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John Lee Levitow


John-Lee-Levitow

Air Force AC-47 gunships, called “Spooky” and “Puff the Magic Dragon,” prowled the skies over South Vietnam during the dangerous hours of darkness when grunts on the ground would come under attack. Their miniguns could rain one 7.62 mm round every square foot at 6,000 rounds per minute on an encroaching enemy. In seconds, Spooky could also chase away the darkness with the intense light from magnesium flares dropped by parachutes.

On the night of Feb. 24, 1969, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army threatened American positions near Saigon in the Long Binh area. Several outposts came under mortar and rocket attack, and enemy soldiers began to probe the tenuous American positions. Throughout the night, the 3rd Special Operations Squadron’s Spooky 71, piloted by Maj. Kenneth Carpenter, was on the scene. Three men fired Spooky’s miniguns, and Airman 1st Class John Lee Levitow dropped flares.

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