F-5C of the 522d Fighter Squadron/23rd
Tactical Wing - 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 Saigon near the
city of Bien
Hoa within Dong Nai Province.
O-1 observation aircraft of the 112th
Liaison Squadron / 23rd Tactical Wing - South Vietnamese Air Force
- Bien Hoa Air Base - 1971
During the Vietnam Wars
base was used by the Republic of
Vietnam Air Force
Force (VNAF). The United States used it as a major base from 1961 through 1973,
stationing Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine units there.
was located on quiet, flat grounds in a rural area 15 miles
(24 km) north of Saigon.
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.
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
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
USAF use during the Vietnam War
During the Vietnam War
, Bien Hoa was a
major United States Air
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
Phu Cat was the location for TACAN
and was referenced by that identifier
in voice communications during air missions. Its military mail
was APO San Francisco, 96490.
It was at Bien Hoa Air Base that the United States Air Force
entered the Vietnam War
April 1961 Tactical Air Command
activated the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) at
Field, Florida 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
As the military conditions in South
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
. In response, Air
Force Chief of Staff General Curtis
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.
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
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
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
. They would turn out to be the nucleus
of an expanding Air Force and American presence in South
Within days of arrival, the T-28s
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
supply lines and forces.
from Bien Hoa and air bases being improved up-country at Da
Nang and Pleiku, T-28 and
B-26 operations emphasized “training” for
reconnaissance, surveillance, interdiction, and close air support
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
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
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
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
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
Martin B-57B-MA Serial 52-1560 of the
71st Light Bomber Squadron - 1957.
This aircraft was also one of the "Black Knights" aerial
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
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,
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
Sunday Morning, May 16, 1965 - Huge explosions rock Bien
(Click on pictures to enlarge)
Two views of the explosion at Bien Hoa
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
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
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
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
redesignated the 34th Tactical Group
. On 8 July 1965
Tactical Fighter Wing
USAF units at Bien Hoa during this period were:
and 531st Tactical Fighter Squadrons were deployed from the 39th
Air Division at Misawa
19th Tactical Air Support Squadron
USAF Cessna O-1 (L-19) "Bird
The 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron
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
. 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
was inactivated at Bien Hoa on 30 July 1971, being transferred
administratively to Phan Rang Air Base where it was unmanned. The squadron was
transferred to Osan
Korea, 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
was the host unit at Bien Hoa. It was transferred
from England Air
Force Base Louisiana 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
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
- 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
Upon arrival at Bien Hoa, they took over the assets of the
416th and 531st Tactical Fighter Squadrons
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
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 Base Spain.
The 308th Tactical
, 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
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 Base on 31 October 1970.
TFW was inactivated at Bien Hoa on 15 March 1971, being activated
again at Clark Air
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,
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 Base on 5 January 1966.
On 15 November 1967 the unit was replaced by the 604th Air
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
. The 310th and 311th AS were later deployed to
other bases in Vietnam as part of the 315th Special
. 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
F-5B of the 602th Fighter Squadron -
The Skoshi Tiger
program was a combat evaluation
of the Northrop F-5
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.
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 Arizona for operational service trials.
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
established at Bien Hoa Air Base on 14 April 1972 to provide
turnaround service for F-4
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.
detachment of personnel from the 354th
Tactical Figher Wing deployed at Korat Royal Thai Air Force
Base Thailand 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
Image:3rdtfw.gif|3d Tactical Fighter Wing
Image:377abw.jpg|Det. 1, 377th Air Base Wing
Image:Pacific Air Forces.png|Pacific Air Forces
Image:Maag-vn.jpg|Military Assistance Advisory Group -
Image:2d Air Division crest.jpg|2d Air Division
Image:7th Air Force.png|7th Air Force
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
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
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
June 1974 Table Of Organization:
23d Tactical Wing
43d Tactical Wing
- 112th/124th Liaison squadron Cessna O-1A, U-17A
- 514th/518th Fighter Squadron A-1H
63d Tactical Wing
- 221st/223d/231st/245th/251st Helicopter Squadron Bell
- 237th Helicopter Squadron CH-47A
- Det E 259th Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H (Medevac)
- 522nd/536th/540th/544th Fighter Squadron Northrup F-5A/B/C
Capture of Bien Hoa Air Base
North Vietnam had suffered about 50,000 casualties during the 1968
and was similarly mauled
in its spring 1972 offensive against the South. The People's Army
of Vietnam needed time to recuperate.
1975 saw Hanoi 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
. 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.
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Squadron/Signal Publications. ISBN 0-89747-193-8
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Vietnamese Air Force 1951-1975
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Numbers--1908 to present