AC-119G Gunship Mission
There was a request awhile back for input on what a gunship
mission was like. I'm not as eloquent as some of the other members but will
attempt to get the atmosphere on a moonless night in a dark AC-119G interior
searching and shooting. I was a gunner flying out of Phan Rang. Except for a
few missions into Cambodia most of ours were nightime support for
Troops-in-Contact (TIC) or box searches. The TIC's were the most satisfying
because we knew we were giving immediate fire support to people needing it.
Sometimes it was only in the form of dropping flares to provide illumination,
but it was help. The Box missions consisted of flying over preplanned areas
and searching with the NOS (Night Observation Scope) for enemy activity.
Sometimes we attempted to stir things up by reconning by firing into the areas
hoping for reaction.
Usually we launched just at dusk after having briefed the
mission and loading up. Our ammo loads were 30,000 rds of 7.62mm and 48 LUU-2
or MK-24 Flares and a few logs (MK-6 Flares). A crew consisted of pilot,
co-pilot, flight engineer, nav/nos, 2 gunners, and an illuminator operator.
Duration was normally about 4.5 hours, although there were a few times when we
rearmed and refueled at other bases for a second sortie making for 8 hour plus
nights. Doesn't sound like much if you've spent 12 hour shifts on the ramp or
elsewhere like I did on two previous tours, but I found out that fighting the
G forces, maintaining an upright position on a moving floor, outfitted in a
survival vest and chest pack harness, with only dim red lighting and an APU
heating and stinking up the cargo compartment can wear one down in a hurry.
Only if engaged in a good gunfight did the adrenilin kick and ones attention
became focused thereby making physical discomforts unrealized until later.
A gunners job was to keep the guns on line. We usually only
fired two of the four at a time which allowed us to keep up with the
reloading. Ammo was large cans holding 1500 rds. We stored them on the
starboard side as the guns were mounted on the port side. If the air wasn't
too turbulent we would carry them to the gun to be loaded, otherwise we would
drag them. Nothing quite like carrying a 70 pound can and suddenly hit a 3 or
4 G bump which increased the load by 3 to 4 times.
If a stoppage occurred we had to determine what the cause was
and clear it in minimum time. Use of a twelve inch screwdriver between the
barrels was the method normally employed. Use of hands on hot barrels was
usually only experienced once and never tried again. Nomex does melt! Although
we tried to keep the pilot from firing extremely long bursts I observed
barrels go from dull red to a bright red. Expended brass was caught in empty
ammo cans which we moved out of the way as they filled.
The noise was terrific. Besides the four gunports there was
the open personnel door (NOS was mounted there), the searchlight opening, and
the open right rear personnel door where the flare launcher was mounted. Then
the two engines hopfully were making noise, and the APU mounted next to the
guns, any guns that might be putting out 3-6000 rpm each, and the intercom
chatter. Loved every minute of it.
Best of all was listening to the guys on the ground saying they
didn't need our assistance any longer.
Small arms, 12.7, and Strellas were our main threats. The other
crew members kept eyes peeled for that stuff since we were busy with the guns
most of the time, although we could see out the gunports a little.
Hope this sheds a little light on the "Fly By Night"