377th SPS Association
Stand Off and Sapper Attack on
Tan Son Nhut AB, December 4-5, 1966

First Alert ~ K-9 at Utah Ditch
"Really, it was just a moment ago for those who were there... "

by Charles Penley
[377th SPS Association]
© 2009


In Memory of LTC Grove C. Johnson, Commander, 377th APS/SPS, 1966-1967. Proven In Combat... Leader of Men

 

In Memory of LTC Grove C. Johnson, Commander, 377th APS/SPS, 1966-1967
"Proven In Combat... Leader of Men"

The Vietnam Security Police Association, Inc., is extremely grateful to Fred Johnson, Bill Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, LTC Grove C. Johnson, Commander, 377th APS/SPS, 1966-1967, who released noted photgraphs and information concerning the Stand Off and Sapper attack against Tan Son Nhut AB, on 4 Dec 1966.

VSPA also appreciates the 377th Tan Son Nhut Association and Charles Penley (VSPA member) for sharing these PDF documents and photos with VSPA.

LTC Grove C. Johnson received the Bronze Star w/V for his actions of 4-5 Dec 1966.






Time-Line

Stand Off and Sapper Attack on Tan Son Nhut AB, 4-5 Dec 1966
by the 14th Viet Cong Battalion, on 4 December, 1966, 0040 hours
84-Page government document released and converted by Charles Penley to a 24-Page time-line of the base attack. (Time-Line, page 5-11.
Numerous Photos and base-map highlighting attack and base defense.)

TSN After Action Det-s regarding 4-5 Dec 1966
Attack, Losses, and Damage
   
After Action Det-s
*Incoming Mortar/Rockets
33
  Attack Dec 4-5, TSN! 1966, by Capt. Chuck Henry
Aircraft Destroyed
00
  Silver Star, Major Fox 1966, by Charles Penley
Aircraft Damaged
20
  Shaking Hands with The Enemy! 1966, by Peter Coxon
1 US KIA
03
  Sappers and Mortars! 1966, by James P. Jerome
US WIA
15
  Attack on Tan Son Nhut! 1966, by Olbert H. Hiett, lst Sgt SPS, USAF Ret., 1944-1974
RVN KIA
03
    "I immediately lost 11 of my 15-man Quick Reaction Team—2 were killed, and 9 wounded."
RVN WIA
04
  My Story - K9 Kemo , 1966, by William Trimble
NVA/VC KIA
28
   
NVA/VC POWs
04
   
       

Tan Son Nhut Air Base, K-9 Post Map

Killed In Action, 4-5 Dec 1966
USA Flag, folded.
A2C George M. Bevich Jr.
(Posthumously Silver Star, Purple Heart)
A2C John M. Cole (Posthumously: Purple Heart)
A2C Oliver J. Riddle
(Posthumously: Purple Heart)

Unit Awards

The 377th SPS was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor for its "heroic valor," against the Viet Cong infiltration force. And, for extraordinary gallantry, The Presidential Unit Citation.

Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat Valor - Special Order GB 703
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat Valor - Special Order GB 862
Presidential Unit Citation - Special Order GB 743



AWARDS
4-5 Dec 1966:
Silver Stars / Bronze Stars w/V
Purple Hearts

Major Roger P. Fox, received the nation's third highest medal, the Silver Star, for his actions of Dec 4-5, 1966. Major Roger P. Fox (right), received the nation's third highest medal, the Silver Star for his actions taken on Dec 4-5, 1966.

Let history take you back forty-three years ago this month....

It is now 1:10 A.M., December 4, 1966, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, it is quiet as usual and then a sentry dog alerts to some movement in a very large and deep ditch, known as "Utah Ditch."  It is surrounded by trees, bushes and weeds, located on the north-west side of the installation.

The handler called in the situation report, of a large group of men, moving inside his defensive position, where this ditch is located, to Central Security Control (CSC). Almost simultaneously, other sentry dog handlers saw the same movement, and radio traffic began to pick up.

Immediately enemy forces opened up with automatic weapons fire and mortars.  The Air Base was under its second base attack by stand-off weapons of approximately 33 of mortar rounds.

 

On April 13, 1966 Tan Son Nhut AB received a Stand Off attacked with 246 Rockets and Mortars within thirteen minutes: US KIA 7, WIA 111, RVN KIA 2, and with 9 destroyed aircraft and 62 damaged.

Photo (above), Major Roger P. Fox, courtesy of: Fred Johnson, Bill Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson, Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967
TSN, Utah Ditch. Sapper Attack, 1966.
The size of the Viet Cong infiltration force was estimated to have been over 75 sappers and commandos. For the first time a ground assault by sappers on Tan Son Nhut Air Base began. Once inside the perimeter, the enemy divided into smaller groups to attack their various targets.  The targets were the bomb dump, flight line, and targets of opportunity.

The first report from the sentry dog handler provided time for the air policemen of the 377th Air Police Squadron to respond and engage the enemy.  A blocking force was established and the fighting was fierce.

Thanks to the quick action's of the air policemen, damage to aircraft and facilities was minimal.
 
 


A2C Alvin W. Curie (right), 377th APS/SPS, received the nation's third highest medal, the <Silver Star, for his actions taken on Dec 4-5, 1966.

There were THREE of us manning the Delta Sector Machine Gun Post at the time of the sapper attack on 4-5 Dec 1966. They were as follows, A/3C Alvin Currie who manned the right front side M60 Machine Gun, A/3C John P. Walker who was an M16 Rifleman covering the left front side and myself, Robert W. Valentine Jr. who assisted Airman Currie, maintained communication with CSC, fired slap flares to illuminate the area and also covered the center front side of the post as an M16 rifleman. Airman Currie received a Silver Star for his heroic efforts manning the machine gun and repairing it after both the M60 and his own M16 misfired upon initial use. A/3C Walker received a Bronze Star (not sure if it was with "V" device or not but in my opinion it should have been). A/2C Valentine received a Bronze Star with "V" device for his actions.

Additionally, it should be noted that this was A/3C Walker's first night on duty in Vietnam and that he had just arrived on post approximately 45 minutes before all hell broke loose. Personally, I cannot speak highly of both of these gallant men. In my opinion, they are true American Heroes!

A2C Alvin W. Curie, 377th Air Police Squdron, received the nation's third highest medal, the Silver Star, for his actions taken on Dec 4-5, 1966.
 





Photo (right), A2C Alvin W. Curie, courtesy of: Fred Johnson, Bill
Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson,
Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967


A2C Robert B. Kane and A2C Alvin C. Curie defend their post during the sapper attack of 4 Dec 1966.





Photo (left): A2C Robert B. Kane (left) and A2C Alvin C. Curie (right) defend their post during the sapper attack of 4 Dec 1966. Airman Kane holds a capture enemy .30 rifle, and Airman Curie mans an M60 machinegun.


[Alvin C. Curie passed from a massive heart attack on Dec 7, 1982.]

 
 

 


A2C Tommy C. Poole
(right), a Sentry Dog handler, received the nation's third highest medal, the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals for his actions taken on Dec 4-5, 1966.

A2C Tommy C. Poole, received the nation's third highest medal, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart medal for his actions taken on Dec 4-5, 1966.  











Photo (right), A2C Tommy C. Poole, courtesy of: Fred Johnson, Bill
Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson,
Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967

 

A2C Throneburg, Robert A., wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U.S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhuts Base Commander.



A2C Throneburg, Robert A.
(left/bed), wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe (left/standing), Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander. (Dec 1966). Throneburg was also awarded the Bronze Star w/Valor.

Throneburg and K-9 Nemo in recovery.

377th APS/SPS,
Sentry Dog Handler, K-9 NEMO #A534
Saigon, Vietnam

 





Photo (left), A2C Robert A. Throneburg, courtesy of: Fred Johnson,
Bill Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson,
Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967
 


A2C Simmons, Russell, wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander.


A2C Simmons, Russell, wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander. (Dec 1966)

377th Air Police Squadron.
“C Flight Security”





 
Photo (left), A2C Russell Simmons, courtesy of: Fred Johnson,
Bill Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson,
Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967
 
 
A2C Davis, Lyle K., AF14861942 wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander.



A2C Davis, Lyle K.
, AF14861942 wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander. (Dec 1966)

377th Air Police Squadron.
“C Flight Security”
Saigon, Vietnam

 

 

 

Wound chest wound, gunshot – condition fair.

Photo (left), A2C Lyle K. Davis, courtesy of: Fred Johnson,
Bill Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson,
Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967

 
 

 

SSgt Habecker, Barry L., AF13546189, wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander. (Dec 1966)

377th Air Police Squadron.
“C Flight Security”
Saigon, Vietnam


SSgt Habecker, Barry L., AF13546189, wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander.
 

 

Photo (right), SSgt Barry L. Habecker, courtesy of: Fred Johnson,
Bill Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson,
Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967

 
 
A2C Davis, Lyle K., AF14861942 wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander.

A2C Janiak, Thaddeus M., AF16792041 wounded in action on 4 Dec 1966, is being presented the Purple Heart at U. S. Army 3rd Field Hospital by Col Grover K. Coe, Tan Son Nhut's Base Commander. (Dec 1966)

Air Force Commendation Medal for actions in battle on December 4, 1966. Commendation attached as follows:

 

Airman Second Class Thaddeus M. Janiak distinguished himself by outstanding achievement as an Air Policeman, Law Enforcement Section, 377th APS, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on 4 December 1966.  On that date, Airman Janiak valiantly fought against a force of Viet Cong attackers attempting to penetrate the base perimeter defenses.  Although faced by a numerically superior force, Airman Janiak held his position throughout the ensuing firefight, which resulted in the attacking force being repulsed. This courageous stand against superior odds closed the entry/exit point of the Viet Cong, preventing further entrance by the hostile force and trapping those already on base.  The distinctive accomplishments of Airman Janiak reflect credit upon himself and the United States Air Force. "

377th Air Police Squadron.
“C Flight Security”
Saigon, Vietnam

 
Photo (above), A2C Thaddeus M. Janiak, courtesy of: Fred Johnson, Bill Johnson and Jeff Johnson, sons of, Lt Col Grove C. Johnson, Commander 377th Air/Security olice Squadron, 1966  - 1967
/>Deceased – May 30, 1999, Demotte, IN
 
 

Sentry Dogs
Killed In Action, 4 Dec 1966:

USA Flag, folded.
KIA: US Sentry Dog, Toby, 206F (handler, Dale E. Sidwell -Post Kilo-2)
KIA: US Sentry Dog, Rebel, 519X (handler, Leroy E. Marsh -Post Kilo-4)
KIA: US Sentry Dog, Cubby, 612E (handler, Larry G. Laudner -Post Kilo-1

Sentry Dogs
Wounded In Action, 4 Dec 1966:

Sentry Photo: Sentry Dog NEMO A534, courtesy of: Bill Cummings, 635th Security Police Squadron
U-Tapao, Thailand
. 1970 - 1971

Sentry Dog NEMO A534 (left), and his handler, A2C Robert A. Throneburg (see above photo), were posted for the night.

Just before total darkness on December 4th, 1966, and after Sentry Nemo (A534) and his handler were posted, Nemo alerted and was released to attack the Viet Cong who had evaded earlier detection. Nemo and his handler were both wounded, but not before killing two Viet Cong. Nemo's injuries included the loss of his right eye and a gunshot wounded that ripped into his nose.

A sweep of the area by the Quick Response Team (QRT) met with negative results. But using additional sentry dog teams, the USAF Security Forces located and killed four more VC.

A second sweep with the dog teams resulted in the discovery of four additional VC who were hiding underground. The remaining enemy forces were soon killed by other Security Police.

Before help could arrive, Nemo, an 85 pound German shepherd, although severely wounded, protected his handler by crawling across his body, and guarding him against anyone who dared to come near. When help arrived, they were able to convince Nemo to leave his handler, who was then given first aid. Nemo, suffering from a gunshot wound to his face, and the lost of his right eye, was relieved of sentry dog duties.

377th Air Police Squadron.
“C Flight Security”
Saigon, Vietnam

RIP NEMO: Vietnam War "K-9"
Courtesty of: John "J-Cat" Griffith
Oct 17 2006

RIP: Nemo, A534In 1964, the US Air Force bought German Shepherd Nemo, he received sentry dog training, issued serial number A534 and sent to Vietnam in January 1966.

Nemo and his partner Airman 2nd Class Robert Thorneburg became one of the sentry dog teams of the 377th Air Police Squadron at Tan Son Nut Air Base, Saigon. On December 3, 1966, two Vietcong units tried to infiltrate the base. Thorneburg and Nemo were on duty at an old Vietnamese graveyard near the Air Base's runways. Nemo detected several VCs making an assault, his handler was wounded and Nemo was shot in the muzzle. Ignoring his serious head wound, the 85-pound dog threw himself at the four Vietcong guerrillas giving Thorneburg the time to call in backup to secure the attack. Then they rushed Thorneburg and Nemo back to the base center for emergency medical care. The base veterinarian performed surgery but Nemo lost his right eye. In July 1967, he returened to the United States as the first sentry dog officially retired from active service. His service to his country did not end. The War Department awarded Nemo full military honors as an Air Force canine hero and recruiter. He made television appearances and helped maintain an adequate supply of dogs for all the armed services. He served as mascot at the Department of Defense Dog Center, Lackland AFB, Texas until his death. A permanent grave stone with his name, serial number and details of his heroic exploit remind students just how important a dog is to the handler and the entire unit.

Birth: Oct 1962, USA
Death: Dec 1972, Bexar Couty, TX, USA
Burial: DoD Dog Center Lackland Air Base
San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, USA

 

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