Episode 2538 of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast will feature a story about the plane that made all the Difference in Vietnam. The story appeared in the 2023 summer issue of Vietnam magazine. It was also highlighted on the History Net website. It is titled, This Plane Made all the Difference in Vietnam — So Did its Aviators – Cessna O-2 Skymaster Aviators Excelled at critical missions. It was submitted by Barry Levine.
Michigan-based writer Barry Levine works at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and volunteers at the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville. His most recent book is Michigan Aviation: People and Places that Changed History. Additional reading: Flash Point North Korea: The Pueblo and EC-121 Crises, by Richard A. Mobley; By Any Means Necessary: America’s Secret Air War in the Cold War, by William E. Burrows; and The National Security Agency and the EC-121 Shootdown, prepared by the National Security Agency.
Forward Air Controllers (FACs) were integral to America’s war effort in Vietnam, using various aircraft. One such aircraft—the Cessna O-2—was a modified civilian 337 Skymaster and flew a wide range of missions during the war. Then-Lt. Mike Jackson’s memoir Naked in Da Nang noted: “FACs…plodded along at ridiculously low levels to direct airstrikes, observe troop movements, gather intelligence, and/or choreograph search-and-rescue missions…we were the traffic cops of Southeast Asia, telling everyone where to go, when to go, how to get there, and what to do once they were there.”
There is no doubt that the FACs made a huge contribution to the air war and supporting ground troops in Vietnam. Col. Tom Petitmermet wrote in his memoir, Pretzel 06—Memories of a Forward Air Controller, about his 535 combat sorties in O-2s: “As a FAC I had a level of responsibility that I never came close to again in my future Air Force career. Never again would I have the direct power over the life and death of another person,” as there was virtually no margin for error when calling in airstrikes.
Listen to episode 2538 and discover more about the plane that made all the Difference in Vietnam.