Direct From The
Desk Of - Robert F. Dorr - World Famous Author On Military Topics
The article below was in the
September19, 2005 Marine Corps Times. You're welcome to reproduce it
if you wish.
Glad to be friends with you Lone Star Bird Dawgs. - Bob
Marine's OE-1 Bird Dog was a versatile aerial
spotter - by Robert F. Dorr
In Korea and Vietnam, a few Marine Corps aviators flew forward air
control missions in the Cessna OE-1 Bird Dog (re-designated the O-1B
in 1962) and its offspring, the OE-2 (O-1C). Both were a versatile
spotter planes that seemed capable of doing almost anything.
In an arrangement that was
routine in the early 1950s, the Marines acquired the Bird Dog because
they had a chance to benefit from an Army program.
In 1949, the Army decided to
replace its aging L-4 (Piper Cub) and L-5 (Stinson Sentinel) spotter
planes that had served valiantly in World War II.
The Pentagon asked for a new
aircraft that could support soldiers at the front by landing and
taking off in 600 feet over a 50-ft obstacle. The winning proposal
came from Cessna Aircraft Co. of Wichita, Kan.
Cessna's aircraft was relatively
heavy at 1,200 pounds without fuel or pilot. This design, soon dubbed
the L-19 Bird Dog, won a 1950 Army production contract.
The Korean War began on June 25,
1950. The Army, wanting the new liaison aircraft in the combat zone,
asked for first delivery in September.
In Army parlance, the first
version was the L-19A, the "L" prefix signifying a "liaison" role. The
Navy purchased 60 L-19As for the Marine Corps and gave them the
designation OE-1, where the "O" signified an "observation" aircraft
and the "E" was the company letter assigned to Cessna.
Army Gen. Mark Clark gave the
L-19 its name. He was handed a list of names submitted by Cessna
employees. The winner reaped a one-week vacation, $ 500 spending
money, and the free use of a plane and pilot for a round trip anywhere
within 500 miles of the Wichita factory. Clark's first choice was
Skyhawk but that name was already copyrighted, so he settled for Bird
In Korea, Army L-19s and Marine
OE-1s did a superb job as artillery spotters. They were nimble and
versatile. Often, OE-1 pilots lived with infantry soldiers and flew
from unpaved fields.
Bird Dogs were used for almost
everything -- training pilots, utility transport -- even as movie
props. More than one L-19 was intentionally destroyed during the
making of Army training films.
When the Pentagon's system for
naming airplanes was overhauled in 1962, both the Army L-19 and the
Marine OE became the O-1. The OE-1 version was re-designated O-1B.
Based on Korean War experience
by the Marine Corps, Cessna developed an improved version of the Bird
Dog that introduced a more powerful engine, a different propeller,
pilot armor, and a wing based on the civilian Cessna 180 aircraft. The
improved model was called the OE-2 and was dubbed the "Deuce" by
Marines. The Marine Corps acquired 27 of these but the end of the
Korean War halted further production in 1953. When the 1962 name
changes took place, the OE-2 became the O-1C. Although the Army
operated 3,400 Bird Dogs, it never picked up the Marines' OE-2
According to the webs site
globalsecurity.org, in the 1950s
three Marine observation squadrons operated mixed inventories of OE-1s
and OE-2s. Some OEs operated on an individual basis aboard aircraft
carriers as the Marines explored new approaches to expeditionary
operations. A few OE-2s went to Vietnam with the Marines in 1962, and
were "in country" when the name change to O-1C took place.
Robert F. Dorr, an Air Force veteran, lives in Oakton, Va. He is the
author of books on military topics, including "Chopper," a history of
helicopter pilots. His e-mail address is
your signed copy of "Hell Hawks"
($31.64) directly from Robert F. Dorr using
his email address above.
your unsigned copy of "Hell Hawks" on-line -