Special Operations



AC-130A  #54-1629

AC-130A  #54-1629 is painted with a black underside and a camouflaged upper surface.  This was the first paint scheme use on the Spectre Gunships.

This aircraft was the first AC-130A Gunship combat loss following a 37 mm hit on 24 May '69.

The hit came over the trails in Laos and all but four crewmembers bailed out. The aircraft lost all hydraulic pressure due to the AAA.  One crewmember was lost in flight (SSgt Jack W. Troglen, Illuminator Operator) and another (SSgt Cecil Taylor, Flight Engineer) on landing when the right wing struck the F-4 barrier house and the aircraft caught fire.  The 16th SOS lost 5 more AC-130s before the Vietnam War ended.

Submitted by Col Charles Spicka, USAF Ret

AC-130A - This is a drawing of the original interior design.  There were 4x7.62 mm guns and 4x20 mm Vulcans.  Note the Illuminator at the rear on the ramp.  That was later removed as being unnecessary for Laos.
Operation Building - 16th SOS at Ubon in the 1968-69 period.  This was our first Ops Bldg at Ubon.

Note the sign over the door meant to infuriate the 8th TFW which flew the F-4s out of Ubon.

"The Fabulous Four Engine Fighters of the Wolfpack".  [The 8th TFW.]

In the beginning we were just one of the tenants, but after our success on the trails in Laos, we gained the respect of the 8th TFW and all others.

Admin Staff - 16th SOS at Ubon in the 1968-69 period.

Ft Row l-r   ?/Col Tom Simone, Commander/Maj Charles Spicka, Sqd. Exec. Officer/?

Bk Row l-r    ?/?/?/?/?

Pilots - The pilots who were first sent to Ubon to form the 16th SOS in Nov. of 1968.
Ft Row l-r   1?/2?/3?/4?/5?/6?/7?/8?

Bk Row l-r    1?/2?/3?/4?/5?/6?/7?/8?

Navigators -  The first Navs. who were sent to Ubon to form the 16th SOS in Nov. '68.

They were Navigators by qualification, but they mostly ran the multiple sensors we had on the Gunship.  We always had four or five Navs. on each mission.

Ft Row l-r   1?/2?/3?/4?/5?/6?/7?

2nd Row l-r    1?/2?/3?/4?/5?/6?

3rd Row l-r    1?/2?/3?/4?/5?/6?/7?

4th Row l-r    1?/2?/3?/4?/5?/6?/7?

  Flight Engineers - These men were key to the success
of our Spectre missions.  They made sure the aircraft was
ready for the mission and then performed the critical role
of keeping everything up and running during the mission.

The FE's were also the guys who brought the various guns
online at the direction of the aircraft commander.  They
were a very important part of the Spectre Gunship crew.
Illuminator Operators - They operated the large light we had in the back of the Gunship used to light Special Forces camps when we were on a Close Air Support mission.

Since most of our missions were Interdiction against truck traffic on the Trails in Laos, the IO's spent most of their time flat on their belly looking over the open ramp calling out AAA as it came up at our aircraft.  Very gutsy guys.

As the enemy began to use SA-7s and other heat seeking missiles, these IO's used flares to divert the enemy missiles aimed at us.  It was a very dangerous but critical job.  We all often depended on the IO's for our survival.

Ft Row l-r   1?/2?/3?/4?/5?/6?/7?

2nd Row l-r    1?/2?/3?/4?/5?

Gunners - Group #1 - These guys manned the guns, cleared problems and shoveled brass after the mission.  It was a tough job and often dangerous while taking AAA.

There were generally 5 or 6 gunners per mission. Most had never flown before.  It was a brand new experience for them.  Top that off with combat in a new aircraft that was only flown at night.  The gunners became a competent group of fine men.
Gunners - Group #2 
Photographers - This picture is of the original photographers that flew missions from Jun 69 to Nov 69.  After that, we had several more photographers come on board.  We were attached to the 16th SOS.  We flew on every mission.  We attended all the briefing just like any other member of a crew.  Everyday, we would check our equipment, our NODS and get ready for the nights missions.  We did our photography while over the targets.  Most of the photographers after we started to RTB would help the gunners shovel brass.  Once on the ground, we would stow our gear in our lockers in the 16th SOS locker room.  We would then go to our building, Det 3, 600th Photo Sq and re-wind our film and turn it over to the processors.  After processing, it was bundled and put on the courier flight to be sent to the Congress and Senate for viewing everyday.  It had to be ready for the early pick-up flight.  

  Adrian (Phil) Hawkshead.


AC-130 56-0014 at Ubon ca. 1971



Phil Vicknair

Crew Chief of AC-130   56-0014


I was stationed at Ubon from July 1971 to May 1972.  I do remember that the unit received the Outstanding Unit Award, with “V” device for Valor while I was there, and I just missed eligibility for the Presidential Citation. 

 My aircraft was 55-0014.  It was called “Balls 14.”  Aircraft 55-0044, our sister ship, was in a revetment close to 0014 and was called “Balls 44.”  During my tenure there, 0044 was towed in the first time it took serious battle damage; it was repaired, sent out for one or two missions, and went down the final time in Laos in March 1972 with all souls.  My ship sustained battle damage, taking a load of shrapnel in the right side (see photo below)


and losing Number 3 & 4 props. The Lockheed civilian crew that was dispatched to do field repair replaced Numbers 3 & 4 engines and the entire right wing. They said it shouldn’t have flown at all!  It limped back on two engines, earning the pilot and crew much deserved awards. 

 The first AC-130E’s arrived in the winter, after the New Year, with their unbelievable 105MM Howitzer cannon.   



16th Special Operations Squadron (constituted on 11 Oct 1968; activated on 30 Oct 1968).


8th Tactical Fighter Wing, 30 Oct 1968 (attached to 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, 19 Jul 1974–8 Dec 1975).


Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, 30 Oct 1968; Korat RTAFB, Thailand, 19 Jul 1974; Eglin AF Aux Airfield #9 (Hurlburt Field), FL, 12 Dec 1975–.


AC–130, 1968–.


Combat in Southeast Asia, Nov 1968–Jul 1974.


Vietnam: Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase III; Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase IV; TET 69/Counteroffensive; Vietnam Summer-Fall, 1969; Vietnam Winter-Spring, 1970; Sanctuary Counteroffensive; Southwest Monsoon; Commando Hunt V; Commando Hunt VI; Commando Hunt VII; Vietnam Ceasefire.

DecorationsPresidential Unit Citations: (Southeast Asia), 1 Dec 1969–1 Mar 1970; 1 Jan–1 Apr 1971. Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with Combat "V" Device: 1 Jan–31 Dec 1970; 1 Oct 1971–31 Mar 1972; 1 Apr–22 Oct 1972; 18 Dec 1972–15 Aug 1973.  Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm: 30 Oct 1968–28 Jan 1973.residential Unit Citation: Southeast Asia, 1–30 Jun 1969. Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device: 1 Jul 1970–30 Jun 1971. Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm: 1 Jun 1969–30 Sep 1971.     

Tail Code:  FA

Aircraft:  AC-130  

Vietnam Service:  12/68 - 7/74

The majority of the Information on this page is from the USAF Historical Research Agency: http://www.maxwell.af.mil/au/afhra/




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