Truck killer" gunships called most important event in Vietnam

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla -- (This is part four in a series of Air Commando history articles leading up to the reactivation of the 1st Special Operations Wing here Nov. 16)

The gunship became the most important special operations development to evolve from the Vietnam War - the AC-47, the AC-119, and at its best, the AC-130. The AC-130 performed its interdiction and close-air support missions in an outstanding manner and proved to be the most effective "truck killer" in the war.

This radical concept, calling for a transport aircraft with side-firing guns, met considerable opposition initially within the Air Force. However, after equipping and testing a C-47 in Vietnam, the results proved convincing.

Although vulnerable to enemy ground fire, the gunship had the advantage of being able to keep a target under constant fire. In the face of heavier ground fire, the Air Force responded by improving avionics and in-creasing gunship firepower to permit it to operate at higher and safer altitudes. The 1st Air Commando Wing concentrated almost exclusively on training aircrews enroute to Vietnam and in-creased in size significantly. By October 1965, the wing had 10 different types of aircraft, 165 in all. Due to a number of aircraft and training requirements, the Air Force split operations into two wings-one at Hurlburt Field and one at England Air Force Base, La. 1st ACW transferred to England AFB and the 4410th Combat Crew Training Wing took charge at Hurlburt Field on January 15, 1966.

Split operations continued until July 15, 1969, when the 1st ACW transferred back to Hurlburt Field. During that time, the Air Force redesignated the 1st ACW as the 1st Special Operations Wing effective July 8, 1968.