AC-47 "Spooky" Gunships
From 1964 to 1969, the AC-47s successfully defended 3,926 hamlets, outposts or forts. They
fired over 97 million rounds and killed over 5,300 enemy soldiers. No outpost or village
under gunship protection was ever lost to the enemy. Typical was the defense of the
embattled DUC LAP compound in Quang Duc Province. Major Daniel Rehn, pilot of Spooky 41,
When we arrived, the buildings in the compound were all afire and the men were grounded in
a blockhouse below the burning operations center. I set up a quick orbit of the area and
began firing on targets about 200 to 300 meters from the camp. Almost immediately we began
receiving intense AA fire from four points. I began by firing a long burst at a target
from my mini-guns but when the tracers started to fly close to us, I moved to another
altitude to peck with short bursts at the enemy locations. For several days, the gunships
shot 761,044 rounds and dropped 1,162 flares. Up to four AC-47s worked the area
simultaneously. The AC-47s not only devastated the attacking enemy troops but stiffened
the confidence of defenders, particularly at night. As the men at DUC LAP put it, Spooky
truly became their "Guardian Angel."
During a night
defense of a hamlet in the Mekong River Delta, a reporter from the Stars and Stripes
watched an AC-47 attack from inside the fortitfications. Upon witnessing the wrath that
the AC-47 brought down on the VC attackers that night, he reported that visual effect of
the tracers, 1 in every 5 rounds or 20 per second, gave the appearance of dragon's breath.
He also tied the roar of the guns into the description. Upon reading the account in the
Stars and Stripes, the CO of the 1st Commando Squadron exclaimed "Well, I'll be
damned! Puff, the Magic Dragon." from a child's song recently popularized in the U.S.
by the trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Captured VC documents later told of orders not to attack
the Dragon as weapons are useless and it will only infuriate the monster. The Puff carried
21,000 rounds and three 7.62mm mini-guns with a fast (16,000 rounds per minute) or slow
(3,000 rounds per minute) rate of fire, with 7 crewmembers (2 pilots, 1 navigator, 2
gunners, 1 load master and 1 flight engineer), it operated typically at 3,000 ft., 130
knots airspeed, without armor or escorts and carried 24 to 56 flares, manually thrown out
the door. Later gunships included the Spectre (AC-130), Shadow (AC-119G) and Stinger
(AC-119K) with increases in airspeed, armor, altitudes, and computer aided guns.
The 57 AC-47s stripped away the enemy's advantage of picking out friendly positions to
strike and overrun at night.
Medal of Honor Spooky
On 24 February
1969, Spooky 71 was hit by enemy mortar fire while defending Long Binh. Airman First Class
John L. Levitow severely injured with shrapnel, saved the aircraft and crew by throwing an
ignited flare through the open cargo door.
For this action he received the Medal of Honor.
1965 Vietnam History Gallery