Behold the Cessna 0-1 "Bird Dog." I've skipped the pencil-to-print progress shots because I've simply had no time. This particular opportunity popped up on the radar and I had to move.
It's a long story...
But, on looks alone, the O-1 is a sweet little airplane, even with the military paint scheme. Paint it yellow and she'd look so pretty on a grass airstrip. And then there's that aw-shucks nickname; it's easy to visualize a cute little puppy painted on the cowling as nose art.
Don't be fooled. This is a bad ass warbird. And "870" was flown by a bad ass warrior. And today, he's nearing the age of 90.
You know, I've written this blog post at least ten times. And deleted same. In one attempt, I describe the role of the Forward Air Controler (FAC) in Vietnam, another the changing mode of technology...and none have satisfied until I this morning when I sat down with my friend Rick (LEO, Navy) and he reminded me, "History is about people. Not stuff."
Thank you Rick, for the wake-up call. I'll restart.
I first met Hank ten years ago at a reunion of a WW2 fighter squadron. These guys were the rough and tumble type that you'd imagine - back-slapping, loud hollers, scotch-fueled braggadocio - basically, the kind of buddies any man would you'd love to hang with. And, I was at the bar with Earl Ashworth, Bill Creech, "Doc" Perrit. Why me?! I could do something they couldn't - I could fly a PENCIL.
I was so outclassed. But, Creech was buying and no one had kicked me out of the conversation...
...and (I don't know how, but) the stories wound up to a challenge, "Who's the greatest fighter pilot that ever lived?"
Bullshit came to bullshit, bravado topped bravado. But a few moments later, the conversation quieted when Earl pointed over at Hank (talking to the girls, one happened to be my wife) and Earl - in his 80 year old fashion said, "Hank. Hank's the greatest fighter pilot. No doubt."
Bill and Doc looked over, paused a moment and in resignation or affirmation - I don't know - raised their glasses.
Bill? Doc? These guys alone were giants. One had hacked his way out of a Burmese jungle, the other built his own airplane in his garage. Yet, they tipped their drinks toward the big-chinned guy who looked like Bob Parr in the movie, "The Incredibles."
Right then, I wanted to know, "Who the hell is Hank Snow?!"
Tomorrow, I take-off to get what will likely be my last interview with the man.
I'll leave you with this; Hank flew P-51s in WW2, F-51s in Korea, F-86s in Korea, O-1 Bird Dogs in Vietnam, F-105s in Vietnam... 3 wars, 666 missions. I'll write it again for effect - 3 wars, 666 missions.
Look. I know there's some Bird Dog pilots who are waiting for a great story about Hank and the 0-1 but you're going to have to wait. This story is just too huge for a blog post.
In the meantime, that's Hank on the right, Air Force Liaison Offer for the 173rd Airborne, Vietnam.
I hope to be done by Christmas.