawn to the familiar shape of a Huey and were encouraged to touch the aircraft. A performance of the song by composer Jeanie Cunningham and a screening of the Take Me Home Huey film often accompanied the exhibit.
Working together, the projects various elements excite all the senses: sight, touch, sound and even smell.
Local veterans’ organizations were on hand at many venues to provide information about local services, including help for those with PTSD.
Our traveling exhibition would not have been possible without the gracious support of the cities, venues, and especially local veterans’ organizations.
Huey #174 has now found a permanent home at the Palm Springs Air Museum, where it is on exhibit.
We anticipate celebrating Take Me Home Huey events in the future at the museum and taking the film and book to events around the country.
When he began the Take Me Home Huey sculpture, Steve Maloney set out to thanks and honor veterans. He had never created a commemorative artwork before. But once the sculpture left his studio, it took on a whole new life. It was made much more meaningful because of the veterans’ reactions to it. No artist could ask for a better reception.