If there’s one combat billet that gets crapped all over by Hollywood, it’s the modern helicopter door gunner.
Armed with a muscular M60 7.62mm machine gun and perched high above the kill zone, the door gunner doles out and destruction as though it were a casual neighborhood drive-by. Which is why all those “Hey man, whoa, that’s enough!” scenes in war movies from Full Metal Jacket to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (lol) usually involve an overzealous aircrew corporal mowing down scads of innocents below. If the Bell UH-1 Huey was the pale horse of Revelations, then the M60-toting door gunner was the death that follows.
How did the military ward off that bad stereotype? With another bad stereotype! Door-gunning is more like fighting off bandits on the stagecoaches of old, according to this jarringly upbeat 1966 Army training film, unearthed by Guns.com, on “shotgunners,” the “tough, skilled Soldiers trained to protect the sky-coaches flying over South Vietnam."
As a little four-minute morsel of history, this training video is positively adorable. We get some nice shots of clean-cut young soldiers at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii — likely from the 25th “Tropic Lightning” Infantry Division — just a few years after the Department of Defense began arming helicopters with machine guns like the M1919A4 Browning. (The 25th shoulda been called “Tropic Thunder,” but whatever, fuck you.)
Of course, the coming years would bring all-new murdergear to Army helos, from rocket pods to the ubiquitous M60, shown rolling deep in the clip above. The Army training video offers a nice little vision of the modern door gunner as an earnest protector (“Gee whiz, gotta keep my battle buddies safe!”), while the reality may be a little more “Get some get some GET SOME!”
You know what they say about hindsight: It’s the only weapons system the Pentagon will never invest in.