Come fly with me over Laos - Major Gerald Taylor, USAF, 23rd TASS, NKP RTAFB
"Do you see that "little flivver" down there in the weeds of Laos?
That's our Bird Dog on the prowl for enemy
I have published an extensive story about the Bird Dog, "The O-1 'Bird Dog,' the toughest dog in the fight, 'our little flivver.'" I want to extract from the introduction to that story:
"There are countless ways to come to grips with the almost indescribable courage and bravery of our armed forces in the Vietnam-Laos Wars. Understanding the men who flew the O-1 'Bird Dog' Forward Air Controller (FAC) is one. Much has been capably written about these FACs and their machines. More must be written, more must be read, more must be understood. These were 'chariots with wings,' the toughest little dogs in the fight, the eyes in the sky, a warbug, a centerpiece of the hunter-killer team that heaped lead upon the enemy's head."
Major Gerald Keith Taylor, USAF, flew the "Dawg" out of Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base (NKP RTAFB) from about August 1966 to June 1967, mostly over Laos.
Taylor flew with the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS), known as "The Crickets."
He passed away on February 17, 2012. Major Taylor had taken a lot of photos from that time and had assembled a slide show program about the "Silent War" in Laos that really was not all that silent. His wife, Betty, tipped me off to that back in 2015.
In July 2016 John Taylor, Gerald's son, sent me the photos his dad used in his slide show program. I have been sitting on them now for a year. I want to publish many of these photos, which I have enhanced, for several reasons. I think the driving reason is that I want to show you the geography over which and through which these pilots flew. This will help you understand better what all our pilots experienced when flying over Laos, whether in a fighter, a transport, helicopter or prop job executing whatever mission they experienced.
I was stationed at NKP 1972-1973. These photos brought back a lot of memories, but I'm not sure I ever really comprehended the geography in northern Laos until I started working with Gerald's photography. I will not be able to provide much textual insights for most of the photos because I do not know exactly where they were taken, though my instinct is northern Laos. You old hands may recognize some of the locations. If so, I would ask you to let me know a bit more what we're looking at. But a lot of the photos will be self-explanatory.
So, thank you John and Betty Taylor, thank you Major Taylor for the chance to fly with the 23rd TASS O-1 Bird Dog over northern Laos, these so many years later.
Taylor with his Dawg, an O-1F
Preparing to upload white phosphorous rocket
This is the Mekong River between NKP Thailand and Thakek, Laos. You can see the karsts over in Laos from the shoreline of NKP Town and you'll be flying over them shortly after takeoff.
In the case of this mission, Major Taylor is going to head up to northern Laos. Shortly after takeoff, he crosses the Mekong over to the Laotian side. Usually the pilots would radio in something like this: "Gombey 25 (callsign) over the fence."
I don't know where this is but my guess is that it is a photo taken outside Thakek.
Heading on out.
Plenty of tree canopy down there. Just left of center, it looks like a falls. That gives you an idea of how high those trees are. Tough to find an enemy down there, and tough to find a pilot waiting to be rescued.
Taking a closer look.
Heading down in there
The Ho Chi Minh Trail, or "Laotian highway" heavily targeted
I believe the Bird Dog has spotted a target, and fired a white phosphorous rocket to mark it for attack.
The Dawg pilot appears to have called in an air attack. Looks like an Navy A-4 Skyhawk coming on in.
A-4's bombs hit the target.
Back to work
Ban Laboy underwater crossing, near the curve in the river
My guess is there was a river crossing here and perhaps lots of enemy traffic
Mu Gia Pass, for along time the main route for the Ho Chi Minh Trail out of North Vietnam into Laos. Heavily bombed.
This is rugged land to be sure.
This is strange. There appears to be a village there completely surrounded by bomb craters. It is hard to believe the village survived the blasts.
This is an interesting photo, out the left side of the O-1. Lots of bomb craters, a road-trail, but wait a minute. See those three specs on the road between the various craters? Let's take a closer look with the zoomer.
Those look like three trucks to me, though I am not a photo interpreter, but this pilot has seen enough trucks to know they're trucks. Also note the area enclosed by the square at the bottom. That's a bridge, and it looks in tact. So now the Bird Dog pilot has to decide whether these are indeed trucks, that they are enemy trucks, and that the bridge is in tact. If he decides yes, then he has to quickly call in to Airborne Battlefield and Command Center (ABCCC), ask if he can get a fighter on the targets, fire his smoke rocket if the fighter pilot needs it, and then hope everything happens fast enough to nail these guys. If air is not available, then the trucks go through scot-free. If the fighters get there ate, then perhaps they can take down the bridge. Hard to tell.
Let's go home Doggie!