Cessna O-2A Skymaster, S/N 67-21395
UPDATE: 5/1/14 – From Museum Curator Stewart Bailey
It is with great pleasure that I can say that Phase One of our project to “Save A Vietnam Vet” has reached a successful conclusion. With the help of the volunteers, staff and general public, we have raised enough money to acquire Cessna O-2A Skymaster, serial number 67-21395 from the National Museum of the US Air Force (NMUSAF) Exchange Program. Unlike many of the aircraft that we get from the NMUSAF, this one is not a loan but will actually belong to the Museum. Through the Exchange Program, our Museum is able to acquire the aircraft “in exchange” for something that NMUSAF needs, which in this case is cash to fund the restoration of their A-1H Skyraider.
The process began over a year ago, when the NMUSAF decided to divest itself of all the O-2 aircraft that were in storage in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB. They advertised that the four airframes would be put up for bid to the general public, and the highest sealed bid would win the aircraft. Of the four, three had full maintenance records and logs and could be returned to flight, while one, #395 had no paperwork and was considered to be an unflyable hulk. So, why did we bid on (and win) that one?
The story of O-2A #395 is similar to that of the many O-2s that served in Vietnam, in that it was flown across the Pacific to serve in the Forward Air Control (FAC) role, replacing the older, single-engined Cessna O-1 Birddog. It was assigned to the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron and flew out of DaNang, on a variety of missions over North and South Vietnam as well as Laos and Cambodia. In their role as FACs, the O-2 crews flew low and slow, spotting enemy positions and coordinating airstrikes by the “fast movers;” the F-4s, A-7s and such. Armed only with marker rockets and occasionally a gun pod, it was a dangerous job and a total of 82 O-2s were lost in combat.
One of the most notable missions that O-2 #395 took part in was the April 1972 rescue of Col. Iceal “Gene” Hambleton whose call sign was Bat 21 Bravo. The only survivor of an EB-66 electronics counter-measures aircraft shot down by a surface to air missile, Hambleton had the bad luck to parachute into the middle of 30,000 North Vietnamese troops. For the next 11 days, US and South Vietnamese forces worked to extract Hambleton, and when he was finally rescued, it had cost five aircraft shot down, 11 dead and 2 captured. As Hambleton himself said, ”It was a hell of a price to pay for one life. I am very sorry.” It was also the longest rescue mission in history and resulted in the award of 234 medals for bravery. O-2 #395’s participation in the Bat 21 rescue was confirmed by General (then Captain) Bill Begert, who flew close air support as part of that operation with the 20th TASS.
Since the project to acquire the O-2 began, a total of five pilots who flew #395 have been in touch with the Museum and have assisted with the project. One of them, Lt. Gary Beard of Bellevue, WA flew his last mission in Vietnam in the aircraft along with Lt. Tom Harnden and has provided pictures from their celebration. The Museum is working with all of #395s pilots to preserve their stories so we can tell our visitors about the heroic and often unheralded work of the Forward Air Controllers in Vietnam.
Now that Phase One of the project is complete, we are moving into the next phase; that of getting the airplane to McMinnville. It is currently located at AMARG in Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona and will need to be trucked from there to the Museum for restoration (Phase Three) and eventual display. The Museum will continue to solicit donations to help with the project and with all of your support, we will soon have this veteran of close combat in Vietnam on display for the public, serving our mission to honor the patriotic service of our veterans.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to donate and help with this project.
Photo: The Museum’s O‐2A Skymaster in DaNang, South Vietnam. The date is August 1,
1971 when Lt. Gary Beard and Lt. Tom “Ratso” Harnden flew their last combat mission. Photo courtesy Lt. Tom Harnden.
UPDATE 4/22/14: We got it! Thanks to your generous donations, we have secured the Cessna O-2 Skymaster, S/N 67-21395, from the US Air Force! But the job is not finished yet—we are approximately 30% of the way to our fundraising goal. This summer the next phase of the project begins: Moving the aircraft from Arizona to McMinnville. We are still seeking donations to move the aircraft, and to fully restore it to its appearance during service in Vietnam.
Our Curator, Stewart Bailey, would love to hear from anyone who flew the O-2. If you have stories or photos you would like to share, please send them to Museum Curator Stewart Bailey at email@example.com or call 503-434-4185.
This aircraft flew with the 20th TASS on the 11 day mission in 1972 to rescue Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton; callsign BAT-21, from behind enemy lines. It was the largest, longest, most complex search and rescue mission of the Vietnam War.
Help us to honor those who served, by preserving this aircraft for generations to come. Your donations helped acquire 67-21395 from the US Air Force Museum. The next phase of this project is to move it to McMinnville and restore it to its appearance during its service in Vietnam.
Levels of Sponsorship
$100-$499: will have your name listed as a Bronze Sponsor
$500-$999: will have your name listed as a Silver Sponsor
$1000 and Above: will have your name listed as a Gold Sponsor
Sponsorship is a great way to honor a veteran and show your support for this veteran aircraft! If you are interested in donating a tax-deductible sponsorship, please contact our Museum
Curator Stewart Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-434-4185.
The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit public charity, and your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by the IRS.