FLYING BLACK PONIES-THE NAVY’S CLOSE AIR SUPPORT
SQUADRON IN VIETNAM by Kit
Lavell; Naval Institute Press, 2000
Kit Lavell’s personal memoir of combat action actually encompasses the entire history, from conception to decommissioning, of Light Attack Squadron Four (VAL-4) the Navy’s only shore-based tactical aviation squadron in the Vietnamese War. In the three short years of its’ existence, from April 1969 to March 1972, flying OV-10 Bronco aircraft borrowed from the Marine Corps VAL-4 achieved a remarkable record of 42,862 flight hours and 21,802 sorties while building a reputation as one of the best close air support units in the war. In the course of their existence, they had twenty-six aircraft assigned of which seven became combat losses. They also sustained seven KIA and nine WIA.
The commissioning of VAL-4 resulted from the need for
effective rapid-reaction close air support for the Mobile Riverine Force,
our “brown-water” forces in the Mekong Delta.
The initial formation, outfitting, training, deployment and combat
introduction was accomplished under the direction of the first Commanding
Officer, then Cdr. Gil Winans, a highly respected A-1 Skyraider pilot with
extensive experience in the venerable Spad and its’ many variants.
Initially the other officers came from various backgrounds and
volunteered for many different reasons. They are an eclectic and colorful
bunch and many of their names will be familiar to those who served during
the first three decades of the last half of the Twentieth Century. In the
course of its’ existence, there would be 123 Black Pony pilots and
approximately 650 enlisted men assigned to VAL-4. Lavell has high praise for the enlisted personnel who
performed magnificently under extremely adverse conditions.
by Cdr. George G. Fisher, USN (ret)
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