50 YEAR REUNION OF VIETNAM VETERANS DAY I PART II
The veterans were all members of Birddog units. I personally didn’t know what a Birddog unit was until I met them, one of the classic failings of public education, so I had to do a little research on my own. Rather than try to make a pitiful explanation I found a website with the history of the Birddog units;
For over Fifty five years the venerable Birddog has served diligently in the U.S. and International military forces, the Civil Air Patrol, law enforcement, the U.S. Forest Service, missionary work, and in glider/banner towing operations all over the world. The Birddog has had an impressive record of service and is still sought after for its capabilities and sheer fun of flying a true Warbird.
What is a Birddog? This tough and reliable critter is a very special aircraft. In response to request from the U.S. Army for an improved Liaison aircraft, the Cessna Aircraft Company developed plans, tooled up, and began manufacturing. The first model 305 was delivered to the Army in December of 1950. The Army liked it, designated it the L-19 (Liaison), and named it the “Birddog”. Many L-19’s were immediately deployed to the war in Korea. Others were sent to Army and National Guard units in other areas. Years later, Birddogs were sent to Vietnam and used in various combat roles by the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. By then the designation had been changed to O-1 (Observation). The enemy feared the presence of the Birddog because it forewarned of bad things to come.
Around 3400 of these Warbirds were built by Cessna over a ten-year period. About 22 were built to Military specifications by Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan. Through the Military Assistance program other nations obtained Birddogs and actually “copied” and “cannibalized” the aircraft in order to increase their numbers. The Ector Aircraft Co. of Midland, Texas built civilian versions of the Birddog in more up-to-date configurations.
The basic Birddog is a 2100 pound (loaded), high wing tandem seat aircraft with an all metal skin and a six cylinder Continental engine providing the muscle to swing the big 90 inch prop. Birddogs with a fixed pitch prop had the 213 HP O-470-11 engine. Those with the constant speed prop were powered by the 213 HP O-470-15. With a 36 foot wing span, conventional gear (tail wheel), 60 degrees of flaps and power to spare, this work horse could haul two men, gear, a full load of fuel (41 gallons) and up to eight 2.75 inch rockets in and out of short runways even at higher elevations. With it’s excellent fuel economy, the Birddog can remain on station (at low power settings) for up to five hours. On floats the Birddog has successfully been used by bush operators and fish spotters. With a hook, the Birddog is perhaps one of the best banner/glider tow aircraft around. (Source: International Birddog Association)
As I learned more about them and what they did during the war I realized they were very passionate about their service and what they accomplished in the war. This was not men who were ashamed of the war but are proud soldiers that gladly gave of themselves to serve their country.