From Soldier of Fortune magazine October 1981

It Happened To Me

by Walt Darran as told to M.L. Jones

SOF Contributing Aviation Editor Walt Darran. who flew Navy fighter planes from 1961-67 and piloted Air America and Continental Air Services cargo planes from 1967-69, was present in Laos when (for the only time in aviation history) a helicopter shot down a fixed- wing aircraft - indeed, two of them. The victims were two Polish-built PZL Mielex Antonov AN-2 biplanes, known as Colts, of the North Vietnamese Air Force. The victor was an Air America Huey whose only armament was an AK-47 assault rifle. As Darran tells it:  

On 12 January 1968, an Air America Huey was delivering 105mm ammo from a U.S. TACAN (navigational aids) station perched on a high pinnacle deep in northern Laos to some artillery positions down below.
    
I was flying a Continental Air Services Pilatus Porter (a single-engine turboprop transport capable of short landings and takeoffs) making some rice drops in the area at the time. I had just headed back for LS36 (a Royal Laotian Army base) to refuel when the choppcr pilot, Ted Moore, screamed over the radio that two Colts were strafing and bombing the artillery positions. 
    
We were the only ones in VHF radio contact with one another at the time and since I was higher, I transmitted the message to CROWN (an orbiting C-130 with powerful radio equipment capable of relaying messages from Laos and Vietnam to U.S. 7th Fleet aircraft carriers) for fighters, all the while pissed as hell that I was almost out of fuel. 
    
I was familiar with the Colt. When I
was in the Navy, they'd send us out on  "Dawn Patrols," looking for the. rascals. They were used for aerial drops to isolated outposts, usually right at dawn in order to avoid visual sightings. To the best of my knowledge, the military never got one. 
    
Nor did they this time, despite the fact that all kinds of fighters were scrambled and sent to the area. By the time they got there, it was all over. 
    
I heard Ted say, "Shit, I'm faster and can outmaneuver them." So off the Huey went in pursuit. Glen Wood, the flight mechanic, had an AK-47 and shot the bastards down while the Huey made a few passes. 

    
One went down near the scene and the other pancaked into a hill it couldn't outclimb, about 13 miles away. 

    
I had to go to Vientiane the next day, so I missed getting any of the real goodies like Russian pistols, watches and so forth that were distributed when a Chinook brought one of the wrecks into LS36. One of the guys did manage to save me some of the canvas from the only fixed-wing aircraft ever shot down
by a chopper. 


USAF hauled wreckage of Colt to
LS36 for examination after unique
air battle. Photo: Ted Moore
 

Ann Holland comments on the above story: "Ted Moore was 'fired' after this incident because he wasn't supposed to have any weapons on board.  He was later rehired when there was no flap by the media." 
(Webmaster note: In fact he received a commendation from the Laotian Ambassador.  See below.)

 

EMBASSY

OF THE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

 Vientiane, Laos 

April 8, 1968
 

Captain Theodore H. Moore
Air America, Inc.
Udorn, Thailand

 Dear Captain Moore:

The emergency rescue operation of March 20-25 in Northeastern Laos, which brought over eight thousand people to safety, was accomplished under the most hazardous and trying circumstances. The magnificent success of the airlift was due to the courage, skill and resolve of everyone who participated. A great measure of these qualities was furnished by you and your fellow helicopter flight personnel, who flew tirelessly in the worst conditions of weather and security to find and move' the refugees. Without you, saving them would have been impossible.

 Please accept my warm thanks and commendation for your splendid and essential contribution.

 

 

 

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