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Coordinates: 16°02′38″N 108°11′58″E / 16.04389°N 108.19944°E / 16.04389; 108.19944

Da Nang Air Base

Vietnam Air Force (south) roundel.svg Usaf roundel.png Roundel of the Vietnamese Air Force.svg

Danangab-vn.jpg
2008 Image of Da Nang Air Base
IATA: noneICAO: none

Dotmap-DANANGAB.jpg

Summary
Elevation AMSL 33 ft / 10 m
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
17L/35R 10,000 3,048 Asphalt
17R/35L 10,000 3,048 Asphalt
For the civil/military use of the facility after April 1975, see Da Nang International Airport

Da Nang Air Base (1958–1975) was a Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) facility. The United States used it as a major base during the Vietnam War (1959–1975), stationing Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine units there. The APO for Da Nang Air Base was APO San Francisco, 96337

It is now known as the Da Nang International Airport.

Contents

Overview

Known as Tourane when it was under French influence, Da Nang Air Base was the most northerly major air base in the Republic of Vietnam.

The base was located in the northeast coastal area, 85 miles (137 km) south of the Demilitarized Zone where the 17th parallel separated the two Vietnams. It is best remembered by the Vietnamese as the strike base from which the Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) made its first strike into North Vietnam, on February 8, 1965, with a squadron of Douglas A-1 Skyraiders.

The air base began in November 1957 as Air Force Support Base 4, providing logistics support for that remote part of the country 400 miles (644 km) north of Saigon.

Situated on flat, sandy ground on the south side of the major port city of Da Nang, the area was ideal for an airfield, having unobstructed approaches to its north/south runways. Once little more than a provincial airfield, the base expanded to 2350 acres (95 1 hectares) with two 10.000 ft (3048 m) asphalt runways with concrete touchdown pads, parallel taxiways, and a heliport. It was under the control of the VNAFs 41st Wing, which was established there on January 1, 1964 as the major Vietnamese air element in I Corps.

The base became a joint operating airfield when U.S. Forces came to the aid of the South Vietnamese. As the number of VNAF units at Da Nang continued to increase, so did those of the USAF, and U.S. Marine air units swelled the capacity of the base beyond its limits. Covered and open aircraft revetments were constructed on concrete and asphalt parking aprons.

In addition to these permanent assigned combat units, the airfield was an on-and off-loading port for the huge C-141s, C-5s, and contract commercial flights of the Military Airlift Command, as well as a civil terminal for the various domestic airlines.

Da Nang became the world's busiest airport in the single runway category. In the mid-1960s, 1,500 landings and takeoffs were recorded on peak days, besides having two extra traffic patterns for helicopters at the edge of the airstrip.

When a parallel runway was added in 1966, Da Nang rivaled Tan Son Nhut as the world's busiest airport. By 1968 an average month saw the number of takeoffs and landings of fixed-wing aircraft exceeding 55,000. With helicopter activities added, the figure approached 67,000. During the winter monsoon at least 4500 of these landings were normally ground-controlled approaches.

For the air war over North Vietnam, Da Nang was considered the most suitable diversionary airfield in case of emergency. Landings of this nature became commonplace for Thailand-based USAF fighter bombers. reconnaissance aircraft, strike aircraft from the Navy aircraft carriers stationed in the South China Sea, and damaged aircraft of all air units stationed throughout South Vietnam.

Known SVNAF Units at Da Nang

A-37Bs of the South Vietnamese Air Force 516th Fighter Squadron
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June 1974 Table of Organization

Da Nang Air Base was the headquarters of the SVNAF 1st Air Division.

41st Tactical Wing

  • 110th/120th Liaison Squadron Cessna O-1A, O-2, U-17
  • 427th Transport Squadron C-7B
  • 718th Reconnaissance Squadron EC-47
  • 821st Attack Squadron AC-119K

51st Tactical Wing

  • 213th/233d/239th/253d/257th Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H
  • 247th Helicopter Squadron CH-47A

61st Tactical Wing

  • 516th/528th/550th Fighter Squadron A-37B
  • 538th Fighter Squadron F-5A/B/E

Other Known Units

  • 516th Fighter Squadron (1963–1970) T-28,A-1,A-37
  • 213th Helicopter Squadron (1963–1970) H-34,UH-1
  • 219th Helicopter Squadron (1970) H-34
  • 233d Helicopter Squadron (1970) UH-1
  • 110th Observation Squadron (1963–1970) O-1,U-17
  • 120th Observation Squadron (1970) O-1,U-17
  • 615th Strategic Mission Flight (1965) B-57

American Units at Da Nang Air Base

Early Advisory Units

On August 19, 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy approved a long-range radar facility to be sited near Da Nang to observe and report Soviet flights across the Laotian border. On September 11, 1961 the deployment of a mobile combat radar system began from the 507th Tactical Control Group at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

On June 15, 1962 personnel of project Mule Train arrived at Da Nang, operating two Fairchild C-123 Providers. These C-123s delivered supplies to distant outposts established by the Army Special Forces along the border with Laos, and to drop South Vietnamese parachute troops in operations against the Viet Cong. They were designated Tactical Air Force Transport Squadron Provisional-2.

The success of project Farm Gate and the Vietnamese AD-6s at Bien Hoa Air Base led to an expansion of the mission. This success eventually moved the SVNAF 1st Fighter Squadron to stage two AD-6s at Da Nang, flown by American pilots during 1962.

During April 1963 the arrival of the 777th Troop Carrier Squadron from the 464th TCW (Pope AFB, North Carolina) with sixteen C-123s augmented the airlift of the twenty-nine C-123s at Tan Son Nhut Air Base to support the US Special Forces in Vietnam.

By June Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) had 16,652 people, 4,790 of them Air Force. On the 28th, United States Secretary of Defense McNamara froze MACV strength. To clear up the confusing array of USAF units, PACAF formed new ones without expanding manpower authorizations. At Da Nang, the 23d Air Base Group was created to organize the USAF advisory units stationed there. The Mule Train C-123 unit became the 311th Troop Carrier Squadron.

Air Defense Mission

During 1964/65 the 23d Air Base Group supported various USAF deployed squadrons through mid-1965. During the early days of Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese fighter aircraft became a problem for attacking USAF and US Navy strike aircraft. In response, the 476th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing from George AFB, California began regular rotations to Da Nang in April 1965. Their job was to fly MiG combat air patrol (MiGCAP) missions to protect American fighter bombers against attack by North Vietnamese fighters.

The effect of F-104 deployment upon NVN and PRC MiG operations was immediate and dramatic--NVN MiGs soon learned to avoid contact with USAF strikes being covered by F-104s. During the entire deployment of the 476th only two fleeting encounters between F-104Cs and enemy fighters occurred.

6252d Tactical Wing

F-104s of the 476th TFS on the flightline - 1965
F-100s of the 416th TFS on the flightline - 1965

The 6252d Tactical Wing was activated at Da Nang on July 18, 1965, taking over from the 23d Air Base Group. The 6252d was responsible as the host unit and for operational squadrons assigned to Da Nang. Squadrons assigned were:

  • 416th Tactical Fighter January 1965 – July 1965 (F-100)
Deployed from 439th TFW, Misawa AB, Japan
  • 476th Tactical Fighter July 18, 1965 – November 30, 1965 (F-104)
Deployed from 479th TFW, George AFB, California
  • 8th Bombardment Squadron July 18, 1965 – April 8, 1966 (B-57)
  • 13th Bombardment Squadron August 16, 1965 – April 8, 1966 (B-57)
8th & 13th BS deployed from 2d Air Division, Clark AB, Philippines
  • 390th Tactical Fighter October 29, 1965 – April 8, 1966 (F-4C)
  • 480th Tactical fighter February 1, 1966 – April 8, 1966 (F-4C)
390th & 480th TFS deployed from 366th TFW, Holloman AFB, New Mexico

The B-57 equipped 8th and 13th BS had originally deployed from Misawa AB, Japan to Clark AB in the Philippines after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Then in 1965 they were sent to South Vietnam, being initially based at Bien Hoa Air Base then to Da Nang to move them closer to North Vietnamese targets.

The F-104s rotated back to George AFB in November 1965 and the F-4Cs of the 390th and 480th TFS from the 366th TFW at Holloman AFB New Mexico assumed the F-104s escort mission. Although the F-104s had not shot down a single MiG, their mere presence as escort aircraft had diminished MiG activity to the point where MiGs were no longer considered as a primary threat to USAF aircraft flying missions over North Vietnam.

35th Tactical Fighter Wing

McDonnell Douglas F-4C-21-MC (S/N 64-7660) of the New York Air National Guard. Note that the three victory stars were scored on May 12, 1966, by Maj. W.R. Dudley (pilot) and 1Lt. I. Kreingelis (WSO) flying for the 390th TFS, 35th TFW using an AIM-9 Sidewinder against a MiG-17; May 14, 1967, by Maj. J.A. Hargrove (pilot) and 1Lt. S.H. Demuth (WSO) flying for the 480th TFS, 366th TFW using the 20 mm cannon against a MiG-17; and June 5, 1967, by Maj. D.K Preister (pilot) and Capt. J.E. Pankhurst (WSO) flying for the 480th TFS, 366th TFW using the 20 mm cannon against a MiG-17.With its withdrawal from ANG service, this aircraft was placed in storage at Robins AFB, GA August 2001.
F-102s of the 64th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - 1966.

The 35th Tactical Fighter Wing replaced the 6252d TW, being transferred from Yokota Air Base, Japan on April 8, 1966. Its mission was to conduct tactical airstrikes within South Vietnam in support of US and ARVN ground forces. These were performed by its F-4 tactical fighter/bombers and the B-57 tactical bomber squadrons.

Its attached operational squadrons were:

  • 390th Tactical Fighter April 8 – October 1, 1966 (F-4C)
  • 480th Tactical Fighter April 8 – October 1, 1966 (F-4C)
  • 8th Bombardment Squadron April 8 – August 15, 1966 (B-57)
  • 13th Bombardment Squadron April 17 – October 1, 1966 (B-57)
  • 64th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron June 10 – October 1, 1966 (F-102)

On October 1, 1966 the 35th TFW made a name-only transfer to Phan Rang Air Base and was replaced by the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, making a similar name only transfer to Da Nang from Phan Rang. This move realigned the 366th with the 390th and 480th TFS, which had a historical relationship with the 366th TFW at Holloman and prior to that at Chaumont AB in France.

The 35th, in turn, became a F-100 Super Sabre organization at Phan Rang. The two B-57 squadrons were also reassigned, following the 35th Wing to Phan Rang, making the incoming 366th TFW at Da Nang an F-4 wing.

F-102A in Vietnam

In June 1966, the Air Defense Command 64th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (64th FIS) arrived from Paine Airfield, Washington. The 64th FIS part of the 142nd Air Defense Wing and was equipped with the Convair F-102A Delta Dagger arrived at Da Nang. The F-102 was part of the backbone of the United States air defenses in the late 1950s and 1960s.

In Vietnam, the F-102 was to achieve its only taste of combat. Initially it was deployed to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in March 1962 to provide air defense against the unlikely event that North Vietnamese aircraft would attack the South. By 1966, F-102As stood alert at Bien Hoa Air Base and Da Nang in South Vietnam and at Udon Royal Thai Air Force Base and Don Muang AB in Thailand.

Besides flying air defense sorties, F-102s of the 64th FIS at Da Nang accompanied SAC B-52s on combat air patrols over North Vietnam providing fighter cover against North Vietnamese MiGs. Although missions were flown over North Vietnam, the Southeast Asia-stationed F-102As are not thought to have actually engaged North Vietnamese Air Force fighters in air-to-air combat. In addition, F-102A actually did fly some close-support missions over the South, even though the aircraft was totally unsuited for this role. In these operations F-102s used their heat seeking Falcon missiles to lock onto heat sources over the Ho Chi Minh trail at night, often Viet Cong campfires. This was more of a harassment tactic than it was serious assault. They would even fire their radar-guided missiles if their radars managed to lock onto something. The pilots were never sure if they actually hit anything, but occasionally they would observe secondary explosions

The F-102A established an excellent safety record in Vietnam. After the better part of three years flying air defense and a few combat air patrols for SAC B-52s, the F-102s at Da Nang were eventually withdrawn in June 1969.

366th Tactical Fighter Wing

McDonnell F-4D-33-MC Phantom Serial 66-8820 of the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
F-4E of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron - 1972

The 366th Tactical Fighter Wing assumed the host unit function at Da Nang. It was transferred less personnel and equipment ("on paper") from Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam, on October 1, 1966. The mission of the 366th TFW was also inherited from the 35th TFW, to fly cover for F-105 Thunderchief strike aircraft, offering numerous opportunities for aerial combat with North Vietnamese MiG aircraft. 366th TFW pilots scored 18 aerial victories in Southeast Asia.

The assigned squadrons of the 366th TFW were:

Aircraft identified by two small red one white stripe on rudder as squadron marking. Tail Codes F-4C: AA, AD, AG, AH, AS, AT, AW, AX, AY. F-4D: AD, AW. Also used AB AK AJ AU AY, (HB 1969 - 71)
Aircraft identified by Blue stripe on rudder as squadron marking. Tail Codes F-4C: BT, BY. F-4D: BN BQ. Also used BD BF BL BY, (LF 1969 - 71).
  • 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron October 1, 1966 – April 15, 1969 (F-4C/D)
Aircraft identified by Green stripe on rudder as squadron marking. Tail Codes F-4C: CH CW CY. F-4D: CM CO CS CW CY. Also used CV (HK 1969 - 71).
  • 64th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron October 1, 1966 – June 30, 1969 (F-102)
  • 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron April 12, 1969 – October 31, 1972 (F-4E)
Deployed from 33d TFW, Eglin AFB, Florida (Tail Code: LA)
Deployed from 475th TFW, Misawa AB Japan (Tail Code: LC)

In 1969, the decision to make the 37th TFW at Phu Cat Air Base an F-4 Wing meant the transfer of the 389th and 480th TFW to the 37th TFW. A squadron each of the 33d TFW at Eglin AFB Florida and 475th TFW at Misawa AB Japan were re-assigned to the 366th TFW:

1972 Spring Offensive

When North Vietnam launched its Spring Offensive in 1972 it had every reason to be confident of victory. US forces had been gradually withdrawing from South Vietnam for the previous three years, mass demonstration against American involvement in the conflict, and South Vietnamese failure during Operation Lam Son 719 added to the DRV's confidence. However, it was during this offensive that the North Vietnamese failed as the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) put up heavy resistance and inflicted much damage on their opponents, the result was a military disaster for North Vietnam.

In response to the offensive, additional USAF units were deployed from the 8th TFW at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea to Da Nang to augment the effectiveness of USAF air power to South Vietnam. These were:

  • 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron March 15 – June 27, 1972 (O-2A, OV-10)
  • 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron April 3 – June 12, 1972 (F-4D Tail Code: UP)
  • 362d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron February 1 – June 27, 1972 (EC–47N/P/Q)

The F-4s augmented the tactical fighter squadrons of the 366th, The EC-47s were assigned an electronic countermeasures mission. The O-2s and OV-10s carried out a forward air control mission.

With the North Vietnamese offensive blunted by June, these augmentation squadrons returned to South Korea.

USAF Withdrawal from Da Nang

Beginning in May 1972, the forces of the USAF were drawn down at Da Nang.

On June 30, 1972, the 366th TFW was deactivated at Da Nang Air Base, being reactivated at Takhli RTAFB, Thailand the same day.

With the deactivation of the 366th TFW, the major USAF presence at Da Nang Air Base ended.

Other American Units at Da Nang

F-4B Phantoms of VMFA-115 and VMFA-323 on the flight-line at Danang in 1966.

The 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, variously operating HU-16s, HH-43Fs, HH-3Es and HH-53s, was assigned to Da Nang Air Base for most of the war.

The 4th Air Commando/Special Operations Squadron based at Nha Trang Air Base and later Phan Rang Air Base maintained a detachment of Douglas AC-47D "Spooky" aircraft, (nicknamed "Puff" as in Puff the Magic Dragon) at Da Nang through December 15, 1969 when aircraft were transferred under Vietnamization. The unit flew combat missions, primarily in defense of ground positions, night interdiction, pre-planned strikes against suitable targets, and forward air control.

The 6th Air Commando/Special Operations Squadron based at Pleiku Air Base maintained a detachment of Douglas A-1EH "Skyraiders" at Da Nang from April 1, 1968 – September 1, 1969. The 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 control.

United States Marine Corps:

"8 March 1965 -The 9th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) commanded by Brigadier General Frederick J. Karch, landed at Da Nang. The MEB included two Marine Battalion Landing Teams (BLTs) - 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. McPartlin, Jr.) which landed over Red Beach 2, and 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (Lieutenant Colonel Herbert J. Bain) which arrived by air from Okinawa. The 9th MEB mission was to defend the Da Nang Airbase. This was the first U.S. ground combat unit to land in RVN."
A permanent detatchment of Marines from VMGR-152 was located at the base. VMGR-152 was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa and flew the KC-130 Hercules. These Marines provided air transport for personnel and logistical material throughout the region. Additionally, aircrews from the squadron flew night missions dropping aerial flares when called on by ground forces.
(See The Marines in Vietnam 1965: The Landing and the Buildup)

Later USMC units deployed to Da Nang included the III Marine Amphibious Force, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Marine Division, 7th Marine Regiment, and 27th Marine Regiment.

United States Navy: 3rd Naval Mobile Construction Brigade; Naval Support Activity. Construction for all branches of the armed forces in the Da Nang complex was managed by the Navy Officer in Charge of Construction Vietnam (OICC RVN.)

North Vietnamese capture of Da Nang Air Base

With the capture of Ban Me Thuot and the Central Highlands by North Vietnamese forces in late March 1975, the disastrous retreat by the ARVN had a profound effect on the South Vietnamese troops and civilians around Huế, Quang Tri, and Da Nang.

Conflicting orders from Saigon caused confusion, lowered morale, and led to troop movements which defied any logic. As rockets and artillery fire began to hit Da Nang Air Base on March 28, the 1st Air Division was ordered to evacuate. Those ARVN soldiers who did not desert to assist their fleeing families, but instead chose to stand and fight, were overrun.

The troops who somehow managed to escape capture then joined the crazed mob attempting to leave Da Nang on anything that floated. Chaos ruled the streets of Da Nang Easter weekend 1975 as military deserters armed with their combat weapons attempted to dictate the terms of their departure. Before the weekend ended some of the most disciplined members of the armed forces would use their weapons against their countrymen in order to gain passage from Da Nang.

Approximately 130 aircraft managed to evacuate but over 180 were left behind along with huge stocks of fuel and ordnance. Abandoned were thirty-three A-37s, most of which were captured intact by the NVA.

By March 30 one of the largest cities in South Vietnam and its huge air field were under communist control. Coming so soon after the loss of Kontum and Pleiku, the fall of Da Nang caused widespread panic and desertion within the South Vietnamese armed forces. The North Vietnamese, sensing that victory was theirs, deployed their reserves and immediately began pushing south along the coast in what was known as the Ho Chi Minh Campaign, the final push toward Saigon.

Emblems of Units at Da Nang Air Base

See also

References

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links


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