Thomas Patrick Laffey flew a “Bird Dog” in Vietnam, a Cessna 0-1 that was famously low and slow. Laffey’s weapon was his AR-15 rifle, which he shot out the window. He didn’t even carry a parachute.
“If we did get hit in the engine or anything like that, we would have to take the airplane down and try to find a safe place to land,” he said.
He was a forward air controller, whose job it was to try to make sure that bombs or napalm did not land on civilians or on American or South Vietnamese troops. He was in charge of clearing all targets, directing the fighters in with white phosphorus rockets, he said.
It was dangerous job, especially over the Mekong Delta, where there was little cover.
“Of course, the bad guys knew that if they shot us down, then the fighters couldn’t release anything because there was no one there to clear them in,” he said.