01 June, 2017

PROFILE 127: IN-PROGRESS - AC-130A flown by "...the rest of the guys."

Bah!  I couldn't find it!  I just spent nearly an hour looking for what is—at least to my wingnutty mind—one of the greatest Saturday Night Live sketches of all time.

It aired on 21 January, 1978.  I was but a punk—a model-airplane building, patriotic punk—that stayed up late and watched TV.  So, when actress Jane Curtin actually evoked the hallowed name of "B-52," I snapped-to!

Here's the gist - SNL had a skit called "What if?" and it was centered around a ridiculous (but totally awesome) question regarding changing history.  In this sketch, the question was, "What if Napoleon had a B-52 at the Battle of Waterloo?"

This is all I could find of the "What if Napoleon had a B-52 at the Battle of Waterloo?" skit!
Dan Akroyd is the B-52 pilot with the silver helmet, John Belushi is Napoleon and Loraine Newman is Napoleon's wife, Josephine.
©NBC or something like that.  No idea who to credit. :(

Of course, imagination went wild; What if the Brits had a Vulcan during the Battle of Britain?  What if Patton had an A-10 in North Africa?  What if the Marines had F-18s at Chosin Reservoir?

And recently, on this eve of the 73rd Anniversary of D-Day, I wonder...What if Eisenhower had an AC-130A in 1944?

Have a look at the opening-sketch of an AC-130A.  It's being done as a Thank You to a guy who, for now, doesn't want any attention...and I'll get to that, later.

So, moving forward...

For those of you who don't understand all-things-AC-130, recognize this:  the airplane is a flying battleship.  First flown in combat in 1968 during the Vietnam War as a tool to halt traffic on the "Ho Chi Minh Trail,"  (actually more of a system than a single trail), the aircraft set a new standard of what could be expected from "air support."

Of course, the airframe is the iconic C-130 Hercules cargo plane that virtually every human being on earth has seen.  Since 1954, over 2,500 of the hulking heavy-lifters have been built, serving in just about any capacity, any where, in over seventy different variants.

Here's a really cool photo that I found.  It's the LC-130.  No idea what "L" means but for now, let's say it stands for LOOK'IT THIS!

LC-130 on snow/ice.  How cool is this?!
Photo: USAF
But the adaptation to "A" (for Attack) turns the workhorse "Hercules" into fire-breathing beast from the Dark Dimension.  This version is nicknamed "Spectre" but in terms of names, I think it's just a little understated.


Well...let me count the ways.  In one second, a typical AC-130A can spew 200 rounds of 7.62mm bullets (2 x 100 rounds/second), 84 rounds of 20mm shells (2 x 42 shells/second) and (about 2) rounds of 40mm shells (2 x 5 shells/second).  That's almost 300 rounds in the time you can say "Found'ya."

And that's for just the A-model.  Starting with the AC-130E, the aircraft have been equipped with 105mm howitzer cannons and the current model, (The AC-130W) is also equipped with a battery of missiles.  Though this may seem like ridiculous over-kill (pun intended), it's really rather reassuring because the USAF can target with incredible (and ironic) life-saving efficiency.

Watch the video below and then imagine my "What if?" scenario for D-Day.  I figure three, maybe four AC-130s would have effectively ended WWII in Europe in...maybe a day.


So, I'm at this party.  It's a hot southern summer night, I've experienced my first "Mullet Fry," (delicious!), the patio is a loud cackle of drawled conversation...great time...and someone nudges me and whispers, "John, y'all need to meet that gah,' nodding towards a shortish, blonde-haired fellow in a flowered print and baggy shorts.  'He flew AC-130s and I think he got a DFC in Panama."


"Yeah.  C'mon. I'll intruh-doos ya."

Two hours later, I'm in the party-shirted warrior's living room, looking at his wall full of memorabilia that read like a book of post-Vietnam military history.  I was blown away by just how little of it I'd heard about, too.


"Sure,you can tell the DFC story," he stated.  "But it's not my story.  It's ours.  It's about all of us."  He pointed to a picture of a very specific AC-130A and the listing of its crew.  "And every one of us gets a print, okay?"

"Yes'sir." (of course!)

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll get everyone to weigh in—it's hard to wrangle 14 people into a coherent conversation.  But I think I've got enough to tell a story you've never heard before and yeah, there's a big "What if...?" attached to it, too.

This is as far as I've gotten for now.  There's an extremely awesome logo I've got to paint on this beast's fuselage
that will take some serious practice. 

PS - This guy died recently.  He plays a pretty prominent "behind the scenes" roll in this whole story.