Electric Goon: The EC-47 Story


Many Vietnam veterans know very little about the war in which they found themselves. For most of the more than 2,700,000 American servicemen and the handful of women who ended up there, it was a moot point. By choice or otherwise, they were there. With a few high ranking exceptions, they had no say—and not much interest—in matters of national policy or military strategy. For some, the Vietnam experience was one to forget, not to remember, and that viewpoint must be respected. But others, with the passing of time, may seek to better understand that terrible conflict and the role they and their comrades played in it.

For one relatively small group of veterans—the men who flew and maintained the EC-47 during the long Southeast Asia war—there is a history of which even they are largely unaware.The American GI has never been one to refer to military equipment, or much of anything else, by its official nomenclature. The venerable C-47 had long since been affectionately known as the "Gooney Bird". When the EC-47 came on line (the "E" indicating Special Electronic Mission), this new iteration of the old bird was quickly dubbed the "Electric Goon".

Back in 1977, I wrote a letter to the command historian of what was then the U.S. Air Force Security Service (USAFSS) asking for some information on the EC-47, particularly concerning losses. This was in the days before the Freedom of Information Act, so I actually got straight answers to my questions! Since then, I've collected hundreds, maybe thousands, of bits of information relating to the EC-47 and the ARDF mission. The most relevant of these will be posted elsewhere on this website. 

Because of the sensitivity of the intelligence it provided, the EC-47 mission—Airborne Radio Direction Finding—was classified, although not so highly classified as is sometimes claimed. After almost 50 years, the 6994th Security Squadron histories are being gradually declassified and released. Once these histories are available in their entirety, the EC-47 story can be fully told in the manner it deserves. Meanwhile, please enjoy this necessarily brief version. If you served in the TEWS or the 6994th, this is your story. If errors are spotted or you can shed better light on some aspect, please use the "contact us" feature at the top of the page to pass along any comments or suggestions. 

Joe Martin
6994th Security Sqn

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The "cyber history" which follows is very much a work in progress—barely started in fact, and subject to constant additions and updating. The story is broken into three parts. The first will focus on the EC-47 aircraft itself; where it came from, its modifications as a SIGINT platform, and other technical details. The second part will contain a brief narrative history of EC-47 and certain other operations, set in the wider context of the war. The last part will provide some statistics and links to contemporary documents such as squadron histories. 

Part 1. The EC-47 Inside Out

1.1 Origin of the Species
1.2 The C-47 at War
1.3 The EC-47 Tour (Part I: External Modifications)
1.4 The EC-47 Tour (Part II: Paint Schemes)
1.5 The EC-47 Tour (Part III: Interior Overview)
1.6 The EC-47 Tour (Part IV: The Back End)
1.7 The EC-47 Tour (Part V: The Cockpit)

1.8 The Goodfellow Gooney Bird (EC-47Q Replica) 

Part 2. The Electric Goon in Southeast Asia

2.0   Prologue
2.1   Vietnam—The SIGINT Background
2.2   Direction Finding Goes Airborne

2.4   Widening the War in '64
2.5   Point of No Return
2.7   PHYLLIS ANN Makes Her Entrance
2.8   PHYLLIS ANN Settles In
2.9   Completing the U.S. Build-up
2.10 Closing Out 1966
Appendix A. Bravo Maintenance

Part 3. Documents, Data, and Videos

3.1 EC-47 Serial Numbers and Data
Project CHECO reports
3.3 TEWS Histories
3.4 6994th Squadron Histories -- "Top 10" Questions
3.5 Historical Resume -- ARDF Development and Use (1968)
3.6 6994th Security Squadron Histories
3.7 "Antique Airlines" 1968 Video


 More to come—Stay tuned!