Cessna O-2A 67-21424
Cessna O-2A67-21424

War Stories

This page is definitely still under construction. I would like to include stories about 424, other 23d TASS aircraft, and O-2 stories in general. If any visitor to the site has any story or photograph they would like share, please send to me, chris@o2cricket.com. I can offer some other sources for excellent wartime stories about what it was like for those flying the Skypigs in very unfriendly skies. Perhaps easiest to come by, although out of print, is Lt Col Walt Shiel’s, Cessna Warbirds (© 1995 by Walter P. Shiel, Jones Publishing, Inc, Iola WI). Available on disk is The Forward Air Controllers Association The FAC History Book (© 2004 by the Forward Air Controllers Association, Inc.) Although fiction, I strongly recommend Col. Jimmie Butler’s A Certain Brotherhood (© 2011 Jimmie H. Butler, Cricket Press Colorado Springs, CO). The story is drawn from Col. Butler’s experience flying with the 23d TASS. The sources of many of the adventures in this book can be found in The FAC Handbook already mentioned. I elsewhere mentioned and recommended mentioned the Rescue of Bat 21 by Darrel Whitcomb.


The story that can never be told!

From FAC pilot Al Matheson


It seems the TOC had scheduled a night combat mission with the most dangerous combination of crew members possible!  “would you believe” he lamented, “two --count them-- (2) O-2 flight instructors in the same airplane, AND at the same time…?”   “Yeah, that would be deadly” I opined, nothing could be more hazardous that I can think of...  “So, how did you survive?” I asked.  “I didn’t” was the quiet reply. 


It seems the daring duo set out to dual with death quite determinedly on a midnight tour of the HCMT, only to find that an earlier mission aborted. Ops had pulled their bird to log themselves an on-time take off.  They then ordered maintenance to service an alternate bird for the second flight.  The replacement O-2B was coming out of an annual inspection, it only needed a new rear engine “installed”.  


So, the new engine was dutifully installed, signed off and presented to the intrepid duo of flight instructors, who appropriately out macho’ed each other in loading the airplane with its customary compliment…, to which they added a couple of CAR-15s, multiple 32 round clips of ammo, their AN-PVS-2A night scope… and, oh yes, a venerable “rubber ducky.”  Walk-around looked good from 100 yds?  Yep, three wheels and black paint.  Pilot #1 in the seat.  Pilot #2 forms and secrets; engine start rear,  check oil, mags, carb heat… OK.  Engine idle, sounds a bit noisy, but good.   Engine start front ok, Yay!  Taxi power front engine (rear engine still in idle) and off we go to the ordnance ramp for souveneir pins and flags, right? (CTM note: Remove before flight/safety pins)


---NKP Tower, “Oscar Ducky 2…go fly now?”  

“Nail xx, cleared for taxi and run up, call for clearance.”

---Full power engine number front.  No lights, idle.  

---Full power engine number rear.   No lights…, bit noisy still? ... “Quiet! I’m busy with Brigham.”   ---

---NKP Tower, “Oscar Ducky 2 …go fly now?”

"Roger, cleared for takeoff, Nail xx, call Brigham airborne!"


Engine Front, taxi power to runway.  Engines front and rear full power on the numbers????  Brake release...?  No Go…!

Engine rear idle…   Now go really fast down runway …  “Now where are those damned Brakes???   


No go fly!     #@!$#@$@!*#$  


Time for Bell to ring!


Note:  The front and rear engines are identical and interchangeable on the 0-2 and Cessna 337.  The original front propeller is a McCauley D2AF34C59/76C.  The rear aft facing pusher propeller is a D2AF34C61/L76C prop.  Putting the front engine and front prop on a rear facing engine???   Airplane all suck, no Blow!    Tough on both  takeoff times and performance.  


Firing the 2.75" FFAR

From Ned Helm (Nail 27 and Bronco 07)

I was an OV driver in SEA and when the war was "called"I volunteered to spend the rest of my 2 year tour at Osan. We flew 12 OVs from NKP to Saigon,Clark, CCK,Kadenia, Osan . When we got there it was my job with three other IPs to covert the 02 drivers to the OV. In the course of that I got about 50 hours in the "Duck" ( the O2 was usually called the Duck or the Oscar Duck.) When you fire a 2.75 rocket in the OV there was a very subdued Whoosh....when you fired one in the Duck (especially when you were in the right seat!) it was more of a KERBLAM!!!! The first time I got lifted right out of my seat when unannounced the guy in the Driver in the left seat pickled one off!

Trolling for AAA

From “Nail 13” who flew 424 with the 23d TASS in 1968-69. This is offered with his permission (and the promise of more to come.)“Here is a quick story that the pic of the radio rack brought back. Nail FACs had UHF, VHF, FM and even HF radios. We could pretty much talk to anyone. I remember talking to Arc-Lite B-52's although not controlling them. Story: I was the first FAC to get hosed by 85mm with radar...I reported the size of airburst to intel and they said 85. So we then had a new problem, much bigger gun and w/radar. The O-2 had no radar detection stuff, only some of the fighters did. We found out that by turning up the FM radio wih a lot of background squelch we could hear the 85 radar tracking us, nice trick (mostly just increased the fear). We still needed to see the ground muzzle flash to pin point the location to then call in a strike. By the way, you may not know this little tidbit....the FAC was the only AF mission that was flown all alone, single aircraft and solo.”

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© 2022, Christopher T. Mayer.