Spooky
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Gunships

Spooky gunships (or Puff, the Magic Dragon, as they were first known, definitely not to be confused with either the child's notion nor the popular song of the time by the Momma and Papas).

The first gunships of this type were the AC-47's mounting various combinations of machineguns, 7.62 miniguns or 20mm gatling guns as the planes and their armaments evolved until their replacement at the end of 1969 with the AC-119 Flying Boxcars. As far as I was concerned the Flying Boxcars were as obsolete as the 47's, especially if you had to jump out of one of them, They, and the 47's, by then were all flown by AF reservists who had a reputation of dropping jumpers all over hell and high water. They proved me wrong in June of 1965 when my platoon made a mass tactical night jump at Fort Campbell just before leaving for Vietnam. I was the first man out and landed within feet of the Drop Zone Safety Officer and the initial marker - an exhilarating jump. And everything I have ever heard about the Reservists and their gunships in Vietnam and every conflict since then contains praise and gratitude.

During the Vietnam conflict the best airframe for the gunship job, the C-130, was in heavy demand for cargo missions, so the Air Force decided to arm Korean Conflict vintage C-119's to replace the really aging AC-47 fleet. The AC-119 Shadow or Stinger versions, differing as to the mix of 7.62 miniguns or 20mm gatlings, were the predominate gunship from 1970 on. In addition to the guns, each plane carried various newly developed sensor and targeting packages

So by the time this incident happened, late 1970, the Spooky I was giving clearance for out over Cambodia was either an AC-119 or probably a Spectre AC-130 with the then highly classified Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR), Low Light Level TV (LLTV) and Night Observation Devices (NOD) flying out of Ubon, Thailand, but all I really knew was a big bird in the sky was smoking the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

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