17th SOS


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October 10, 2011

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17th SOS
(Special Operations Squadron)

The AC-119G Shadow Gunship served combat duty for the United States Air Force in Southeast Asia for two (2) years, nine (9) months starting with the 71st Special Operations Squadron in January 1969 and ending with the 17th SOS in September 1971. All AC-119G Shadow gunships were turned-over to the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF).  

Chronology compiled by Dr. Larry Elton Fletcher. Dates and information taken from Jack S. Ballard’s book, Development and Employment of Fixed-Wing Gunships, official 17th SOS unit records at the U. S. Air Force Research Center at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and from Veterans of the 17th Special Operations Squadron.




June 1  

• Activation of the 17th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) replacing the 71st SOS which departed South Vietnam on June 5, 1969 and deactivated on June 18, 1969 at Bakalar AFB, Indiana.  The 17th SOS absorbed approximately 65% of the 71st SOS personnel. 

• Eighteen (18) AC-119G Shadow Gunships In-Country.

• 17th SOS Commander – Lt. Col. Richard E. Knie

• Commander of A-Flight at Nha Trang – Lt. Col. Russell A. O’Connell

June 31

Deployment of AC-119G Shadow Gunships even though 14th Combat Support Group Special Order P103, dated 23 July 1969 shows that A- Flight was ordered to relocate from Nha Trang to Tuy Hoa with an effective relocation date of August 3, 1969.

A-Flight, Tuy Hoa Air Base - 4
B-Flight, Phan Rang AB - 7

, Tan Son Nhut AB - 5

October 11

First AC-119G Aircraft Loss in the crash of Shadow 76 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.  Five of eight crewmembers killed. An USAF photographer from the 600th Photo Squadron was also onboard and was killed.

April 13

A-Flight at Tuy Hoa was ordered to relocate to Phu Cat by a 35th Tactical Fighter Wing Special Order AB-2777. Effective date: April 12, 1970. The move was made on the 12th. (SOP)

April 28

Second AC-119G Aircraft Loss in the crash of Shadow 78 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.  Six crewmembers killed. Two survivors.

May 1

Cambodia Incursion supported at night by AC-119 Gunships.


Deployment of AC-119 Shadow Gunships:

A-Flight, Phu Cat Air Base - 5
B-Flight, Phan Rang AB - 6
C-Flight, Tan Son Nhut - 5

August 1

Daylight Missions start for Shadow Gunships in Cambodia.

October 10

17th SOS relocated some Shadow and Stinger Gunships to Tan Son Nhut from Phu Cat and Phan Rang to meet operational demands in Cambodia.


A-Flight at Phu Cat deactivated.  Personnel and aircraft assigned to B- Flight at Phan Rang.

Dec 29

Deployment of AC-119 Shadow Gunships:

B-Flight, Phan Rang AB - 7
C-Flight, Tan Son Nhut   - 9

Sept 10

Last combat mission flown by C-Flight at Tan Son Nhut by USAF Shadow Gunship with C-Flight Commander, Lt. Col. James James as aircraft commander.  Fighting C-Flight gunships and support at Tan Son Nhut turned over to the South Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) 819th Combat Squadron.
Black Dragon
replaced Shadow as radio call sign.

Sept 24

Inactivation of 17th Special Operations Squadron and the 14th Special Operations Wing at Phan Rang. Another recorded inactivation date for the 14th SOW is 30 September 1971.

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