History of the EC-47: Sources

In addition to listing the major sources on which the History of the EC-47 articles on ec47.com are based, this page is offered for those who may want to delve deeper into that subject or into the Vietnam War in general. Revisions will be made if/when new or different material is utiIized or is deemed to be of unusual value or interest.

The Internet . . . Sort of

Surfing the web for info on the EC-47 will often as not lead you right back here. (When it comes to videos, who knows what might pop up on YouTube.) A few other websites that are relevant to the EC-47—and which we check periodically to make sure they're still operative—can be accessed through the "Related Links" button over on the left. With a couple of exceptions, the internet addresses underlined below are not “live” links—they’re gateways to PDF (usually) versions of printed works and are provided for information only. Websites come and go, but these should be permanent, meaning that you can cut and paste into your browser if you’re interested, but we make no guarantees. Should a "cut 'n paste" link prove to be invalid, enter an approximation of the pasted term in your favorite search engine and go from there.

Contemporary Sources1

Operational details and statistics relating specifically to EC-47 operations are drawn primarily from the semiannual histories of the 6994th Security Squadron and its detachments, supplemented by the quarterly histories of the 360th, 361st, and 362nd TEWS. The 6994th histories are held by the Sixteenth Air Force History Office in San Antonio. Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, has been instrumental in having these histories declassified under the Freedom of Information Act; an ongoing process. The long-since declassified TEWS histories are available from the Air Force Historical Records Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Click here to view those TEWS histories of which we have copies. The 6994th histories which have been declassified thus far are linked here.

The USAF’s CHECO (“Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Combat—later changed to ‘Current’—Operations”) series consists of some 254 monographs dealing with a broad range of subjects related to the war in Southeast Asia. Many—but not all--of these can be found on the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) website, http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/search/search.html Particularly useful are the two reports on “The EC-47 In Southeast Asia,” which are available elsewhere on ec47.com. Occasionally, details of ground operations referenced in the 6994th or TEWS histories can be found in the After Action Reports (AAR) of the army units involved, some of which can be found on the DTIC site. When cited, these AAR are referenced in the individual articles.

Publications by the Armed Forces and Department of Defense 

Overall background material and descriptions of ground operations are chiefly based on the U.S. Army Center of Military History’s Combat Operations volumes in the United States Army in Vietnam series. Also in that series is the two-volume set on MACV, which is helpful in understanding the political and strategic problems as seen from “Pentagon East.” These and many other useful publications about the war may be downloaded from CMH’s excellent website, https://history.army.mil/index.html 

When events and operations in I Corps are involved, the relevant volumes in the U.S. Marine Corps History and Museums Division’s U.S. Marines in Vietnam series have been consulted. Nothing is easy in the Marine Corps, and that includes finding their historical publications on line. The best bet is to go to their main website, https://www.marines.mil/ then search for “US Marines in Vietnam.” 

The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia series provides background and details from the airpower perspective. These and dozens of other publications on USAF history can be found at http://www.afhistory.af.mil/ 

Two other “official” history series paint a “big picture” view of the management of the war. The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff series contains five volumes on The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Vietnam War from 1960 to 1973. The three volumes of the History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense which deal with the war years contain useful chapters on the overall conduct of the war as dictated by Washington. These works may be downloaded at http://www.jcs.mil/About/Joint-Staff-History/ and https://history.defense.gov/, respectively. 

Around 2003, ASA’s successor organization, Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) published The Most Secret War, Army Signals Intelligence in Vietnam, which is as close as we’re apt to ever see as an “official” history on that subject. There are a few passages on ARDF, but more useful is the order of battle summary of the ASA “radio research” units—the guys on the ground. This little gem is hard to find nowadays, but there's a digital copy on line at https://www.hathitrust.org/ (Enter the title in the search box.) The rub is that it has to be viewed on line or downloaded one page at a time.

Other Sources 

Hundreds of books have been written about the Vietnam War, and fifty years later the stream is still flowing. There are many single volume treatments of the wars, plural, in Southeast Asia since 1946 but, at least from the American side, I’ve found nothing better—and few as good—as the DoD histories noted above. Translations of works from “the other side” are gradually becoming available, but these must be judiciously filtered to separate useful information from communist rubric and rhetoric. Merle Pribbenow’s translation of Victory in Vietnam, the Official History of the People’s Army of Vietnam, 1954-1975 is probably the most widely available, and the most useful. That oldie (1983) but goodie Vietnam, A History, by Stanley Karnow is exactly what the title says, and remains a good general source. 

From the SIGINT angle, NSA’s Spartans in Darkness: American SIGINT and the Indochina War, 1945-1975, sheds a little highly redacted light on that subject. Like all “declassified” NSA material, most of what's released was unclassified in the first place. Much of the originally classified material remains redacted; often ridiculously so as illustrated by the content of a few paragraphs redacted in the original release but later declassified on appeal. The series American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989 contains a few ARDF-related nuggets, most of them to be found in Book II, “Centralization Wins, 1960-1972”. These items and a few other relevant bits can be found by trolling https://www.nsa.gov/.

Many books have been published in the DC-3/C-47 family of aircraft. Undoubtedly the most comprehensive is The Douglas DC-1, DC-2, DC-3: The First Seventy Years, a three volume set by British author Jennifer Gradidge, published by Air Britain, 2006 & 2011 (vol. 3.) Here you'll find nearly 1,000 pages dedicated to the Gooney Bird, illustrated with hundreds of black and white and color photos. Volume 2 contains thumbnail histories, transcribed from USAAF/USAF records, of every C-47 in the inventory. 

Joe Martin
10 January 2020


     1. "Contemporary" is used here instead of "primary." From a historiographic standpoint, about the only extant primary sources related to EC-47 operations are the supporting documents attached to the unit histories and the CHECO reports. Strictly speaking, both the 6994th histories and the CHECO volumes should probably be regarded as secondary sources, having been written some months after the events described, based on those supporting documents.