Bob Cowgill, the sole remaining pilot who flew 70 soldiers to safety during the WW II Ivory Soap rescues in the Philippines died June 13, 2003. Ivory Soap was the project during World War II that took Liberty Ships and outfitted them to conduct aviation repair. During June of 1945, five aviators flew Sikorsky R-4’s and R-6’s into the combat zone of the Philippines to bring injured soldiers out for medical treatment, often under fire. While not the first helicopter rescue, they were the first flown with external litters welded to the side of the airframe in an “unauthorized and untested” manner. True aviation pioneers and part of our DUSTOFF roots.
Crew members representing the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy and Merchant Marines pose on one of the repair ships. Helicopters ferried parts and personnel from ship to shore. Lt. Cowgill (center, second row) and friends with R-4 on floating aircraft repair unit (ARU) off the Philippines.