Tuesday, May 25, 2010

USAF units in Thailand during the Vietnam (American) War - A History Lesson


The United States Air Force deployed combat aircraft to Thailand from 1961 to 1975 during the Vietnam War. Today, USAF units train annually with other Asian Air Forces in Thailand. Royal Thai Air Force Bases are an important element in thePentagon's "forward positioning" strategy.

Contents

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[edit]Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, about 80% of all USAF air strikes over North Vietnam originated from air bases in Thailand. At its peak in 1969 a greater number of Airmen were serving in Thailand than were serving in South Vietnam.

Under Thailand's "gentleman's agreement" with the U.S., the bases were considered Royal Thai Air Force bases and were commanded by Thai officers. Thai air police controlled access to the bases; U.S. air police who helped them did carry guns. Command of the American units, however, remained with U.S. wing commanders and their Seventh Air Force/Thirteenth Air Force headquarters.

Out of the Thai bases flew the most extraordinary air-combat team that had ever been assembled. From Udorn, just 40 minutes by air from Hanoi, flew supersonic, unarmed RF-101 and RF-4C reconnaissance jets streaked over target areas immediately before and after a raid to photograph the damage so assessments of the attack could be made. From Korat, Takhli and Uboncame the F-105 Thunderchiefs and F-4C and F-4D Phantoms that actually deliver the bombs. From U-Tapao airfield on the Gulf of Siam, the largest airfield in Southeast Asia, four-engine KC-135 refueling tankers took to the air and refueled the aircraft just before and after they hit North Vietnam. From Takhli flew EB-66 electronic-warfare jets with special equipment that can detect the "fingerprints" of enemy radar in the sky and then send out a signal that fouls up the screen below. Flying out of Takhli, F-105s armed with radar-guided Shrike missiles had the job of knocking out SAM sites.

Finally, from Nakhon Phanom came every pilot's best friend: the air-rescue-and-recovery team. Flying ungainly looking, green and brown CH-3 helicopters, or "Jolly Green Giants," R. &. R. pilots had even gone into Hanoi's outskirts to rescue downed fliers.

These are the major bases the USAF operated from in Thailand:

Major USAF Unit: 631st Combat Support Group, 1962-1970
Major USAF Unit: 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, 1965-1975
Major USAF Unit: 56th Special Operations Wing, 1967-1975
Major USAF Unit: 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, 1965-1971; Rotational units, 1972-1974
Major USAF Units: 4258th Strategic Wing, 1966-1970; 307th Strategic Wing, 1970-1975
Major USAF Unit: 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, 1965-1974
Major USAF Unit: 432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, 1966-1975

The circumstances surrounding the creation of these bases and the American deployment is a long and complex tale. Its origins lie in the French withdrawal from Indochina as a result of the 1954 Geneva Agreement, nationalism and the Cold War

USAF Thailand Emblem Gallery

[edit]Command And Control

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7/13 Air Force
1966-1973

Wings



22 comments:

Alan Baker said...

I flew airlift out of Utapao: "Klonghopper Airlines". In 1970 I flew into a little grass field called T-63 in the Watthananakhon area. See
http://vietnamairlift.com/watthananakhon.html

Where can I find information about this airfield?

jhighscoutdad said...

No mention of the B 52 operations from UTapao which began in April 1967.

jhighscoutdad said...

Yes. I was a member of the 4258th Strat Wing that operated the tankesr and bombers under SAC control.

Aesia Brown said...

Good afternoon,
I'm looking for a site or a person that may have a copy of orders with services members name showing that they deployed to Thailand, 7th Special Operations Sq out of Ram stein Air Base, Germany.

sweeney209 said...

The majority of Special Operations assignments where classified. Just about all of my orders have "Unit of Assignment listed as Classified" They used a pass code to identify where they were at, but they(classified passcodes) were all retired and stored at the National Archives before the big fire there and were lost. I needed a statement of service listing all my assignments and they couldn't locate them. Even my evaluations had Pass Codes vs Units and/or address. There were two other SOSs there, the 1st and the 16th. I never heard of the 7th being in theater, Good luck in finding what you need Aesia Brown.

Phoenix said...

Sweeney209 - can you provide any insights into SOG-517 and SOG-5, Hq72ndCSGp? These entities are on my brothers DD214 but have not been able to identify them. He served in Udorn Thailand during the period July 70-Jul72. Appreciate your consideration.

Jerry Duggan said...

I didn't see anything about the 555th, triple nickle, being at Udorn. They were there with the 432nd when I was there. 1968/69.

Jerry Duggan said...

I didn't see anything about the 555th, triple nickle, being at Udorn. They were there with the 432nd when I was there. 1968/69.

Phoenix said...

Mr. Duggan - Appreciate the reply! Would ask for further clarification since I am not familiar with the designations of these Air Force units. Is the triple nickel SOG-5? My brother was also in Udorn during the 68-69 timeframe as a combat weatherman. He passed away in February from significant agent orange related health issues and I am trying to establish his combat deployments. thank you for any insights you may be able to provide - my ultimate goal is to positively link him to any unit histories that may exist.

JL said...

Triple nickel (555th) flew F-4s out of Seymour Johnson. My dad was a crew chief at Udorn in the triple nickel in the early 70s.

Ricardo Chavira said...


My brother David Chavira Jr. was a U.S. Air Force communications specialist and based at Udorn in 1970, serving one tour. He died nearly 20 years ago and never once disclosed what he did during his time at the base. Of course, his assignment was classified, and he was required to not provide information about his actions. I'm left wondering what sorts of things he might have assigned. Based on what I've been able to learn about Udorn, it's likely he took part in covert missions in Laos or North Vietnam. If anyone can shed some light on this I would appreciate it. David and I were very close, but his oath was something he respected all the way to the grave.

Unknown said...

There's a mistake in your reference about Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB), as I had two (2) tours of duty back-to-back (8/73 - 8/74 and, 8/74 - 8/75). Don Muang RTAFB was open when I departed for my next overseas assignment in August 1975. I was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Postal & Courier Service (USAFPCS). NOTE: Also, was assigned to the USAFPCS from 7/71 - 6/72) at Ubon RTAFB.

Chris said...

I was assigned to Udorn 3/69-3/70 as a crew chief on one of the two "Recce" F-4 squadrons, the 11th and 14th TRS. There were also two F-4D fighter squadrons, the 13th and 555th(infamous "Triple Nickel") TFS. The last three months I was there a group of AC-119's (ARC light ) were squeezed in as well. We were the prime recovery base for North Vietnam and other areas in the region for aircraft that had unreleased/ hung ordnance. We had many interesting situations when one would call in an emergency recovery. There were at least five barriers to "catch" these aircraft as they landed. Can't say too much more but had a helluva good time drinking with the Philippine maintenance crews for the Air America compound at one end of our ramp! Beginning in Jan 1970, you had to have orders allowing you to travel to other bases. Before that, you could just go down to base ops and jump on anything going anywhere as long as you made it back for your shift! Thailand was a very beautiful country!

Richard Adams said...

I hope someone can assist me. I was TDY to Korat in 1972 from the 405th SPS Clark AB Philippines. The records section at Randolph and archieves cannot provide me with copies of my PCS or TDY orders for my entire Air Force career. I was at Korat when the SR71 landed there and the 6 firman died. I need help because Ive provided the DD214, photos taken at Korat and the medical documentation of my illness associated with my time there. I walked the flight line, perimeter fence line and the bomb storage area of base. I was also deployed to a couple other bases for security support.

Richard Adams a121052@aol.com or richrich52nmi@gmail.com If you can assist me I can provide more information.
Thanks in advance

Richard Adams said...

I hope someone can assist me. I was TDY to Korat in 1972 from the 405th SPS Clark AB Philippines. The records section at Randolph and archieves cannot provide me with copies of my PCS or TDY orders for my entire Air Force career. I was at Korat when the SR71 landed there and the 6 firman died. I need help because Ive provided the DD214, photos taken at Korat and the medical documentation of my illness associated with my time there. I walked the flight line, perimeter fence line and the bomb storage area of base. I was also deployed to a couple other bases for security support.

Richard Adams a121052@aol.com or richrich52nmi@gmail.com If you can assist me I can provide more information.
Thanks in advance

john sarts said...

I'm a writer working on a book about the 1972 Bat-21 rescue mission in Vietnam. I'm looking for any stories of what Korat was like in those days: the atmosphere, the camaraderie, etc. I'm at stephant@yahoo.com. Thanks. Stephan Talty

DantheGrey said...

No one will ever know the full story of deployments of American troops and aircraft in Thailand during the Vietnam War. It is sad that the fire at the National Archives destroyed so many service records from that time period. I was TDY to Udorn from March-September of 1973 and you will not find any records of our deployment or the type of aircraft we took with us. My DD-214 lists a Washington File # that is 15 digits long and marked classified (Top Secret) and even though I've been out since 1976 I can't say anything more about my time over there. What bothers me the most about our time over there is the great number of servicemen and women who never received credit for their service time in Southeast Asia because of the secrecy combined with the archives fire that destroyed so many records from that time period.

Anonymous said...

TDY From 1ST MOB Clark AFB to Ubon RTAFB May 62 until Sep radio specialist provided radio communication for Lion radar unit. Was there when the Aussies arrived end of May 62. Went to Saigon and then back to Clark

Anonymous said...

My husband was 4th MMS deployed from Seymour Johnson to Ubon Thailand 4/11/72 in support of Oper Constant Guard...his TDY should qualify him & many others for the Vietnam Service Medal based on the criteria yet his DD214 says Vietnam NO. I am preparing a DD 149 appeal to have it changed but have to use magazines & other sources to corroborate and build a case since nine of the official sources exist. Has anyone else tried this successfully and would anyone be willing to provide info/sources or ideas? I am happy to yo also share what i have gathered. Beckbiker66@gmail.com

SUSAN WELD said...

My husband was stationed in Udon from 67-70 I have had such a run around from the government concerning his case of agent orange even though doctors in the beginning of this 8 yr ordeal of trying to get acknowledged that he was infeceted and he passed away on 5-15-15 due to medical conditions which are labeled under their guide lines they say he didnt work on the right plane or the perimeter hell any time u go on or off base u cross perimeter and hell when your at war you do things that not in job discription there were other reasons he went to perimeter which cannot say they have totally disrespected him when he passed no one showed up from military sent flag in a bag funeral director and friend had to fold it government turned their back on when he came home and is doing it again if anyone knows what else i can do pls help ORANGE STILL IN SOIL AND ON PLANES RESERVISTS CONTRACTED IT DURING TRAINING PLS HELP

SUSAN WELD said...

please help me with agent orange being reviewed again in may .I want my husband to receive the honor and respect that he all vietnam vets deserve .any help appreciated ty

Anonymous said...

Mr. Duggan - I am searching for information about the death of David Harter at Udorn in 1968-1969 on the eve of his return home. If you knew him, or have any information to share, I will appteciate it. Thanks. Roger Harter.