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Bien Hoa Air Base

Bien Hoa Air Base

Overview
Bien Hoa Air Base is a Vietnam People's Air Force
Vietnam People's Air Force
The Vietnam People's Air Force is the air force of Vietnam. It is the successor of the former North Vietnamese Air Force and the absorbed Republic of Vietnam Air Force following the re-unification of Vietnam in 1975.-Beginning-1964 :The first Vietnamese aircraft were two trainers, a de Havilland...

 (Khong Quan Nhan Dan Viet Nam) military airfield located in South-Central southern Vietnam about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Saigon near the city of Bien Hoa
Bien Hoa
Biên Hòa is a city in Dong Nai province, Vietnam, about east of Ho Chi Minh City , to which Bien Hoa is linked by Vietnam Highway 1.- Demographics :In 1989 the estimated population was over 300,000. In 2005, the population wss 541,495...

 within Dong Nai Province.

During the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

s (1955–1975), the base was used by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force
Vietnam Air Force
The Vietnam Air Force began with a few hand-picked men chosen to fly alongside French pilots during the State of Vietnam era. It eventually grew into the world’s sixth largest air force at the height of its power, in 1974...

 Force (VNAF). The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 used it as a major base from 1961 through 1973, stationing Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, and Marine units there.

Bien Hoa was located on quiet, flat grounds in a rural area 15 miles (24 km) north of Saigon.
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Encyclopedia
Bien Hoa Air Base is a Vietnam People's Air Force
Vietnam People's Air Force
The Vietnam People's Air Force is the air force of Vietnam. It is the successor of the former North Vietnamese Air Force and the absorbed Republic of Vietnam Air Force following the re-unification of Vietnam in 1975.-Beginning-1964 :The first Vietnamese aircraft were two trainers, a de Havilland...

 (Khong Quan Nhan Dan Viet Nam) military airfield located in South-Central southern Vietnam about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Saigon near the city of Bien Hoa
Bien Hoa
Biên Hòa is a city in Dong Nai province, Vietnam, about east of Ho Chi Minh City , to which Bien Hoa is linked by Vietnam Highway 1.- Demographics :In 1989 the estimated population was over 300,000. In 2005, the population wss 541,495...

 within Dong Nai Province.

During the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

s (1955–1975), the base was used by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force
Vietnam Air Force
The Vietnam Air Force began with a few hand-picked men chosen to fly alongside French pilots during the State of Vietnam era. It eventually grew into the world’s sixth largest air force at the height of its power, in 1974...

 Force (VNAF). The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 used it as a major base from 1961 through 1973, stationing Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

, Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

, Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, and Marine units there.

Origins


Bien Hoa was located on quiet, flat grounds in a rural area 15 miles (24 km) north of Saigon. The airport at Bien Hoa was a minor grass strip when on 1 June 1955 Bien Hoa Air Base became the VNAF's logistics support base when the French evacuated their main depot at Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

. At that time the VNAF was in its final days as an auxiliary air arm under total French control.

Not long after it was established as a VNAF base the facility took on a tactical role as well as that of a depot. It was here that the VNAF's 1st Fighter Squadron (later renumbered the 5141st FS) was formed on 1 June 1956. From this point Bien Hoa became the base of newly formed and continually growing air units. The VNAF 2311th Air Group, later to become an Air Wing, and the 311th Air Division were also stationed there. and the base supported the greatest number of air combat units than any other have throughout South Vietnam.

With the influx of USAF tactical air units in the early 1960s, Bien Hoa became a joint operating base for both VNAF and USAF organizations.

USAF use during the Vietnam War


During the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, Bien Hoa was a major United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 base. The USAF forces stationed there were under the command of the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). With its close proximity to the international airport at Saigon, Bien Hoa Air Base was the easiest tactical air base to be reached by visiting news reporters, and therefore it received the greatest amount of news and photographic coverage during the war.

Bien Hoa was the location for TACAN station Channel 73 and was referenced by that identifier in voice communications during air missions. Its military mail address was APO San Francisco, 96490.

It was at Bien Hoa Air Base that the United States Air Force entered the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

.

Det. 2A 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron


On 14 April 1961 Tactical Air Command
Tactical Air Command
Tactical Air Command is an inactive United States Air Force organization. It was a Major Command of the United States Air Force, established on 21 March 1946 being headquartered at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia...

 activated the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) at Hurlburt Field
Hurlburt Field
Hurlburt Field is a U.S. Air Force installation located in Okaloosa County, Florida, immediately west of the Town of Mary Esther. It is part of the greater Eglin Air Force Base reservation, and is home to Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command , the 1st Special Operations Wing , the...

, Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 in the panhandle of Florida. The unit had a designated strength of 124 officers and 228 enlisted men. The 4400th CCTS consisted of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 aircraft: 16 C-47 transports, eight B-26 bombers, and eight T-28 fighters. The declared mission of the unit would be to train indigenous air forces in counterinsurgency and conduct air operations. The 4400th CCTS acquired the logistics code name "Jungle Jim," a moniker that rapidly became the nickname of the unit.

As the military conditions in South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

 continued to deteriorate, United States Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

 Robert S. McNamara actively began to consider dispatching military forces to test the utility of counterinsurgency techniques in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

. In response, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay
Curtis LeMay
Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968....

 pointed out that the 4400th was operationally ready and could serve as an Air Force contingent for that force.

On 11 October 1961, President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 directed, in NSAM 104, that the Defense Secretary "introduce the Air Force 'Jungle Jim' Squadron into Vietnam for the initial purpose of training Vietnamese forces." The 4400th was to proceed as a training mission and not for combat at the present time.

The mission was to be covert. The commandos were to maintain a low profile in-country and avoid the press. The aircraft were configured with VNAF insignia, and all pilots wore plain flight suits minus all insignia and name tags that could identify them as Americans. They also sanitized their wallets and did not carry Geneva Convention cards.

The unit would be officially titled Det. 2A of the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron, code named "Farm Gate
Farm Gate
Farm Gate was the codename for an American air force mission in Vietnam.In the early 1960s, the US armed forces were developing units specifically designed to counter guerrilla warfare...

"
. The unit would administratively and operationally belong to the Air Force section of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Vietnam
Military Assistance Advisory Group
Military Assistance Advisory Group is a designation for American military advisers sent to assist in the training of conventional armed forces of Third World countries. Before and during the Vietnam War, there were three of these groups operating in Southeast Asia...

. They would turn out to be the nucleus of an expanding Air Force and American presence in South Vietnam.

Within days of arrival, the T-28
T-28
The Soviet T-28 was among the world's first medium tanks. The prototype was completed in 1931 and production began in late 1932. It was an infantry-support tank intended to break through fortified defences...

s and pilots were ready for orientation flights. The Farm Gate pilots launched with VNAF escorts and delivered their ordnance, but, when mission reports were reviewed, the crews were told not to conduct independent air operations. The cover story was that the Americans were in-country to train South Vietnamese pilots.

On 26 December 1961, Washington issued new regulations directing that all Farm Gate missions would include at least one South Vietnamese national on board every aircraft. McNamara further amplified this requirement by stating that the Vietnamese would fly in the backseat position.

Americans, with Vietnamese aboard, were soon flying to destroy Viet Cong supply lines and forces. Flying from Bien Hoa and air bases being improved up-country at Da Nang
Da Nang Air Base
Da Nang Air Base was a Republic of Vietnam Air Force facility. The United States used it as a major base during the Vietnam War , stationing Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine units there...

 and Pleiku
Pleiku Air Base
Pleiku Air Base is a former air force base in Vietnam. It was established by the South Vietnamese Air Force in 1962 at an undeveloped airstrip, and was used by the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War in the II Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam. It was seized by the Vietnam People's...

, T-28 and B-26 operations emphasized "training" for reconnaissance, surveillance, interdiction, and close air support missions.

The SC-47
C-47 Skytrain
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain or Dakota is a military transport aircraft that was developed from the Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remained in front line operations through the 1950s with a few remaining in operation to this day.-Design and...

s began flying airdrop and "psyop" leaflet and loudspeaker broadcast missions to forward bases where the Army's Special Forces teams were working with the rapidly growing South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense Group

In February 1962, a Farm Gate SC-47 on a leaflet drop mission in the highlands near Bao Loc was shot down, killing the six airmen, two soldiers, and one Vietnamese crewman on board. This was the first of several Farm Gate losses.

Enemy attacks were increasing across the countryside, and there were rising calls for air support to embattled ground troops. Forward operating locations were opened at Qui Nhon and Soc Trang. Commanders at 2nd Air Division could see that the South Vietnamese Air Force could not meet all needs, and they increasingly turned to Farm Gate crews to fly the sorties.

Realizing that he needed more assets, the commander of 2nd Air Division, Brig. Gen. Rollen H. Anthis, asked for additional Air Force personnel and aircraft for Farm Gate use. Anthis wanted 10 more B-26s, five more T-28
T-28
The Soviet T-28 was among the world's first medium tanks. The prototype was completed in 1931 and production began in late 1932. It was an infantry-support tank intended to break through fortified defences...

s, and two more SC-47s. McNamara reviewed the request, but he was cool to the idea of expanding Farm Gate units for combat use. His goal was to build up the VNAF so it could operate without American help. Still, McNamara approved the request for additional aircraft and also assigned two U-10s to Farm Gate.

Shortly thereafter, McNamara directed the commanders in Vietnam to develop a national campaign plan to defeat the Viet Cong. The plan, finished in March 1963, called for a much larger VNAF. The South Vietnamese Air Force was to increase its force structure by two fighter squadrons, one reconnaissance squadron, several squadrons of forward air controllers, and several more cargo squadrons.

F-102 Delta Dagger Air Defense Mission



A detachment of F-102 Delta Dagger
F-102 Delta Dagger
The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger was a US interceptor aircraft built as part of the backbone of the United States Air Force's air defenses in the late 1950s. Entering service in 1956, its main purpose was to intercept invading Soviet bomber fleets...

s from the 509th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Naha AB, Okinawa was sent to Bien Hoa AB in Mach 1962 when radar contacts that were detected by ground radars were thought to possibly be North Vietnamese Il-28 "Beagle" bombers, which was considered a very credible threat during that time period. Although no North Vietnamese aircraft ever crossed into South Vietnam, the F-102s stood rotational alert TDYs at Bien Hoa and also at Da Nang AB throughout much of the time of United States involvement in the Vietnam War. The F-102A was finally withdrawn from Southeast Asia in December 1969 with the phaseout of the aircraft from the USAF inventory, also the clear lack of need for a dedicated air defense interceptor over South Vietnam. The F-102A established an excellent safety record during its duty in Vietnam. In almost seven years of flying air defense and a few combat air patrols for SAC B-52s, only 15 F-102As were lost.

34th Tactical Group


The war continued to spread as enemy forces grew. By June 1963, the United States Air Force presence in Vietnam had grown to almost 5,000 airmen. As the buildup continued, USAF directed the activation of a more permanent organizational structure to properly administer the forces being deployed to Bien Hoa Air Base. The 34th Tactical Group was established, and activated, on 19 June 1963, taking control of the USAF assets on 9 July.

The 1st Air Commando Squadron
1st Special Operations Squadron
The 1st Special Operations Squadron is part of the 353d Special Operations Group at Kadena Air Base, Japan. It operates MC-130 Combat Talon II aircraft providing special operations capability...

was also activated at Bien Hoa. To preclude the need for an increase in personnel, it would absorb the Farm Gate men and equipment. The airmen began to prepare for the reorganization. But the missions continued, and on 20 July an SC-47 crew flew an emergency night mission to Loc Ninh and, disregarding enemy fire, strong winds, and blacked-out conditions, landed and rescued six severely wounded South Vietnamese troops.

Eight days after the Loc Ninh mission, the 1st Air Commando Squadron was activated and Farm Gate was subsumed. Air Force Special Operations Command
Air Force Special Operations Command
Air Force Special Operations Command is the Special Operations component of the United States Air Force and the US Air Force component command to the United States Special Operations Command , a unified command located at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida...

 today traces much of its lineage to Farm Gate. It is the heritage of the air commandos.

Between October 1961 and July 1963, 16 Farm Gate air commandos were killed. Also lost were one SC-47, four T-28s, one U-10, and four B-26s. Within a year of its establishment, the 1st Air Commando Squadron had shed its B-26s and SC-47s and grounded some of its T-28s after two more went down due to catastrophic wing failures.

6251st Tactical Fighter Wing



On 8 July 1963 it was redesignated the 34th Tactical Group. On 8 July 1965 the 6251st Tactical Fighter Wing was activated. USAF units at Bien Hoa during this period were:
  • 307th Tactical Fighter Squadron 13 July 1965 – 16 December 1965 (F-100D Red Tail Stripe)
  • 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron 13 July 1965 – 16 December 1965 (F-100D Blue Tail Stripe)
  • 429th Tactical Fighter Squadron 13 July 1965 – 16 December 1965 (F-100D Yellow Tail Stripe)


The 307th TFS was deployed from the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Homestead AFB, Florida. The 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed from the 39th Air Division at Misawa AB, Japan. The 429th was deployed from the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing
474th Tactical Fighter Wing
The 474th Air Expeditionary Group is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to Air Combat Command. It may be activated or inactivated at any time....

, Cannon AFB, New Mexico.

The 416th was one of the first F-100 squadrons to be deployed to South Vietnam, being sent to Da Nang AB in March 1965 and moved to Bien Hoa in July. From Bien Hoa it went to Tan Son Nhut AB before being permanently assigned to Bien Hoa on 1 June 1966. The 531st had also deployed to Da Nang AB in February 1965. When it moved to Bien Hoa it remained operating from the base and both squadrons were transferred to the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing on 7 December 1965.

19th Tactical Air Support Squadron


The 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron was organized on 17 June 1963. It was initially assigned to the 34th Tactical Group, then on 8 July 1965 to the 6251st Tactical Fighter Wing. On 8 December 1966 the squadron was assigned to the 504th Tactical Air Support Group.

The initial mission for the 19th TASS was to fly missions for the South Vietnamese Air Force and train Vietnamese pilots and observers in the 0-1 "Bird Dog"
Cessna L-19 Bird Dog
The Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog was a liaison and observation aircraft. It was the first all-metal fixed-wing aircraft ordered for and by the United States Army since the U.S. Army Air Forces separated from the Army in 1947, becoming its own branch of service, the U.S. Air Force. The Bird Dog had a...

aircraft. This mission was expanded to include forward air support, combat support liaison, visual reconnaissance, forward air control of fighters, artillery adjustment, and escort for convoys, trains, and helicopters. The squadron also flew psychological warfare, radio relay, and re-supply missions.

Briefly inactivated between Aug and October 1964, the 19th TASS renewed its support of combat operations on 21 October. Primarily it provided visual and photographic reconnaissance and airborne forward air control for fighter aircraft. Also trained USAF and Vietnamese pilots and observers in 0-1 and, from 1968, in O-2 Skymaster
O-2 Skymaster
The O-2 Skymaster is a military version of the Cessna 337 Super Skymaster utilized as an observation and forward air control aircraft...

 and OV-10 Bronco
OV-10 Bronco
The North American Aviation Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is a turboprop light attack and observation aircraft. It was developed in the 1960s as a special aircraft for counter-insurgency combat, and one of its primary missions was as a forward air control aircraft...

 operations.

The unit was inactivated at Bien Hoa on 30 July 1971, being transferred administratively to Phan Rang Air Base
Phan Rang Air Base
Phan Rang Air Base is a Vietnam People's Air Force military airfield in Vietnam. It is located north-northwest of Phan Rang-Thap Cham in Ninh Thuan Province....

 where it was unmanned. The squadron was transferred to Osan AB, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, on 15 January 1972.

B-57B Canberras



In 1964, the worsening situation in South Vietnam led the United States to introduce B-57B Canberra tactical bombers to perform tactical bombing strikes against the Viet Cong. In early 1964 orders were issued to the PACAF 41st Air Division B-57B Canberra 8th and 13th Bombardment Squadrons for reassignment from rotational South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

n alert duty at Yokota AB Japan for movement to Clark AB, Phiippines for possible action in South Vietnam. As it happened, this move did not take place until August 5, following the Gulf of Tonkin incident
Gulf of Tonkin Incident
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, or the USS Maddox Incident, are the names given to two incidents, one fabricated, involving North Vietnam and the United States in the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin...

 in which North Vietnamese gunboats clashed with United States Navy destroyers.

According to the initial plan, 20 B-57Bs of the 8th and 13th Bombardment Squadron were to be stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base. This would mark the first deployment of jet combat aircraft to Vietnam. However, this was technically a violation of the Geneva Protocols
Geneva Conference (1954)
The Geneva Conference was a conference which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, whose purpose was to attempt to find a way to unify Korea and discuss the possibility of restoring peace in Indochina...

 which forbade the introduction of jet combat aircraft to Vietnam, so the squadrons were assigned to the 405th Fighter Wing at Clark AB, Philippines and carried out rotational deployments to South Vietnam on a temporary basis. The deployments began and the first B-57s arrived in the first week of August.

The initial deployment to Vietnam got off on the wrong foot. The first two B-57Bs to land collided with each other on the ground and blocked the runway at Bien Hoa, forcing the rest of the flight to divert to Tan Son Nhut Airport on the other side of Saigon. One of the B-57Bs was hit by ground fire and dived into the ground during approach at Tan Son Nhut and was destroyed, killing both crew members. Ground rescue parties were unable to reach the planes due to strong Viet Cong fire.

During the next few weeks, more B-57Bs were moved from Clark AB to Bien Hoa to make good these losses and to reinforce the original deployment. The B-57s shared an open-air, three-sided hangar with the Vietnamese Air Force that flew A-1E Skyraider aircraft, and things got so crowded at Bien Hoa at that time that some of the B-57s had to be sent back to Clark AB. Also, maintenance facilities for the B-57 at Bien Hoa were scarce.
Initially, the B-57Bs were not cleared for actual combat missions, the aircraft being restricted to unarmed reconnaissance missions that were mainly designed to boost the morale of the population. However, actual combat was not to be delayed very long. On November 1, 1964, Viet Cong squads shelled the airfield at Bien Hoa with mortars, destroying five of the B-57s parked there and damaging 15 others. Further Viet Cong mortar attacks led General William Westmoreland
William Westmoreland
William Childs Westmoreland was a United States Army General, who commanded US military operations in the Vietnam War at its peak , during the Tet Offensive. He adopted a strategy of attrition against the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the North Vietnamese Army. He later served as...

 on February 19, 1965 to release B-57Bs for combat operations. The first such mission took place on that same day, when the government of Vietnam requested the use of the B-57s from Bien Hoa and F-100 Super Sabre
F-100 Super Sabre
The North American F-100 Super Sabre was a supersonic jet fighter aircraft that served with the United States Air Force from 1954 to 1971 and with the Air National Guard until 1979. The first of the Century Series collection of USAF jet fighters, it was the first USAF fighter capable of...

 aircraft from USAF bases in Thailand to assist in an attack against a large Viet Cong force between An Khe and Pleiku
Pleiku
Pleiku is a town in central Vietnam, located in that nation's central highland region. It is the capital of the Gia Lai Province; it is inhabited primarily by the Bahnar and Jarai ethnic groups, sometimes known as the Montagnards or Degar....

 in the Central Highlands. The VC had an isolated South Vietnam Army unit pinned down. That same day, the B-57s' first real mission was against communist forces in Phước Tuy Province
Phuoc Tuy Province
Phước Tuy Province was a province of South Vietnam. It now mostly corresponds to Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, just southeast of Ho Chi Minh City....

, 40 miles southeast of Saigon. This strike was, incidentally, the first time that live ordnance had been delivered against an enemy in combat from a USAF jet bomber.
Bien Hoa Disaster

This prompted more raids into North Vietnam. The B-57 mission continued to increase to the point that it became an around-the-clock commitment. This forced the weapons storage facility to deliver ordinance well ahead of the frag orders. There were bombs stored underneath the wings of the B-57s. The ordinance consisted of 250, 500 and 750-pound general-purpose bombs. Many bombs were armed with time-delay fuses. They were set for 24, 36, 48, 72 and 144-hour delay. All fuses were anti-withdrawal. There were also 750 lb of napalm stored on the ramp.

The prepositioning of this ordinance was the basis for one of the 'worst disasters in Air Force History'. On May 16, 1965, while waiting to takeoff on a mission, a B-57B exploded on the ground at Bien Hoa, setting off a whole chain of secondary explosions. Five 50,000 gallon bladders of JP-4
JP-4
JP-4, or JP4 was a jet fuel, specified in 1951 by the U.S. government . It was a 50-50 kerosene-gasoline blend. It has lower flash point than JP-1, but was preferred because of its greater availability. It was the primary U.S. Air Force jet fuel between 1951 and 1995. Its NATO code is F-40...

 jet fuel went up in smoke. When the explosions finally ceased, ten B-57s, one Navy F-8 Crusader
F-8 Crusader
The Vought F-8 Crusader was a single-engine, supersonic, carrier-based air superiority jet aircraft built by Vought for the United States Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps, replacing the Vought F7U Cutlass...

 and fifteen A-1Es were destroyed plus several Ground Support Units. Twenty-seven men killed and over 100 were wounded. The most severely wounded were evacuated to Clark AB. One of the two Line Chiefs, Master Sergeant Leon Adamson, was possibly the most critically wounded that survived. The other Line Chief, Master Sergeant Hicks was never found. The B-57 Maintenance Officer was on business back at Clark AB when the explosions occurred on that Sunday morning, May 16, 1965. He flew back to Bien Hoa that same Sunday afternoon to assume his responsibilities. He was later assigned as a member of the Air Force Investigative Board.

Before the explosions, perimeter security was the responsibility of the South Vietnamese Army. After the explosions and within a few days, the 173rd Airborne Brigade started landing with the necessary firepower to secure the perimeter from that day forward.
Investigation and aftermath

After the explosions, a great number of Generals and their staffs came to Bien Hoa to see for themselves what had happened. The Air Force Inspector General, Lt. General William K. Martin, convened an Investigation Board headed by Major General Gilbert L. Meyers. General Westmoreland along with Retired Four Star General Maxwell D. Taylor
Maxwell D. Taylor
General Maxwell Davenport "Max" Taylor was an United States Army four star general and diplomat of the mid-20th century, who served as the fifth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after having been appointed by the President of the United States John F...

, Ambassador to Vietnam, also came to see the extent of damage so they could brief their superiors. The Maintenance Officer (Dennis E. Hickey) had a one-on-one conversation with General William Westmoreland. He just wanted to know what I thought might have caused the disaster. Later in his book, General Westmoreland said that Bien Hoa looked worse than Hickam Field after the Pearl Harbor Attack

The Bien Hoa Air Base Vietnam May 16, 1965 Conflagration/Fire Accident Investigation Board concluded the accidental explosion of a bomb on a parked B-57 at Bien Hoa triggered a series of blasts. The aircraft and the ammunition were stored too close together which allowed the fires and explosions to propagate. The accident investigation Board recommended improvements. In the face of such experience, engineers initiated a major program to construct revetments and aircraft shelters to protect the valuable assets.

The surviving B-57s were transferred to Tan Son Nhut AB and continued to fly sorties on a reduced scale until the losses could be made good. As the B-57B was withdrawn from active front-line service (the 405th's 8th and 13th Bomb Squadrons were the only active-duty B-57B units left in the USAF), some B-57Bs had to be transferred to Vietnam from the Kansas Air National Guard
Kansas Air National Guard
The Kansas Air National Guard is the air force militia of the U.S. state of Kansas. It is, along with the Kansas Army National Guard, an element of the Kansas National Guard. It is considered a part of the United States Air Force, as well as of the state....

, and 12 B-57Es had to be withdrawn from target-towing duties and reconfigured as bombers to make good these losses. In June 1965, the B-57s were moved to north to Da Nang AB to carry out night interdiction operations over North Vietnam
North Vietnam
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

 and Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

. When deployed at Da Nang, the 8th and 13th Squadrons came under operational control of the 6252nd Tactical Fighter Wing which became the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing about a year later.

27 men were killed as a result of the explosions and fires:

3511th Fld Maint Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
SSgt Jesse R. Acosta, San Antonio, TX

4600th Consol Maint Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
SSgt Jose R. Aragon, Fountain, CO (Received Bronze Star and the dining facility at Peterson AFB was subsequently named in his honor. SSgt Aragon is survived by his wife, son who is currently serving in the Air Force, and his daughter. His citation to accompany the Bronze Star reads as follows:

Aragon distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while engaged in ground support of Tactical Air Operations against an opposing armed force at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on May 16, 1965. On that day, several 500 pound bombs exploded accidentally while four B-57 aircraft were preparing to take off on a mission. In spite of the hazards of the fire, exploding ammunition and flying debris, he remained in the area assisting in removing injured comrades and clearing the flight line of equipment that at any time could be enveloped in fire. Through his actions many lives were spared. By his heroic actions and unselfish dedication to duty, Aragon reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.)

405th Org Maint Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
SMSgt William D. Hicks, Smock, PA
SSgt Brian D. Brown, Alvord, TX
SSgt Robert L. Clark, Muncie, IN
TSgt Secundino Baldonado, Jarales, NM
TSgt Charles W. Rachal, Lena, LA
TSgt Gerald A. Snyder, Biglerville, PA
A1C Hayden E. Weaver, Wyoming, WI

VF-162, USS ORISKANY:
Major Robert G. Bell, USAF, Houston, TX (exchange pilot)

34th Air Base Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
TSgt Claude M. Bunch, Helena, AL
TSgt Aaron G. Fidiam, Endicott, NY
A1C William T. Crawford, Windsor, MO

3750th Mat Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
SSgt James M. Cale, Washington, DC

408th Consol Maint Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
SSgt Edgar S. Donaghy, Chester, PA

34th Consol Maint Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
TSgt Donald J. Seaman, Mahanoy City, PA
A1C Terence D. Engel, Graceville, MN
A1C Clifford H. Raulerson, Surrency, GA

13th Bomb Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
Major James E. Underwood, Choteau, MT
Capt Charles N. Fox, Metamora, IN
Capt Arthur C. Jepson, Chicago, IL
Capt Andrew M. Kea, Akron, OH
Capt Billy E. Shannon, Center, MO
1stLt Lee C. Wagner, Alliance, OH

17th Bomb Sqdn, 34th Tac Grp:
Capt Vernon L. Haynes, Rock Rapids, IA

33rd Tac Grp:
Capt Ernest McFeron, Edna, TX
SSgt David L. Hubbard, Chelsea, OK, 33rd AB Sqdn, 33rd Tac Grp

3rd Tactical Fighter Wing


The 3d Tactical Fighter Wing
3d Wing
The 3d Wing is a unit of the United States Air Force, assigned to the Pacific Air Forces Eleventh Air Force. It is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska....

was the host unit at Bien Hoa. It was transferred from England Air Force Base
England Air Force Base
England Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base in Louisiana, located Northwest of Alexandria and about Northwest of New Orleans....

 Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 on 8 November 1965 taking over the mission of the provisional 6251st TFW. Operating the F-100D/F Super Sabre, the fighter squadrons of the 3d TFW were:
  • 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8 November 1965-15 April 1967 (Blue colors)
  • 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8 November 1965-31 July 1970 (CP, Red Tail Stripe)
  • 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8 November 1965-15 November 1969 (CE, Purple Tail Stripe)
  • 308th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 2 December 1965-14 November 1966 (Green Colors)
  • 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8 February 1966-31 October 1970 (CB, Blue Tail Stripe)


Upon arrival at Bien Hoa, the 3d TFW took over the assets of the 6251st TFW 416th TFS which were a deployed status from the 39th Air Division, Misawa AB, Japan. The 429th TFS returned to Cannon AFB, New Mexico upon activation of the 3d TFW; the 416th TFS was reassigned to Phu Cat AB on 15 April 1967 to the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing.

The 307th TFS returned to Homestead, passing it's aircraft and equipment to the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron who was reassigned from the 39th AD at Misawam, Japan in a name-only reassignment. It was replaced by the TDY 308th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which operated F-100s (Green Tail Stripe) from 2 December 1965-14 November 1966 when it was moved PCS to the 31st TFW at Tuy Hoa AB.

In addition to the F-100s from the 39th AD, the 510th TFS which was reassigned from the 405th Fighter Wing At Clark AB, Philippines, but had been operating six aircraft from Don Muang RTAFB, north of Bangkok, Thailand.

The 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron was deployed from the 834th Air Division, England AFB, Louisiana on 8 February 1966 and became the sixth F-100 squadron. It remained until withdrawn on 31 October 1970.

Missions of the 3d TFW included close air support, counterinsurgency, forward air control, interdiction, and radar-controlled bombing. Supported numerous ground operations with strike missions against enemy fortifications, supply areas, lines of communication and personnel, in addition to suppressing fire in landing areas.

During this time, the 3d TFW also participated in combat evaluation of the A–37
Cessna T-37
The Cessna T-37 Tweet is a small, economical twin-engine jet trainer-attack type aircraft which flew for decades as a primary trainer for the United States Air Force and in the air forces of several other nations...

 aircraft for couner-insurgency operations and the F-5 Freedom Fighter as a light tactical fighter.

A-37B Dragonfly and Counter-Insurgency Operations


In addition to the F-100 squadrons, the 3d absorbed the assets of the 1st Air Commando Squadron flying RB-26 Invaders and A-1 Skyraider
A-1 Skyraider
The Douglas A-1 Skyraider was an American single-seat attack aircraft that saw service between the late 1940s and early 1980s. It became a piston-powered, propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age, and was nicknamed "Spad", after a French World War I fighter...

s. The unit was activated at Bien Hoa on 8 July 1963 The 1st ACS was transferred to Pleiku Air Base
Pleiku Air Base
Pleiku Air Base is a former air force base in Vietnam. It was established by the South Vietnamese Air Force in 1962 at an undeveloped airstrip, and was used by the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War in the II Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam. It was seized by the Vietnam People's...

 on 5 January 1966.

The unit was replaced by the 604th Air Commando Squadron flying the A-37B Dragonfly (Tail Code CK). The 604th deployed from England AFB, Louisiana between 17 July and 14 August 1967. The squadron was tasked to test the A-37 in combat over three months under a program named "Combat Dragon". Testing began on August 15 and ended on September 6. This phase of the project was used to familiarize the pilots was the operational areas of Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

. The data collection and evaluation system was also refined using forms and methods already in use in Southeast Asia. The 604th ACS began combat operations on 19 August, flying 12 combat sorties a day in support of ground troops and against enemy supplies being shipped into South Vietnam. The daily sortie reached 60 by the end of September.

In October, some of the planes were shipped to Pleiku AB for further evaluation of the A-37B, where pilots began flying armed and visual reconnaissance missions and night interdiction flights in "Tiger Hound". Tiger Hound was an area roughly 90 miles long in Laos bordering on South Vietnam territory used by the North Vietnamese to infiltrate troops and supplies. It was also the code name of a special Air Force, Navy, Marine and Army task force that began interdicting southeastern Laos.

When the testing period drew to a close, the A-37B Dragonflies had logged more than 4,000 sorties without a single combat loss. The pilots were pleased with the planes' maneuverability. It accelerated and decelerated rapidly and its combat delivery system was highly accurate. The maintainers also heaped their praise on the aircraft. It was easy to fix. Turn around times often averaged just over 90 minutes between missions. One plane went down as a result of an unfortunate maneuver after the aircraft returned to its home base. The squadron was then attached to the 14th Air Commando Wing at Nha Trang AB. The unit however, continued to fly out of Bien Hoa.

On 15 November 1969 the A-37s of 604th was joined by the 8th Attack Squadron (Tail Code: CF), and started flying the A-37B three days later on 18 November. A third A-37 squadron, the 90th Attack Squadron was assigned on 12 December but had already started flying A-37s in November along with the 8th. Both units were combat certified on 12 December 1969.

In March 1970, under President Nixon's "Vietnamization
Vietnamization
Vietnamization was a policy of the Richard M. Nixon administration during the Vietnam War, as a result of the Viet Cong's Tet Offensive, to "expand, equip, and train South Vietnam's forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S....

 Program", preparations were made for the transfer of the A-37 aircraft to the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF). At the same time, the decision was made to close out the 604th ACS while retaining the 8th Attack Squadron designation because of the significance of its being one of the squadrons with the longest record of continuous service dating back to World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The 604th ACS absorbed the personnel from the 8th and 90th Attack Squadrons which were closing out, and then it was redesignated as the 8th Special Operations Squadron
8th Special Operations Squadron
The 8th Special Operations Squadron is part of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. It operates CV-22 Osprey in support of special operations.-Mission:...

.

F-5 Skoshi Tiger Program



The Skoshi Tiger program was a combat evaluation of the Northrop F-5 "Freedom Fighter" in South Vietnam. Although all F-5A production was intended for Military Assistance Programs, the Air Force actually requested at least 200 F-5s for use in Vietnam. This sudden request on the part of the USAF was a result of heavier than expected attrition in Southeast Asia and because the F-5 promised to be available with a relatively short lead time.

In October 1965, the USAF "borrowed" 12 combat-ready F-5As and turned them over to the 4503rd Tactical Fighter Wing at Williams Air Force Base
Williams Air Force Base
Williams Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base, located in Mesa, and about southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.It was active as a training base for both the United States Army Air Forces, as well as the USAF from 1941 until its closure in 1993...

 Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

 for operational service trials. The aircraft left Williams AFB on 20 October 1965 for Bien Hoa.

At Bien Hoa, the F-5s were attached to the 3d TFW as the 602nd Fighter Squadron on 21 November 1965.

The F-5 missions were exclusively over the South, and they never crossed the North Vietnamese border because their arrival coincided with a lull in the offensive against the North. The aircraft never encountered enemy MiGs, and so never got a chance to demonstrate their air-to-air capabilities.

Although the Freedom Fighter was judged to be a technical success in Vietnam, the Skoshi Tiger program was essentially a political project, designed to appease those few Air Force officers who believed in the aircraft. The Freedom Fighter was destined to have a relatively brief operational career with the USAF, and the DoD turned down a second request for F-5s, deciding instead to look at other types such as the A-7 Corsair II.

On 8 March 1966 the F-5s of the 602d FS were redesignated the 10th Fighter Commando Squadron. On 17 April 1967 the F-5s were turned over to the South Vietnamese Air Force.

1968 Tet Offensive at Bien Hoa Air Base


The beginning of the 1968 Tet offensive was signaled by the air base receiving small arms and mortar fire. The main gate was near the active runway of the 145th Aviation Battalion, a helicopter unit of the U.S. Army. The battalion's pilots lived off-base at the Honour-Smith Compound, a villa on Cong Ly Street in the city of Bien Hoa, some 2 kilometers away. Some were on base or made it there before the fire got too heavy and some of the gunships took off to patrol the base perimeters.

Later intelligence reported that there were three main VC units that were to attack the base; the most critical attack was to force the main gate, overwhelm the helicopter active area and prevent gunships from taking off. Other attacks were to proceed across open ground to the main Air Force bunkers and to bring mounted 50 cal machine guns to sweep the AF runway.

Since most non-flying, non-police AF personnel were not issued arms, the bunkers were full of unarmed airmen guarded by only a very few security police and red horse engineers armed with M-16s. However the unit that was to attack the main gate never appeared and helicopters got airborne and attacked many VC in the open fields approaching the AF areas.

As soon as some order was restored, the rest of the pilots were lifted from Honour-Smith Compound to the airbase by helicopter. A temporary heli-pad was made on Honour-Smith by pulling the posts out of an old French tennis court.

There was intermittent fire from the village onto the base for several days but on the third day, a squadron of tanks from the 11th Armored Cavalry arrived to provide substantial physical security.

3d TFW phasedown


In 1971, the 3rd TFW was preparing to inactivate and the wing began phasing down for inactivation as part of the American drawdown of forces. On 15 March 1971 the 3d TFW inactivated at Bien Hoa and was simultaneously activated at Kunsan AB, South Korea, taking over the defensive mission there.

With the last F-100 squadron being reassigned on 31 October 1970, the 3d TFW transferred its remaining resources to the 315th Tactical Airlift Wing at Phan Rang AB on July 31, 1971. Still flying its A-37s, the 8th Special Operations Squadron was attached to the 315th TAW, but physically remained at Bien Hoa AB. Then the 8th SOS was attached to the 377th Air Base Group (later 377th Air Base Wing
377th Air Base Wing
The 377th Air Base Wing is a wing of the United States Air Force based at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.-Mission:Provide world-class nuclear surety, expeditionary forces, and support to base operations.-Units:...

) on 15 January 1972

In early 1972, the 8th SOS A-37B's were instrumental in helping blunt the NVA's armored thrust toward Saigon in the April 1972 Easter Offensive. 1st Lt. Michael Blassie
Michael Blassie
First Lieutenant Michael Joseph Blassie was an officer in the United States Air Force. Prior to identification of his remains, Blassie was the Unknown service member from the Vietnam War laid to rest at the Tomb of the Unknowns.After graduating from St. Louis University High School, Blassie...

, whose remains were interred in the Tomb of the Unknowns
Tomb of the Unknowns
The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. It is located in Arlington National Cemetery in the United States...

 at Arlington Cemetery until identification in 1998, was shot down 11 May 1972 while flying with the 8th SOS.

The last combat sorties were flown on 30 September 1972, and the unit was officially relocated to Clark AB, Philippines on 1 October 1972. It transferred its aircraft and other assets to the Republic of (South) Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF).

Det 1. 377th Air Base Wing


An operating location of the 377th Air Base Wing
377th Air Base Wing
The 377th Air Base Wing is a wing of the United States Air Force based at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.-Mission:Provide world-class nuclear surety, expeditionary forces, and support to base operations.-Units:...

was established at Bien Hoa Air Base on 14 April 1972 to provide turnaround service for F-4
F-4 Phantom II
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engined, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable,...

s of other organizations. It was replaced on 20 June 1972 by Detachment l of the wing headquarters, which continued the F-4
F-4 Phantom II
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engined, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable,...

 turn-around service and added A-7
A-7 Corsair II
The Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II is a carrier-based subsonic light attack aircraft introduced to replace the United States Navy's Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, initially entering service during the Vietnam War...

D turnaround service on 30 October 1972. A small detachment of personnel from the 354th Tactical Figher Wing
Myrtle Beach Air Force Base
Myrtle Beach Air Force Base is a closed United States Air Force facility, located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was established in 1940 as a World War II training base and was also used for coastal patrols during the war...

deployed at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base
Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base
Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base is a base of the Royal Thai Air Force. It is located in northeast Thailand, located approximately 157 miles northeast of Bangkok and about 5 miles south of Nakhon Ratchasima , the second largest city in Thailand.During the Vietnam War, Korat RTAFB was the...

 Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 were assigned for A-7D servicing.

The detachment continued operations through 11 February 1973 when the United States presence ended at Bien Hoa Air Base.

Known VNAF Units At Bien Hoa in 1974


With the withdrawal of American Forces from South Vietnam in February 1973 the VNAF used Bien Hoa as a major operating base. Bien Hoa Air Base was the headquarters of the VNAF 3d Air Division.

June 1974 Table Of Organization:

23d Tactical Wing
  • 112th/124th Liaison squadron Cessna O-1A, U-17A
  • 514th/518th Fighter Squadron A-1H


43d Tactical Wing
  • 221st/223d/231st/245th/251st Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H
  • 237th Helicopter Squadron CH-47A
  • Det E 259th Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H (Medevac)


63d Tactical Wing
  • 522nd/536th/540th/544th Fighter Squadron Northrup F-5A/B/C RF-5A

Capture of Bien Hoa Air Base



North Vietnam had suffered about 50,000 casualties during the 1968 Tet Offensive and was similarly mauled in its spring 1972 offensive against the South. The People's Army of Vietnam needed time to recuperate.

March 1975 saw Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi , is the capital of Vietnam and the country's second largest city. Its population in 2009 was estimated at 2.6 million for urban districts, 6.5 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction. From 1010 until 1802, it was the most important political centre of Vietnam...

 make its next seriously aggressive move. In the preceding two years, North Vietnam's army patiently moved into the South enormous quantities of Soviet artillery, surface-to-air missiles, and armored vehicles, along with 100,000 fresh troops.

On 10 March the North Vietnamese Army began a new offensive in South Vietnam
South Vietnam
South Vietnam was a state which governed southern Vietnam until 1975. It received international recognition in 1950 as the "State of Vietnam" and later as the "Republic of Vietnam" . Its capital was Saigon...

. Northern forces isolated the provincial capitol of Ban Me Thuot by cutting off or blocking the main highways to it. It was at Ban Me Thuot that there first occurred a phenomenon that would increasingly undermine the South's morale. Many of its army officers used helicopters to pick up their families and flee to the south with them.

South Vietnamese civilians then began to flee the countryside, crowding the main roads and the pathways in a mass exodus for the coast, where they ultimately jammed seaports seeking transport to the south. The refugees included not only those civilians who had helped the South's army or the Americans, but also a great mass who expected bad treatment from the communists.

By early April the end of South Vietnam was at hand. North Vietnam's forces had severed the roads around Saigon and had begun shelling Bien Hoa. A battle began on 9 April at Xuan Loc, located on National Route 1 only 37 miles northeast of Saigon. During this battle, the last remnants of South Vietnam's air force carried out its last effective operation from Bien Hoa Airfield.

Xuan Loc fell on 23 April, and there was now little to prevent or slow the Communist advance on Saigon. The loss of Xuan Loc made Bien Hoa Air base indefensible, although the VNAF continued to fly from the base until enemy artillery fire forced the evacuation of Bien Hoa on 25 April.

Accidents and incidents

  • On 13 December 1968, Douglas AC-47D Spooky 43-49274 of the United States Air Force
    United States Air Force
    The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

     collided in mid-air with North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco 67-14627 whilst both aircraft were on a night-time combat operation at Truc Giang. Both aircraft attempted to return to Bien Hoa Air Base but the OV-10 crashed, killing both crew. The AC-47D was damaged beyond economic repair when its undercarriage collapsed on landing.

See also


  • Republic of Vietnam Air Force
    Vietnam Air Force
    The Vietnam Air Force began with a few hand-picked men chosen to fly alongside French pilots during the State of Vietnam era. It eventually grew into the world’s sixth largest air force at the height of its power, in 1974...

  • United States Air Force In South Vietnam
    United States Air Force In South Vietnam
    What began as a military aid program by the United States in 1950 to assist the French in subduing communist rebels in French Indochina, became, by 1965 an all-out war between South Vietnam and North Vietnam in which the United States was deeply involved...

  • United States Pacific Air Forces
    United States Pacific Air Forces
    Pacific Air Forces is a Major Command of the United States Air Force. PACAF is also the air component of the United States Pacific Command . PACAF is headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base Hawaii. It is one of two USAF Major Commands assigned outside of the Continental United States, the other...

  • Seventh Air Force
    Seventh Air Force
    The Seventh Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces . It is headquartered at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea....


External links