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F-5C of the 522d Fighter Squadron/23rd Tactical Wing - Bien Hoa Air Base, 1971
O-1 observation aircraft of the 112th Liaison Squadron / 23rd Tactical Wing - South Vietnamese Air Force - Bien Hoa Air Base - 1971
Bien Hoa Air Base is a Vietnam People's Air Force (Khong Quan Nhan Dan Viet Nam) military airfield located in South-Central southern Vietnam about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Saigonmarker near the city of Bien Hoamarker within Dong Nai Provincemarker.

During the Vietnam Wars (1955-1975), the base was used by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force Force (VNAF). The United Statesmarker used it as a major base from 1961 through 1973, stationing Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine units there.

Origins

Bien Hoa was located on quiet, flat grounds in a rural area 15 miles (24 km) north of Saigonmarker. 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 Hanoimarker. 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, Bien Hoa was a major United States Air Force 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.

Phu Cat 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.

On 14 April 1961 Tactical Air Command activated the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) at Hurlburt Fieldmarker, Floridamarker 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 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.

Det. 2A 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron

4400th CCTS North American T-28A-NA Trojan Serial 51-3579 wearing South Vietnamese markings flies over Vietnam
As the military conditions in South Vietnam continued to deteriorate, United States Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara actively began to consider dispatching military forces to test the utility of counterinsurgency techniques in Southeast Asia. In response, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay 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 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. The unit would administratively and operationally belong to the Air Force section of the Military Assistance Advisory Group Vietnam. 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-28s 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 Nangmarker and Pleikumarker, T-28 and B-26 operations emphasized “training” for reconnaissance, surveillance, interdiction, and close air support missions.

The SC-47 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-28s, 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.

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 new outfit—the 1st Air Commando Squadron 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.

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.

Air Force Special Operations Command today traces much of its lineage to Farm Gate. It is the heritage of the air commandos.

405th Fighter Wing (B-57Bs) - Clark AFB, PI

THE 405th Fighter Wing was first introduced into Southeast Asia within a few days after The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
Martin B-57B-MA Serial 52-1560 of the 71st Light Bomber Squadron - 1957.
This aircraft was also one of the "Black Knights" aerial acrobatic team.
Most B-57s were later stripped of the black paint and forever remained a silver color.
After its withdrawal from France in 1958, 48 B-57s were eventually assigned to the 405th FW, Clark AFB, PI and later flew combat bombing missions from Bien Hoa AFB in 1964 and 1965.


The 405th Fighter Wing was assigned to the 13th Air Force, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). The Wing had a contingent of approximately fifty F-100s. Then, in the Spring of 1964, three squadrons of B-57Bs arrived from Yakoto AFB, Japan.These same squadrons were first assigned to the 38th Tactical Bomber Wing. Laon Air Force Base, France in 1955. The 38th TBW consisted of three squadrons, 71st, 405th and 822nd . The mission of the B-57 was to provide a nuclear deterrent for NATO and to deliver nuclear weapons against pre-selected targets, day or night.

On August 2, 1964, North Vietnamese naval vessels attacked the USS Madox. Then on August 4, two more U.S. destroyers were attacked by North Vietnamese PT Boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. U.S. Naval aircraft destroyed two of the attackers. President Johnson received unanimous approval of The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Click twice on picture to enlarge) from Congress. This action led to thirty B-57s being deployed to Bien Hoa AFB, Vietnam on August 4, 1964. Four B-57s were shot down before landing at Bien Hoa AFB. Two crewmen were lost. Ground rescue parties were unable to reach the planes due to strong Viet Cong fire. Two more brushed wing tips and another blew a tire on landing.

The Bien Hoa B-57s now were under the operational control of the 2nd Air Division commanded by General Joseph Moore. The 2nd Air Division reported to General William C. Westmorland, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, MACV.Sunday night, August 9, Air Commodore Nguyen Cao Ky, later to become Prime Minister, spoke at the Bien Hoa Officer's Club welcoming the B-57 crews into Vietnam. He said his country has enjoyed no peace since Vietnam was partitioned in 1954. "Night after night, day in and day out, there is no time while one cannot witness shelled hamlets, scorched homes, and crying survivors looking helplessly for their disemboweled babies, their beheaded wives, or their mutilated beloved ones."

Maintenance facilities were scarce. The B-57s shared an open-air, three sided hangar with the Vietnamese Air Force that flew A-1E, Skyraider aircraft. Early in January 1965, three U-2s arrived at Bien Hoa, so they immediately had priority over the B-57s and A-1Es. The U-2s rotated back and forth to Okinawa or Hill AFB, Utah.

On February 24, 1965, the government of Vietnam requested the use of the B-57s from Bien Hoa and F-100s from Thailand to assist in an attack against a large Viet Cong force between An Khe and Pleiku. 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 Phouc Tuy Province, 40 miles southeast of Saigon. A later mission into North Vietnam against targets at Xom Bang, an ammunition depot. 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 napalm stored on the ramp. The pre-positioning of this ordinance was the basis for one of the ‘worst disasters in Air Force History.’

Sunday Morning, May 16, 1965 - Huge explosions rock Bien Hoa AFB (Click on pictures to enlarge)
Two views of the explosion at Bien Hoa Air Base
Aerial view of the aftermath


The explosions were coming from the B-57 parking ramp. The bomb-laden aircraft were exploding like a string of firecrackers. Five 50,000 gallon bladders of JP-4 jet fuel went up in smoke. When the explosions finally ceased, ten B-57s, one Navy F-8 Crusader 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 AFB. 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 AFB when the explosions occurred on that Sunday morning, May 16, 1965. He flew back to Bien Hoa AFB that same Sunday afternoon to assume his responsibilities. He was later assigned as a member of the Air Force Investigative Board. A Diagram of where the aircraft were located by tail number and ordinance loaded. The red circles represent the spot where a deceased person was located.

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.

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, 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.

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 B-57 mission ceased at Bien Hoa within the month of May 1965. The mission was moved to Danang AFB in the north. This air base was better protected since perimiter security was assigned to the U.S. Marines. However, there were sporatic satchel bombs placed on selected aircraft that burned the aircraft to the ground. The B-57s were unaffected except by occasional sniper fire. One evening, the MO was barely missed by about 10 feet. The bullet ricocheted off the ramp and hit a nearby B-57.

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:

416th and 531st Tactical Fighter Squadrons were deployed from the 39th Air Division at Misawa ABmarker, Japan.


19th Tactical Air Support Squadron

USAF Cessna O-1 (L-19) "Bird Dog"
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". 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 Oct 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 and OV-10 Bronco operations.

The unit was inactivated at Bien Hoa on 30 July 1971, being transferred administratively to Phan Rang Air Basemarker where it was unmanned. The squadron was transferred to Osan ABmarker, South Koreamarker, on 15 January 1972.

3rd Tactical Fighter Wing

North American F-100D-50-NH Super Sabre 55-2881 of the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron
The 3d Tactical Fighter Wing was the host unit at Bien Hoa. It was transferred from England Air Force Basemarker Louisianamarker on 8 November 1965.

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 F-5 Freedom Fighter and A–37 aircraft.

The initial units of the 3d TFW were:

  • 510th Tactical Fighter: 8 November 1965 - 15 November 1969 (F-100 D/F Tail Code: CE Purple tail stripe)
  • 531st Tactical Fighter: 7 December 1965 - 31 July 1970 (F-100 D/F Tail Code: CP Red tail stripe)
  • 90th Tactical Fighter: 12 February 1966 - 15 November 1969 (F-100 D/F Tail Code: CB Blue tail stripe)


Upon arrival at Bien Hoa, they took over the assets of the 416th and 531st Tactical Fighter Squadrons which were deployed TDY from the 39th Air Division, Misawa AB, Japan. In addition to the F-100s from the 39th AD, the 90th TFS was also deployed from Misawa.

The 307th Tactical Fighter Squadron flying F-100Ds was assigned TDY to the 3d from the 6251 Tactical Fighter Wing, Cigli AB, Turkey. It was attached from 24 June to 7 December 1965. The 307th was then assigned to 401st TFW at Torrejon Air Force Basemarker Spainmarker.

The 308th Tactical Fighter Squadron, also flying F-100Ds relieved the 307th TFS from Cigli on 2 December 1965. On 25 December 1966 the squadron was reassigned to the 31st TFW at Tuy Hoa Air Basemarker South Vietnam.

In late 1969 the F-100s of the 3d TFW began a phaseout at Bien Hoa. The 510th TFS was deactivated on 15 November 1969, the 531st TFS on 31 July 1970. The 90th TFS was redesignated the 90th Attack Squadron on 15 November 1969 and was re-equipped with A-37Bs and assigned to the 4th Special Operations Wing at Nha Trang Air Basemarker on 31 October 1970.

The 3rd TFW was inactivated at Bien Hoa on 15 March 1971, being activated again at Clark Air Basemarker, Philippinesmarker.

Air commando and special operations squadrons

Cessna A-37A Dragonfly 67-14510 of the 604th Air Commando Squadron - 1968.
This aircraft survived the war and was eventually registered as N91RW in 1993.
Currently the fuselage is stored at Falcon Field, Mesa, AZ
In addition to the F-100 squadrons, the 3d absorbed the assets of the 1st Air Commando Squadron flying RB-26s and A-1 Skyraiders. The unit was activated at Bien Hoa on 8 July 1963 The 1st ACS was transferred to Pleiku Air Basemarker on 5 January 1966.

On 15 November 1967 the unit was replaced by the 604th Air Commando Squadron flying the A-37A/B "Dragonfly" (Tail Code CK). The 604th deployed from England AFB. The squadron was tasked to test the A-37 in combat over three months. The squadron flew combat sorties in support of ground troops and against enemy supplies being shipped into South Vietnam.

The test proved to be a huge success. 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. Although the Air Force sought to purchase more A-37s than originally planned, the plane was subsonic and didn't fit into Tactical Air Command's long-range plans to develop an attack aircraft capable of meeting contingencies throughout potential world combat theaters. This wasn't the first time special operators were flying "low and slow", so to speak.

On 15 November 1969 the A-37s of 604th was joined by the 8th Attack Squadron (Tail Code: CF), the 310th Attack Squadron and the 311th Attack Squadron. The 310th and 311th AS were later deployed to other bases in Vietnam as part of the 315th Special Operations Wing. The 604th ACS was later renamed the 604th Special Operations Squadron. Both squadrons continued to fly out of Bien Hoa until 30 September 1970 when they were transferred to Phan Rang Air Basemarker.

Skoshi Tiger

F-5B of the 602th Fighter Squadron - 1966
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 Basemarker Arizonamarker 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.

Det 1. 377th Air Base Wing

An operating location of the 377th Air Base Wing was established at Bien Hoa Air Base on 14 April 1972 to provide turnaround service for F-4 of other organizations. It was replaced on 20 June 1972 by Detachment l of the wing headquarters, which continued the F-4 turn-around service and added A-7 turnaround service on 30 October 1972. A small detachment of personnel from the 354th Tactical Figher Wingmarker deployed at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base Thailandmarker were assigned for A-7D servicing.

The detachment continued operations through 11 February 1973.

Emblems of USAF units at Bien Hoa Air Base

Image:19thtass.gif|19th Tactical Air Support Squadron
1963-1971
Image:3rdtfw.gif|3d Tactical Fighter Wing
1965-1971
Image:377abw.jpg|Det. 1, 377th Air Base Wing
1972-1973
Image:Pacific Air Forces.png|Pacific Air Forces
1961-1973
Image:Maag-vn.jpg|Military Assistance Advisory Group - Vietnam
1961-1962
Image:2d Air Division crest.jpg|2d Air Division
1962-1966
Image:7th Air Force.png|7th Air Force
1966-1973


The Effects of the Tet Offensive at Bien Hoa Airbase

The beginning of the 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 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 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 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.

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 Hanoimarker 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. 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 Saigonmarker and had begun shelling Bien Hoa. A battle began on 9 April at Xuan Locmarker, 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.

See also



References



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