O1-D BIRD DOG
The AAHF is proud of its flyable Bird Dog U.S. Army #57-2795, painted in the unit markings of the 73rd Aviation Company which operated in Vietnam. It is one of the oldest flying Bird Dogs. It was previously owned by the US State Department, and it is now used for airshows, re-enactments and educational display.
The Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog was a liaison and observation aircraft. It was the first all-wing aircraft ordered for and by the United States Army in the 1940’s as the Army Air Corps was separating into the US Air Force. During the Vietnam War, the Bird Dog was used primarily for reconnaissance, target acquisition, artillery adjustment, radio relay, convoy escort and the forward air control of tactical aircraft, to include bombers operating in a tactical role.
The Cessna L-19, later re-named the O-1 and always known as the “Bird Dog,” made its combat debut in the Korean War and was used extensively in the Vietnam-Laos Wars. As a Forward Air Controller (FAC) during the Vietnam-Laos Wars, its job was to find enemy targets and arrange for their destruction by other aircraft or artillery. They were part of a very potent and effective hunter-killer team that fought with the odds stacked against them, and prevailed. In the Vietnam-Laos Wars, the Air Force’s first Bird Dogs to go to battle were brought in to find targets for air interdiction, men and supplies flowing from North Vietnam through Laos to South Vietnam over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The evolution that led to this aircraft’s development and use in the FAC role is fascinating and historically significant. The requirement for this aircraft were driven in the main first by the need to lay down long range artillery on targets that were out of visual range of the artillery battery. That mission promptly expanded to provide what today is known as close air support (CAS) to troops engaged or about to be engaged with enemy on the ground.