About 50 years near Vietnam, a helicopter that wasn’t officially there fended off an attack on a post that didn’t officially exist, with the help of a single Kalash.
It may have been the unofficial report of the shot down of an airplane with an AK-47…from a helicopter by the CIA.
“An Air Combat First” painting by Keith Woodcock in the CIA’s collecton remembers the occasion that an Air America helicopter fought off at attack on a remote radar site just over the North Vietnamese border with Laos. (Photo: CIA)
The story is during the Vietnam War, Lima Site 85 was a secret radar station on top of a mountain in northeastern Laos known as Phou Phath manned by U.S. Air Force personnel under civilian cover, guarded by Hmong commandos, and supplied by the CIA-run Air America cargo service.
This important site became a valuable target due to its vicinity of 150 miles or so from the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Once discovered on Jan 12, 1968, it became crucial for the North Vietnamese to take out it down.
The NVA sent four An-2 Colt biplanes armed with improvised bombs set out to attack the facility.
That’s when an unarmed civilian-marked Air America Co. UH-1 Huey flown by Ted Moore, which was delivering supplies to the base at the time, gave chase to the Vietnamese attack craft and soon brought the lead plane under fire with some well-placed 7.62x39mm rounds courtesy of flight mechanic Glenn Woods’ personal carry gun.
As the narration goes, “Woods pulled out his AK-47 rifle and began firing at the lumbering biplane,” says the agency, who went public with the incident in 2007.
“The pursuit was relentless, continuing for more than 20 minutes until the second Colt (hit by ground fire) joined the first in an attempt to escape back into North Vietnam.”
In the end, the bullet-riddled biplane that was Woods’ target crashed.
As noted by the spy agency, “This daring action by Moore and Woods gained them—and Air America—the distinction of having shot down an enemy fixed-wing aircraft from a helicopter—a singular aerial victory in the entire history of the Vietnam War.”
Sadly, Site 85 was overrun in March 1968 in a more determined attack comprised of massive NVA ground troops and Woods lost his life the next year in Laos — but the CIA Museum still has the throttle that came from the downed AN-2’s wreckage in their collection.