Sharks Teeth and the WWII Flying Tigers

The 174th AHC SHARKS, flying UH-1C and UH-1M Huey gunships from 1966-1971, arrived in Vietnam with the fronts of their Hueys painted the factory subdued olive green and black. The only distinguishing marks were the white "triangular fin" painted on the vertical stabilizer at the end of the tail boom and (on some) the numerals "174" on both pilot's doors. Early in 1966, the unit officially asked for and received permission from the famous Flying Tigers of WWII to adapt their P-40 Warhawk's sharks-mouth paint scheme to the Shark's helicopters. Permission was received in June 1966, and every Shark from then until the unit stood down at the end of 1971 proudly bared those famous teeth into combat. While numerous USAF jets and some AH-1G Cobra helicopters used the shark's mouth in Vietnam, the 174th Sharks were the only UH-1 Huey gunships in the entire war to sport the shark's teeth, and the only unit to get "official permission" from the Flying Tigers to do so.

This first picture above is of Shark #140. It later received an in-country modification and was armed with a 40mm grenade launcher in a turret on the nose. The flexible sight for the turret was operated by the pilot in the left seat, and it fired approximately 240 grenades per minute (about four per second). This aircraft also is armed with 38 2.75-inch Folding Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR) that were fixed to "bomb racks" at the mid-point (center of gravity) on each side of the helicopter in two 19-shot rocket pods. They were fired by the pilot inthe right seat. For firing the rockets, the pilot had to "point" the aircraft at the target, much as WWII fighter pilots had to do with fixed machine guns in the wings or in the noses of their fixed-wing fighters. This second photo is of Shark #137 showing the 40mm on the nose. Following that picture is a copy of the letter of permission received by the 174th Operations Officer from General Robert Scott in 1966. (First photo by Fred Thompson, 1970. Second photo by J.C. Pennington, 1969.)

June 28, 1966

Major Dick Overhamm, USA
174th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light)
14th Aviation Battalion
APO US Forces 96238

Dear Major Overhamm:

Having just returned from the Air Force Academy and our 1966 Annual convention of the American Fighter Aces Association (where I was with just about all the Flying Tigers)--I consider it the appropriate time to acknowledge your letter of June 14th--requesting permission to adapt the shark-mouth used on our P-40's back in World War II--to the "faces" of your organization's 540 Huey 'copters...

So--you have my immediate permission. As the Commander of the 23rd Fighter Group as well as General Claire Chennault's Fighter Commander for the CATF--I pass it on to you because I know that if he were still alive he would give it to your organization. He and his Tigers gave me that permission long ago--and they would want any group of American fighting men to aid in its continuance of use--for the purpose of winning against the enemies of the United States....

Therefore, authority is hereby granted and I assure you I will write members of the First American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) and tell them what I have done in their name. I assure you that such men as Tex Hill, Ed Rector, Bob Layher, Bob Neal, Chuck Sawyer, Gil Bright and Jim Howard--of the original group-- as well as General Bruce Holloway, Dallas Clinger and all the others of my later 23rd Fighter Group--will back me. In the mean time---please pass on to your fine men that all of us who ever flew into combat behind that shark-mouth---wish you--the 1966 version of the Tigers---every success...

Good hunting and GOOD LUCK!

/s/ Robert L. Scott, Jr.

B/Gen., USAF (ret.)
Former Fighter Commander
China Air Task Force