The O-1 "Bird Dog," the toughest dog in the fight, "our little flivver"
March 26, 2006 updated August 27, 2016 with new discoveries on-line.
The Bird Dog in the Vietnam-Laos Wars
Late arriving Bird Dog Photo Gallery
While preparing this report, we worked our tails off to find photography of the Bird Dog and those who flew it in the Vietnam-Laos Wars. Since publication, and while researching other stories, we have run across photography that we did not see earlier. So, we're publishing what we find and will continue to do so.
Late arriving Bird Dig Photo Gallery
Overlooked by Tuy Hoa’s Chop Chai Mountain, MACV advisor Tim Coughlin stands in front of a U.S. Air Force Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog.
The Ace of Spades
Restored Dawg O-17428
A reader spotted this Bird Dog being pulled out of a hanger in Sparta, Illinois. It was an airframe that flew in Thailand and was given to the Thai's in the early 60's. It is absolutely immaculate inside and out. It recently came back from a total restoration. Original inside and out, with the exception of radios, which are not installed yet. (080516)
VNAF O-1 under repair at Bien Hoa AB
O-1 Biddogs at Quang Ngai, 1965. The artwork is said to represent that of a dog. Photo by P.Q. Khiem and shown at vnafmamm.com
Two photos of O-1s at Lai Khe, RVN. Note the first photo shows one taxiing out carrying a sidewinder missile. I have found another source who says this photo was taken at at Quang Ngai, 1965.
It is my understanding the USAF flew these in support of the 3rd Brigade, the “Iron Brigade.” They wore that brigade’s iron cross on the vertical stabilizer.
I came across this next set of Bird Dog photography by accident on September 11, 2013. It is from a document, “The USAF in Southeast Asia, the war in South Vietnam, The Years of the Offensive, 1965-1968.”
FAC lining up for a landing at a small dirt strip.
An O-1 on visual reconnaissance
O-1 firing marking rocket to pin point target for air attack.
O-1 pilot taking notes on his window with erase pencil, trying to keep everyone coordinated in his mind.
Typical O-1 forward operating base. You can see an Bird Dog parked to the right of the tent, and the jeep is probably used by ground controllers.
George Forken reported for Stars & Stripes on July 27, 1967 about the role of the Bird Dogs in an article entitled, “BIrd Dog sniffs out VC, F-100s clobber him.” He showed this photo of a Bird Dig climbing out after a low level flight in the RVN.
La Vang 026 badly damaged by rocket strike, July 1967.
Bird Dog 616 landing at La Vang airfield, August 1967
BIrd Dog taking off from La Vang airfield, August 1967
Bird Dog 07026 restored
Capt. H.T. Johnson just back from a mission. Oops mom, what happened to the door!
Full house of those Dawgs at La Vang, 1968, Detachment of the 20th TASS
20th TASS nose art
A doorgunner with the 118th Assault Helicopter Company based at Bien Hoa took this shot of an Army Bird Dog at Tay Ninh City airstrip in late 1968. In addition to the tiger's teeth up front, she has an eyeball on the nose engine cowling as well. We asked for some help getting an identification of unit for this Dawg. We received three responses, and boy are they good ones.
Tom Ewell, a former US Army captain, 74th and 184th RAC, Vietnam, has sent us his identification of this aircraft. He said this:
"The Bird Dog with the tiger teeth was primarily used by Captain Mike Hope who was assigned to the 74th RAC. He was a bit of an independent and hence was assigned by Major Cox to the Xuan Loc unit that spent most of its time in the Xuan Loc, Black Horse op area supporting the RVN forces. Mike was killed after his second or third tour extension. He was a bit of a legend who had survived numerous incidents including being shot down once, having his aileron cables shot out and landing with rudder only and playing poker all night long and still flying a full mission the next day. He was a full blooded Hopi Indian and was a great pilot. I first saw his aircraft around January of 1969 at Xuan Loc. I don't know why it would be seen in Tay Ninh."
Robert Reed, a former US Army lieutenant, 3rd Platoon, 184th RAC, Vietnam, callsign "Non-Stop-34," flew this aircraft and was the one to paint the teeth nose art. In his day, she was called "Old 100. Posted February 14, 2010.
"While surfing the net, managed to find your web page on Viet Nam history and the stories of the L-19 Bird Dogs used as FAC. What a shock when the first picture I see is the aircraft that I painted nose art on in late 1967 at Phu Loi as a pilot for the 3rd Platoon of the 184th RAC. The last three digits of her tail number were 100 and she became affectionately known as "Old 100". Besides her unique "Teeth" she was adorned with number of confirmed kills she was credited with in support of ground troops. Armament was according to missions flown......for night missions she carried a M-60 Machine Gun and two thousand rounds of ammunition on her left wing....every other round being a tracer...Many night assaults were repulsed by this unique aircraft....
"Attached you will find photos of myself painting the nose cowling and standing near the door......I left Viet Nam in July 1968 and this A/C was still assigned to the 184th at that time....Hope this clears the question of where she came from......She always managed to get me home...flew a lot of night missions with her....."
J. Oney sent in this. I was a Bird Dog mechanic (SP5) with 184th RAC from May 68 to Apr 69. I spent most of my time at Duc Hoa so I didn't see much of the Co HQ at Phu Loi. I do remember the Third Platoon "Third Herd" as having a horses head on the cowling. I was in the Third Platoon. At times our aircraft were at Duc Hoa and could very well have been seen at Tay Ninh, fuel was where you could get it. Time has taken a toll on my memory as far as tail numbers but we did have dog's with teeth on them. Great site.
Capt. Hope came to Vietnam assigned to fly a town turbo-prop VIP aircraft, but said no deal, I want combat, so he got the O-1. He flew "The Buzzard" mostly in support to the 18th ARVN Infantry Division. He was shot down and lost KIA in Long Khanh Province only 18 days from completing his third tour of duty, on June 7, 1970. Here's his Bird Dog, "The Buzzard." His remains were recovered and buried in Oklahoma.
This photo is drawn from the cover of the book, One Hundred Feet over Hell, which is about the 220th Recon Airplane Company, I Corps, the DMZ and Vietnam, 1968-69 --- the "Catkillers."
This is a video grab from a CBC video broadcast on October 2, 1968. The video discusses three Canadians who joined the Marines, were in the 3rd Marine Division, and were fighting in the northern Quang Tri Province. This part of the video shows actual combat footage of an air assault by the Marines. This particular segment addresses how the US would soften up the assault target with air, and shoed an O-1 Bird Dog flying from left to right on a circular track, and once he was out of the way, a fast mover, a fighter zoomed in from left to right to attack. (062808)
Jim Few flew O-1Es and Fs for about 200 sorties in about 6 months while attached to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade in 1966-67. He has sent us photos of him and his Dawg taken while at Tay Ninh. Jim retired at the rank of Lt. Colonel and lives in Navarre, Florida.
Jim Few and his O-1 at Tay Ninh, 1966.
Jim's aircraft was hit while flying too low outside the city limits of Tay Ninh. It was hit by an AK-47 round that missed his left leg by inches. At the time, he was returning from a 4 hour convoy escort low on fuel.
This is an aerial shot of Tay Ninh West. A Filipino contingent was on the left side (east) of the runway with the 196th to the right (west).
O-1 "Birddog" FAC at Pleiku, RVN, 1966-67.
Henk Jacobse of Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, recently visited Thailand and bought a cockpit panel from a Bird Dog on the Chatuchak market in Bangkok. He provided photos of the panel front (top) and rear (bottom). He has asked whether this is a typical Thai panel or the same ones used in Vietnam. A former Dawg pilot from Ban Me Thout has commented: "Probably from an 'A' model. It shows the switches and circuit breakers on the pilot's instrument panel. The later versions used in Vietnam were D, E, F and G models had the switches and circuit breakers on a panel to the pilot's left."
Thanks to Ray "Doc" Jennings," we were introduced to this Bird Dog, "Little Annie Fanny," 199th Reconnaissance Airplane Company, the "Swamp Foxes," Vinh Long, RVN, which we understand was flown by Rich Burns. More important, we were introduced to Bird Dog "Door Art." As you will see, the door art for Annie was our favorite. Note the noseart as well; Little Annie could bite, so be careful! We commend the 199th's web site to your attention. It's got a lot of great photography of the Dawg, and Bow-wow Door Art!
God bless America, and all our men and women who fought for God, country, motherhood, applie pie, and Little Annie Fanny!
During the ARVN invasion of Laos in 1971, called Lam Son 719, the 101st Airborne Division set up a small Ground Control Approach (GCA) radar at Khe Sanh, not far from the DMZ, not far from Laos. The small group of men set up a tent over their bunker. Bernard Williams, an air traffic controller, was there. On one day, they climbed into their hole to eat lunch and escape incoming attacks. When the attacks stopped, they climbed out of their hole only to find this O-1 Bird Dog sitting right next to their tent. The two crewmembers were just then exiting the aircraft. The aircraft was flown by Capt Richard J. Wright. Williams believes the tail number was C-12634. The aircraft had been hit with 37 mm AAA near the triborder area west of Khe Sanh. He flew over the ridge and had to fly it as though he was without his tail. There were holes within six inches of the backseater. Capt. Wright was quite proud with how well he had landed her. After checking her out, he decided he could fly it, took off, and left. Mr. Williams is looking for the Bird Dog crew.
It turns out that after Capt Wright was hit, he headed for Khe Sanh to make an emergency landing. While on short final, some numb-nuts in a jeep with a camera man in the back pulled out on the runway in front of him and drove down the center line of the runway filming the landing. This explains why Wright ended up where he ended up. And journalists wonder why GIs think so little of them!
The Dog's tail took a beating, but she could still fly.
Lookin' her over. The men in the photo are members of Bernard Williams' squad, Mark Lavoiue, Joe Nettles, both ATC types, and Beard, the generator repairman.
This is photo taken from a 203rd RAC Bird Dog in a "Dawn Patrol" over the An Khe pass in the II Corps region along Hwy 19 in Binh Dinh province. The 203rd had some birds attached to the 2-17 Field Artillery to patrol this highway. Photo and accompanying text submitted by John deTreville.
This is a clip from an 8 mm move film of a 203rd RAC O-1 firing a smoke rocket. Capt Harry Sanders is at the controls; you can see his hand in the lower left on the rocket firing mechanism. The red arrow points to the rocket on its way. Photo and accompanying text submitted by John deTreville.
This is a Vietnamese O-1, probably a VNAF FAC at Duc Hoa District near Saigon in the Capital Military District. This aircraft participated in an ARVN artillery raid operation in January 1972. Photo and accompanying text submitted by John deTreville.
These three photos show Chuck Wilson landing his Hawkeye Bird Dog at Vinh Tanh Special Forces Camp northeast of An Khe in II Corps, 1968. The Bird Dogs were the 203rd RAC (Recon Airplane Company). The top two photos give you a good feel for the landscape, while the bottom one gives a good look at aircraft's attitude moments before touchdown. There was a battery of 155mm howitzers there belonging to D Battery 2-17 Field Artillery. The O-1s often operated in the Vinh Tanh Valley. They would often take the D Battery commander on a mission so he could get a better sense for the target areas, and to help call in the artillery on the enemy. The above photos and accompanying text submitted by John deTreville.
This is Chuck Wilson's Bird Dog, either before, or after a mission along Hwy 19 and the An Khe area of the RVN, sometime during 1968. There were two airstrips at An Khe, the original paved strip used by C130s etc, and the military strip (this one) paved with PSP (well it wasn't actually perforated -- the solid aluminum kind). Chuck is filling out the log book at the plane. The M-16 by the door is mine ( I was the observer). These were Hawkeye aircraft, we had two in direct support of our Battalion, 2/17 Field Artillery. We were in direct support of the 173 ABN Bde contingent at An Khe at this time. We sometimes had as many as 5 birdogs working with us (all Hawkeyes) and we really worked well together.
This is a Hawkeye Bird Dog (you can see the insignia on the wings) that "ground looped" while landing at An Khe. I can't recall the exact circumstances -- either a strong gust came up or the landing gear just collapsed on landing.
Legend has it that the local NVA (95B NVA Regiment) was so fearful of the O-1/L-19 observation craft and the artillery they brought that they would not shoot at the Bird Dogs for fear of giving their location away and getting shelled, though they would shoot at helicopters and other aircraft. One time (I was not on board, but one of our observers was) the NVA setup an ambush for the Bird Dog. They put a couple of straw dummies in NVA uniforms on a hilltop clearing overlooking Hwy 19 with a dummy machine gun. Then as our Bird Dog circled the area to commence fire, they opened up with one or two 12.7 mm machine guns. They put a few holes in the aircraft, but neither pilot nor observer was injured, fire was brought on the target and the mission contined. A few months or weeks later when the aircraft went back to their platoon or company HQ at Phu Cat (I think) for routine maintenance they found out that one of the 12.7 mm rounds had gone through the wing spar, but the plane had held together anyway. I don't recall either the pilot's or the observer's names.
Both the above photos and accompanying text submitted by John deTreville.
This is Can Tho Airfield, circa 1960-70. There's quite a line-up sitting there, including two O-1 Bird Dogs to the lower right. Photo credit: Jeff Fozard. Presented by Delta Dragon, Can Tho-RVN.
US Army 74th RAC O-1 on the job. Photo credit: Joe Whinnery. Presented by 1st Aviation Brigade.
Army O-1 Bird Dog 54704 in front of base ops, 1963, Soc Trang. Note Soc Trang tiger logo on the tail. Presented by Soc Trang Army Airfield.
A Dawg at the Bac Lieu ramp. Photo credit: Jim Scott. Presented by 147th ASHC Hillclimbers.
O-1 observation aircraft of the 112th Liaison Squadron, 23rd Tactical Wing, South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF), Bien Hoa Air Base, 1971. Presented by wikipedia.
Tiger Dawg. This photo of a USAF O-1E was taken in Vietnam, and provided courtesy of Bob Luke. He was stationed at Ca Mau, Vietnam, though we not certain where this photo was taken. Presented by China Post.
Some Dawgs in the "Boneyard" in Thailand. Here's a Royal Thai Air Force and Royal Thai Army O-1 boneyard in Saraburi Province, Thailand, about 60 miles north of Bangkok. That is MacAlan "Mac" Thompson and his nephew, nicknamed "First." Mac and his wife adopted "First" about six years ago. The final of three shots is an aerial view of the boneyard.
This is a Thai O-1 "zipping" up the Mekong one day in early 1969. Photo credit: Howard "Hap" Wyman, Thai-Laos-Cambodia Brotherhood Board of Directors.
Capt. Nicholson, a ground combat forward air controller (CFAC) operating from Republic of Korea (ROK) Camp Thunderbolt, did not limit himself to CFAC work. He also flew this ROK O-1E Bird Dog FAC aircraft. The ROKs had three Bird Dogs, two OD green, one silver. This one is parked at the ROK HQ dirt strip. Airman Michael, a CFAC partnered with Capt Nicholson, got in some combat flights to help him learn how to identify targets. Photo credit: Robert Michael. Presented by Polk County, NC.
These are the three ROK O-1 Bird Dog reconnaissance and FAC aircraft in the Tiger Division inventory at the outset, circa 1965-1966, operating out of Qui Nhon, we believe. Photo presented by Vietnam Veterans of Korea.
Capt Gale Todd, USAF, and the single O-1E located at Tuy Hoa, RVN, circa 1966-1967, supporting ROK Marines. Photo credit: Kent Calabrese. Presented by Vietnam Veterans of Korea
Capt Chortez, USAF, at Tuy Hoa March 1966 (later wounded south of Chu Lai while on mission), supporting ROK Marines. Photo credit: Kent Calabrese. Presented by Vietnam Veterans of Korea
The aircraft pictured is an O1-C belonging to the 01, Detachment H&MS-16. These birds were flown primarily by pilots who had been assigned as ground FACs or jets immediately prior to their assignment with the "O1s". The Koreans had a few birds but they didn't have the candy striped rudder. Comments by Van Pacey. Presented by popasmoke.com
Paul White next to a Dawg, we think at Long Tieng, LS-20A. White was with the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-Laos "Refugee section." For much of that time he was based at Lima Site-20 (LS20), Samthong, Laos. Paul E. White Photo Album. Presented by Air America.org
O-1s with Laotian national markings as seen in 1969 at a forward airfield somewhere deeper inside Laos. Note the outgoing C-123 Provider transporter. Presented by ACIG.
Republic of Korea (ROK) Bird Dog on display on the third floor of the Korean War Memorial, Seoul, Korea. Presented by Vietnam Veterans of Korea.
US Army O-1 from 203rd RAC used to fly cover for convoys traveling Hwy 19. Photo credit: John deTreville. Presented by 2-17 Artillery.
South Vietnamese Bird Dog at Landing Zone English Field, 1970. Photo credit: Karl Voltz. Presented by the 84th Engineers.
Smokey Greene, USAF Bird Dog FAC, spent most of his tour as a Raven in Laos. Presented by Judy C. Hamilton's "mama wore combat boots."
This is Judy Crausbay, Army Nurse, standing with an USAF Bird Dog, we believe, at Tuy Hoa, RVN. The Dawgs' name is "Spotty Body." Presented by Judy C. Hamilton's "mama wore combat boots."
This USAF Bird Dog has had a rough day. This is a photo of a damaged Dawg at Bu Prang airstrip in the central highlands of Vietnam, October 1969 when the field was attacked in what turned out to be a month-long battle. Presented by the 1st Aviation Brigade.
This US Army "L-19" Bird Dog is conducting a photo mapping mission of the OP Harry area of Korea during the Korean War, under enemy fire. This was "seat of the pants" flying by the pilot and the photographer, as the aircraft lacked the right instruments to do this kind of work accurately, but they did it. Fortunately for them, the enemy gunners below were lousy shots, though by the third pass they got pretty close! Photo credit: Frank Conger. Presented by Dan Carson and The Outpost Harry Survivors Association.
A reader sent us some photos of a couple present-day Bird Dogs all rehab'd. Thanks to Clark Morong, EAA/Vintage Aircraft Association. These were taken at the Southwest Regional Fly-in in Hondo, Texas, we believe, in 2006.
This is a most interesting Dawg. During the Wings of Freedom Air Show 2006, held at the Red Wing Regional Airport, Bay City, Wisconsin, the Commemorative Air Force, known as the "Ghost Squadron," re-enacted battles from WWII and walked around the air show "like the ghosts of those gone before.” This photo is Allen Johnson and his Maltese 0-1E (L-19) rolling by as the "battle was winding down."
Video grabs: "Forward Air Controllers: Eyes of the Attack."