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FAC in SEA: South Vietnam - “In-Country”

Sign over the entrance to the snack bar on the 19th TASS’s fight line in June 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Sign over the entrance to the snack bar on the 19th TASS’s fight line in June 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

To remain in close contact with the ground forces they supported, FACs often operated from forward operating locations, like this FAC and his O-1E Bird Dog supporting Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops. (U.S. Air Force photo)

To remain in close contact with the ground forces they supported, FACs often operated from forward operating locations, like this FAC and his O-1E Bird Dog supporting Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops. (U.S. Air Force photo)

By flying low over the same territory regularly, the FAC could recognize any changes that might indicate enemy activity. Also, by using his same unique call sign on the radio, the FAC became a familiar and trusted voice to all friendly forces in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo)

By flying low over the same territory regularly, the FAC could recognize any changes that might indicate enemy activity. Also, by using his same unique call sign on the radio, the FAC became a familiar and trusted voice to all friendly forces in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An O-1F pilot of the Red Marker FACs at Tan Son Nhut AB fires a marking rocket at an enemy site near Tay Ninh City. The Red Markers, officially known as Advisory Team 162, provided FAC support for the ARVN Airborne Division. (U.S. Air Force photo)

An O-1F pilot of the Red Marker FACs at Tan Son Nhut AB fires a marking rocket at an enemy site near Tay Ninh City. The Red Markers, officially known as Advisory Team 162, provided FAC support for the ARVN Airborne Division. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Close up photograph taken by a FAC shows enemy bunkers destroyed by B-52s northwest of Loc Ninh in August 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Close up photograph taken by a FAC shows enemy bunkers destroyed by B-52s northwest of Loc Ninh in August 1969. (U.S. Air Force photo)

When North Vietnamese Army forces attacked the Special Operations outpost at Lang Vei, near Khe Sanh, in February 1968, FACs assisted the defenders by directing air strikes. In addition, they provided valuable intelligence information. This photograph of two PT-76 tanks disabled on the road leading into Lang Vei proved that the communists were using armored vehicles in South Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

When North Vietnamese Army forces attacked the Special Operations outpost at Lang Vei, near Khe Sanh, in February 1968, FACs assisted the defenders by directing air strikes. In addition, they provided valuable intelligence information. This photograph of two PT-76 tanks disabled on the road leading into Lang Vei proved that the communists were using armored vehicles in South Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. “Toby” Rushforth (right), the Covey FAC who photographed the PT-76 tanks at Lang Vei, with his brother, Dr. David Rushforth (Lt./USN), at Da Nang AB, June 1968. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. “Toby” Rushforth (right), the Covey FAC who photographed the PT-76 tanks at Lang Vei, with his brother, Dr. David Rushforth (Lt./USN), at Da Nang AB, June 1968. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Just as Airmen have done since World War I, the FACs in Southeast Asia brought a part of home with them by incorporating popular cartoon characters into nose art, uniform patches, and other military items. This unofficial flag was used by the FACs of the 20th TASS, who flew with the call sign Covey. Made by the wife of one of the Covey FAC’s, it has the popular character “Snoopy” from Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. The flag is on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - Just as Airmen have done since World War I, the FACs in Southeast Asia brought a part of home with them by incorporating popular cartoon characters into nose art, uniform patches, and other military items. This unofficial flag was used by the FACs of the 20th TASS, who flew with the call sign Covey. Made by the wife of one of the Covey FAC’s, it has the popular character “Snoopy” from Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts. The flag is on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - This bell was used at the “Covey Bar” at Da Nang AB. The bell is on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - This bell was used at the “Covey Bar” at Da Nang AB. The bell is on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - (top left) Patch worn by the FACs assigned to Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) 22 in support of South Vietnamese forces. Two USAF FACs, Maj. Larry Pritchett and Capt. Phil Jones, asked the famous cartoonist Al Capp to help them design a patch, and the result shows the cartoon character, “Evil Eye Fleagle” from Capp’s popular Li’l Abner comic strip. Fleagle could shoot destructive rays from his eyes, and the “Double Whammy” used in the patch could knock down a skyscraper.  This patch was donated by Lt. Col. John F. Welch, who commanded all USAF air liaison officers (ALO) and FACs assigned to the 22nd Infantry Division of the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN) from August 1966 to July 1967. (bottom right) This patch used by the 23rd TASS shows the Disney cartoon character “Jiminy Cricket” using his Walkie-talkie/umbrella as a parachute. This squadron had flown airborne reconnaissance and interdiction missions in support of an operation along the Ho Chi Minh Trail called OPERATION CRICKET, and they picked up the nickname of “Crickets.” (bottom left) patch worn by FACs of the 19th TASS who supported the ARVN's 18th Infantry Division. (top right) Patch from the 19th TASS flying OA-10s with the call sign Rash in support of the 1st Air Calvary at Tay Ninh, Vietnam, in 1969. The Rash FACs seldom wore these patches because the Army told them that they were defacing a very famous Army icon. The patches are on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - (top left) Patch worn by the FACs assigned to Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) 22 in support of South Vietnamese forces. Two USAF FACs, Maj. Larry Pritchett and Capt. Phil Jones, asked the famous cartoonist Al Capp to help them design a patch, and the result shows the cartoon character, “Evil Eye Fleagle” from Capp’s popular Li’l Abner comic strip. Fleagle could shoot destructive rays from his eyes, and the “Double Whammy” used in the patch could knock down a skyscraper. This patch was donated by Lt. Col. John F. Welch, who commanded all USAF air liaison officers (ALO) and FACs assigned to the 22nd Infantry Division of the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN) from August 1966 to July 1967. (bottom right) This patch used by the 23rd TASS shows the Disney cartoon character “Jiminy Cricket” using his Walkie-talkie/umbrella as a parachute. This squadron had flown airborne reconnaissance and interdiction missions in support of an operation along the Ho Chi Minh Trail called OPERATION CRICKET, and they picked up the nickname of “Crickets.” (bottom left) patch worn by FACs of the 19th TASS who supported the ARVN's 18th Infantry Division. (top right) Patch from the 19th TASS flying OA-10s with the call sign Rash in support of the 1st Air Calvary at Tay Ninh, Vietnam, in 1969. The Rash FACs seldom wore these patches because the Army told them that they were defacing a very famous Army icon. The patches are on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - The Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) sent highly classified teams into enemy areas throughout Southeast Asia, and the missions supporting the insertion and extraction of these teams were known as PRAIRIE FIRE. This MACV-SOG scarf was presented to a USAF FAC for providing support. The scarf is on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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DAYTON, Ohio - The Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) sent highly classified teams into enemy areas throughout Southeast Asia, and the missions supporting the insertion and extraction of these teams were known as PRAIRIE FIRE. This MACV-SOG scarf was presented to a USAF FAC for providing support. The scarf is on display in the A Dangerous Business: Forward Air Control exhibit in the Southeast Asia War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

After the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the United States committed large numbers of ground forces in South Vietnam, or "in-country." To support these growing numbers, USAF FACs began flying missions in direct support of the U.S. units.

To supplement the 19th TASS, the USAF activated the 20th TASS at Da Nang AB, the 21st TASS at Pleiku AB (later at Nha Trang), and the 22nd TASS at Binh Thuy AB. These four squadrons were assigned to the 504th Tactical Air Support Group at Bien Hoa AB for logistical and administrative support. However, to remain in close contact with the troops they supported, the FACs also operated from numerous forward operating locations (FOLs). As a result, the FACs used different identifying radio call signs, like Barky, Covey, Jake, Copperhead, and many more. Another group of volunteer FACs-selected from the TASSs and identified by the call sign Mike-worked directly with special operations teams.

Visual reconnaissance formed the core FAC mission in South Vietnam, and they flew light aircraft slowly over the rough terrain at low altitude to maintain constant aerial surveillance. By patrolling the same area regularly, the FACs grew very familiar with the terrain, and they learned to detect any changes, such as fresh tire tracks, that could indicate enemy forces hiding below. Of course, flying low and slow over enemy forces was very dangerous, but the enemy usually held his fire to avoid discovery.

Once he spotted enemy forces, the FAC radioed for fighter bombers and marked the target with smoke grenades or white-phosphorus rockets. After directing the fighter bombers' attacks, the FAC would fly low over the target to assess the damage, and the surviving communists would then shoot at the FAC with everything they had.

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