Binh Thuy Air Base is a former air force base in Vietnam, It was constructed by the United States in 1965 and used by the South Vietnamese Air Force (SVNAF) and the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War in the IV Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam. It was seized by the Vietnam People's Army in April 1975 and was abandoned for several decades. Today, the site is being redeveloped as Trà Nóc Airport.Contents
- 1 History
- 2 Current use
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Binh Thuy Air Base was the most southern airbase used by the VNAF and USAF in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Plans for a United States Air Force Base at Binh Thuy were developed in 1964 after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the decision to deploy large numbers of United States forces to South Vietnam. The base was one of several air bases in the former South Vietnam built by United States Air Force RED HORSE civil engineering squadrons. The airfield was designed as a replacement for the ARVN Can Tho airfield which was located nearly in the heart of the city of Can Tho and had no room for expansion. In 1964 construction began on Binh Thuy Air Base on paddy fields that had to be drained and solidified with fill material.
Enough construction was complete that the SVNAF 74th Tactical Wing at Can Tho was moved to Binh Thuy on 1 September 1965. Air units were simultaneously moved to the base, including the 520th Fighter Squadron from Binh Hoa (A-1 Skyraider); 217th Helicopter Squadron from Tan Son Nhut (H-34 Choctaw) and the 116th Observation Squadron from Nha Trang (O-1 Bird Dog).USAF use during the Vietnam War
United States Air Force units began using Binh Thuy as a Forward Air Control base simultaneously with the SVNAF in September 1965. Seventh Air Force activated the 632d Combat Support Group which performed the non-operational base hosting mission. The 632d CSG supported transient Air Force gunships, transport aircraft, and other close air support aircraft, while the United States Navy operated a Naval Support Activity and a Naval Air base with a combat helicopter squadron (HAL-3)a few miles south of the base. The "Black Ponies, VAL-4 Naval aviation squadron of OV-10s operated from Binh Thuy. Detachment 10 of the 38th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron, US Air Force, operated two HH-43 helicopters at Binh Thuy from 15 September 1965 to 20 December 1969.22d Tactical Air Support Squadron
The 22d Tactical Air Support Squadron (Light) was the major USAF operational unit at Binh Thuy. The squadron was activated on on 8 May 1965 and assigned to the new base in September. Organizationally, the 22d TASS was assigned to the 505th Tactical Control Group, then on 8 December 1966 to the 504th Tactical Air Support Group. These came under the command of the 22d Air Division headquartered at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon.
The squadron operated the Cessna 0-1 Birddog aircraft, 1965–1971 and the Cessna O-2A and Bs Super Skymasters aircraft, 1967-1971. Also some YOV-10D Broncos (2 EA) U.S. Marines 1st MAW detachment, OV-10As VAL-4 "Black Ponies" and some Y0-3As (1 or 2) "Quiet Star" 220th Surv Aircraft Company, 16th Aviation Group, U.S. Army.
The squadron provided air crews in Vietnam to direct air strikes for tactical aircraft operating within the Tactical Air Control System (TACS). It also performed visual reconnaissance, convoy escort, and other missions as directed by the Tactical Air Commander. Aircraft and maintenance were provided in support of these operations within IV Corps, Republic of Vietnam, as directed by Seventh Air Force. The squadron provided aircraft and personnel in support of the Theater Indoctrination School, and field and transient maintenance support of USAF aircraft at Binh Thuy.
In 1969, the 22d TASS began closing down operations at the base as part of the general US withdrawal from South Vietnam. The squadron was moved to Bien Hoa Air Base in January 1970, with the last assigned USAF personnel leaving by the end of the month. At Bien Hoa, the assets of the 22d TASS were absorbed by the 9th Tactical Air Support Squadron and the unit was reduced to a paper organization. It was transferred without personnel or equipment to Wheeler AFB, Hawaii on 15 May 1971.Other USAF units at Binh Thuy Air Base
- 6255th Air Base Squadron
- 9th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (Detachment)
- 211th Operations Squadron (7th Air Force)
- 619th TCS Paddy Control, Eyes and Ears of the Mekong
- 1880th Communications Squadron (AFCS)
- OL-26 1CEVG (SAC) Combat Skyspot
- 632 Security Police Squadron
- Det 15 600 Photo Sq.
With the Americans moving out in 1969, Binh Thuy Air Base became the headquarters for the SVNAF 4th Air Division. The 74th Wing was supplemented by the 84th Tactical Wing in 1972 with helicopter gunship units to further the defense of the Mekong Delta region. By 1974, the SVNAF had the following units assigned to the base:
- 4th Air Division (Headquarters)
- 74th Tactical Wing
- 84th Tactical Wing
Also abour 4 VNAF AC-47 gunships were assigned to the base.Capture of Binh Thuy Air Base
By late April 1975, in the general retreat of South Vietnamese military forces south many surviving South Vietnamese Air Force aircraft landed at Binh Thuy, Bien Hoa and Tan Son Nhut Air Bases. Sorties flown during the final days before the Fall of Saigon were to support defensive actions at Phan Rang, Phan Thiet and Xuan Loc, however no effort was made to fly against advancing North Vietnamese columns moving south. This was due in part to the Soviet-made SA-7 shoulder held surface-to-air missiles which the SVNAF had no defense against along with a lack of reconnaissance aircraft. The South Vietnamese government literally had no idea of what was happening inside of the territory lost to North Vietnamese forces.
The last-ditch effort in defense of Saigon was the Battle of Xuan Loc, a provincial capitol 38 miles northwest of Saigon. South Vietnamese Army units held at Xuan Loc for over two weeks but by April 21 Xuan Loc was in ruins and had to be abandoned. North Vietnamese forces quickly overran Bien Hoa Air Base and moved along Highway One towards Saigon.
By April 29 the fighting had reached the suburbs with North Vietnamese troops overruning Tan Son Nhut Air Base. On April 30, 1975 the South Vietnamese government surrendered unconditionally and South Vietnam ceased to exist.
Some South Vietnamese Air Force planes and personnel managed to escape to Thailand from still-unoccupied Binh Thuy Air Base briefly after the surrender, however within a few days the North Vietnamese reached the base as well as other parts of the Mekong Delta.Current use
After the seizure of the base by the North Vietnamese in 1975, the captured South Vietnamese military aircraft were either destroyed or flown out to other airfields and Binh Thuy Air Base was abandoned, apparently remaining so for many years. A small part of the base may have been used by the Vietnam People's Air Force, as recent markings on the ramp area indicate use by helicopters. Many of the buildings on the former base were abandoned to the elements, and today the skeletal remains of many are intermixed with vegetation growth of 35 years, reclaiming the land. Much of the large aircraft parking ramp, complete with metal and sandbag revetments remains, along with faded painted markings on the ramp for aircraft parking and taxiing.
Over the past several years, redevelopment of the base into a new, civil airport has been taking place. The former airfield runway is being torn up and replaced with a new one, most of the flightlne buildings including the USAF control tower have been torn down and the land being re-graded for the construction of Trà Nóc Airport.