Made in 1945 by the U.S. Treasury Department, PERISHABLE RUSH shows how the Army Air Forces during World War II flew wounded men from Pacific battle areas to mobile army surgeons hospitals, hospital ships, and finally major hospitals and eventually home towns in the United States. Uses a mix of actuality footage and fictional reenactments to follow a soldier from being wounded in action, cared for by medics on the battlefield, undergoing surgery in a mobile hospital near the front lines, recuperating in Guam, being shipped back to the United States, and convalescing in hospital near the soldier's home town. The film ends with a plea to buy bonds as part of the Victory Loan.
The film shows footage at :30 of cremated Japanese war dead, being brought back to Japan in boxes.
The film contains a great deal of footage of the Douglas C-54 Skymaster, which was used during the war as a flying hospital transport. it also includes at the 3 minute mark, very rare footage of one of the first helicopter combat rescues ever attempted. The chopper shown is a Sikorsky R-4. L-4 Bird Dog aircraft are also shown at the 3:22 mark, and DC-3's and PBYs as well. The heart of the film is about the C-54 however. At 4:30, a Skymaster is shown flying from Okinawa to Guam (7 hours) and then transiting to Pearl Harbor.
On 22–23 April 1944, U.S. Army Lieutenant Carter Harman of the 1st Air Commando Group conducted the first combat rescue by helicopter using a YR-4B in the China-Burma-India theater. Despite the high altitude, humidity, and capacity for only a single passenger, Harman rescued a downed liaison aircraft pilot and his three British soldier passengers; two at a time. On 22–23 January 1945, another rescue by the R-4 involved several legs for refueling and navigating through passes between mountains nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) tall, to reach a weather station located at an elevation of 4,700 feet (1,400 m). The higher than normal altitude required a downhill run of 20 ft (6.1 m) to get airborne.
Royal Air Force Hoverfly I in use by Fairey Aviation in late 1945
While the R-4 was being used for rescues in Burma and China, it was also being used to ferry parts between floating Aviation Repair Units in the South Pacific. On 23 May 1944, six ships set sail with two R-4s on board each vessel. The ships had been configured as floating repair depots for damaged Army Air Forces aircraft in the South Pacific. When the helicopters were not being used to fly the parts from one location to another, they were enlisted for medical evacuation and other mercy missions.