Air America late :(


Staff member
Sorry Dallas peeps, I didn't see this until today. Would have been really cool to get some first hand stories from the guys that went there, did that.

Secret Heroes to be Recognized by CIA, UT Dallas
Event Will Reunite Air America Pilots With Airmen They Rescued in Vietnam

April 15, 2009

Pulled from newly declassified Central Intelligence Agency files, tales of real-life dramatic rescues will come to light at a public symposium to commemorate and acknowledge the brave crews of Air America, the CIA’s once secretly owned airline.

“Air America: Upholding the Airmen’s Bond” is being presented by the CIA and The University of Texas at Dallas on Saturday, April 18, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the University’s Conference Center Auditorium.

Hundreds of former Air America personnel from across the nation are expected to attend the event. The symposium will feature two panel discussions with Air America pilots and crews reunited with some of the U.S. servicemen and CIA station chiefs they rescued.

CIA Historian Tim Castle, Ph.D., chair of the agency’s Center for the Study of Intelligence, will moderate a panel discussion, “Laos Rescues: Lima Site 85 and Other Military Rescues.” Former combat pilot Joe Guilmartin, Ph.D., now an Ohio State University history professor, will moderate the second panel discussion, “The Final Days: 1975 Rescue Efforts During the Fall of South Vietnam.”

The symposium is part of the CIA’s continuing efforts to declassify and release its materials about Air America. Approximately 10,000 copies of declassified documents are coming to the McDermott Library’s existing Civil Air Transport/Air America archives, which is part of the University’s History of Aviation Collection. The documents will augment the library’s significant Cold War collection and reveal the untold story of Air America and covert activities of the CIA during the Vietnam War.

“These documents are essential to understanding the untold history of America’s involvement in Southeast Asia,” said Larry D. Sall, Ph.D., dean of libraries at UT Dallas. “While there are many Cold War collections, we wanted one that would reveal a covert side of that period in history. In these newly declassified documents, we believe we have that.”

Skilled in flying the mountainous terrain of Southeast Asia, Air America crews created their own search-and-rescue force, comprised of UH-34D helicopters and T-28D attack aircraft. Air America crews monitored emergency calls over military radios and flew to the rescue of fellow aviators, often encountering enemy fire, but saving the lives of 21 American pilots. After the U.S. military increased its air missions in Laos and Vietnam, Air America became primarily responsible for rescuing all downed U.S. aviators. In 1975, with North Vietnamese communist troops advancing on Saigon, Air America helicopter crews evacuated about 41,000 American civilians, U.S. government personnel and South Vietnamese loyalists.

From its beginning in 1950, Air America was an aerial lifeline that flew supplies to remote government outposts or evacuated refugees throughout Southeast Asia. Sometimes called “the most shot-at airline,” it conducted clandestine activities for the CIA under the cover of a civilian airline until it was disbanded in 1975.

Still, it'll be fun to see what the researchers publish out of all those recently declassified documents.

Man how I'd love to have kind of aviation. So much those guys have done that they have never been able to take credit for, maybe until now. Out here at KMZJ, Old Intermountain Aviation was based here......was a sister "front company" of Air America. They went "out of business" in 1976....supposedly sold off by the CIA, but I still remember coming here in the mid-'80s on a XC. As I was getting refueled, I look down the ramp and there's a C-123 with it's rear ramp open, and a panel truck backed up to it. Panel truck is unmarked white, -123 is Viet camo. There's a large tarp between the -123 and the back of the panel truck. I casually ask the fueler what the C-123 is doing around here, as I didn't think they were flying anymore. His answer was "....this is one of the newer Cessna's I've do you like it?"

John Deakin wrote a couple of articles on his days at Air America for Avweb a couple years ago. Interesting reading - would have been neat to go.