On April 29, 1975, during a massive humanitarian operation that evacuated the remaining Americans and thousands of South Vietnamese civilians, Major Buang-Ly stole a Bird Dog from Con Son Island, taking his family to safety.
Evacuating a Nation
Despite the Paris Peace Agreement supposedly ending the war, the North Vietnamese Army kept the war going.
By early 1975, the NVA has already seized important bases, capturing a couple of coastal areas. This led to a frenzied evacuation, with remaining American and South Vietnamese civilians boarding military aircraft and transport planes.
Fleeing With His Family to Safety
On April 29, 1975, communist forces led by Gen. Van Tien Dung closed in on Con Son Island, the last bases controlled by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. South Vietnamese Air Force Major Buang-Ly stole an aircraft with his wife and five children with no specific direction in mind.
However, with no working localization instruments and the aircraft’s fuel running out, the South Vietnamese pilot followed a helicopter squadron and then spotted a US aircraft carrier in the open sea.
A High-Risk Landing
When the Bird Dog was initially sighted, Captain Chambers knew that if the plane wasn’t allowed to land, the plane would crash on the deck of the USS Midway.
A note was then dropped, “Can you move these helicopters to the other side? I can land on your runway; I can fly an hour more. Please rescue me. Major Buang, wife, and 5 child.”
Throwing Helicopters at Sea
The crew threw three empty Hueys and one Chinook overboard. Five more helicopters landed and disembarked their passengers, and were thrown overboard as well.
Captain Chambers had to look away from all of the chaos, believing he was going to be court-martialed for disposing of millions of dollars.
He, later on, said, “When a man has the courage to put his family in a plane and make a daring escape like that, you have to have the heart to let him in.”
The Infamous Bird Dog
After landing safely, the Buang Family was eventually transported to the US along with 130,000 refugees. Impressed by the Vietnamese pilot’s bravery, the crew of the USS Midway also established a fund for the family and are now US citizens.
The family still visits the infamous Bird Dog at Florida’s National Naval Aviation Museum.