South Vietnamese Air Force UH-1 "Huey"
helicopter and A-1 "Skyraider"
Cessna 0-1F of the 21st TASS
Cessna O-2A of the 21st TASS
Pleiku Air Base
- For the civil airport use of this
facility after 1975, see Pleiku Airport
is a former Vietnam Air Force
and United States Air Force
located near the city of Pleiku within
Province in Southern
Vietnam. Today, the facility is operated as Pleiku Airport (IATA: PXU,
Pleiku Air Base was little more than an undeveloped air strip in
December 1962 when it was designated by the South Vietnamese Air Force
as Air Base 62
. The VNAF 1141st Observation
Squadron moved to Pleiku from Da Nang Air Base in January 1965, and a detachment of Douglas
A-1 Skyraiders from Bien Hoa Air
Base resided there for close air support
In March 1964 the tactical elements at Pleiku
were Formed into the VNAF 62d Tactical Wing
Wing was moved to Nha Trang Air Base in January 1965 where expansion of its air units
could be supported more easily, leaving behind a detachment of
Pleiku Air Base was then managed by the
VNAF 92d Base Support Group
. and the base was used
as a staging and emergency airfield.
Known VNAF Units At Pleiku (June 1974 Table Of
Pleiku Air Base was the home of the SVNAF 6th Air
72d Tactical Wing
- 118th Liaison Squadron Cessna O-2A,U-17
- 530th Fighter Squadron A-1
- 229th/235th Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H
- Det B 259th Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H (Medevac)
USAF Use During the Vietnam War
As North Vietnamese infiltration increased within and along the
Laotian and Cambodian borders the importance of Pleiku Air Base
increased, and base facilities were expanded and improved. American
Army and Air Force civil engineering units resurfaced and extended
to 6000 ft (1829 m) runway and the base was jointly used for both
VNAF and USAF air activities, but never reachedthe saturation and
population proportions of the major air bases of the coastal
lowlands. Pleiku was used as a major American base, with Army, Navy
and USAF personnel stationed there.
The USAF forces stationed at Pleiku were under the command of the
United States Pacific
(PACAF). The APO for Pleiku was APO San Francisco,
21st Tactical Air Support Squadron
Tactical Air Support Squadron (21st TASS)
was a U.S.
Air Force forward air control
squadron. It was activated on 8 May 1965
but did not become operational until 1 August 1965
. At that time it
was attached to the 6250th Tactical Air Support Group
. Later, it was reassigned to the 505th
Tactical Control Group, headquartered at Tan Son Nhut Air
Base near Saigon, and in
September, 1966 it was reassigned again and relocated to Nha Trang Air
Basewhere it was attached to the 14th Air Commando
The new squadron was initially authorized 30 0-1 Bird Dog
aircraft. Its mission was
to provide visual reconnaissance and airborne forward air control
support of tactical offensive operations. In 1967 it began to
switch over to the O-2 Skymaster
twin engined aircraft with more power and armament than the 0-1.
Later the squadron flew the OV-10 Bronco.
Time and again ground commanders praised 21st TASS FACs for
directing strikes so accurately that ground forces were saved from
being overrun. During the Battle of
, the flexibility of 21st TASS was shown when they
augmented the FACs at Tuy Hoa were augmented in their operation
48th Quang Truh, held on 28 September.
633d Special Operations Wing
Douglas A-1E "Skyraider" of the 6th
Air Commando Squadron at Pleiku AB
Air Commando Squadron C-47D in South
The 633rd Special Operations Wing
was activated at
Pleiku on 15 July 1968
Its mission was to assess, train, advise and assist South
Vietnamese Air Force personnel in airpower employment, sustainment
and force integration. 633rd personnel also advised the South
Vietnamese sustain their own airpower resources and, when
necessary, integrate those resources into joint and combined
operations with the USAF.
was formed from elements of the 14th Special Operations
Wing at Nha Trang Air Base and the 1st Special Operations
Wing on Temporary Duty from Hurlburt Field,
Squadrons transferred from Nha Trang were:
6th Air Commando Squadron
6th Air Commando
Squadron was formed at England Air
Force Base Louisiana as a unit of the 1st Air Commando Wing.
Pleiku, it was the operational flying component of the 663d. The
squadron was deployed to Pleiku on 29
and arrived at Pleiku AB in
March. During the stay at Pleiku, the squadron
maintained a forward SAR alert unit at Da Nang Air Base from 1 Apr 1968 - 1 Sep 1969.
The 6th ACS was designated as the 6th Special Operations
on 1 August
unit flew combat missions, including air support for ground forces,
air cover for transports, day and night interdiction, combat search
and rescue support, armed reconnaissance, and forward air
The squadron was equipped with 20 A-1E/H Tail Code: ET
It was deactivated in place on 15
1969 with its aircraft being turned over to the South
Vietnamese Air Force.
9th Air Commando Squadron
The 9th Air
was activated at Pleiku on 25 Jan
1967 as a deployed unit of the 1st Air Commando Wing, flying
special operations missions using modified C-47D aircraft. On
1967, the squadron relocated
to Nha Trang Air Base.
During its active service, the 633d flew combat missions, including
air support for ground forces, air cover for transports, day and
night interdiction, combat search and rescue support, armed
reconnaissance, and forward air control.
October 1969 the unit was being broken up and the pilots were
transferred to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force
They were assigned to either the 1st SOS,
22nd SOS, or the 602nd SOS (Fighter).
The squadron was equipped with AC-47Ds Tail Code: ER
With the departure of the 6th SOS personnel in late 1969, a small
group remained at Pleiku for a short period of time to advise the
SVNAF. The wing deactivated on 15 March
For its actions at Pleiku Air Base, the wing was awarded the
Air Force Outstanding
- with Combat "V" Device and the Republic Of
Vietnam Gallantry Cross
362d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron
For a brief time (1 February - 27 June 1972), the 362d
Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron
specially-equipped EC-47s and C-47Hs were assigned to Pleiku from
the 366th TFW
. These aircraft
were equipped with various electronic warfare components.
Emblems of USAF Units at Pleiku Air Basee
Image:21tass.gif|21st Tactical Air Control Squadron
Image:663sow.jpg|663d Special Operations Wing
15 Jul 1968-15 Mar 1970
Image:Pacific Air Forces.png|USAF Pacific Air Forces
Image:2d Air Division crest.jpg|2d Air Division
Image:7th Air Force.png|USAF 7th Air Force
Capture of Pleiku Air Base
By the early spring of 1975 North Vietnam realized the time was
right to achieve its goal of re-uniting Vietnam under communist
rule, and so launched a series of small ground attacks to test U.S.
these attacks failed to draw a military response from Washington,
the NVA staged a massive attack on the strategic town of Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands.
Ban Me Thuot
controlled Highways 14 and 21, vital lines of communication from
the southern Central Highlands to Saigon and the coast.
The NVA had selected the Central Highlands as the battlefield in an
attempt to cut South Vietnam in half.
On the night of 9 March 1975
, the NVA struck the city and Pleiku airfield with
artillery, mortars, and rockets. By the next afternoon, over half
of Ban Me Thuot was in enemy hands, despite fierce resistance from
ARVN defenders. VNAF air strikes destroyed five NVA tanks but
during one strike, a bomb accidentally hit ARVN sector headquarters
severely disrupting communications.
At Pleiku airfield, the small ARVN garrison came under attack and
was forced to defend the control lower. preventing attempts to fly
in reinforcements. ARVN reinforcements were diverted to Buon Ho,
north of the city, far from the battle.
On the airfield, the NVA had destroyed an 0-1, a CH-47, and ten
UH-1s. although three damaged Hueys had managed to escape. Fierce
lighting continued for three more days but by 14 March
the situation was hopeless. During the
four day battle the VNAF flew over 200 sorties inflicting heavy
losses on the NVA, hut to no avail. No aircraft were lost in the
air. but three A-37s at Pleiku were destroyed by 122mm rockets on
when the NVA rocketed the
Ban Me Thuot fell, President Thieu called an emergency high level
meeting at Cam Ranh
During this meeting Thieu made the decision
to attempt an orderly withdrawal from the Central Highlands around
Kontum and Pleiku in order to conserve forces and regroup for a
counter-attack. Unfortunately for the South Vietnamese, the
conmander of the region. General Phu, misinterpreted this order and
directed an immediately evacuation of both cities.
The commander of the 6th Air Division at Pleiku was given
forty-eight hours to evacuate the airfield and immediately
requested UH-1s CH-47s and C-130s to fly VNAF personnel and their
dependants out of Pleiku.
On 16 March
artillery fire began hitting
the city and ARVN troops began a retreat to the coast along Highway
7B. At Pleiku airfield sixty-four aircraft were abandoned with
little effort to destroy them before evacuating and large
quantities of fuel and ordinance were left behind. undamaged and
ready for the enemy to use.
- Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October
1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1
October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History.
- Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF
Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation
History. ISBN 0887405134.
- Mesco, Jim (1987) VNAF South Vietnamese Air Force 1945-1975
Squadron/Signal Publications. ISBN 0-89747-193-8
- Mikesh, Robert C. (2005) Flying Dragons: The South Vietnamese
Air Force. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0764321587
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage
and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air
Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
- USAF Historical Research Division/Organizational History
Branch - 35th Fighter Wing, 366th Wing
- VNAF - The South
Vietnamese Air Force 1951-1975
- USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial
Numbers--1908 to present