The Birddog was first built in 1950 by the Cessna Aircraft Company, as a reconnaissance plane for the U.S. Army. Between 1950 and 1964 3,398 airframes were built. Originally called the L-19, it was later re-designated the 0-1 in 1962. It saw extensive combat duty in Korea and Vietnam, often at the hands of former fighter and bomber pilots of World War II. The Birddog served with the U.S. Army, USAF, USMC and a host of 19 foreign countries. Many people consider the Birddog the finest observation aircraft ever produced.
Painted in the markings of the US Army 183rd Seahorses during their duty in Vietnam, the Birddog on display at Lyon Air Museum serves as a tribute to the many brave pilots who flew visual and photo reconnaissance, artillery adjustment, Forward Air Control, and search and rescue missions during that war. Typically armed with only hand grenades, an automatic rifle and white phosphorous smoke (Willie Pete) target-marking rockets, some enterprising crews of this low-flying observation plane soon sought modifications to include wing or cabin-mounted M60 machine guns, giving their Birddogs a more lethal bite. 183rd Reconnaissance Airplane Company was formed at Fort Hood, Texas and deployed to Vietnam in May 1966.