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Early USAF Reconnaissance in Southeast Asia

This RT-33A flew secret reconnaissance missions in the spring of 1961 under the code name PROJECT FIELD GOAL. (U.S. Air Force photo)

This RT-33A flew secret reconnaissance missions in the spring of 1961 under the code name PROJECT FIELD GOAL. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Reconnaissance image of Vang Vieng airfield, Laos, from a PROJECT FIELD GOAL flight in May 1961. At the time, the Soviets were using this airstrip to resupply Pathet Lao insurgents. Visible in the photo is smoke from three anti-aircraft guns firing at the RT-33A. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Reconnaissance image of Vang Vieng airfield, Laos, from a PROJECT FIELD GOAL flight in May 1961. At the time, the Soviets were using this airstrip to resupply Pathet Lao insurgents. Visible in the photo is smoke from three anti-aircraft guns firing at the RT-33A. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first ABLE MABLE pilots in front of an RF-101C: Front row (left to right) 1st Lt. Fred Muesegaes, Maj. Ken Harbst and 1st Lt. Jack Weatherby; Back row (left to right) Capt. Ralph DeLucia, Capt. Bill Whitten and 1st Lt. John Linihan. Muesegaes, Weatherby, Linihan and Whitten also flew RT-33A PROJECT FIELD GOAL missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first ABLE MABLE pilots in front of an RF-101C: Front row (left to right) 1st Lt. Fred Muesegaes, Maj. Ken Harbst and 1st Lt. Jack Weatherby; Back row (left to right) Capt. Ralph DeLucia, Capt. Bill Whitten and 1st Lt. John Linihan. Muesegaes, Weatherby, Linihan and Whitten also flew RT-33A PROJECT FIELD GOAL missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first USAF missions in the Southeast Asia War were reconnaissance flights. These top-secret flights confirmed communist activity in South Vietnam and Laos and led to greater U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia.

A camera-equipped C-47 flew the first missions until it was shot down by anti-aircraft fire in March 1961 (killing all but one aboard). The USAF then used an RT-33A under the code name PROJECT FIELD GOAL and later fast, highly-capable RF-101Cs under the code names PIPE STEM and ABLE MABLE.

Click here to return to the SEA Reconnaissance Overview.

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