Friday, 15 January 2010
Bird Dogs of the 220th Recon
Finally, a book giving the “Catkillers” the recognition they deserve. Often times, in Vietnam, I was asked what a US Marine was doing with an army unit. I arrived in Vietnam in July 1968, and was assigned to Headquarters, XXIV Corps, as a Marine Aerial Observer. Next thing I knew, I was in the office of the Commanding General, then-LTGEN Richard G. Stilwell.
The 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company had just been made OpCon to XXIV Corps, and Gen. Stilwell told me I was the new liaison officer and had two weeks to develop a plan on how they would be used in northern I Corps. When I visited the Catkillers, they looked at me like I was from outer space, but it was a short-lived reaction. Working closely with “Andy” Anderson, I learned that individual ground units were being allocated so many hours of 220th support, with XXIV Corps Artillery claiming the majority of those hours. I briefed General Stilwell that we needed to change “hours” to “missions,” and from then on, ground units had to submit mission requests, stipulating the purpose, time of day, and how long they wanted coverage. The XXIV Corps Artillery people went nuts, to say the least.
My first mission with them was over North Vietnam, where anti-aircraft fire was coming from 57, 85 and 100mm guns. Along the Laos border, inside Laos, over Ashau Valley and Dakrong Valley, ground fire came from 12.7, 23 and 37mm weapons. It was over Laos where I learned that Bird Dogs can survive hits and keep flying.
The 220th soon became known throughout Northern I Corps, and there wasn’t a mission or assignment, regardless of weather or ground fire, that they backed off from, regularly returning with bullet holes in their aircraft.
“A Hundred Feet Over Hell” is about the Catkillers’ sincerity, heroism, and previously undocumented sacrifices, in all kinds of weather and under hostile fire; it tells of our flying over North Vietnam and Laos, night operations, and aircrews that were lost. As a United States Marine, I hold all members of the 220th RAC in the highest regard, and have the honor of being the only “Marine Catkiller.”
Read the stories that Jim Hooper has so painstakingly gathered, which give credence, respect and reality to the most caring group of US Army aviators, the Catkillers.
“Tank” Meehan, COL, USMC (ret)
Author Jim Hooper's web site