CIA operatives in Vietnam were used to help in the war effort, without many of them even realizing who their employer was.
Now, one of those veterans is being reunited with one of the planes he flew so many years ago.
With only a few left in the United States, finding a Dornier (Do 28A1) that saw action in Vietnam caught some eyes.
“Other than redoing the seats and the carpeting, this is the way the plane looked,” said Daniel Fulwiler, a pilot and plane collector. “I just washed it.”
It had been warehoused for 19 years, and now that it is in new hands–the history of this war bird is being properly preserved.
“A lot of those men and women gave up an awful lot in life to protect the United States and protect our way of life and it’s getting forgotten,” he said.
Only a few of these were used during Vietnam and one of its pilots reunited with the war bird at long last.
His job in the war was an odd one.
“My role during the Vietnam Conflict was to fly for Air America, which was the air arm of the Central Intelligence Agency,” said Neil Hansen, who shipped out in 1964.
His duties were to train pilots and open up new airstrips in enemy territory for supplies.
“I’m, I guess, what you might call a risk-taker,” he said. “An adrenaline junkie.”
If you ask him, it beat working behind a desk.
A few hundred CIA agents were sent over there with most of them being none the wiser.
“They didn’t know they were CIA,” said Hansen. “They thought they were contract employees. They did not have a clue who they were working for. Eventually, the light bulb came on and you realized, ‘Hey, this isn’t a benevolent organization.'”
It is part of America’s hidden history.
“We were there and we were operating on the US dollar–your tax dollars–unknown to the rest of the world,” he said.
The roles of war are not limited to the foot soldier.
They are as varied as every man. And the greatest respect we can give them is to remember.
“We’ve done it with our world wars and everything else,” said Hansen. “And there’s no good reason to keep doing this other than forgetting. And they’re forgetting what’s happened before.”
To hear more about Neil Hansen’s 11 years flying for the CIA in southeast Asia, be sure to check out his book ‘Flight’.