Shoot Down

“You seeing this?” Captain Moore yells as he points left out the cockpit window.

Stepping forward, away from the center of the Huey, I lean out the open left side door, where a site straight out of a history book greets me.

Four huge green bi-planes, flying in formation, are cruising just over Site 85, dropping explosives on and around the radar base there.

How’d they know it was here?

“I’m gonna get above them, you grab a gun. Let’s see if we can have a little fun!” Moore yells into the comms again.

Scrambling back from the open side door, I reach down with my right hand to un-strap one of the AK-47s we brought with us on this resupply mission.

The front strap lock on the AKs sticks a bit, forcing me to kneel down to get better leverage to pull up on it.

Damn, I don’t want to miss my chance to shoot at a bi-plane!

While kneeling, I notice the tree tops fade away from just below the open right side door of the Huey.

We’re getting up there.

Catching the strap lock, I’m able to snap it open, freeing the AKs from their safe storage.

I yank out the AK on top.

Do I strap them back in, or turn and shoot, leaving the AK’s loose?

I turn my head to look out the left side door. The bi-planes are still there, in formation as it heads away from the radar base.

They must not have seen us yet.

I’m not missing them yet.

Holding the free AK under my arm, I re-strap the remaining guns to make sure they don’t start falling about the Huey’s rocking cabin.

Alright, they’re good to go, now for some fun!

Swinging back around so I’m facing out the open left side of the Huey, I point the AK-47 toward the last plane in the formation.

No aiming with this thing!

The AK set to semi-automatic, I pump a quite a few rounds toward the slow bi-plane trudging just below.

Did I even hit anything?

Banking left, the plane breaks formation.

I must have got his attention.

Moore yells from the cockpit, “Let’s make this a dogfight!” as he banks us to follow the bi-plane.

Yeah, let’s get this gook!

Securing myself against the Huey’s bulkhead, I fire off more rounds at the attempting to escape bi-plane.

Nowhere to go buddy! Nowhere to hide!

Unloading round after expendable round into the bi-plane, my cartridge empties out pretty quick.

Whether or not I’m hitting anything, he’s running scared.

This is fun!

A second bi-plane comes into view as I pull out the empty cartridge, replacing it with a full one from my vest pocket.

He must be following the plane I’m shooting at.

This one has a gun-mount on top, with a guy inside firing something up toward us.

Hey, they’re shooting back. Now it’s a fight!

“Focus on the shooter!” Moore yells.

“Already on it!” I yell back.

He probably didn’t hear me. 

No matter.

I lock the new cartridge into the AK, pull back to load the first round in the chamber, and let loose on the second bi-plane.

He’s staying level so his guy can shoot. Thanks man!

ZZZZzzzttt,ZZZZzzzttt,ZZZZzzzttt,rounds whiz by me.

Maybe I shouldn’t be that thankful yet?

Just as that thought crosses my mind, smoke begins seeping, then bellowing forth from the armed bi-plane.

I must have hit something!

Slowly at first, then faster, and faster, the large green machine from the past descends toward the earth. 

“Woods, you got’em!” Moore yells on the comms.

I shot down a bi-plane!

“Let’s get the other one!” I yell, hoping Moore can hear me.

Looking around for the first bi-plane, I can see him from the right side scrambling, at what low speed he can, to get back to Vietnamese airspace.

Moore banks the Huey to the right.

I’ll get you yet my pretty!

Lunging across the open deck of the Huey, I jump the tether connecting me to the helicopter as I swing the AK-47 up to fire from the open right door.

“There he is!” Moore yells just as I see the scurrying bi-plane.

Pumping rounds into this guy, I’m surprised when it starts nose-diving toward the ground.

No smoke.

The plane simply descends, no turning, no attempt to pull up, nothing.

“Seems like we’re done here.” Moore yells, “Gotta land this ammo.”

What about the other two?

“Hey, I’m 2/5th of the way to Ace!” I yell back.

“Good shootin’ Woods!” Moore exclaims as he banks the Huey back toward the radar station. “The other two bugged out. Can’t catch’em with all this ammo aboard.”

Two ain’t bad, even if they were bi-planes!


Painting of an Air America Bell 205 helicopter engaging two Vietnam People’s Air Force Antonov An-2 biplanes dropping 120 mm mortar rounds on Lima Site 85, Laos,12 January 1968.

Painting of an Air America Bell 205 helicopter engaging two Vietnam People’s Air Force Antonov An-2 biplanes dropping 120 mm mortar rounds on Lima Site 85, Laos,12 January 1968.

Bell UH-1H Huey Helicopter. 

Bell UH-1H Huey Helicopter. 

 On January 12, 1968 an American helicopter, part of the Air America CIA sponsored mission in Laos, was running supplies of ammunition to a secret U.S. Air Force radar station high-up in the hills of northern Laos. Coming through the canyon near the base, the Americans were surprised to find four Vietnamese An-2 bi-planes in the process of bombing the radar station. The American helicopter flew in above the Vietnamese planes, shooting at them with a hand-held AK-47. Two of the bi-planes went down in the jungles, while the other two were able to get away. Two months later the radar station was attacked by Vietnamese ground units, with a complete loss of all U.S. personnel serving at the station. This event was the largest single loss of life for the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War.   


The primary source for this story was here.