During the Vietnam War, the defense of
Air Force bases mirrored the conflict itself: There was no rear echelon once
the entire country became a battlefield. Air Force bases relatively,
unaffected by ground forces in past wars, were no longer considered safe
havens. They, too, suffered from costly ground assaults and mortar shelling.
Within easy reach of North Vietnamese troops, Air Force bases in Vietnam and
Thailand were attacked 478 times from 1964 to 1973. One hundred and
fifty-five Americans were killed and 1,702 wounded, along with 375 allied
aircraft being destroyed and 1,203 damaged. In fact, more U.S. planes were
lost in ground action (101) than in dogfights with MIGs (62).
Bien Hoa Air Base, located 15 miles north of Saigon, was the first U.S. air
base in Vietnam to taste the damage a small, well-trained force can inflict.
A hit-and-run mortar attack destroyed five B-57 bombers and damaged 15
others. The Viet Cong, in less than five minutes, wiped out an entire
The attack hammered home a hard message. To fight in the air, the Air Force
had to be able to fight on the ground."
Above Published in AF Times
Tan Son Nhut Air Base was a huge military installation
located outside of Saigon. It was also the airport for the city of Saigon.
The largest airplanes, Lockheed C-5As and Boeing 747s could be
accommodated. The 7th Air Force Command Headquarters and the Military
Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) headquarters were located on base. MACV
provided military assistance in the form of training and military supplies
to the South Vietnamese's military. The history of the Military Assistance
Command dated back to the France's war with the communist forces in Viet
Nam. In 1957, Special Forces units begin training Vietnamese's military at
a Nha Trang. The US Navy had their headquarters for the river boats
(known as the brown water navy) located nearby.
On 28 March 1966, 7 AF was designated a combat command at
Ton Son Nhut AB, Republic of Vietnam. It was the Air Component Command of
the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV). From April 1966 until
1973, the command assumed responsibility for most Air Force operations in
Vietnam and shared responsibility with the Thirteenth Air Force for
operations conducted from Thailand as 7/13 Air Force. In June 1966, the
first US air attacks near Hanoi and Haiphong occurred when 7 AF planes
bombed oil installations near these two cities. The following month, US
aircraft struck North Vietnamese forces inside the DMZ following the
North's violations of agreements not to locate military forces there..
One of the most publicized battles of the war was the
siege of Khe Sanh in early 1968, known as "Operation Niagra."
More than 24,000 tactical and 2700 B-52 strike dropped 110,000 tons of
ordnance in attacks that averaged over 300 sorties per day. At night,
AC-47 gunships kept up a constant chatter of fire against enemy troops. In
August 1968, General George S. Brown began to oversee the "Vietnamization"
of the air war. By 1970, this effort was successful enough that General
Brown released the first USAF units to leave Vietnam. On 29 March 1973,
the command transferred to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AB, Thailand, where it
accepted dual responsibility as the US Support Activities Group and 7 AF.
As a result, 7 AF controlled air assets and operations in Thailand. It
served this role until its deactivation on 30 June 1975.
Flying the first mission of Operation Babylift, the evacuation
of Vietnamese orphans, a C5-A had its controls damaged after the
accidental loss of part of the rear doors shortly after take-off from Tan
Son Nhut AB on April 4th, 1975. Attempting to make an emergency landing,
the aircraft crashed, killing 155 of the 314 people on board. Tragically,
many were infants. An explosive detector dog team was sent TDY from Clark AB, Republic
of the Philippines to exam the wreckage of the C5A .
Below Are Non-VSPA Links of Interest
SPS Website TSN's
Sentry Dog Section
- Tan Son Nhut Tan Son Nhut
James A. Stewart
Brian Rueger David Hagerty
Tan Son Nhut Air Base
Dogs of Tan Son Nhut
Handlers: A thru
L Handlers: M thru
A Handlers Story