History of the EC-47: An Overview

The EC-47 website is composed of individual pages or “articles”, as the HTML content management system (CMS) terms them, some of which contain links to PDF and JPG files also on the site. The site is arranged in several major sections, the subject matter within which may be accessed by clicking on the corresponding black bar at the left of the screen. In order to focus on particular subjects, minimize scrolling, and reduce reading time, we’ve elected to generate multiple articles of relatively short length. The “What’s New” bar serves to quickly direct the viewer to the most recent additions or updates. 

History of the EC-47. This section deals with the EC-47 aircraft and the Airborne Radio Direction Finding (ARDF) mission to which it was dedicated. Although co-located at the same bases, the EC-47 fleet was manned and maintained by separate USAF units. The aircraft themselves were “owned” by three Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadrons (TEWS) — the “front end” organization. The enlisted personnel who operated the Communications Intelligence (COMINT) gear in the “back end” were assigned to the 6994th Security Squadron and its detachments. The TEWS chain of command went to Seventh Air Force, headquartered at Saigon's Tan Son Nhut air base. The 6994th was one of dozens of units scattered across the globe that made up the U.S. Air Force Security Service (USAFSS), with headquarters at Kelly AFB, San Antonio, Texas. USAFSS was the Air Force's COMINT arm, one of the Service Cryptologic Agencies closely aligned with NSA.

Section Organization. The section is subdivided into three parts. Part one, “The EC-47 Inside Out” is devoted to the Electric Goon itself—it’s relationship to the legendary DC-3 and the technical details that set the EC-47 apart from the rest of the C-47 family. Part Two, “EC-47: The Operational History”, is a series of articles, arranged chronologically, that describe the EC-47 ARDF mission in the larger context of the war. After some introductory articles, the series recounts the EC-47 mission, in approximately six-month increments, for the years in which U.S. ground forces remained in combat. (This arrangement is based primarily on the fact that the 6994th histories, which contain the majority of ARDF mission background and feedback, were published in twice-yearly increments.) Because of the differing nature of the war and the geographic locations of the EC-47 squadrons, their activities are looked at from north to south in the Corps Tactical Zones (CTZ) of the Republic of Vietnam. (This scheme will change in the as yet unwritten articles dealing with the period of final U.S. withdrawal.) The third part, “Documents, Data, and Other Material” provides scanned historical documents, videos, and sundry information about the EC-47 related to but not included in the other two parts. 

Sources for EC-47 History. The declassified histories of the TEWS and the 6994th Security Squadron and its detachments, written shortly after the events occurred, form the basis for the operational details of the story—targeting priorities, number of fixes made, unusual achievements or problems, and so forth. Various secondary sources have been used to fit this into the greater scheme of the Vietnam War, mainly in terms of supported ground operations. The most useful sources are the recent histories published by the Army’s Center of Military History, although the USMC histories of the war and the yearly Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) command histories also contain much detailed material. With a few exceptions, footnotes have been avoided In the articles themselves. Several articles have links to annexes describing the sources. The intent is to do this for every article, but that is an ongoing effort with no target date for completion. Click here for a more detailed description of these and other sources.

The Future. The entire website is a work in progress.  Articles will be added or updated as new information comes to light. Other sections of the website also contain much interesting material not directly related to the narrower focus of the EC-47 History segment. The Custom Search box at the top right of the page will locate specific words or other terms anywhere within the site.

Click HERE to access the contents of the EC-47 History Section

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Comments (5)

  • Jack Kilkenny Sat, 11 Jul 2020 at 01:19 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    The Wiki page for ‘Tan Son Nhut’ has a pretty good amount of info on the 460 th Wing,  with a lot of footnotes, but erroneously states multiple times that the ‘electric goon’ squadrons were inactivated in the summer of ‘71, after jointly flying missions with the VNAF starting from that Spring.
    I was a 360th TEWS pilot there 3/71 - 3/72 and they were going strong when I left, and I never flew with VNAF ‘front enders’.
  • J Brown Tue, 15 Dec 2020 at 03:44 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    I have been searching for the aircraft that my father would have maintianed
    while stationed at Tan Son Nhut AFB
    Going from memory, he brought home a plaque with the "Old Tiger Antique Airlines"emblem
    and TEWS
    He was a prop and jet engine mechanic for The Presidential fleet during the Eisenhower  Kennedy and Johnson era. So we are assuming that is what he did there too.
    We are wondering if the EC 47 could be one of the planes he serviced.
    I believe he was in Vietnam from 70-71
    We were stationed at Patrick AFB when he was transferred to Tan Son Nhut
    Is there any way to find out this information?

    Much Thanks!
  • BADGUY Thu, 10 Jun 2021 at 09:20 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    I flew for the 360th from August 71 until July 72. I don't remember the dates from which we began flying with Vietnamese back enders. Sometime late 71 I would guess. A little later we flew with Vietnamese co-pilots (as part of the Vietnamization program). Those pilots, evidently, had a lot of experience with the C-47 and knew just about every inch of the areas we covered.
  • Joe Martin Thu, 10 Jun 2021 at 11:28 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    Yep, the 94th began flying with the ARVN (not VNAF) back-enders in mid-1971. (I don't remember the exact timing myself.) I  believe the first VNAF navigator -- Pham Tan Chon, who now lives in SoCal -- made his cherry flight before I left in Dec, 1971. The most senior of the Vietnamese back-enders had been at it since the French days. A few got out the day Saigon fell. Others, including the Unit 17 CO, Lt. Col. Xuan Trinh Lang, spent years in "re-education" camps. MSGT (later WO) Doan Van Ghi, with whom I worked with quite closely, is still in Vietnam, forced to remain because years later the State Department refused to accept his "orderly departure program" paperwork. All-in-all they were a good bunch of guys. They deserved a better fate.
  • Bill Mon, 25 Jul 2022 at 08:48 PM Permanent Link to Comment Link
    A co-inventor of the Drill Press project passed away July 19, 2022.

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