Vietnam-era combat helicopter could become local monument

Feb 23, 2016

From Vietnam to the City of Tonawanda, a helicopter once shot down could become a local monument in the near future.

Chapter 77 of the Vietnam Veterans of America wants to put a Vietnam-era Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter at the entrance of the city’s Veterans Park. To do that, the chapter needs to raise tens of thousands of dollars. Treasurer Paul Pietrowski thinks the funds will be raised.

A U.S. Army Bell AH-1G HueyCobra in flight.
Credit U.S. Army Center of Military History

“We’re going to try to raise as much as we can and try to get as much of the services donated,” said Pietrowski. “Any money that we do have or we do raise will go into the fund to keep up the maintenance on the helicopter. After – I think it is five years – the City of Tonawanda will take over maintenance of the helicopter.”

Engraved bricks are being sold to raise funds and create a walkway to the monument. The city will also take over the brick program after three years. Blank bricks will be used in the meantime for people who donate at a later date. Pietrowski said the community and the City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis have been very supportive.

“He worked really hard. He went to the council and they drew up an agreement,” said Pietrowski of Davis. “They’re going to do the soil test for us, the bore test for us, and I think they are going to provide us with the city electricians and any labor we might need up there to put it up there.”

Chapter 77 is currently closing in on $20,000 with a goal of at least $50,000 by August. They have also started a GoFundMe page and scheduled a dance as an alternative fundraiser.

The Bell AH-1 Cobra is 65 feet long and provided air support for soldiers in combat. Pietrowski said its days of fighting are long over.

“The rocket pods are there, but of course the rockets are gone. The Gatling gun is there. That’s been disabled,” said Pietrowski. “The engine’s been taken out of it. You could never…Well you could put it back in service if you got an end for it. But it already has been disarmed.”

The helicopter is currently on a permanent loan from the Niagara Aerospace Museum. Chapter 77 hopes to complete the memorial by August.