Nha Trang Veterans
Nha Trang AB - Nha Trang City - Camp McDermott - 5th Special Forces

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  • A History of Nha Trang AB



  • NOTE: Most of this information was taken from an entry in Wikipedia. There may be errors, and if anyone spots any glaring mistakes, please let me know. ~ Don Duke

    A Brief History of Nha Trang Air Base

    Nha Trang Air Base was built by the French in 1949. It was then known as Base Aerienne 194. By mid-1951 Nha Trang was the center for the Air Force Military Training School, and graduated the first 15 student pilot class in March 1952. Before this time, early pilot training for Vietnamese personnel was conducted in French flying schools in France, Algeria, and Morocco.

    On 15 December 1952 the training facility was redesignated the Air Instruction Center for VNAF use. Nha Trang was well situated for flight training, not only because of the scarcity of other flying fields, but also for its east central coastal climate and excellent flying weather. This location also had ideal terrain features, which included level around, mountains to the west, and the sea to the east, all considered good for tactical flight training.

    The Morane-Saulnier MS 500 (An observation and liaison aircraft obtained from the French), and the North American T-6 Texan basic trainers were the early training aircraft at the base.

    The 2d Group Artillery Observation (GAO) was formed on 1 October 1953 at Nha Trang under French control.

    USAF Use During The Vietnam War

    During the Vietnam War, Nha Trang was a major American base. The USAF forces stationed there were under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Seventh Air Force.

    The APO for Nha Trang was APO San Francisco 96240

    14th Air Commando/Special Operations Wing

    The 14th Air Commando Wing was activated at Nha Trang AB on 8 March 1966. On 1 August 1968 it was renamed the 14th Special Operations Wing and was the host unit at the base until 30 September 1971.

    Operational squadrons at Nha Trang were:

    • 1st Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 8 March 1966 - 20 December 1967 (A-1E Tail Code: EC)
    • 3d Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 1 May 1968 - 15 September 1969 (AC-47D Tail Code: EL)
    • 4th Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 8 March 1966 - 14 October 1969 (AC-47D Tail Code: EN)
    • 5th Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 8 March 1966 - 15 October 1969 (C-47D, HC-47D, U10A/B Tail Code: EO)
    • 6th Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 29 February 1968 - 15 July 1968 (A-1E/H Tail Code: ET)
    • 9th Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 25 January 1967 - 14 October 1969 (O-2B, C-47D Tail Code: ER)
    • 14 Air Commando Sqdn: 25 October 1967 - 1 May 1968 (AC-47D)
    • 15 Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 15 March 1968 - 14 October 1969 (MC-130)
    • 17 Special Operations/Special Operations Sqdn: 1 June 1969 - 14 October 1969 (AC-119)
    • 18 Special Operations/Special Operations Sqdn: 1 October 1969 - 14 October 1969 (AC-119)
    • 20 Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 8 March 1966 - 14 October 1969 (CH-3, UH-1)
    • 71 Special Operations Sqdn: 20 December 1968 - 10 June 1969 (AC-119)
    • 602 Air Commando Sqdn: 1966 - 8 April 1967
    • 604 Air Commando/Special Operations Sqdn: 15 November 1967 - 14 October 1969

    Aircraft flown by the 14th SOW were: C/HC-47, AC-47, A-1E/G, O-2B, UH-1, CH-3, U-10, C-123K, AC-130A, AC-119G.

    The Wing provided maintenance support for a number of tenants. Trained South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) personnel in AC-119 operations and maintenance, Feb-Aug 1971, and transferred some of its AC-119s to the South Vietnamese Air Force during August and September 1971 as part of a phase-down for inactivation.

    The base was also home to HQ 5th Special Forces Group, and Assault Helicopter and "Dust Off" (Helicopter Ambulance) units.

    Combat communications support at Nha Trang was provided by the 1879th Communications Squadron (AFCS). The group supported combat operations in Southeast Asia with essential communications systems. The unit earned 23 combat awards in its six years of combat operations. After Vietnam, the group moved to Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri, where it served as a component of the Tactical Communications Division.


    At one point in the war, the 14th ACW/SOW operated units/flights at Nha Trang, Da Nang, Pleiku, Saigon, Phu Cat, Phan Rang, Bien Hoa, Bien Thuy, Ban Me Thout and Udorn, Thailand.

    The 4th ACS/SOS also operated out of Phan Rang; the 3d ACS replaced the 14th ACS; the 6th ACS moved to Pleiku Air Base during July 1968 and redesignated 6th SOS.

    The 15th, 17th, and 18th SOS transferred to Phan Rang on 14 October 1969 performing combat and combat rescue operations.

    The 20th ACS/SOS transferred to Tuy Hoa Air Base 14 October 1969 performing combat operations.

    The 604th ACS/SOS replaced the 602d and transferred to Phan Rang on 14 October 1969 performing combat and combat rescue operations.

    The 71st SOS was part of the Indiana Air National Guard. In South Vietnam, the squadron performed combat gunship, forward air control, and other special operations. Deactivated and transferred to Bakalar AFB, Indiana to resume reserve training.

    The 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron (21 TASS) was relocated from Pleiku Air Base in September 1966 where it was attached to the 14th Air Commando Wing under the 505th Tactical Air Control Group. On 8 December 1966, the 505th was re-designated the 504th. The headquarters for the squadron remained at Nha Trang until October 1969 when it was transferred to Cam Ranh Air Base.

    SVNAF Use of Nha Trang Air Base

    On 7 July 1955 the training facility at Nha Trang became Tactical Base No. I. The two elements -base and training- were combined in September 1957, and the facility was designated Nha Trang Air Training Base.

    The next significant flying unit to be formed there was the 2d Fighter Squadron in 1961 with North American T-28 Trojan fighter-bombers. However, VNAF flight training gradually came under the influence of the U.S. Military Assistance Program, and in January 1962 flight training was moved from the Air Training Center at Nha Trang to the United States, leaving only the technical and military schools at the base.

    By September 1962, the USAF had dispatched a training team to Nha Trang to instruct VNAF personnel in the maintenance of the Cessna U-17 "Skywagon" in preparation for restarting flight training there. Vietnamese instructors graduated in classes in July 1963 and gradually replaced USAF personnel as flight trainers.

    A Communications and Electronics School was established at Nha Trang in 1964, and by October 1965 the functions of the Air Training Center and those of combat and support were again separated. The VNAF 62d Wing took over the latter functions when it moved to Nha Trang from Pleiku Air Base in January 1965.

    In the years that followed, Nha Trang Air Base became totally saturated by USAF joint occupancy, with tactical air units and other VNAF organizations. To alleviate some of the air traffic problems at Nha Trang, a 3,300 ft (1006 m) airstrip at Duc My, 22 miles (35 km) to the north-northwest, was built and became an auxiliary training field to the SVNAF Air Training Center.

    Capture Of Nha Trang Air Base

    In early 1975 North Vietnam realized the time was right to achieve its goal of re-uniting Vietnam under communist rule, launched a series of small ground attacks to test U.S. reaction.

    On 8 January the North Vietnamese Politburo ordered a major People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) offensive to "liberate" South Vietnam by NVA cross-border invasion. The NVA general staff plan for the invasion of South Vietnam called for 20 divisions, because, by 1975, the Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese Army was the fifth largest in the world. It anticipated a two year struggle for victory.

    By 14 March, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu decided to abandon the Central Highlands region and two northern provinces of South Vietnam and ordered a general withdrawal of ARVN forces from those areas. Instead of an orderly withdrawal, it turned into a general retreat, with masses of military and civilians fleeing, clogging roads and creating chaos.

    Thousands of refugees believed Nha Trang to be a safe haven, however by 1 April, the general panic of the retreat reached the cities of Qui Nhon, Tuy Hoa and Nha Trang. These areas were abandoned by the South Vietnamese Army, yielding the entire northern half of South Vietnam to the North Vietnamese.

    Some, but not all SVNAF aircraft at Nha Trang Air Base were flown south to Bien Hoa, abandoning the base to the North Vietnamese.

    Post 1975 VPAF use

    With its capture, Phan Rang Air Base became a Vietnam People's Air Force base. It's short main runway, however, limited its use to propeller driven aircraft. In the 1990s, its facilities were opened for civil use, with "Nha Trang Airport" operating domestic routes in Vietnam. The closeness, and availability of the large Cam Ranh Bay Air Base led to the decision to develop a civilian airport there, and in 2004 Nha Trang Airport was closed. Today the VPAF still uses Nha Trang to a limited extent, however it is mostly a quiet airfield with little air traffic using it.



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