The U.S. Marine Corps was a large operator of the Bronco. The Marines, unlike the Air Force, deployed the OV-10 aggressively to the conflict in Vietnam soon after deliveries began in early 1968. The first Bronco to fly into combat, flying from Danang on July 6, 1968, was from Marine Observation Squadron Two (VMO-2, which carried a vertical white VMO over a red 2 in leu of normal tail code letters.) The Marines deployed VMO-6 to Quang Tri in November 1968. VMO-6, called the Tomcats and using the tail code WB, was based at MCAS Futenma, Japan until deactivation in 1976. Futenma was also home to Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 36 (H&MS-36), which used the tail code WX. VMO-1, based at MCAS New River, North Carolina, used the tail code ER but did not operate in Vietnam (contrary to what was reported here previously.) Around the same time, the Navy formed VAL-4 and started to use Broncos, borrowing aircraft from the Marines until VAL-4’s deactivation in April 1972. These aircraft then returned to duty with the Marines.
The Marines used both the OV-10A and OV-10D, primarily in the Forward Air Controller (FAC) mission. During the war, the Marines used the OV-10 for a great variety of missions, from dropping paratroopers to dropping sensors, and of course it was used in the light attack / FAC role. Equipment varied from phosphorus marker rockets to seismic sensors to miniguns. After the war the Navy withdrew it from front-line service but used it for weapons testing and development. There were five Marine squadrons who flew the Bronco, VMO-1, VMO-2 and VMO-6 were regular service squadrons and VMO-4 (based at Dobbins AFB near Atlanta, Georgia and carrying tail code MU) and VMO-8 (based at NAS Los Alamitos, CA, with tail code QN) represented the Reserves. VMO-4 was the last unit to operate the Bronco, deactivating in July 1994.
The Marines were the impetus behind the development of the OV-10D model, eventually concluding the Bronco’s combat career by sending it (both A and D models) into action in operation Desert Storm in January 1991 (See the Desert Storm 10th Anniversary page.) The Air Force kept their remaining Broncos at home. OV-10Ds were preferred due to their greater speed and capabilities while the OV-10As were restricted to operating mostly in daylight. Two OV-10As were shot down by heat-seeking ground-launched missiles during the war, with one crew member killed and three captured by Iraqis troops. After the war, Marine Corps Broncos from VMO-4 assisted in drug interdiction missions. This task foreshadowed the aggressive refurbishment program undertaken by the BATF, and later transferred to the U.S. Department of State, to convert the OV-10 to spray drug fields with herbicide using ex-Marine OV-10Ds pulled out of storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona.
Our profound thanks goes out to Chuck Burin for providing the vast majority of this information, and for taking the time to proofread and correct it!
Marine squadron designators are identified as follows:
The first letter designates the type of aircraft:
- H is for helicopters
- V is for fixed-wing aircraft
The second letter is always M for Marine.
The third designates the type of squadron.
In the case of helos:
- A for attack
- L for light
- M for medium
- H for heavy
Fixed wing designators are:
- A for attack
- FA for fighter/attack
- AW for all weather
- GR for transport/refueling
- CJ for photo and electronic reconnaissance
- O for observation
VMO-1, based at MCAS New River, North Carolina, got their first Bronco (BuNo 155434) on September 18, 1968. VMO-1 never flew in Vietnam but did participate in Desert Storm. In the 80’s and early 90’s VMO-1 flew drug interdiction missions for the Drug Joint Task Force. VMO-1 was deactivated in 1993.
VMO-2 had been part of Marine Air Group 16 (MAG-16) at Marble Mountain Air Facility east of Da Nang, Vietnam since 1965 and operated UH-1Es before receiving the Bronco. The first Bronco to fly in combat was flown by Major S. I. Kittler on July 8, 1968, just a few hours after the first planes arrived from the Philippines. They also operated AH-1G Cobras in 1969. Originally, VMO-2 did not have any tail markings on their Broncos except for a black or white number designator on the nose and tail. The squadron split on December 17, 1969, becoming an OV-10 only unit. On February 2, 1970 they moved to MAG-11 at Da Nang AB. Later in 1970 they started using a white VMO over a red 2 as a tail marking. The squadron flew its last combat mission on March 22, 1971 at Da Nang AB. The Bronco flew over 38,000 combat flight hours between September 8, 1968 and March 23, 1971. Four aircraft were transferred to H&MS-11 for further operations. On March 24-25, 1971, the remaining 14 Broncos were flown to NAS Cubi Point, Philippine Islands for further transfer or return to the US. The squadron was in cadre status until September 30, 1971 when it was reactivated at MCALF Camp Pendleton, CA. They received the 9 OV-10s that had been assigned to HML-267. The same VMO over 2 logo was used until 1973, when the red, white, and blue diagonal stripes with the UU were placed on the nose and tail. This color scheme was designed by 1/LT Jim “Grump” Hodgson at the request of the CO, Lt. Col. James F. Farber.
LtCol Mike Moriarty was the Commanding officer of VMO-2 from January 12, 1970 until September 17, 1970 and wrote the book Ground Attack Vietnam. Col. Robert Stoffey, CO of VMO-2 from August 23, 1975 to October 7, 1976, wrote the book Cleared Hot. There is more information on these publications available on the books page.)
VMO-4 got their first Bronco (BuNo 155467) October 23, 1968 at NASA Grosse Isle, MI and moved to NAF Detroit/Selfridge AFB a year later (October 1969). They subsequently moved to NAS Atlanta/Dobbins AFB, GA on June 6, 1976. VMO-4 was a Reserve unit, and did not participate in Desert Storm. The unit remained at NAS Atlanta to take over the drug interdiction operations that VMO-1 had performed prior to that unit’s activation for Desert Storm. VMO-4 was the last American military unit to operate the Bronco, deactivating in July 1994. The last 7 OV-10D+ aircraft were transferred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
VMO-6 (called the Tomcats) got their first OV-10s on November 1, 1968 from VMO-2 at Quang Tri RVN. It is interesting that, according to USN inventory records, the first aircraft transferred was BuNo 155429 on October 6, 1968. They had been in Vietnam since 1966 and operated with UH-1Es and later added the O-1C Bird Dog. They were based first at Key Ha with MAG-36, then moved to Quang Tri RVN as part of ProvMAG-39. The squadron flew all three aircraft types until combat operations ceased on October 2, 1969. The Squadron left RVN for MCAS Futenma (Okinawa, Japan) on October 8, 1969. They were deactivated January 1, 1977. The last Commanding Officer was Lt. Col. Larry E. Byers. H&MS-36took over VMO-6’s observation role for a short period and many ex-VMO-6 aircraft were flown by VMO-1 and 2 Detachment crews.
VMO-8 got their first Bronco (BuNo 155400) on February 15, 1969 at NAS Los Alamitos, CA. This Reserve squadron moved to MCAS El Toro on March 1, 1971 and were deactivated in July 1976. The squadron lost two aircraft in accidents.
HML-267 had OV-10s from February 1968 until September 1971 when VMO-2 was re-formed at Camp Pendleton. The squadron usually had 4 OV-10s in addition to UH-1Es. Typical early markings were as shown in the photograph of 155404 and later markings in the photo of 155484. Their OV-10s were transferred to VMO-2 on September 30, 1971.
H&MS-11 operated four OV-10As from March 23 to May 13, 1971. The aircraft were numbers 155428, 155450, 155451 and 155486. One aircraft (155450) was lost in combat on April 28, 1971 with both crew KIA. A second plane (155486) was badly damaged when a NVA 122 mm rocket hit the concrete revetment where it was parked. Major General Marion Carl flew a local VR mission on May 9, the last day of combat operations. H&MS-11 operated the aircraft up to May 13, 1971 when the remaining two remaining OV-10s (155428 & 155451) left for NAS Cubi Point, Philippine Islands. These were the last USMC fixed wing combat aircraft to fly from a Vietnam base until April 1972.
H&MS-24 operated OV-10s from MCAS Kanohe Bay, HI. Dates confirmed from inventory records are from at least March 12, 1974 through December 1976. Aircraft included 155402, 155488, 155489, and 155496.
Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 36 was based at MCAS Futema, Okinawa, Japan until at least 1977 and operated in Japan, the Philippines, Korea, and Taiwan. They flew in support of the 3rd Marine Division. H&MS-36 held custody of Broncos for VMO-1 and VMO-2 detachments to the far east after VMO-6 was decommissioned January 1, 1977. According to inventory records, H&MS-36 operated from January 1, 1977 through at least September 1984. Aircraft included numbers 155418, 155424, and 155426.
HMT-303 took over the training of OV-10A/D crews from the USAF on October 1, 1991. The USAF training had been conducted by the 22nd TACTS at Davis-Monathan AFB in Tucson, Arizona from 1981 until October 1, 1991. HMT-303 had at least 4 A- and D-model aircraft including numbers 155405 and 155457. They ended the Bronco training on March 13, 1992 when the Marine Corps decided to eliminate the OV-10 from the active duty inventory.
VAL-4 was a Light Attack Squadron was commissioned on January 3, 1969 at NAS North Island and was initially designated VA(L)-4. Their first aircraft, BuNo 155461, was also received on that date. Known as the Black Ponies, VAL-4 operated in III and IV CORPS, RVN from April 1969 in support of Navy SEAL and Riverine operations in the Mekong River delta. The squadron had two detachments, Det. “A” assigned to the Air Force Base at Binh Thuy and Det. “B” assigned at the Vung Tau Army Airfield. New facilities for VAL-4 on the Vietnamese Air Force Base at Binh Thuy and the consolidation of VAL-4’s operating units lead to the disestablishment of Det. “B” on July 1, 1970. The last combat mission was flown on March 31, 1972 and the unit was deactivated on April 10. VAL-4’s 14 assigned Broncos were soon returned to duty with the Marine Corps.
The Technical Reports section was written by members of VAL-4 and contains tons of great information on this unit as well as Bronco operations in general – it’s required reading if you have any interest in Naval OV-10s! There is even a VAL-4 Organizational Chart.
Here’s a note from Ron Pickett that should be of interest to anyone associated with VAL-4 or who wants to see the Mighty Bronco in action. I have not yet seen this tape but it sounds like a good one! Thanks for the tip, Ron.
The Black Ponies of VAL-4 have developed a highly professional videotape history of the squadron. It is 73 min in length and includes extensive air and ground coverage, and is available for $30.00 plus $5.00 S&H by contacting me at:
5477 Caminito Borde
San Diego, CA 92108
VS-41 was the Navy training RAG for S-2s at NAS North Island, CA, and received their first OV-10 (BuNo 155460) on October 2, 1968. The squadron provided initial crew and replacement crew training for VAL-4. One aircraft (155460) was lost in a crash August 7, 1970 at North Island. The crew was killed. They had 4 OV-10s until February 3, 1972.
Squadron SOL-69 never existed. I’m just checking to see if you are awake! 🙂
This picture and the next were also taken by Ashby Shoop: “Sorry these are so dark but I think they were taken near sunset. This is a VMO-1 bird on a det at MCAS Yuma in late 1974. We (in VMO-6) were flying so early and late that we were logging night time in the morning and later the evening of the same day. We were there to support an AV-8 (Harrier) squadron (the first one, I think) out of MCAS Beaufort, SC but we also flew support for the local VMAT A-4 squadron and a detachment from an A-7 RAG at NAS Lemoore. I flew nearly 80 hours in the month of December 1974 while out at Yuma.“
Says Ashby: “This bird’s set up for a night mission with flares, two 7 shot pods, sponson guns and the drop tank. I don’t know why, but VMO-1 didn’t like to drop the drop tanks for tactical missions. VMO-6 often did take the tanks off for ordnance work.“
Tail shot of 155465 assigned to VMO-1 at MCAS Yuma late 1974.
Mark L. Brophy, LtCol USMC (Ret.), was an AO in VMO-1 from Aug. 75 to Aug. 78. He was one of two AO’s who took part in the OT-II of the OV-10D at Pax River around Feb. 78. This is a VMO-1 A-model, with the centerline tank painted to commemorate the Bicentennial anniversary of the United States.
Three VMO-1 Broncos in the hangar, courtesy Mark Brophy
VMO-1 OV-10As on the ramp, courtesy Mark Brophy.
Here’s the backseater’s view out the left front side in an OV-10A. The pilot is Brian McMullen. What you cannot see are the other OV-10s – 16 of them!!! They were proving to the CG, 2d MAW that they had 17 OV-10s in C-1 shape. It could have been just 16 total. Anyway, whether it was 16 or 17, Brian and Mark were LAST!! What a task to join on the other A/C – Mark says that it was an unforgettable Saturday morning! Photo by Mark Brophy.
VMO-1 Broncos in formation. Mark Brophy photo.
These photos were taken by Brad Hoskin at the Pittsburgh, PA airshow in 1989
|This is the front cockpit of an OV-10D, photographed at the Pittsburgh airshow in 1989 by Brad Hoskin, as seen from either side. Note the throttle quadrant visible in the picture taken from the left side, and the optical gunsight.|
This is the front and rear cockpit of an OV-10A, seen from the right side. Note the seat belt wrapped around the control stick in the front seat – a common way to lock the controls from unwanted movement. Also notice the air vents in the corners of the upper canopy panels. The “Remove Before Flight” ribbons remind the crew to remove the safing pins to arm the ejection seats before takeoff. These photos were taken by Brad Hoskin at the Pittsburgh, PA airshow in 1989.
This is the front cockpit of an OV-10D, photographed at the Pittsburgh airshow in 1989
This is the rear cockpit of an OV-10D, photographed at the Pittsburgh airshow in 1989
This is the cockpit area of the OV-10D, showing the angle at which the right side hatches (the ones normally used for entry and exit) are hinged.
These shots of the nose of an OV-10D shows the pitot tube and FLIR turret (covered up, as is normal while the aircraft is on the ground in order to protect the coatings on the turret’s windows.) Notice also that this aircraft does not have any Radar Warning Receiver antennae (the black circles visible on many other aircraft on either side of the nose.)
This is the tail and rear boom of USMC OV-10D number 155492 of VMO-1. Notice the red formation light on the tail boom next to the chaff/flare dispenser. When not in use, a flat plate could be attached over the dispenser to reduce drag. Given the obvious lack of flush riveting over much of the airframe, one wonders how much that could have helped! Also notice that the cargo door is open.
This is an OV-10A of VMO-1, number 155435, seen at the Pittsburgh airshow in 1989 by Brad Hoskin. Again, this aircraft has the older single-tone color scheme.
This is a head-on shot of an OV-10D. Note that the left side windows were rarely opened as far as the right side ones, although they could be opened fully and could be used to enter or exit the aircraft
This is a direct rear view of an OV-10A with the rear cargo door opened.
An OV-10A front cockpit
Here is OV-10D 155446 of VMO-1 on the flight line at Camp Pendleton, California on May 20, 1993 during the deactivation of VMO-2. This aircraft was also with the Naval Air Test Center
This little picture of an OV-10A of VMO-1, based out of MCAS New River, North Carolina was found at the URL http://www.landings.com/_landings/ganflyer/sep5-1997/of-wings-n-things.html
Ashby tells us about arming the airplanes: “This picture is of a VMO-1 det at NAS Fallon, NV in summer 1974. I’m betting that we’re in the arming area getting hooked up because both crew members in the picture have their hands up. The SOP is when the arming crew is doing the final checkout and connecting the armament wiring to the stores, both crew members show their hands to a ground controller who’s standing in front of the A/C with his hands up as well. He directs both the A/C crew and the armament crew working on the plane. I think this is the same series of photograhs where I took a picture of the ground controller. This was in the afternoon in the high desert in the middle of summer. The controller is wearing socks and sunglasses and nothing else (oh yah, earmuffs and boondockers.) If any of you want I’ll dig that picture up and sent it along. We were at Fallon supporting a deployment of VMA-211 in A-4Ms from MCAS Beaufort, SC. There were also Navy A-6s and A-7Es from their respective RAGS and a Navy reserve A-4C squadron from NAS Alameda. The flight line was being resurfaced and only a small portion was open so we were parked very close together. This was the time when I rolled about 11,000 feet (!!!) before getting airborne on a hot afternoon with an empty centerline tank and two seven shot rocket pods. So much for the OV-10’s short takeoff!!“
Chris Spinnler scanned in this picture of the prototype YOV-10D NOGS ship… the original source is unknown to me at this time.
Peter Rounseville writes: For what it is worth, your YOV-10D pictures are all from China Lake. We had a test and evaluation detachment there and then deployed to Can To, RVN with 155395 and 155396 in 1971. The aircraft were configured alike except for 396 (I believe) had a laser spot tracker and 395 did not.
This picture of the YOV-10D was found at http://www.nawcwpns.navy.mil/~bronkhor/clmf/nog.html which reads:
CHINA LAKE WEAPONS DIGEST
Development via systems integration: OV-10 Night Observation Gunship (NOGS), a USMC OV-10A modified to include a turreted FLIR sensor and turreted M-197 20-mm gun slaved to the FLIR aimpoint; successful in combat in Vietnam, NOGS evolved into the NOS OV-10D, which included a laser designator.
The main China Lake Weapons Development page is at http://www.nawcwpns.navy.mil/~bronkhor/clmf/weapdig.html
Jeff Clark scanned this picture of the YOV-10D NOGS prototype in from “Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes”, edited by Bill Gunston. Apparently there aren’t
many color pictures of the YOV-10D. Another picture of this aircraft can be found on page 18 of the “OV-10 Bronco In Action” book from Squadron-Signa
|Chris Spinnler also sent this picture of an OV-10D, originally printed in Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft|
|This is what happened to most Broncos after they were retired from active duty. This is OV-10D 155483 (IVO41) and two other unidentified Broncos, photographed at the AMARC boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB by Chuck Burin in November 1994. Notice that a protective coating has been applied to the hinges and other areas, to ensure that the aircraft is well-preserved for future flyability if desired. Let’s hope so!|
|This Bronco resides in the collection of the Mid America Air Museum in Liberal, Kansas. Notice that this D model has had the sponsons removed.|
This shot shows some good details of the upper surfaces of a Bronco with the flaps down. Vince didn’t take this particular photo himself, but he worked on Broncos for 12 years in the Marine Corps and then actually moved to a different state to be closer to an OV-10 project. I can’t decide if those are some type of dolphins or whales, or just underwater vegetation underneath the plane… this could be a question of the week.
The first Bronco to fly into combat, flying from Danang on July 6, 1968, was from Marine Observation Squadron Two (VMO-2) which initially carried a vertical white VMO over a red 2 in leu of normal tail code letters. Later, VMO-2 used the distinctive double horseshoe banner logo, designed by Jim “Grump” Hodgson who is a frequent contributor to this site and other Bronco projects.
VMO-2 flew its last combat mission in RVN on March 22, 1971 and the official stand down was March 23, 1971. The squadron’s 19 aircraft were reassigned as follows: Four aircraft (155428, 155450, 155451 and 155486) were left with H&MS-11 to continue flying support missions, while the remaining 15 aircraft were flown to NAS Cubi Point, Philippines, on March 24th (10 aircraft) and 25th (5 aircraft) to be prepared for further transfer and shipment. Nine aircraft (155410, 155413, 155415, 155416, 155424, 155425, 155426, 155427 and 155453) were transferred to VMO-6 in Okinawa; two (155488 and 155498) went to VMO-1 MCAS New River, NC; and four (155406, 155452, 155454 and 155485) were shipped back to the US for VMO-2 when it was reorganized.
Records indicate the following related to OV-10A shipments from Cubi Point:
- 4/28/71 – 4 aircraft to San Diego on LKA-113, USS Charleston.
- 5/10/71 – 3 aircraft to Long Beach on LKA-114, USS Durham.
- 5/18/71 – 4 aircraft to San Diego on LKA-115, USS Mobile.
The aircraft shipped probably included ones exchanged at VMO-6 with some previously held by VMO-6 being shipped to the US.
With the addition of officers and staff assigned to HML-267, VMO-2 was reorganized from cadre status (that means that there were some people to take care of the equipment and records but they had no aircraft to operate) to active status on September 30, 1971 at MCALF Camp Pendleton. HML-267 went on a deployment to MCAS Yuma in mid-September 1971 and officially split on the day they returned to MCALF Camp Pendleton (October 1), so their nine OV-10s became VMO-2 Broncos as soon as they landed.
VMO-5 reactivated 15 December 1966 at MCALF Camp Pendleton and flew UH-1Es. They became the first USMC squadron to receive Broncos, starting February 23, 1968. It redesignated as Marine Light Helicopter Squadron (HML) 267 on March 15, 1968. About this time it became a composite unit, serving as the training unit for both the UH-1E and OV-10. When HML-267 returned to Camp Pendleton from the Yuma deployment on October 1, 1971, their nine OV-10s transferred to VMO-2 and thus 267 became a UH-1 only squadron. 267 is still stationed at Pendleton and as HMLA-267 flies the UH-1N and AH-1W… in other words, they’ve been flying different versions of the same basic aircraft for well over 30 years now! (Thanks to Tom Denton and Chuck Burin, who transferred from HML-267 to VMO-2 when it was reactivated, for helping with this info.)
This was found on Dan “Pigpen” Ahearn’s homepage at the URL http://www.ntr.net/~ahearns/ov10.htm. Dan is the one on the right, the guy on the left is his backseater, Chip “Tard” Gibson. Dan has been quite helpful with information on these pages and he flies R/C sailplanes like myself, even has a Chrysalis… guess great minds run together! :^) This was taken in Kuwait in 1991 and Dan flew with VMO-2 (how’d I ever guess…)
This is a picture of Dan Ahearn flying his OV-10D over Greenland on the way to Desert Storm. It was also found on his homepage at the URL http://www.ntr.net/~ahearns/ov10d_in_flight.jpg.
Here is a good friend of the gallery, Dan Ahearn, posing in front of his trusty steed in March 1991. The propeller blade shape indicates this is an OV-10D.
Dan Ahearn captured this photo of an OV-10D firing a five-inch Zuni rocket on the range in the Chocolate Mountains near Yuma, Arizona. This photo came from his webpage and makes a good Windows wallpaper.
This OV-10A is shown flying over Mount Ranier (in Washington state) in the Summer of 1991.
This picture was graciously provided to the Bronco Gallery directly from the private collection of that well-known and enthusiastic Bronco guru and USMC pilot, Chuck Burin. These aircraft, numbers 155396 and 155398, are from HML-267, Camp Pendleton, California. 155396 later became one of the two YOV-10D NOGS prototypes. This picture is believed to have been taken in 1969 by Rockwell photographer Roy Mills.
This is HML-267 aircraft number 155404 captured by Roy Mills at Camp Pendleton, California in 1969. You can see a picture of this aircraft (in somewhat different markings) after a 1972 belly landing on page 37 of the OV-10 Bronco In Action book (it lived to fly again!)
Chuck Burin photographed this OV-10A of VMO-2 south of Da Nang in 1969
This is another picture of USMC OV-10A Bronco number 155427. This picture was originally found on the Bronco page at http://18.104.22.168/dtm/4480/chpt9/bronco/67h02.htm
Yet another shot of USMC OV-10A Bronco number 155427, originally found on the Bronco page at http://22.214.171.124/dtm/4480/chpt9/bronco/67h02.htm
This is a USMC OV-10D, number 155451, of VMO-2. This picture was taken by Brad Hoskin at a 1993 airshow at McChord AFB, WA.
Another one of 155451 by Brad Hoskin at the 1993 airshow at McChord AFB, WA. Notice the vents at the top of the canopy are in the open position. This angle also shows the bulged canopy side windows that allowed OV-10 pilots to be able to see directly below the aircraft from level flight. You can also get a sense of the thickness of the bullet-resistant windshield by the thickness of its frame, visible along the top edge of the center windscreen panel.
|PIC 1||Windshield||W=464 H=319 84KB|
|PIC 2||Detailed enlargement of main picture showing cockpit details||W=825 H=841 335KB|
|PIC 3||Thumbnail of detailed enlargement||W=200 H=204 10KB|
A closeup of the nose of 155451, showing the pitot tube, FLIR turret, and missile warning system sensors (the circular disks on either side of the pitot tube.) Also note the red formation light, just aft of the “24” lettering. Photo by Brad Hoskin taken at the 1993 airshow at McChord AFB, WA.
|This stunning photo of OV-10A number 155471 from VMO-2 was taken in 1973 by Chuck Burin while flying over Arizona. Be careful there guys, it looks like you could be flying into Arizona!|
|A small but nice little picture from Jim Hodgson. This was taken while enroute to NAS Fallon, Nevada sometime in the mid-1970s (a period when VMO-2 was on the road nearly constantly).|
Our friend Chuck Burin sent us this nice shot of two OV-10As (numbers 155481 and 155397) of VMO-2 in formation. This picture makes a very good Windows background!
|The Marines deployed VMO-6 to Quang Tri in November 1968. VMO-6, called the Tomcats and using the tail code WB, was based at MCAS Futenma, Japan until deactivation in 1976. Futenma was also home to Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 36 (H&MS-36), which used the tail code WX.
VMO-6 was a regular service squadron, while VMO-4 (based at Dobbins AFB near Atlanta, Georgia and carrying tail code MU) was a reserve squadron. VMO-4 was the last unit to operate the Bronco, deactivating in July 1994. After Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm, Marine Corps Broncos from VMO-4 assisted in drug interdiction missions. This task foreshadowed the aggressive refurbishment program undertaken by the BATF, and later transferred to the U.S. Department of State, to convert the OV-10 to spray drug fields with herbicide using ex-Marine OV-10Ds pulled out of storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona.
Ashby Shoop sent us this photo and the next to show us what happens when you raise the gear on an OV-10 without first becoming airborne! Note the re-contoured drop tank and the “new and improved” propeller shape. (That’s Capt. Crews wondering what’s happened to one of his airplanes – Ashby tells us that assistant maintenance officers can be pretty proprietary!)
|On this shot of 155427, note the gear door mod and the wrinkle just ahead of the windscreen. The aircraft was taxiing when the gear folded.|
|Quoth Ashby: “This is one of several formating VMO-6 birds, probably in 1976, based on the bicentennial paint. Note the 350 knot tape over the sponson gun ports. The VMO-6 birds had the rescue arrows with instructions in Japanese, which isn’t too visible in this picture. All of the VMO-6 aircraft had the change incorporated that added the second FM radio so they all had an antenna on each boom. It probably doesn’t show well, but the pilot in this picture has his helmet taped with the twin horseshoes emblem of VMO-2. Everybody at VMO-6 (junior officers) came from either VMO-1 or VMO-2 in the States. VMO-6 didn’t have a training element, so everyone checking in had an OV-10 MOS (7575 for NATOPS qualified, 7576 for fully qualified TAC(A)). I had my helmet done in VMO-6 standard soon after I arrived and I think that’s what the back seater in the picture has. I still have my helmet and it has ‘Seaworthy’ in reflective tape across the visor cover.” Unless they changed the call numbers, this appears to be 155427 – the same aircraft that had the landing gear collapse in 1975.|
|The next two pictures were taken from on top of the VMO-6 hangar at Futema on the occasion of the disbanding of VMO-6. There should be some variation between the bicentenial paint on these A/C… no two were alike as they were hand-painted by the ground crews.|
|The next series of photos were sent by Ashby and show something unusual for a Bronco… a Mk. 82 500 pound general-purpose bomb being carried on the centerline station, in addition to the more familiar M60 sponson guns, 4 seven-shot 2.75 inch rocket pods (2 pods with high-explosive (HE) rockets, and 2 with White Phosphorous [WP or Willie-Pete] marking rounds.) This flight to support a flight of F-4s occurred during a VMO-6 detachment at NAS Cubi Point. 1st/Lt Shoop is flying the airplane in the picture, and the A/O in the back is a Capt. Michaels. CWO3 Ed Hamlin took the pictures from another OV-10.|
|Ed Fernane sent this picture of an OV-10A (BuNo 155755) of H&MS-36, taken during deployment to NAF Atsugi, Japan around 1980. That is a ground heater used to preheat the engines and the cockpit.|
|155755 again, this is the preflight walkaround. Ed wasn’t sure, but thinks the crew’s name may have been Lt’s Hill and Burnett.|
|155755 again, just prior to engine start. This chilly scene is a far cry from the hot, humid, sauna-like conditions of Vietnam where the Bronco proved itself in combat!|
|This is a view through the gun sight. Some pilots preferred to fly on non-shooting missions with the gunsight stowed in the bag for that purpose in the cargo bay. Ashby says, “I’m sure this was on a long flight and I got bored and turned the sight on. Too bad I wasn’t more creative and done it when I was aiming at something.“|
|This is pretty self-explanatory: members of VMO-6 on November 10, 1975. The detail is a close-up of the aircraft… VMO-6 had a bit more color on their planes than some other units.|
|Bronco mechanic Ed Fernane contributed this picture of a VMO-6 Bronco, BuNo 155407, was taken in front of Mt. Fuji, possibly during VMO-6’s last deployment to Japan (which would place the time of this picture around 1976.) The detail picture is zoomed in on the plane.|
|This shows a VMO-6 OV-10A in the arming area at NAS Cubi Point with CBU-56 on the centerline and empty rocket pods. Taken by Ed Hamlin, via Ashby Shoop.|
Writes Ashby: “This is Brigadier General R.L. “Chip” Parker seen as a Captain at Atsugi in, I think, late 1976 or early 1977. VMO-6 had a detachment at Atsugi to support 2/9 at Camp Fuji. I’m confused by the WX modex that shows these A/C as assigned to H&MS-36. I’m pretty sure the squadron disbanded in December 1976. Chip was then the H&MS-36 subunit (CH-46s at Atsugi) Ops O and Aviation Safety Officer. I got to take Chip up on a maintenance check hop in November ’76 when we had to change a prop on one of the det birds. Chip and I went to the GP of Japan out at Fuji in ’76 when James Hunt won the championship that year with a win at Fuji having beat Niki Lauda who dropped out in the rain. (We were actually there on Saturday practice before the race and met a USAF OV-10 driver from Osan. We (VMO-6) used to get spare parts from the Air Force on runs to Osan. My plan was if I had a shaky bird in Korea, limp to Osan and let the USAF fix it! One det of VMO-6 supporting Marine exercises in Korea operated out of Osan. At the end of the first day, a junior Air Force officer who had drawn runway duty officer wanted to debrief VMO-6 pilots on their landings. What a hoot!)“
Note: the aircraft in the background, 155426, is seen on page 39 of the Squadron-Signal OV-10 book as a VMO-6 ship with a different tail code (WB).
VMO-8 was a reserve squadron that carried the tail code 5L initally, later using the code QN. VMO-8 got their first Bronco in February 1969 and were deactivated in July 1976. H&MS-11 operated four OV-10As from March to May 1971. H&MS-24 operated OV-10s from MCAS Kanohe Bay, HI.
Provisional H&MS-39, which operated in Quang Tri from April 1968 to October 1969, was reactivated at Camp Pendleton, California on September 1, 1978 to provide support for the UH-1 Huey and AH-1 Cobra helicopters and the OV-10 Bronco. The squadron was redesignated on October 1, 1988 as Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 39 (MALS-39) and still exists to provide aviation supply and intermediate aircraft maintenance, avionics, and ordnance support for six flying squadrons. MALS-39 did not operate any of their own OV-10s, as they provide an intermediate level maintenance facility for the flying squadrons. The squadron patch from the era does feature an OV-10 on it.
There are currently no pictures of aircraft from VMO-8, H&MS-11, or H&MS-24 available. If you have some, please send them in!!