The Cessna 0-1 "Bird Dog's" combat service began in the Korean War where it served in a scouting role for Army and Marine units, followed by active utilization in the Vietnam conflict as a forward air-control aircraft. As late as 1968, pilots of O-1s would patrol over the Vietnam jungles in search of targets, mark them with signal rockets, and direct air strikes by tactical aircraft. Their slow speed of 115 mph proved valuable in observation missions along friendly convoy routes while in contact with ground units to report location of enemy ambushes and direct air strikes against them.
Drawbacks in the O-1 such as lack of armor protection, no self-sealing fuel tanks, and reduced carriage capacity of rockets resulted in their replacement by the Cessna O-2 and North American OV-10A and eventual assignment to the South Vietnamese Air Force.
During the evacuation of all United States Military forces from Saigon in 1975, a South Vietnamese air force major took off from Con Son Island in a "Bird Dog" with his wife and five children crammed in the small cabin. With enough gas to remain in the air for only one more hour, the pilot spotted the aircraft carrier USS Midway and by means of a dropped note requested permission to land on board. The ship's Commanding Officer ordered the deck to be cleared and brought a Vietnamese interpreter to the island to communicate with the pilot by radio. Without benefit of a tail hook or barrier, the pilot made a slow approach to a successful landing despite the fact that he had never seen an aircraft carrier before let alone landed on one.
The Museum's aircraft is the plane used in that historic landing, and was donated to the Museum by the USS Midway in 1975. Unlike other aircraft in the Museum's collection, it had not served operationally with either the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard.
Mission: Scouting/spotting/tactical air control
Crew: Pilot plus one
Powerplant: 213 hp Continental 0-470-11 engine
Dimensions: Span 36'; length 25' 6"
Weight: 2,430 lbs gross
Speed: 130 mph maximum