AC-47 "Spooky" Gunships
During a night
defense of a hamlet in the Mekong River Delta, a reporter from the Stars and Stripes
watched an AC-47 attack from inside the fortitfications. Upon witnessing the wrath that
the AC-47 brought down on the VC attackers that night, he reported that visual effect of
the tracers, 1 in every 5 rounds or 20 per second, gave the appearance of dragon's breath.
He also tied the roar of the guns into the description. Upon reading the account in the
Stars and Stripes, the CO of the 1st Commando Squadron exclaimed "Well, I'll be
damned! Puff, the Magic Dragon." from a child's song recently popularized in the U.S.
by the trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Captured VC documents later told of orders not to attack
the Dragon as weapons are useless and it will only infuriate the monster. The Puff carried
21,000 rounds and three 7.62mm mini-guns with a fast (16,000 rounds per minute) or slow
(3,000 rounds per minute) rate of fire, with 7 crewmembers (2 pilots, 1 navigator, 2
gunners, 1 load master and 1 flight engineer), it operated typically at 3,000 ft., 130
knots airspeed, without armor or escorts and carried 24 to 56 flares, manually thrown out
the door. Later gunships included the Spectre (AC-130), Shadow (AC-119G) and Stinger
(AC-119K) with increases in airspeed, armor, altitudes, and computer aided guns.
On 24 February 1969, Spooky 71 was hit by enemy mortar fire while defending Long Binh. Airman First Class John L. Levitow severely injured with shrapnel, saved the aircraft and crew by throwing an ignited flare through the open cargo door.