Disgruntled soldier buzzes White House in stolen helicopter – 2/17/1974
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Disgruntled soldier buzzes White House in stolen helicopter – 2/17/1974

September 5, 2019


Today in military history 1974, Robert K. Preston, a
disgruntled U.S. army private, buzzes the White House
in a stolen helicopter. Preston enlisted in the army in 1972 with the hope of evacuating
wounded soldiers in Vietnam. Though he earned his
private pilot’s license, he washed out of army pilot training due to deficiency in the instrument phase. He believed, however, that his failure was actually due to the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam, leaving an oversupply of pilots. He transferred to become
a helicopter mechanic at Fort George Meade in Maryland, just 20 miles outside of Washington D.C. Shortly after midnight
on February 17, 1974, the despondent solider drove his car to the unguarded Fort
Meade’s Tipton Field, walked up to a Bell UH-1B Huey helicopter, fired her up, and went rogue. Security saw the unauthorized
takeoff and called the police, who responded quickly
when the bird appeared in the restricted airspace
of the National Mall. By the time that Preston
landed on the White House lawn, he had the attention of Secret
Service and their shotguns. They blasted the Huey, scored an indirect hit
that wounded Preston, and tackled him as he
dashed for the White House. He was court-martialed and sentenced to a year at hard labor and fined $2,400.

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  1. He's part of my extended family (half-brothers uncle) and the story doesn't match the one I heard as a kid. I believe he was pardoned by Reagan, could be wrong though.

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