U-Tapao RTAFB

Royal Thai Air Base

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 squadron.    

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

U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Field is located south of Bangkok near Sattihip, Thailand. This was a major Air Force asset during the Viet Nam conflict. The base was home for B-52 bombers, KC-135 aircraft refueling tankers, and even a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. In 1965, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) began a long nine-year effort in Southeast Asia to provide bomber support to American & Allied forces. The bombers TDY to U-Tapao were from several stateside bases. The bombers flew during the massive "Arc Light" and "Linebacker II" operations. Day after day, B-52s would take off from U-Tapao dropping bombs on North Vietnamese and Viet Cong supply areas. 
 
H. L. Hartford, Sentry Dog Handler said,  During the morning hours, as the B-52's were returning to base, I recall what we called the line up of B-52's approaching the Air Base from a bombing mission. As they lined up, one after another turned on their landing lights, and at times you could see like pearls on a string with as many as seven to ten sky-lit jewel B-52's approaching. One by one they touched down, as if a new babe safe in its mother's arms.

 

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