The Untold Story of MACSOG’s Covert First Flight Detachment in the Vietnam War
320 Pages, 6 x 9 in, B/W and color illustrations
- July 2024
This is the story of the First Flight Detachment, the most secret air unit of the Vietnam war. In January 1964, American president Lyndon Johnson approved a top-secret proposal for the US Department of Defense to execute a campaign of guerrilla warfare, sabotage, subversion, and psychological warfare inside North Vietnam. Because Johnson was adamant that the involvement of the United States government in this campaign must be masked, the Department of Defense understood that it would need to be executed using special procedures as a “covert operation.” Previously only the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted politically sensitive “plausibly deniable” operations inside a “denied” territory, but now the US military would be running the show. To carry out this challenging covert campaign the US military created a cover organization known as the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group.
MACSOG inherited from the CIA a substantial group of agents and a robust maritime element. But it had no aviation force of its own to clandestinely parachute sabotage agents, and guerrilla warfare and reconnaissance teams into North Vietnam (and later, Laos and Cambodia); it would need to create a covert air operations capability from scratch. Thus was born MACSOG’s First Flight Detachment, the first and only covert combat aviation unit in US Air Force history. Black Flight describes how the unit was created, how non-American “surrogate” flight crews were selected, their special training, and how their seemingly innocuous C-123 Provider transports became highly modified “Grey Ghosts” and “Black Birds.” Special attention is given to the combat tactics the crews used to succeed and survive their dangerous nighttime low-altitude missions through mountainous terrain and enemy defenses.
1. CIA Covert Paramilitary Air Operations into North Vietnam
2. US Military Creates Top Secret Plan for Covert Unconventional Warfare in NorthVietnam
3. Project DUCK HOOK - USAF Creates Its First Covert Special Operations Capability
4. First Flight Detachment Operations into North Vietnam
5. First Flight Detachment Operations into Laos and Cambodia
6. Special Logistical Airlift for MACSOG Recon Teams
7. Termination, Deactivation and Disappearance of First Flight Detachment
8. Summary and Conclusions