ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
James Lawrence's Vietnam War Photos
James "Nomad" Lawrence
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
First Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps
First Lieutenant James Lawrence volunteered to be a Forward Air Controller in Vietnam, flying in a small Cessna, also known as a Bird Dog.
The mission of the Forward Air controller is to go and find the bad guys and then we would co-ordinate airstrikes. Being (former) fighter pilots we knew the capabilities of the fighters and we would also control gunfire from the ships like the New Jersey.
Flying the Bird Dog was a strictly volunteer mission because the loss rate was so high. The Cessna was unarmed but the Bird Dog pilots had their own bag of tricks to pull from.
We used to fly with the windows open so that we could hear the enemy shooting at us, and we would also throw hand grenades at them. And what you would do with the grenades, you would go down the chow hall and get a glass (put the grenade in it) and put duct tape over the top. When you got ready to throw it out the window you’d pull the pin, throw the glass out the window and when the glass hit the ground and broke open the grenade would go off. It was pretty dangerous, but you did what you needed to do – and remember I was 21 at the time.