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Vietnam Veterans Memorial Cobra walkaround—Tampa

26 August 2013

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Cobra walkaround—Tampa

27º 58′ 30″ N / 82º 21′ 51″ W

Glen Senkowski (see commnets below) has given us so much information and history this post has been rewritten—and with our many thanks (January 2018).

Glen flew combat missions in this Cobra (722) in the Vietnam War and helped accurately paint this very same helicopter in its markings. The markings are of A Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division. As you can imagine, Glen is proud of his unit, his comrades and this ship (722).

AH-1 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa FL — photo by Joseph May

Bell AH-1 Cobra at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa FL—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

This park is located on the east side in Tampa FL on the northwest corner of  the intersection of U.S. Hwy 301 and the Tampa Bypass Canal—just a bit south of Martin Luther King Blvd. This park has a museum as well as a huge amount of outdoor space for walking, pondering and enjoying the fresh air. There are military vehicles on display aside from the plaza where two Vietnam War era helicopters—a Huey and a Cobra—sit astride two highly polished etched granite monuments.

A post reviewing the facility was posted earlier in the year, 27 May 2013, so this post features the Bell AH-1 Cobra displayed in an in-flight position. The Cobra is purpose-built to attack and has a raptor-like persona which becomes apparent anytime its skids are no longer in contact with the ground. I recall when I was a child seeing a quartet of Cobras flying in a pin wheel fashion displaying, for the airshow crowd, how the enemy fire would be suppressed on a landing zone — while one Cobra was in a dive and firing another was following in trail ready to begin firing while the other Cobra was pulling away and exposing its vulnerable six o’clock position to the enemy below. A two ship pin wheel looked quite effective but a four ship pin wheel was absolutely awe-inspiring! The AH-1 Cobra was the world’s first attack helicopter design — the Cobra’s pattern has been followed by almost all, if not all, of the other design teams since the Cobra’s debut.

Howard Smith (see his comment below) advises that this Cobra served during the Vietnam War in Tay Ninh with the Diamondheads (A/1/9) of the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi as well as with the Blackhawks of  7th Armored of the 1st Air Cavalry. We have the Florida Chapter (Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association of Florida) of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association to thank for its donation of this remarkable helicopter.

AH-1 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa FL — photo by Joseph May

The shark’s mouth art works for the Cobra as well as for the Curtiss P-40 fighters flown by pilots of the Flying Tigers in World War II. The names are in honor of two comrades lost on a mission with a Cobra in the Vietnam War—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

AH-1 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa FL — photo by Joseph May

The Cobra’s 20mm rotary cannon and 2.75″ rockets were able to lay down a high degree of suppressive fire, essentially the Cobra is a flying artillery piece—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

AH-1 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa FL — photo by Joseph May

The AH-1’s 2.75″ rocket pods were mounted on the Cobra’s wing stubs—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

blog Cobra_MG_1153

Detail of the Air Cav unit symbol (A Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division)—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

AH-1 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa FL — photo by Joseph May

The AH-1’s narrow front made for the most minimal target for the enemy return fire, the chin turret could alternatively mount a 7.62mm Minigun and 40mm grenade launcher—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

AH-1 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa FL — photo by Joseph May

Detail of the tail and tail rotor of the AH-1, note the tail skid which protected against tail strikes during landings and the AirCav shield—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

Note: the Huey in the background of the top picture is the subject of the next post.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. 26 August 2013 09:59

    Hi, Joe…What a beautifully done memorial!…Simple, elegant design…the tie-in between the information base with the copter mounted above…also, one could not ask for a more beautiful integrated setting for it!
    You’ve seen a lot more memorials than I have…but I think this is the first time I’ve seen an aircraft done with a gloss/semi-gloss paint job…and I think it looks fantastic…Probably the historians would not agree with me but..for all that it has gone through, I think that every artifact of this calibre _deserves_ a formal dress uniform!! It looks great! . 🙂

    The city fathers or whomever approved the plan can be most proud!
    david lord

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      26 August 2013 16:36

      Hi David,

      I agree, the gloss finish is not accurate but it does look good! I don’t have qualms either, since it is not a museum piece I think some license can be had. I think the gloss may help with regard to weathering — if you look at the Homestead Phantom post from two or three months ago you’ll see that it, too, is finished in a high gloss. That aircraft was just redone by an Air Force unit — as we know the military does not normally stock paint in high gloss so it must have been a special order — so I think there may be a maintenance aspect since they purposely obtained it. Fortunately 🙂

      Next Wednesday you’ll see a Huey treated in the same way.

      Joe

  2. howard smith permalink
    4 April 2014 19:44

    this bird was with A/1/9 at Tay Ninh,25th Infantry Diamondheads Cu Chi, and 7/1 Cav.
    Fl chapter VHPA obtained the a/c and donated it to the park.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      5 April 2014 07:52

      Thanks very much for this information — I’ll amend the text in the post later today. It’s always good to know the particular aircraft’s history.

  3. Glen Senkowski permalink
    3 February 2018 12:06

    For the record, I flew this exact aircraft in Vietnam in 1969. I also designed and painted the unit markings on the aircraft in Vietnam, and repeated it again on the right side for the current display. The left side bears the makings of the “Diamondheads” of the 25th Infantry Division. In the description above, “A/1/9” is actually A Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division, which was my unit for 18 months. The names are two friends that were killed in Vietnam while flying another Cobra in A Troop.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      3 February 2018 18:02

      Thanks you Glen. Marvelous information to have and I admire your work–especially placing your comrades names on the ship. You have my thanks for your tour as well as this history. I’ll edit the captions accordingly. Joe

      • Glen Senkowski permalink
        3 February 2018 18:54

        Thank you Joe. It was a pleasure to come there and paint it. Way more fun than the first time, because I painted all six of our Cobras! Probably goes without saying, but 722 and myself have changed a lot since 1969, and 722 looks way better! I would like to see A Troop memories added to the base similar to what has been done on the 25th INF side. Lots of Cobra pilots to remember! Thanks again for your efforts on behalf of Veterans.
        Best Regards
        Glen, aka “Apache 35” “Apache 22” A 1/9 Cav, Feb 69 – Sep 70.

      • travelforaircraft permalink*
        4 February 2018 11:07

        Glen. So many thanks. I edited the post with the updates and history you provided. I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to tell a backstory as well as to tie in the human dimension such as your experience. I get to Tampa now and then–on my next trip I’ll stop by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial again to get photos at a better time of day (sun angle) so that I can retell the story.

        As for aging–I’m right with you! We can’t refit as easily and an aircraft, can we?

        Joe

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