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The loss of Cessna O-2 USAF Serial Number 68-6869 on 19 June 1969 and the recovery of the crew.

© Roger Lambert
Platoon Commander
9 Platoon, C Company,
2nd Tour

Author: Roger Lambert

Preface

At the time, as is the nature of combat, I had not given thought about the deceased crew of the Forward Air Control (FAC) Cessna O-2 or their Next of Kin (NOK). They were simply two more casualties of the Vietnam War. However, as the years passed and the war faded into the pages of history, I began to think more and more about these men and their sacrifice.

Some 49 years after the event, besides being somewhat satisfied that we were at least able to recover their remains for repatriation to the United States, I decided that I would make it my personal quest to identify them.

Background

Operation Esso 1, 2 and 3 was conducted in the period June to July 1969. For members of the Battalion, particularly C Company, Operation Esso is indelibly etched in the minds because of the enemy’s use of mines throughout the Area of Operations (AO).

The Viet Cong used M16 anti-personnel mines taken from the barrier mine field laid between the Horseshoe Hill and Lang Phouc Hai on the coast. These mines were implanted on tracks, potential allied ambush positions and tactical harbour positions as well as around villages in the area. That is, they were placed anywhere our troops were likely to operate in the AO. An example of the enemy’s tactical use of the mines is found in 7 Platoon’s catastrophic mine incident on 4 July 1969. Unbeknown to the Platoon Commander, David Mead, he selected an ambush site that had been previously used by members of A Company, the site having been observed by the Viet Cong. 7 Platoon was virtually decimated in the resultant mine detonations.

The Commanding Officer (CO) had ensured that special training was undertaken in conjunction with the Engineers prior to the Rifle Companies deployments into the AO. Flak jackets and helmets were issued and were to be worn whenever possible and practical. Notwithstanding these precautions, by the end of Operation Esso, 7 soldiers were killed and 43 were wounded by mines.

To support the land clearing, patrolling and ambushing activities, Fire Support Base “Thrust” was established some six hundred yards south of Hoi My. Under operational control of 5 RAR during this operation was a Troop of Engineers and elements of the Plant Troop of 1 Field Squadron. Two infantry Rifle Companies were involved throughout the operation protecting this Land Clearing Team.

Operation Esso is also well remembered by members of 9 Platoon, Charlie Company, 5 RAR having been given the task of recovering the bodies of two United States servicemen killed when their Cessna O-2 FAC aircraft crashed in the Long Phouc Hai mountains on 19 June 1969.

To relate the story of the recovery, the timelines and activities are taken directly from the 5 RAR Operations Log radio transmissions. These have been supplemented by the personal recollections of 9 Platoon and C Company soldiers who were directly or indirectly involved.

Time: 1044 hours

“TO CALLSIGN (C/S) 0A FROM C/S 3 - AN AC HAS BEEN HIT AND HAS CRASHED – WELFARE OF PILOT UNKNOWN AT THIS STAGE”

This is Major Ducker advising the Battalion Command Post that an aircraft had crashed. 9 Platoon, C Company (C/S 33) were undertaking protection duties of the Engineer Land Clearing Team and their bulldozers in reasonably open ground at the base of the Long Hais. A lone aircraft had been seen undertaking observer activities for what we had been advised was naval gunfire into the hills.
The aircraft, later identified as a Cessna O-2, was carrying out observation duties for a Charles F. Adams Class United States Navy destroyer which was firing into the hills.

US Charles F. Adams Class Destroyer

Charles F. Adams Class Destroyer (USN image)

Private Colin Summerfield had noted the aircraft “buzzing around”. While most were watching the shells exploding in the hills, Colin noted a change in pitch in the engine sound of the aircraft and recalled, “Looking up, Ï saw a burst of flame and a few seconds later I heard the ‘boom’. A large piece fell to the left and a smaller section fell to the right.”

Distant view of the Long Hai Mountain

Long Hai mountains; note the explosion on top of the mountain

“I watched the bigger piece hit the ground in the hills. Using a knoll on the ridge line of the hills, I measured three fingers to the right to get a fix on the big bit.”

As the Platoon Commander, I was immediately summoned and, besides, PTE Summerfield, I asked my troops whether anyone else had seen what happened. PTE Terry “Giuseppe” Fitzgerald stated that he had seen a parachute, a fact at the time Colin didn’t dispute. Using the knoll Colin had used as a reference point, I took a bearing on the crash site and reported my finding to the Company Commander, Major Claude Ducker, MC.

Time: 1047 hours

“TO C/S 3 FROM C/S 9 – GET TA MOV TO LOC OF CRASHED AC NOW”

This was the Commanding Officer (C/S 9), Lieutenant Colonel Colin Khan, directing Major Ducker to get the Centurion tanks and M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) in support to move to the crash site as soon as possible.

Time: 1048 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S POSS – IN AREA NOW AND WILL ORGANISE DUSTOFF AND RESCUE OPS – INCIDENT IN GEN AREA 455540”

This was the pilot of a 161 Reconnaissance Flight Bell 47 helicopter, known as Possum, reporting to the Battalion Headquarters Command Post advising that he would arrange a Dustoff helicopter as well as coordinate the rescue operation as it was at that time. The grid reference was the pilot’s original estimation of where the wreckage lay in the hills.

Time: 1100 hours

Bell 47G "Possum" from 161 Recce Flt over the Long Hais

Bell 47G Sioux (Call Sign ‘Possum’), 161 Recce Flt over the Long Hais (Image via David Wilkins)

Possum advises that he is returning to FSB “Thrust”, presumably to provide a briefing on his aerial reconnaissance. He also advised a revised grid reference for the wreckage.

“TO C/S OA from C/S POSS – RETURNING TO THRUST – NOW GRID OF WRECKAGE 459544"

Time: 1102 hours

“TO C/S POSS FROM C/S 9 – I WILL BE OUT TO CON THIS OP SOON”

Lieutenant Colonel Khan has taken the decision to take charge of the operation himself and advises the Possum pilot accordingly.

Time: 1104 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S 68 – IT’S BEEN CFM THAT THERE WERE 2 PERS IN THE AC – IT SEEMS ONLY 1 BAILED & BLACK PARACHUTE WAS SIGHTED BY US (AC WAS A L19)

This is the second reference to a black parachute being sighted. Regrettably, we were to find out later that neither the pilot nor his observer had parachutes. What had been mistaken for a parachute was in fact one of the tail fins of the aircraft, a Cessna O-2, wafting to earth after the aircraft had been hit.

Note also the reference to the aircraft being an L19. The L19 was the former designation of the O-1 Bird Dog, the very aircraft that the O-2 replaced in the FAC role. Whereas the O-1 was a single engine light observation aircraft, the O-2 was a twin-engine aircraft with the engines arranged in a push/pull configuration fore and aft. The only things in common between the two aircraft were that were both built by Cessna and both were used in the FAC role.

Cessna O-2 foreground and Cessna O-1 (L19 background)

Cessna O-2 foreground and Cessna O-1 (L19 background)

Time: 1115 hours

“TO C/S 3 FROM C/S 9 – ONE BODY HAS BEEN FOUND IN THE WRECKAGE”

Lieutenant Colonel Khan advises Major Ducker that one body has been found. Presumably, this is an aerial observation by Possum as no ground party has yet been dispatched into the Long Hais to the crash site. Concurrent preparations for that activity had been initiated earlier and 9 Platoon, with other elements of C Company, was on stand-by to move into the Long Hais supported by a Centurion tanks and M113 APCs.

At this stage it was assumed that the rescue operation had now become a recovery operation.

Time: 1155 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S T21 – NO OF AIRCRAFT 86869 USAF”

Tango 21 is the callsign of a Centurion Main Battle Tank. The downed O-2 is positively identified by the ‘buzz’ number stencilled on the separated tail fin located on the way to the crash site.

Time: 1200 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S T21 – NO CFM ON AC”

The Centurion tank commander advises Battalion Headquarters that there is not yet any confirmation on the remainder of the aircraft.

Time: 1216 hours

“TO C/S 9 FROM C/S T21 – ONE OF THE TANGO ELM CAUGHT IN ROCKS – SUSPECTING BROKEN GEARBOX – BLUE BELL OPS TO BE SUPPLIED”

This transmission advised the Commanding Officer that a Centurion tank had sustained a suspected broken gearbox and that Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME) would be required to effect repairs. “Blue Bell” was the radio codeword for RAEME.

During the Vietnam conflict, the Long Hais were a Viet Cong (VC) base area, known as Minh Dam secret zone. The VC D445 Battalion and VC C25 Company used the hills as a supply and staging area. The land clearing operations were designed to deny the VC covered routes into and from the Long Hais.

The hills, one of the few remaining Viet Cong strongholds in Phuoc Tuy Province, were subjected to constant bombardment by American B-52 bombers, strike aircraft, including our own 2 Squadron Canberra bombers, and naval gunfire from United States warships. Between the Nui Dat base and the mountains 12 miles to the south were the heavy populated villages of Baria, Long Dien and Dat Do as well as several small hamlets. The terrain between Nui Dat and the Long Hais was flat and one of the richest rice bowls in Vietnam.

Typical terrain of the Long Hai Mountain

Typical Long Hai terrain

The Long Hais were considered ‘tiger’ country by our troops. The terrain was rugged in the extreme. Besides a thick jungle canopy, the hills were a labyrinth of limestone caves and VC base camps and hospital facilities. As previous battalions had experienced, the hills were littered with mines and booby traps, and the terrain lent itself to ideal sniper positions, all of which combined led to a high incidence of friendly casualties for Australian soldiers venturing into the hills.

Time: 1305 hours

TO C/S OA FROM C/S POSS 27 – 1 ATF REQUIRE PIECES OF CRASHED AC”

Possum relays a message from 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) that they require pieces of the crashed O-2. That may sound simple on paper but given the nature of the terrain of the Long Hais and the fact that the crash site could only be, as may be seen, reached on foot by Infantry, recovery of any aircraft parts would prove near impossible. Other than the port fin and portion of the horizontal stabilizer, tail boom and starboard fin which had fallen in reasonably open ground, activities at the main crash site would focus on the recovery of the bodies.

Port tail fin and rudder, portion of the port tail boom, and portion of the horizontal stabilizer

Port tail fin and rudder, portion of the port tail boom, and portion of the horizontal stabilizer

Starboard tail fin and rudder

Starboard tail fin and rudder

Time: 1307 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S T21 – HAVE GONE ABOUT AS FAR AS WE CAN GO – TERRAIN IMPASSABLE”

This brief radio transmission eloquently described the harsh terrain presented to armoured fighting vehicles such as the Centurion tank or Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) attempting to access the foothills. The thick jungle interspersed with huge clumps of bamboo and jagged rocks proved to be a formidable barrier to tanks and APCs. From here on in, the recovery operation would come down to the Infantry.

Time: 1310 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S T21 – SECURING POSITION NOW HAVE SENT FWD CAMERMAN AND IF HE IS FIRED ON HE IS TO WiTHDRAW SO THAT MY C/S CAN FIRE – WE ARE ABOUT 100 METRES SHORT”

The tank troop commander advises Battalion Headquarters that he is short of his objective. It is at this stage that we had dismounted from the APCs in order to ascend the mountain on foot to the crash site.

Time: 1321 hours

“TO C/S TF FROM C/S 5RAR – REQ SECOND POSSUM (APPROVED)”

With the tank unable to proceed, HQ 1 ATF is requested to allocate a second Possum to assist with reconnaissance work.

Time: 1330 hours

The Battalion Adjutant, Captain David Wilkins, flew as an observer in the Bell 47G Sioux helicopter. He was able to assist the C Company recovery party by guiding us to the crash site. The following is an extract from David’s diary of 19 June 1969:

A “Jade” (FAC) aircraft was shot down by ground fire today and I was involved in the recovery operation, being the observer in “Possum”. This became a most nerve-wracking experience as we whirled in tight circles at treetop level at the foot of the Long Hai Mountains, above the plane wreckage, guiding the ground troops and reporting any enemy movement.

The pilot detected two enemy camp areas very near to the downed aircraft and we engaged one of these with a light fire team (Bushranger 70) firing rockets. We had one good hit but the rest were inaccurate. In addition to the possibility of coming under enemy fire as we hovered and reconnoitred, sometimes only 15-20 feet (4.6m-6m) from the ground, I was unnerved somewhat by the driving rain through the open side door, and the turbulence which tossed us about like a cork in the ocean. Updrafts would suddenly lift us from 20 feet (6m) to 200 feet (61m) above the ground. Thank heaven the down drafts weren’t as violent!! After 2 hours I was thankful that “Possum” was due to refuel, as by now I was quite soaked through from the rain, cold from the wind and giddy from the tight circling of the chopper.

The downed aircraft was completely burnt out and the two unfortunate crew reduced to charcoal. The ground troops, C Company, had the unpleasant task of recovering their remains, which they wrapped in ponchos, and carted to a helipad for evacuation.
 
The local VC who occupy camps in the areas of the Long Hai Mountains and the “Long Green” are having definite difficulties in obtaining rice and conducting their normal activities in Dat Do and surrounding villages. Documents captured from the VC in contacts in Dat Do and in the Long Green talk about the Australian operation here as “the siege of the Long Hai”. Their rice supplies have run very low and they have been forced to take risks by entering Dat Do by night and therefore exposing themselves to the Australian ambushes.

One document described how, on the night of 15 June, they unfortunately lost six of their VC hardcore members who, despite efforts to warn them, entered Dat Do and ran into a fatal Australian ambush. Two VC members inside Dat Do at the time were mentioned in the letter, as having failed to warn the six, and I would hazard a guess that they will be reprimanded accordingly, whatever their methods are.
 
The Australians have proved to be a definite thorn in the VC’s side and retaliation is now planned (according to the documents) with the aim of attacking Dat Do and killing at least 30 Australians. Let them try.”

“TO 62 FROM C/S 5RAR – YOUR RV WITH FOXHOUND ELMS IS AT 477548 OUR INTERNAL FREQ 77E – YOUR EXTRA ELMS ARE APPRECIATED”

Callsign 62 was that of the Battalion’s Assault Pioneer Platoon.

Time: 1335 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S 3 – HAVE REACHED AC FOUND TWO VERY CHARRED BODIES AND 2 WPNS – BODIES ARE TO BE RECOVERED IF POSS – RADIOS AND OTHER EQUIP TO BE DESTROYED”

The Officer Commanding C Company advises Battalion Headquarters that 9 Platoon and the other C Company elements have reached the crash site of the O-2 and that the pilot and his observer were both deceased. On instructions from Major Ducker, I deployed my platoon in a defensive cordon around the crash site in anticipation of any enemy activity and to aid the recovery of the bodies.
I have never forgotten that scene of the two American servicemen still in their seats, very badly burned and with their arms up in front of their faces as if trying to protect themselves from the impending crash. With the tail blown off the aircraft, they stood little or no chance of survival as the O-2 would have been uncontrollable.
In conversation with our Company medic, Corporal Kevin “Doc” Mulligan, years after the event, he was able to confirm that both men had died instantly. Their spines had been driven up into their skulls by the impact. If it is any consolation to their next-of-kin, “Doc” advised that they were dead before the ensuing fuel fire took hold.

Time: 1344 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S 3 – ATTEMPT IS BEING MADE TO REMOVE BODIES FROM AC WRECKAGE – REQ LT FIRE TEAM – THERE ARE SIGNS OF EN IN GEN AREA”

At this stage, “Doc” and my platoon medic, the late Lance Corporal Stone began the unenviable task of extracting the bodies from the wreckage. Water bottles were passed to the two medics in order to cool the bodies for extraction from the tangled wreckage that once was an O-2 Cessna.
Concurrently, because of obvious enemy activity around us, the Officer Commanding asked Battalion Headquarters for a Light Fire Team (rocket and mini-gun armed Bell UH-1D Iroquois “Bushranger” helicopter) in case of any impending fire-fight.

Time: 1400 hours

“TO C/S 9 FROM C/S 3 – REPORT BY T21 HEARD 1 SHOT IN AREA OF WRECKAGE AND WANTS 33A TO WITHDRAW IN ORDER TO SECURE AREA”

Whether this shot was a signal shot by the enemy to warn their comrades of our presence in the area or something else will probably never be known. C/S 33A was a detachment of C/S 33 (9 Platoon).

At this stage, the recovery group began to make preparations for their way down from the crash site to marry up with the MBT and APCs.

Time: 1405 hours

“TO C/S 3 FROM C/S OA – ETA 1430 OF TA FROM NUI DAT. TWO TRACKS ARRIVING 5-10 MIN”

This message from Battalion Headquarters advised the Officer Commanding C Company that two APCs from Nui Dat were arriving in the area of the foothills.

Time: 1431 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S 3 – TA22 APPROACHING 3 LOC NOW

Time: 1603 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S 3 – TA IS BOGGED ALSO RECOVERY VEH. IN GREEN NOW ALL EXCEPT C/S T21, 32, 33A”

Time: 1712 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S 3 – CHECKING WRECKAGE NOW. EN SIGNS IN AREA”

In conversation with Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Lake, the Company Sergeant Major of C Company, in 2011, he advised that he believed that it was Corporal Bill Ross from the Intelligence Section, Battalion Headquarters, who told him some time after the incident that there were a group of enemy in a squad sized camp cooking rice when the aircraft plunged from the sky near them. Apparently, from captured documents and intelligence reports, the enemy rapidly decamped as they knew that there would be some sort of follow-up by ground forces as a result of the crash.

Time: 1735 hours

“TO C/S OA FROM C/S 3 – REQ LFT WITH DUSTOFF: GRANTED”

At this stage, it was intended that the bodies were to be extracted by air using a Dustoff helicopter. The request for a Light Fire Team was based on the tangible signs of enemy activity in the area.

Time: 1745 hours

“CANCEL DUSTOFF. THERE ARE BOOBY TRAPS IN AREA. BODIES WILL BE TAKEN OUT BY FOOT. LFT STANDBY”

With bodies extracted, they were wrapped in a Tent’s Half Shelter and secured with toggle ropes. With the enemy activity in the area, the decision was taken to extract the bodies on foot rather than risk a Dustoff helicopter coming under enemy fire.

Private Summerfield recalled “We got the remains out (of the wreckage). A length of sapling some 15 to 18 feet (4.5m to 5.5m) long and some 3 to 4 inches (7.6cm to 10.2cm) at the base was cut down. The bodies were wrapped in a tents half shelter and slung under the pole”.

The bodies were then carried down the mountain by two platoon members. While this method may seem somewhat irreverent, due to the rugged terrain, it was the only practical way of getting the bodies off the mountain.

Time: 1908 hours

“HAVE BODIES – NEARING OLD LOC NOW. SEND DUSTOFF//DUSTOFF HEAR (sic) IN MORNING”

The Company Headquarters and 9 Platoon elements married up with the tanks and APCs at the foot of the mountains. With bodies placed on the lowered wading board of one of the APCs, the group returned to the Fire Support Base. In all, the recovery operation had taken some 9 hours but at least we had the satisfaction of knowing that these two United States servicemen would be repatriated to their homeland.

Time: 1945 hours

“LOCSTATS FINAL C/S 3, 33, E7, TA23 TFNBYZEC (477548), C/S 31 PWBZLFIA (461543) C/S 32, T21,T20B UXBLNGYLT (462545)

These were the final night time positions of C Company Headquarters group, 9 Platoon, the APCs, 7 Platoon, 8 Platoon and the Centurion tanks.

Who Were These United States Servicemen?

I wrote to the then Secretary of the FAC Association, Rick Aitcheson, in the United States seeking his assistance in identifying the pilot of the O-2 and his observer. I provided the ‘buzz’ number of the Cessna O-2, ‘86869’ (the full Serial Number (S/N) was 68-6869, the 68 designating the year of manufacture of the aircraft) together with the date of the crash as well as my reason for my enquiry.
Rick’s response included an extract from the FAC Association website as follows:

“James Dean Hoag
Killed In Action 19 June 1969
Captain James Dean Hoag was from East Point, Georgia and born on 18 October 1941. He was 27 and married when he died. Captain Hoag was a Kenny Forward Air Controller assigned to the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Bien Hoa. He and First Lieutenant George Richard Dover, a Marine Observer, were flying O-2A S/N 68-6869 on a mission to destroy Viet Cong rocket and mortar firing positions near Lang Phouc Hai 15 miles (24km) north of Vung Tau in Choung Thien Province, South Vietnam. They were using air strikes and Naval gunfire when their aircraft was hit by ground fire, which blew off the tail of the aircraft. Both crewmen died in the crash and their bodies were recovered. Captain Hoag had four years of service and had served 67 days in combat. His name is located at 22W 089 on the Vietnam Memorial.”

Some 49 and a half years after we recovered them from the Long Hai Mountains, I had finally identified the crew of the ill-fated Cessna O-2. But was it possible to put faces to the pilot and his observer? The following are extracts from the United States Vietnam Memorial Virtual Wall:

JAMES DEAN HOAG

Hoag's Memorial Plaque

ON THE WALL: PANEL W22 LINE 89
PERSONAL DATA:  
Home of Record: East Point, GA
Date of Birth: 10/18/1941
MILITARY DATA:  
Service: United Sates Air Force
Grade at Loss: O3
Rank/Rate: Captain
ID No: 3158370
MOS/RATING: 1115: Pilot, Tactical Aircraft
Length Service: 04
Unit: 19TH TAC AIR SPT SQDN, 504TH TAC AIR SPT GROUP, 7TH AF
CASUALTY DATA:  
Start Tour: 04/14/1969
Incident Date: 06/19/1969
Casualty Date: 06/19/1969
Age at Loss: 27
Location: Chuong Thien Province, South Vietnam
Remains: Body recovered
Casualty Type: Hostile, died while missing
Casualty Reason: Fixed Wing - Pilot
Casualty Detail: Air loss or crash over land
URL: www.VirtualWall.org/dh/HoagJD01a.htm
George Richard Dover

George Dover's Memorial Plaque

ON THE WALL: Panel W22 Line 88
PERSONAL DATA:  
Home of Record: Indianapolis, IN
Date of birth: 02/08/1933
MILITARY DATA:
Service: United States Marine Corps
Grade at loss: O2
Rank/Rate: First Lieutenant
ID No: 0103861
MOS/RATING: 0840: NAVAL SURFACE FIRE SUPPORT PLANNER
Length Service: 18
Unit: SUBUNIT 1, 1ST ANGLICO, FMFPAC
CASUALTY DATA:  
Start Tour: 10/26/1968
Incident Date: 06/19/1969
Casualty Date: 06/19/1969
Age at Loss: 36
Location: Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam
Remains: Body recovered
Casualty Type: Hostile, died outright
Casualty Reason: Fixed Wing - Noncrew
Casualty Detail: Air loss or crash over land
URL: www.VirtualWall.org/dd/DoverGR01a.htm

Rest in peace Captain Hoag and First Lieutenant Dover Your sacrifice is not forgotten.

End Piece

The official reports state that the Cessna O-2 was brought down by ground fire. The VC did not possess ground to air missiles but rather utilised RPG 2 and RPG 7 anti-tank weapons, neither of which would be capable of bringing down a moving target such as the FAC aircraft; it would be a million-to-one shot if this were the case. In my opinion, the FAC was brought down by friendly fire from the Charles F. Adams Class destroyer. This would account for the violent impact that torn off the aircraft’s empennage.

Acronyms:

1 ATF = 1st Australian Task Force
AC = aircraft
BHQ = Battalion Headquarters
CAPT = Captain
C/S = radio callsign
C/S OA = Battalion Headquarters command post
C/S 3 = C (Charlie) Company
C/S 33 = 9 Platoon, C Company
C/S 33A = detachment of 9 Platoon
C/S 62 = Assault Pioneer Platoon
C/S 9 = 5RAR Commanding Officer (Lieutenant Colonel C.N. Khan)
C/S T21 = Centurion Main Battle Tank
CFM = confirmation
CPL = Corporal
CSM = Company Sergeant Major
Dustoff = Bell UH-1D Iroquois aeromedical evacuation helicopter
En = enemy
EQUIP = equipment
FAC = Forward Air Controller
Foxhound = Infantry
FWD = forward
GP = Group
HQ = headquarters
LFT = light fire team (armed UH-1D of the RAAF named “Bushranger”)
LOC = location
LTCOL = Lieutenant Colonel
MAJ = Major
NoK = Next of Kin
OC = Officer Commanding
Possum = Cessna 180 or Bell 47 helicopter of 161 Reconnaissance Flight
PTE = Private
RAAF = Royal Australian Air Force
RV = rendezvous point
SQN = Squadron
TA (Tango Alpha) = prefix for radio callsign of M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier
TAC AIR SPT = Tactical Air Support
TF = Task Force
T (Tango) = prefix for radio callsign of Centurion Main Battle Tank
VEH = vehicle

Aknowledgements:

  • United States Air Force FAC Association

  • The Virtual Wall, Vietnam Veterans Memorial (US); www.VIRTUALWALL.org

  • Major Claude Ducker, Military Cross, Officer Commanding C Company, 5 RAR, 1969/70

  • Captain David Wilkins, Adjutant, 5 RAR, 1969/70

  • Warrant Officer Class 2 Jack Lake, Company Sergeant Major, C Company, 5 RAR, 1969-70

  • Corporal Kevin ‘Doc’ Mulligan, Company Medical Orderly, C Company, 5 RAR, 1969/70

  • Corporal Bill Ross, Intelligence Section, Battalion Headquarters, 5 RAR, 1969/70

  • Lance Corporal Dave “Stoney” Stone, Platoon Medical Orderly, 9 Platoon, C Company, 5 RAR, 1969/70

  • Private Colin Summerfield, Rifleman, 9 Platoon, C Company, 5 RAR, 1969/70

  • Private Terry Fitzgerald, Rifleman, 9 Platoon, C Company, 5 RAR, 1969/70

  • Private Dennis ‘Digger’ Nivens, Machine Gunner, Tracker Platoon, 5 RAR, 1969/70

Cessna O-2, Luscombe Field, Nui Dat (AWM Image)

Cessna O-2, Luscombe Field, Nui Dat (AWM Image)

The Cessna O-2 (also known as the "Oscar Deuce" ) was a military version of the Cessna 337 Super Skymaster and was utilized as an observation and Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft. The United States Air Force commissioned Cessna to build a military variant to replace the O-1 Bird Dog in 1966.

The first O-2 flew in January 1967 and the plane went into production shortly thereafter, with the USAF taking delivery in March 1967. A total of 532 O-2s were built in two variants for the USAF by 1970. The O-2A served as a FAC aircraft while the O-2B was equipped with loudspeakers and a leaflet dispenser for use in the Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) role. Several USAF O-2 aircraft were later transferred to and operated by the former VNAF (South Vietnamese Air Force).

General Characteristics:

Crew: two (2) - pilot and observer
Length: 29.75 ft (9.07 m)
Wingspan: 38.17 ft (11.63 m)
Height: 9 .17 ft (2.79 m)
Wing area: 202.5 ft² (18.8 m²)
Empty Weight: 2,848 lb (1,292 kg)
Loaded weight: 5,400 lb (2,448 kg)
Powerplant s: two (2) × Continental IO-360C six-cylinder flat engines, 210 hp (157 kW) each
Performance:
Maximum Speed: 200 mph (322 km/h)
Range: 1,325 mi (2,132 km)combat
Service Ceiling: 18,000 ft (5,490 m)
Rate of Climb: 1,180 ft/min (6 m/s)
Armament:
Hardpoints: Four MAU-3A bomb racks
Rockets: LAU-59A Rocket Launcher, MA-2A Rocker launcher


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