Aviation Art…

Sadly, I’ve run out of aviation paintings, so after a year this series will end…

But the last one is a real goody! h/t Gerry for this one of a kind painting!

And the ‘rest of the story’, as they say…

by Keith Woodcock, Oil on Canvas, 2007

Donated by Marius Burke and Boyd D. Mesecher


On 12 January 1968, four North Vietnamese Air Force AN-2 Colt biplanes lifted off from an airfield in northeastern North Vietnam and headed west toward Laos. The aircraft were on a mission to destroy a US radar base that was guiding bombers in attacks against targets in North Vietnam. Known to the Americans as Site 85, the radar facility was perched atop a 5,800-foothigh mountain, Phou Pha Thi. Manned by US Air Force volunteers “sheepdipped” as employees of the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, the site had been in operation only a few months. The mountain, used for many years as a staging base for CIA-directed Hmong guerilla fighters and American special operations and rescue helicopters, was only 125 nautical miles from Hanoi. Air America, a CIA-proprietary, provided aerial support for the facility, the technicians, and the security forces.

The Colts reached Site 85 early in the afternoon, and two began bombing and strafing passes as the others circled nearby. Coincidentally, Air America captain Ted Moore, flying a UH-1D Huey helicopter carrying ammunition to the site, saw the attack (“It looked like World War I,” he recalled.) and gave chase to a Colt as it turned back to the Vietnamese border. Moore positioned his helicopter above the biplane, as crewman Glenn Woods fired an AK-47 rifle down on it. The pursuit continued for more than 20 minutes until the second AN-2 flew underneath the helicopter. Dropping back, Moore and Woods watched as the first AN-2 dropped and crashed into a ridge just west of the North Vietnamese border. Minutes later, the second Colt hit the side of a mountain three miles farther north. The other Colts escaped, inactive observers throughout. Within hours a CIA-controlled ground team reached the crashed aircraft and found bullet holes in the downed planes.

In the mists of the Annamite Mountains and part of a secret war, Air America employees Ted Moore and Glenn Woods gained the distinction of having shot down a fixed-wing aircraft from a helicopter, a singular aerial victory in the Vietnam War. Two months later, North Vietnamese commandos attacked and destroyed Site 85, inflicting the deadliest single ground loss of US Air Force personnel of the Vietnam War.

On 27 July 2007, CIA officially received An Air Combat First in an event attended by members of the Air America Board; pilot Ted Moore; Sawang Reed, the wife of flight mechanic Glenn Woods; CIA paramilitary legend Bill Lair; and the donors of the painting, former Air America officers Marius Burke and Boyd D. Mesecher.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and I thank you for the many comments!!!


Aviation Art… — 21 Comments

  1. Well, dammit! I’m going to miss these, I’ve really enjoyed the pictures and the stories that went along with them. Thanks!

  2. I have enjoyed the pictures and especially the stories behind them. I even Googled a few to learn more. Like today’s, post, 13 our of 19 USAF dudes were killed, and 42 Thai’s and Laos out of 1,300. Quiet a battle, but they all ran to the firing positions, leaving the radios for air support abandoned.

  3. I have also enjoyed this series a great deal and have learned lots.

    Would it be possible to continue doing something similar with photos?

    Or maybe a series on the Medal of Honor winners?

  4. Ed/RS/WSF- Thanks!

    CP- That’s great! And yes, they didn’t have air, so left the radios. Here are two more links to Site 85. From the CIA- https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/95unclass/Linder.html

    And the actual CHECO report- http://www.ojc.org/powforum/checo/checo05.htm

    Suz- I’ll look around, Juvat is doing the USAF MOH winners over at the Old AF Sarge link, usually on Mondays. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Turns out one of the guys on the Iowa worked for Air America “back in the day”, and the Ham Radio group just picked up a new member who was a pilot for Southern Air Transport.

    I’ll bet he’s got some “interesting” stories, *if* he can talk about them….

  6. In the mid to late 80s I worked with one of the survivors of Site 85. He describe the escape as “pistols and hand-grenades for 2 days.” Nice, quiet man. Just like a lot of the guys I worked with. Simple, retired, grey-haired men who scared the sh*t out of me.

      • The same man was on the radio w/ ground forces at Bay of Pigs. He had to tell them air cover was NOT forthcoming. Needless to say he didn’t shed any tears come November ’63.
        Another nice old man who’d share photos of grandchildren was an UDT during Korean War and was an instructor for the 1st BUDs class, SEAL school, Coronado.
        A third NEVER attended Memorial Day ceremonies in the Main Lobby. Always took the day off. Never knew where he went. Never dared ask. Deeply honored they shared what they did with me.

  7. Igor Sikorsky once said that the helicopter would never be faster than a fixed wing aircraft.

    Clearly he did not anticipate his former countrymen making slower planes.

  8. Hey Old NFO;

    Dang, I enjoyed your “Aviation Art” series…Even did some research on a couple of them. I also recall if memory serves, the people at Site 85 saw traces of buildup of NVA/Pathet Lao forces and tried to warn the clowns in Saigon and were dismissed. I also recall that some of the Americans were never recovered and rumors persist of them being taken from the Viet commies by the Soviets.

  9. Thank You for a great series. I sure learned a thing or two from the back stories and the paintings where outstanding.