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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 Dog.

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 version.

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 robert.f.dorr@cox.net

Order your signed copy of "Hell Hawks" ($31.64) directly from Robert F. Dorr using his email address above.

Buy your unsigned copy of "Hell Hawks" on-line - http://www.allbookstores.com/author/Robert_F_Dorr.html


 

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