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1 October 1968 thru 31 December 1968

- Group 4 -
Downgrade at 3 year intervals.
Declassified after 12 years.
Air Force Form 7
Section I - ASSIGNMENT
Major Air Command
Numbered Air Force
Air Division
Wing
Group
PACAF
7th Air Force
N/A
3rd Tac Ftr Wg
N/A

SECTION II - SUBORDINATE UNITS
None

SECTION III - MISSION
The mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron during the period 1 October 1968 through 31 December 1968 has been to supply combat ready aircrews to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing. The latest mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron in support of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing has been to conduct combat operations against the Communist Viet Cong and/or Democratic Republic of Vietnam insurgents as directed by Headquarters 7th Air Force, and to assist and cooperate with the VNAF units assigned at Bien Hoa Air Base toward this end.

SECTION IV - PERSONNEL
Officers
Airmen
Civilian
Total
Assigned
30
131
0
161
Authorized
29
122
0
151
Attached
5
0
0
5

SECTION V - EQUIPMENT
A. AIRCRAFT
21 F-100's Assigned
18 F-100's Possessed
3 IRAN
B. WEAPONS (INCLUDING MISSILES)
N/A
C. ELECTRONICS
N/A
D. OTHER
N/A
Group 4 - Downgrade at 3 year Intervals:
Declassified after 12 years

Section VI - Narrative

(U) "Buzzards of Bien Hoa", a proud call sign and well known among forward air controllers for target area professionalism, flew 1791 combat sorties against the Communist Viet Cong and those insurgents presently engaged in aggressive actions in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam during the period 1 October 1968 to 31 December 1968.  The *** counts were high which encouraged high levels of morale and achievements among operations and maintenance personnel.  The attachments contain a summary contain a summary of sorties flown, ordinance delivered, battle damage assessments, and awards.

(C) Viet Cong activity throughout III and IV Corps was characterized by surges in intensity. During this quarter Bien Hoa Air Base came under 2 separate rocket and mortar attacks.  On the night of October 26th, a metal shelter covering a 510th revetment took a direct hit from a 107 mm rocket. Shrapnel was scattered over a wide area of the "Buzzard" ramp with negative damage to personnel or aircraft.

(U) Buzzard Operations staff reached new highs in providing the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing with dedicated, operationally ready fighter pilots. In addition to the normal influx of young, less experienced pilots, the Operations Section was given the task of checking out two senior attached pilots, who had never dropped ordnance from the F-100.  The quickness and skill with which these checkouts and all normal theater upgrading were completed reflect great credit upon the Operations Section and the entire squadron.  As of 31 December 1968 all squadron pilots are operationally ready and only four recent arrivals are not day and night alert qualified.

(U) The pilot turnover continued this quarter with five new pilots assigned and eight departing for a net loss of three pilots. Buzzard pilots presently average 670 hours in the F-100.  This increase from the 640 hour average of the third quarter is due primarily to the loss of many young experienced wingmen and does not truly reflect an increase in combat experience.  With the advent of the *** directive dated 4 December 1968, on limited element lead qualification, the squadron found itself with an excellent ration of 19 lead qualified pilots to seven wingmen. The immediate benefit of this status has been the flexibility that it gives our scheduling officer and the boost in the morale of the previously "hard core" wingmen.

(U) The aggressiveness of the Buzzards was exemplified by the way squadron commitments were accomplished. Although enemy activity during this period was generally light, the Buzzards were most capable and willing to strike under any circumstances.  Their aggressiveness in combat continued to be recorded through a large number of awards and decorations for both assigned and attached pilots.  A summary of all awards and decorations submitted and received during the quarter may be found in attachment 9.

(C) Continued accuracy of enemy ground-fire, combined with the Buzzards extraordinary aggressiveness resulted in the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron achieving the dubious distinction of receiving more battle damage than any other squadron in the Wing.  On the 1794 combat missions flown, 21 aircraft sustained significant battle damage, but with no aircraft losses. In all cases, the damage was a result of hostile fire and the efforts to reduce these figures***

(C) With the advent of the dry season, 7th Air Force directed that when feasible, lead aircraft on III and IV Corps missions would carry low drag bombs in place of high drags. The objective was to reduce the exposure to the enemy ground fire envelope.  The program was ret with mixed emotions by the pilots since most felt it would degrade their ability to support troops in contact. However, the idea sees to be very sound since there has actually been very little reduction in flexibility and statistics have shown that the vast majority of battle damage is being sustained by the wingmen delivering napalm in the high exposure envelope close to the ground.

(C) During the second week in December the Buzzards began a test program dropping their external fuel tanks and carrying six stores of ordnance. Presently we are the only F-100 squadron in SEA to be configured in this manner.  Initial tests have been very satisfactory with enthusiasm from the forward air controllers very high, although our effective operating area has been reduced to about a 100 nautical mile radius.  Some experimentation with daily refueling has been done and the possibility of striking deep into IV corps with a tanker hook-up looks promising. As a result of the refueling tests, we are the only squadron in the wing whose pilots are current in air to air refueling.

(C) During the first two months of the quarter the Buzzards made every effort to support the new RAFCOM by making *** recoveries when at all possible.  With the dust and haze problem that normally accompanies the dry season, the Wing benefited in two ways. First, the *** approach is safer and provides a *** traffic flow for the tower.  Secondly, the extra approach helps increase the proficiency of the *** and the pilots. Also, Ten Son Nhut does not get unexpected F-100's on their runway in the middle of the night.  Rumor has it that this happened to a highly experienced, slightly embarrassed Buzzard. After the beginning of the six store test in December, the 510th utilization of RAFCON dropped off due to fuel considerations.

(C) This quarter saw an increase in the support and suppression missions flown in conjunction with the Ranch *** C-123's. These missions are the most enjoyable day frag sorties flown.  On several occasions formations of eight or more Buzzard aircraft suppressed extremely hot targets. The only hit the Ranch received while being supported by the Buzzards was a long CBU-2 pellet that hit *** Alpha Load on a 22 November mission.  The Buzzards presented the Ranch crew a bottle of Champagne as a peace offering during the flight debriefing.

(C) During this quarter the squadron flew an increased number of Sky Spot missions and after the start of the six store test the number of ME-117 bombs dropped on each mission increased from eight to twelve significant increase but the pilots still do not feel we warrant any SAC silver stars.

(U) It was extremely gratifying to see the cooperation and diligence displayed by the operations and maintenance staffs during this period.  It can be truly said that the maintenance and munitions staff under the direction of Major James C. McCoin, FR***, Captain Leslee ***, FR61851, and Captain Ben D. Booker, FV3135475, reached a new plateau of effectiveness during the period.  Squadron commitments were met easier with smoothness and skill previously unknown.

(U) The Maintenance Section directed by Major McCoin was reorganized into three flights instead of the previous two.  With a influx of more experienced NCO's and the benefits of our aggressive OJT program the quality of service rendered Buzzard pilots has never been higher. The new men soon became aware of the fact that they were Buzzards and they take pride in the association. On numerous occasions, Buzzard aircraft were flown by pilots over other fighter squadrons in the Wing because our aircraft were available and theirs were not.

(U) At the end of the quarter that 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron has 21 aircraft assigned with 18 possessed. All aircraft have completed the Center Wing Box (MOD 1028) modification. Two aircraft completed IRAN at Tainan, Taiwan during the quarter.

(U) The Buzzard Phase Docks performed 45 phase inspections during this period. Each aircraft was lost from the flying schedule for an average of 40 hours while in phase.  TSgt Wimsett, AF17384209, the Dock Chief was faced with a backlog of aircraft when he took over in October, but through a program worked out with line chiefs, the Buzzard aircraft phase inspections have reached a smooth flow allowing for better utilization of Dock time and facilities.

(U) The OJT program continued to be the number one among the operational units. Major Eugene F. Mill, FR65146, was put in charge of the OJT program in October when Captain Corl*** was sent TDY and subsequently *** to 7th AF.  Of the 36 men on OJT, 18 were tested and upgraded. It is only through *** and emphasis paced on this program by the Commander through all echelons that the Buzzards can maintain their top rating.

(U) In our Civic Action program, the squadron blessed Christmas cheer on 40 Vietnamese orphans with gifts and ice cream. The squadron also distributed 12,500 lbs of gifts donated by Eastern Airlines to the VNAF.  These gifts were for a Christmas party for some 4000 Vietnamese children. The 510th has for some time supported four high school students in the Bien Hoa area.

(U) Aside from mission achievements, the 510th personnel have accomplished another almost impossible feat. We have come as close as possible in making our squadron and crew quarters a nice home away from home.  Our squadron building has wall to wall carpeting, soft leather chairs, beautiful mahogany paneled walls and complete stereo system, all paid for with private funds.

(U) We invite all historical date readers to visit the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron and witness the many prized accomplishments of the "Buzzards of Bien Hoa." Last, but the "Most" important to all "Buzzards" is that we bring to a close a very historical year with the statement, "We have completed one year of accident free flying."

//SIGNED//
HARVEY L. THOMPSON, 1Lt, USAF
Historian
//SIGNED//
ROBERT H. McINTOSH, Lt Col, USAF
Commander
Attachment 1
COMBAT MISSION BREAKDOWN
1 October 1968 - 31 December 1968
Total Sorties: 1548
I Corps
0
II Corps
10
III Corps
649
IV Corps
1116

Fragged
1292
Day Scrambled
387
Night Scrambled
96
Combat Sky Spot
114
Air Interdiction Support
948
Close Air Support
106

Ordnance Expended
Weapon
Oct
Nov
Dec
Total
Duds
Tons
Cost
MK82 (HD)
584
208
462
1,254
35
346.1
480,595.72
MK82 (LD)
119
350
559
1,028
18
272.4
298,171.40
M-117 (HD)
208
168
180
556
8
244.6
348,973.40
M-117 (LD)
402
833
1,004
2,239
33
929.2
901,421.49
BLU-27 (NAP)
604
766
1,005
2,375
78
1,033.1
643,268.75
CBU-2
6
28
14
48
0
19.9
115,968.00
CBU-12
2
14
10
26
0
10.7
45,760.00
CBU-24
14
36
32
82
7
34.0
248,624.00
LAU-3 (RK-PD)
58
8
97
161
0
42.4
178,710.00
20MM HEI
143,100
115,410
118,600
377,110
188.6
923,919.50
Totals
3,221.0
4,185,412.26
Mission Results
October
November
December
Target
Destryd
Damgd
Destryd
Damgd
Destryd
Damgd
Structures
491
383
448
431
405
295
Sampans
129
57
134
30
77
35
Bunkers
397
118
457
174
571
184
Bridges
4
0
0
8
4
2
Automatic Weapons Positions
0
0
12
0
1
0
Rocket Launch Sites
0
0
0
0
0
0
KBA
37
42
64
39
73
127
Secondary Explosions
17
0
37
0
72
0
Secondary Fires
25
0
103
0
29
0
Meters of Trenches
1,150
128
1,1912
270
565
0
Tunnels/Caves
6
0
32
16
8
21
Foxholes/ Fighting Positions
4,037
0
34
0
0
0
Road Cuts
0
0
4
0
0
0
Supply Caches
2
0
1
0
0
1
Spider Holes
0
0
0
0
0
0
US Helicopters
0
0
0
0
0
0
Trunks
0
0
0
0
0
0






 

1 January 1969 thru 31 March 1969

- Group 4 -
Downgrade at 3 year intervals.
Declassified after 12 years.

Air Force Form 7

Section I - ASSIGNMENT
Major Air Command
Numbered Air Force
Air Division
Wing
Group
PACAF
7th Air Force
N/A
3rd Tac Ftr Wg
N/A

SECTION II - SUBORDINATE UNITS
None

SECTION III - MISSION
The mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron during the period 1 January 1969 through 31 March 1969 has been to supply combat ready aircrews to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing. The latest mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron in support of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing has been to conduct combat operations against the Communist Viet Cong and/or Democratic Republic of Vietnam insurgents as directed by Headquarters 7th Air Force, and to assist and cooperate with the VNAF units assigned at Bien Hoa Air Base toward this end.

SECTION IV - PERSONNEL
Officers
Airmen
Civilian
Total
Assigned
29
137
0
166
Authorized
29
122
0
151
Attached
5
0
0
5

SECTION V - EQUIPMENT
A. AIRCRAFT
21 F-100's Assigned
19 F-100's Possessed
3 IRAN
B. WEAPONS (INCLUDING MISSILES)
N/A
C. ELECTRONICS
N/A
D. OTHER
N/A
Group 4 - Downgrade at 3 year Intervals:
Declassified after 12 years

Section VI - Narrative

(U) "Buzzards of Bien Hoa", the gold-plated squadron for the United States Air Force, flew 1817 combat sorties against the Communist Viet Cong and those insurgents presently engaged in aggressive actions in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam during the period 1 January 1969 to 31 March 1969.  Squadron achievements indicated continued high levels of morale and teamwork among operations and maintenance personnel. The attachments to this report contain a summary of sorties flown, ordinance delivered, battle damage assessments, awards received, and personnel turnover.

(C) Viet Cong activity throughout III and IV Corps was once again characterized by surges in intensity. The Viet Cong's erratic offensives were primarily caused by large losses in supplies and crucial cuts in communication lines, which were apparent in this year's TET offensives.  During this period Bien Hoa Air Base came under 4 separate rocket and mortar attacks plus a few small enemy ground assaults. The largest enemy ballistic attack occurred on 23 February 1969, when Bien Hoa was hit by 54 rockets and mortars.  Fortunately, 510th TFS personnel only suffered common bunker bruises and most of our equipment was spared any damage except for our expeditor truck. It now has a couple of busted windows from small arms ricochets.

(U) Buzzard Operations continued to prove they are the best organized staff in the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing. It is getting to be a common occurrence that new pilots are operationally ready fourteen days after arrival.  As of 31 March 1969, all squadron pilots are operationally ready and only two recent arrivals are not day and night alert qualified.

(U) The professionalism of the Buzzard Operations staff, both past and present, is exemplified by the excellent flying supervision over the last two years.  The 510th TFS have been recommended for an flying safety award for the period 1 January 1967 to 31 December 1968 where over 18,000 combat hours and over 14,000 sorties were flown without an accident.

(U) The pilot turnover for this quarter has shown five new pilots assigned and ten departing for a net loss of five pilots. Only five pilots departed for assignments outside Vietnam as shown in attachment 9. Of those five, 1lt Andrew R. Fornal, FV3195040, left suddenly with a shattered knee cap caused by his motorcycle sliding in loose gravel.  Of the other five, two are presently Misty FAC's at Phy Cat, two are assigned to 7th Air Force at Tan Son Nhut Air Base and Major Arthur E. Huhn, FR53227, was reassigned to the 90th TFS as Squadron Commander.
(U) There were notable staff changes in the 510th TFS this quarter. Lt Col David P. Proctor Jr., FR45168, assumed command of the 510th TFS from Lt Col Robert H. McIntosh, FR22267, 1 February 1969.  Lt Col McIntosh departed for an assignment as Assistant Deputy of Operations at Wheelus AFB, Libyia. Major Harrell M. Moore, FR3025760, replaced Major Huhn as Operations Officer; Major Craig E. Humphrey, FR3004696, replaced Major Moore as Assistant Operations Officer and Captain Leonard H. Moon, FR75694, replaced Captain Leslie R. Drane Jr., FR61851, as Flight Line Maintenance Officer.

(U) Operations and Maintenance continued their excellent teamwork. Maintenance presented Operations with an average of ten operational ready birds each day and Operations was flexible with an excellent ration of 14 qualified lead pilots and seven wingman.  This resulted in a high level of morale among pilots who averaged 23 missions per man per month.

(U) The excellent morale of the Buzzards and their traditional aggressiveness was apparent by the way squadron commitments were accomplished. Although enemy activity during this period was generally light, the weather was not. Quite often haze and smoke was a greater problem than enemy groundfire, but the Buzzards were most capable and willing to strike under any circumstances.  As a result, BDA counts were high and it was only appropriate that a Buzzard should win the first "Top Gun" award in the 3rd TFW. When the envelope was opened, SFDD, Captain Lawrence K. Irving, FR71824, was a Top Gun.  Other Buzzards also showed their aggressiveness in combat with a large number of awards and decorations being recorded for both assigned and attached pilots. A summary of all awards submitted and received during the quarter may be found in attachment 10.

(C) There were no aircraft lost to enemy groundfire, but 7 aircraft sustained significant battle damage for the lowest percentage in the Wing. In all cases, the damage was a result of hostile fire and supervisors are continually trying to reduce the number of hits with emphasis on proper tactics. Emphasis is on using ten degree deliveries rather than level in all cases other than CBU runs.

(C) As of 21 January 1969, the 510th TFS completed a 42 day period for six store configurations with un-astonishing results. BDA counts did not increase as our range was limited to relatively bombed out areas of III and northern IV Corp.  The Mango refueling track was tried, for greater distance capability but flights with full onloads got to targets with about the same fuel they would have had without refueling.  Nearly all targets were closer to Bien Hoa than to the Mango refueling track.

(C) The FAC's were happy to hear six bombs per aircraft, but the ground commanders and other target controlling agencies did not understand the fuel consumption of an F-100.  Thanks to VFR, weather that bingo fuel could be pushed to help out the troops in contact. Anyway the tanks are reinstalled for distant targets and for loiter time in RAPCON was saturated during IFR weather.

(U) Buzzard maintenance and munitions has continued as one of the squadron's finest assets in accomplishing our commitments. Under the direction of Major James C. McCoin, FR71683, Captain Leslie R. Drane Jr., FR61851, and Captain Ben D. Booker, FV3126275, maintenance and munitions teamed up for the highest effective sortie rate in the 3rd TFW.  The 510th has the highest reliability rate in Wing history for March 1969. Only two ground aborts and no air aborts.

(U) The 510th TFS has consistently had the best turnaround rate on alert aircraft ever since Major McCoin assumed command of our Maintenance Section. Also the 510th TFS has generated and flown 80 percent of the 3rd TFW's squadron alerts.

(C) Munition loading crews were faced with Munitions Standardization evaluation team visits during this period. From a MSET visit in January, the 3rd TFW was found unsatisfactory, but by February all 510th load crews were recertified for loading operations under new PACAF standards. All following visits and inspections results were satisfactory. In March, 510th TFS munitions had certain individuals certified to arm and dearming transient aircraft.

(C) At the end of the quarter the 510th TFS had 2 1 aircraft assigned with 19 possessed. All aircraft are center Wing Box modified and several are being modified for dropping all bombs singlely (Mod 1032).  Presently two aircraft are at IRAN at Tainan, Taiwan.

(U) The OJT program directed by Major Eugene F. Miller, FR65146, has grown from a satisfactory program to one of the best in the Wing. The overall SKT passing rate has risen from 50% to over 80%, which is above the Air Force Standard of 65%.  The increased passing rate is largely a result of classroom instruction instituted for our aircraft mechanics (43X career field). Also supervised study periods are used for our weapons mechanics (46X career field).

(U) A total of 22 people have been upgraded to 3 and 5 skill levels during this period compared to 13 last period. Such an increase maybe due to an air conditioned classroom installed in January.

(U) Compared to past history reports, this period was just as productive even though enemy activity has slackened. In some ways this period was kind of dull as we continued to excel in everything as the best of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, the "Buzzards of Bien Hoa".

//SIGNED//
HARVEY L. THOMPSON, 1Lt, USAF
Historian
//SIGNED//
DAVID P. PROCTOR JR., Lt Col, USAF
Commander
Attachment 1

COMBAT MISSION BREAKDOWN

1 January 1969 - 31 March 1969
Total Sorties: 1817
I Corps
0
II Corps
38
III Corps
861
IV Corps
918

Fragged
1115
Day Scrambled
530
Night Scrambled
172
Combat Sky Spot
106
Air Interdiction Support
734
Close Air Support
1079
Ordnance Expended
Weapon
Jan
Feb
Mar
Total
Duds
Tons
Cost
MK82 (HD)
510
448
76
1,034
29
289.5
401,463.22
MK82 (LD)
440
250
364
1,054
10
279.3
299,911.70
M-117 (HD)
316
62
510
888
35
390.7
57,353.20
M-117 (LD)
1,156
726
664
2,546
59
1,056.2
1,024,019.60
BLU-27 (NAP)
818
536
816
1,972
63
857.8
432,440.00
CBU-2
14
38
12
64
4
26.6
154,624.00
CBU-12
0
0
4
4
0
1.7
7,040.00
CBU-24
6
22
20
48
7
2.9
145,536.00
LAU-3 (RK-PD)
10
62
66
138
0
36.4
153,186.00
20MM HEI
119,700
133,200
166,900
419,800
-
209.9
1,028,515.00
Totals
3,151.0
4,204,082.72
Mission Results
January
February
March
Target
Destryd
Damgd
Destryd
Damgd
Destryd
Damgd
Structures
206
176
241
224
382
329
Sampans
45
22
42
20
71
38
Bunkers
530
226
497
198
591
165
Bridges
0
0
1
1
1
1
Automatic Weapons Positions
0
0
7
2
27
3
Rocket Launch Sites
0
0
3
1
0
0
KBA
86
14
139
57
206
54
Secondary Explosions
27
0
50
0
59
0
Secondary Fires
35
0
9
0
43
0
Meters of Trenches
920
50
775
272
1150
330
Tunnels/Caves
2
0
9
12
12
18
Foxholes/ Fighting Positions
5
2
151
36
93
21
Road Cuts
0
0
1
0
2
0
Supply Caches
2
0
1
0
6
0
Spider Holes
0
0
0
0
0
0
US Helicopters
0
0
0
0
0
0
Trunks
0
0
0
2
0
0




 

1 April 1969 thru 30 June 1969

- Group 4 -
Downgrade at 3 year intervals.
Declassified after 12 years.
Air Force Form 7

Section I - ASSIGNMENT
Major Air Command
Numbered Air Force
Air Division
Wing
Group
PACAF
7th Air Force
N/A
3rd Tac Ftr Wg
N/A

SECTION II - SUBORDINATE UNITS
None

SECTION III - MISSION
The mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron during the period 1 July 1969 through 30 September 1969 has been to supply combat ready aircrews to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing. The latest mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron in support of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing has been to conduct combat operations against the Communist Viet Cong and/or Democratic Republic of Vietnam insurgents as directed by Headquarters 7th Air Force, and to assist and cooperate with the VNAF units assigned at Bien Hoa Air Base toward this end.

SECTION IV - PERSONNEL
Officers
Airmen
Civilian
Total
Assigned
23
85
0
108
Authorized
28
94
0
122
Attached
9
0
0
9

SECTION V - EQUIPMENT
A. AIRCRAFT
21 F-100's Assigned
18 F-100's Possessed (1 F-100F on loan from Tuy Hoa)
3 F-100's IRAN
B. WEAPONS (INCLUDING MISSILES)
N/A
C. ELECTRONICS
N/A
D. OTHER
N/A
Group 4 - Downgrade at 3 year Intervals:
Declassified after 12 years
Section VI - Narrative

(U) The 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron, "Buzzards of Bien Hoa," flew 1773 combat sorties against the Communist Viet Cong and those insurgents engaged in aggressive actions in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam during the period 1 April 1969 through 30 June 1969. The attachments to this report contain a summary of sorties flown, ordinance delivered, battle damage assessments, awards received, and personnel turnover.

(C) Bien Hoa Air Base sustained 11 light rocket attacks during the quarter, but did not come under ground attack. These attacks caused no damage to property or injury to personnel of the 510th TFS.

(U) As of 31 June 1969, all pilots assigned to the 510th TFS were operationally ready and only two recent arrivals who weren't day and night alert qualified.

(U) The pilot turnover for this quarter has shown a net loss of four pilots with nine new pilots arriving and 13 departing. Of these 13 departing pilots, two were assigned to 7th Air Force Headquarters at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, and the other 11 returned home to their families and new assignments.  The last pilot to be assigned to the 510th TFS, 1st Lt. John C. Donham, PG3169616, was a member of the Missouri Air National Guard. He was one of the first group of National Guard pilots to be sent to Vietnam for a four month voluntary TDY tour.  Lt Donham had over 500 hours of F-100 experience and certainly added much to the squadron.

(U) With the large turnover in pilots came significant changes in the staff of the 510th TFS. Lt Col David P. Proctor Jr., FR45168, continued as Squadron Commander.  Major Ronald M. Clements, FR54425, replaced Major Harrell M. Moore, FR3025760, as Operations Officer. Major Bennett Stone, FV3039979, replaced Major Craig H. Humphrey, FR3004696, as Assistant Operations Officer and Captain Gerald E. Reddick, FV3118741, replaced Major James G. McCoin, FR71683, as Maintenance Officer.  Even with so many changes, the squadron has continued to function smoothly and at a high rate of efficiency.

(U) Another significant change in squadron organization occurred 15 April 1969, when munitions personnel were removed from the squadron level. Munitions personnel were assigned to a centralized organization to make more efficient use of supervisors and load crews. Although the load crews lost the identity of the squadrons they had been members of, they continued to give excellent quality service.

(U) Maintenance has continued outstanding work of supplying the squadron with operationally ready aircraft.  As a result, the 510th TFS has once again flown more sorties during this quarter than either of the other two F-100 squadrons in the 3rd Tactical Wing. With this continued high sortie number and the reduction of assigned pilots, the sortie rate per pilot has gone up to 25 sorties per month. This certainly contributed to the high morale displayed among the pilots of the 510th TFS.

(U) The experience level of the pilots of the 510th TFS has decreased this quarter with more experienced pilots finishing their tours and returning home. The replacement pilots have been primarily lieutenants with no prior operational experience.  However, this has not decreased the overall effectiveness of the squadron any since all new pilots are thoroughly trained by squadron IP's in proper techniques and procedures.  The professionalism and competence of all the pilots was again shown by another quarter of accident free flying.

(C) The "Buzzards" did not lose any aircraft to ground fire this quarter although there were 23 cases of battle damage sustained. Three aircraft were landed with severe fuel leaks at Bihn Thuy and Tan Son Nhut, saving them from probably loss.  This high number of cases of battle damage was probably due to the use of more high drag bombs and napalm. With low cloud ceilings being common in the target areas, the high drab bombs became more frequent.  The pilots of the 510th TFS have done an excellent job, flying many missions in the marginal weather of the monsoon season.  With the increasing use of high drag bombs, supervisors of the 510th TFS put extra emphasis on evasive actions and delivery techniques that would make ground gunners less effective.

(U) The "Buzzard" maintenance section continued outstanding performance as the best in the 3rd TFW. During the months of April and May there was only one air abort and one ground abort each month due to maintenance.  This was only a 0.35 percent abort rate and was the lowest in the 3rd TFW. The pilots grew to have extreme confidence in maintenance and this certainly was one of the main factors for the high morale displayed by all squadron personnel.  Major McCoin did a truly outstanding job as Maintenance Officer and Captain Reddick has continued in the same manner.

(C) As of 30 June 1969, the 510th TFS had 21 aircraft assigned and 16 possessed. All were center wing box modified and 13 were modified for dropping all bombs singly. Three aircraft were at Tainan, Taiwan undergoing IRAN modification.

(U) The On The Job Training (OJT) has also continued outstanding work under the direction of Major Eugene F. Miller, FR65146. During this quarter, the 510th TFS was the first squadron in the 3rd TFW to become 100 percent qualified under the Maintenance Standardization Evaluation Program (PACAF Manual 66-1). Through the efforts of the OJT personnel, seven personnel were upgraded - one to the seven level and six to the five level.  This reduced the number of personnel in upgrade training to the five level to zero. As a result, the 510th TFS was the only squadron in the 3rd TFW to be so well qualified in skill levels.  But, the high quality of maintenance performed by the personnel of the 510th TFS is the best indication of the effectiveness of the OJT program.

(U) The "Buzzards of Bien Hoa," as in past quarters, remains the best of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing and each man is proud to say he is a "Buzzard."

//SIGNED//
HAROLD R. SOCOLOFSY ***, 1Lt, USAF
Historian
//SIGNED//
DAVID P. PROCTOR JR., Lt Col, USAF
Commander
Attachment 1
COMBAT MISSION BREAKDOWN

1 July 1969 - 30 September 1969
Total Sorties: 1713

I Corps
0
II Corps
26
III Corps
826
IV Corps
921

Fragged
1122
Day Scrambled
470
Night Scrambled
181
Combat Sky Spot
100
Air Interdiction Support
796
Close Air Support
977
Ordnance Expended
Weapon
April
May
June
Total
Duds
Tons
Cost
MK82 (HD)
384
780
951
2115
110
590.6
$816,984.95
MK82 (LD)
490
104
24
618
19
163.7
$175,747.85
M-117 (HD)
447
100
2
549
10
241.5
$344,444.15
M-117 (LD)
226
539
400
1165
22
481.5
$466,952.65
BLU-27 (NAP)
663
683
746
2092
76
903.3
$458,390.40
CBU-2
79
4
0
83
0
34.6
$201,011.20
CBU-12
82
24
0
106
0
45.9
$186,560.00
CBU-24
56
12
28
96
13
5.8
$291,072.00
CBU-30
4
0
0
4
0
1.7
$7,040.00
CBU-42
0
20
0
20
0
8.5
$37,315.00
CBU-46
0
0
22
22
0
8.8
$40,205.75
LAU-3 (RK-PD)
22
49
28
99
2
26.1
$109,834.35
20MM HEI
144,600
143,000
113,000
400,800
-
200.4
$981,015.00
Totals
2712.4
$4,116,573.30
Mission Results
April
May
June
Target
Destryd
Damgd
Destryd
Damgd
Destryd
Damgd
Structures
514
370
410
344
261
206
Sampans
74
57
54
19
32
10
Bunkers
513
197
471
115
479
137
Bridges
3
2
2
1
1
1
Automatic Weapons Positions
10
0
3
0
9
3
NBA (Confirmed)
72
0
80
0
134
0
NBA (Probable)
170
0
129
0
82
0
Secondary Explosions
60
0
39
0
48
0
Secondary Fires
44
0
10
0
12
0
Meters of Trenches
1145
450
1950
160
505
585
Tunnels/Caves
11
2
8
9
4
17
Fighting Positions
106
5
132
4
121
29
Road Cuts
7
0
0
0
1
0


 

1 July 1969 thru 30 September 1969

- Group 4 -
Downgrade at 3 year intervals.
Declassified after 12 years.
Air Force Form 7
Section I - ASSIGNMENT
Major Air Command
Numbered Air Force
Air Division
Wing
Group
PACAF
7th Air Force
N/A
3rd Tac Ftr Wg
N/A

SECTION II - SUBORDINATE UNITS
None

SECTION III - MISSION
The mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron during the period 1 July 1969 through 30 September 1969 has been to supply combat ready aircrews to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing. The latest mission of the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron in support of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing has been to conduct combat operations against the Communist Viet Cong and/or Democratic Republic of Vietnam insurgents as directed by Headquarters 7th Air Force, and to assist and cooperate with the VNAF units assigned at Bien Hoa Air Base toward this end.

SECTION IV - PERSONNEL
Officers
Airmen
Civilian
Total
Assigned
25
85
0
108
Authorized
28
97
0
122
Attached
9
0
0
9

SECTION V - EQUIPMENT
A. AIRCRAFT
21 F-100's Assigned
17 F-100's Possessed (1 F-100F on loan from Tuy Hoa)
5 F-100's IRAN
B. WEAPONS (INCLUDING MISSILES)
N/A
C. ELECTRONICS
N/A
D. OTHER
N/A
Group 4 - Downgrade at 3 year Intervals:
Declassified after 12 years.

Section VI - Narrative

(C) The 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron, "Buzzards of Bien Hoa," flew 1317 combat sorties against the Communist Viet Cong and those insurgents engaged in aggressive actions in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam during the period 1 July 1969 through 30 September 1969. The attachments to this report contain a summary of sorties flown, ordinance delivered, battle damage assessments, awards received, and personnel turnover.

(C) Bien Hoa Air Base sustained five light rocket attacks during the quarter, but did not come under ground attack. These attacks caused no damage to property or injury to personnel of the 510th TFS.

(U) As of 30 September 1969, all but one of the pilots assigned to the 510th TFS were operationally ready and only two pilots were not day and night alert qualified.

(U) The pilot turnover for this quarter resulted in a net gain of one pilot with ten new pilots arriving and nine departing. Of these nine departing pilots, only five returned home to their families and new assignments. Of the remaining four pilots who departed the squadron, one was assigned to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing as Weapons Officer, one to 7th Air Force Headquarters at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, and two to the 19th TASS as Forward Air Controllers.

(U) Lieutenants Stephen Morehouse and Thomas Jacobus were selected from the 510th TFS to become Forward Air Controllers. Experienced fighter pilots were wanted to begin an in-country check out program in the OV-10, and as a result the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing was requested to supply ten such pilots. Lt Morehouse left with 105 combat missions and Lt Jacobus left with 95 combat missions. The 510th TFS was sorry to see these two fine young pilots leave, but at the same time everyone knew they would do a truly outstanding job as OV-10 pilots and Forward Air Controllers. The fighter background Lieutenants Morehouse and Jacobus gained in the 510th TFS will certainly be an invaluable asset to them as they control air strikes during the rest of their tour in Vietnam.

(U) With the large turnover in pilots during the quarter, there were significant changes in the staff of the 510th TFS. Lt Col David P. Proctor Jr., 431524618FR, was Squadron Commander until 6 September 1969. Major Ronald M. Clements, 256502148FR, moved up from Operations Officer to Squadron Commander on 6 September 1969. Major Bennett Stone, 274327487FV, replaced Major Clements as Operations Officer and Major Richard D. Tindall, 333241283FR, replaced Major Stone as Assistant Operations Officer. Major Glen O. Darrow, 563304551FV, replaced Captain Gerald E. Reddick, 256484533FV, as Maintenance Officer, and Captain Reddick replaced Captain Leonard H. Moon, 528444888FR, as Flight Line Maintenance Officer. Captian Moon returned to C Flight as a line pilot.

(U) Lt Col David P. Proctor Jr., finished his tour in Vietnam on 6 September 1969 and returned home. His presence was missed by all members of the 510th TFS who gave his rousing send-off with a *** Change *** Flight and going away party. Lt Col Proctor was instrumental in building the 510th TFS into the finest squadron in the 3rd TFW.

(C) In an effort to scale down the war and reduce the war cost, the sortie rate for F-100's was cut throughout South Vietnam. This was evidenced by the fact that the 510th TFS flew only 1317 combat missions during the quarter opposed to 1773 combat missions the previous quarter. As a result of this reduced sortie rate, training missions were instituted to keep pilot and maintenance personnel proficiency at a high level. During the training flights pilots practiced close and tactical formations, instrument approaches, simulated gunnery and bombing passes and any other phases of training they flew were necessary and useful. Since the average F-100 flight time per pilot was only 419 hours as of 30 September 1969, the training flights served as a valuable aid in building pilot experience, competence, and confidence in the F-100.

(U) Maintenance continued their outstanding work in supplying the squadron with operationally ready aircraft throughout the quarter. As in previous quarters, the 510th TFS flew more sorties than either of the other F-100 squadrons in the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing. During the quarter the maintenance personnel turnover rate was unusually high. *** through the fine training and supervision conducted by operations and maintenance personnel, the 510th TFS maintained a truly outstanding level of proficiency and readiness.

(C) As of 30 September 1969, the 510th TFS had 18 aircraft authorized, 21 assigned, and 17 possessed. There were four F-100D's and one F-100F at Tainan, Taiwan for IRAN modification. An F-100F from Tuy Hoa was temporarily on loan to the 510th TFS while the F-100F assigned to the squadron was at Tainan. Of the 21 aircraft assigned to the Squadron, 19 were modified to give the capability of dropping all bombs singly.

(C) The "Buzzards" had a truly amazing and enviable record of battle damage sustained during the past quarter. Although one aircraft was lost due to enemy ground fire, only three others were hit during the entire quarter. This was the lowest number of hits of any squadron in the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing. With the monsoon season creating marginal weather conditions throughout the quarter, a higher percentage of high drag bombs were used which required low angle deliveries. Even with this added exposure to enemy ground fire, the squadron had the lowest battle damage rate since its' arrival in Vietnam in November 1965! This low battle damage rate was due in a large part tot eh efforts of the Squadron Commander and Operations staff and their constant emphasis on weapons employment and tactics. Curvilinear approaches, changing dive angle deliveries, high angle strafe, and normally only three bomb passes were practiced by pilots of the 510th TFS. These techniques reduced exposure to ground fire and made tracking nearly impossible for enemy gunners.

(C) The one aircraft lost this quarter was piloted by Lt Stephen Morehouse. Lt Morehouse lost all oil pressure and immediately headed back for Bien Hoa. By the time he got back to Bien Hoa the engine was compressor stalling and would no longer run at a sufficient power setting to allow a landing attempt. Lt Morehouse ejected safely and guided his chute to a landing in the west drag chute jettison area on Base! The base rescue helicopter was hovering about him as he descended but he was picked up by the Base Operations Officer. The aircraft impacted about three miles west of Bien Hoa Air Base.

(U) Major Eugene F. Miller continued to supervise the On The Job Training (OJT) program. The OJT program had 13 personnel in upgrade training as of 30 September 1969. There were no failures on the tests administered this quarter which indicates the quality of OJT training and the ability of the airmen assigned to the 510th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

(U) As in previous quarters, the "Buzzards" are flying high as the best of the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing and probably the best squadron in all of SEA!


//SIGNED//
HAROLD R. SOCOLOFSY ***, 1Lt, USAF
Historian

//SIGNED//
RONALD M. CLEMENTS, Major, USAF
Commander
Attachment 1
COMBAT MISSION BREAKDOWN
1 July 1969 - 30 September 1969
Total Sorties: 1317

I Corps
0
II Corps
34
III Corps
652
IV Corps
631

Fragged
765
Day Scrambled
402
Night Scrambled
150
Combat Sky Spot
114
Troops in Contact
148



 Operation Farm Gate
By Darrel Whitcomb

In the long history of the Cold War, early 1961 stands out as a particularly tense moment. The Soviet shootdown of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers had taken place a few months earlier. In the divided city of Berlin, pressure was building. Then, on Jan. 6, 1961, Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech that truly inflamed the East-West political conflict.

The blustery Soviet premier declared Moscow's support for communists engaged in “wars of national liberation.” Khrushchev said the Soviet Union would “help the peoples striving for their independence” through the overthrow of pro-Western governments in these brushfire wars. It was an open challenge to the West, and officials in Washington took it exactly that way.
In this photo, a US T-28 wearing South Vietnamese markings flies over Vietnam in the early 1960s. (Photo via Warren Thompson
Also listening carefully was President-elect John F. Kennedy, then only two weeks away from his Jan. 20 inauguration. Kennedy knew that the Soviet leader, though bombastic, often backed up his words with actions. He also knew that Moscow already was supporting a communist insurgency in South Vietnam. The US had supplied economic and military aid to the South Vietnamese ever since the 1954 partition that produced two nations-North Vietnam and South Vietnam.

In reaction to what he saw as a major new Soviet provocation, Kennedy called for a review of the situation, and, in a few weeks, the government had completed its work. A report was written by USAF Brig. Gen. Edward G. Lansdale, an expert on counterinsurgency. The Lansdale report warned that South Vietnam was being overwhelmed in a guerilla war waged by an estimated 15,000 well-supplied Viet Cong irregulars.

Now alarmed, the new President signed off on National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) No. 2. The memorandum directed the US military services to develop counterinsurgency forces capable of resisting the inroads of such Soviet-backed guerrillas. In response to NSAM 2, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, then Air Force vice chief of staff, directed officers at Tactical Air Command to form an elite unit able to conduct such missions.

Farm Gate crews entered the Vietnam War with a secret mission, odd operating rules, and old aircraft. A Farm Gate T-28 is at top; above is a B-26. Both have South Vietnamese Air Force markings, similar to USAF roundels. Combat missions required a South Vietnamese national in the rear seat. (Photo via Warren Thomposon
“Jungle Jim”

TAC officials on April 14, 1961, activated the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) at Hurlburt Field in the panhandle of Florida. The unit had a designated strength of 124 officers and 228 enlisted men and took the logistics code name “Jungle Jim,” a moniker that rapidly became the nickname of the unit.

It would be a composite force of World War II aircraft: 16 C-47 transports, eight B-26 bombers, and eight T-28 fighters. The declared mission of the unit would be to train indigenous air forces in counterinsurgency and conduct air operations. The unit would be commanded by Col. Benjamin H. King, a veteran of World War II and a recognized combat leader. He was handpicked by LeMay.

The new unit would be volunteer only. LeMay put out a notice to all commands: “You will request volunteers from the list of active duty officers, appended this notice, for assignment to Project Jungle Jim, temporary duty, which may include combat.”

One listed officer, Lt. Col. Robert L. Gleason, was attending the Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Ala., when he was told to report to the base commander's office. The commander asked him a series of questions, cautioning him not to repeat them to anyone.


Farm Gate crews entered the Vietnam War with a secret  mission, odd operating rules, and old aircraft. A Farm Gate T-28 is at top; above is a B-26. Both have South Vietnamese Air Force markings, similar to USAF roundels. Combat missions required a South Vietnamese national in the rear seat.
 (Photo by George Rose via Warren Thompson )
Two questions in particular grabbed his attention: Would you be willing to fly and fight in support of a friendly foreign nation in situations where you could not wear the US uniform, and would you be willing to fly and fight on behalf of the US government and to agree to do so knowing that your government might choose to deny that you are a member of the US military, or even associated with this nation, and thus might not be able to provide you with the protection normally given to a US citizen?

Gleason answered in the affirmative, but he was told nothing more.

A month or so later, he received orders assigning him immediately to the 4400th CCTS at Hurlburt. On arrival, Gleason found a few others who looked as puzzled as he was. King welcomed them by saying, “All I can promise you are long hours and hard work in preparation for what lies ahead.” They were told that they were to become a special operations forces unit and that they would be called “air commandos.”

Later, a team arrived to conduct psychological evaluations designed to identify unstable personalities who might not be able to handle the rigors of the assignment. One pilot, Capt. Richard V. Secord, concluded that the Air Force only wanted “crazy guys.” That was a good thing, he thought, and he was happy to see that he somehow fit the profile.

The unit also began training with Army Special Forces to work out airlift and fire support procedures. Several missions were flown to Ft. Bragg, N.C., creating a strong bond between the two groups. Flight training for the T-28 and B-26 crews focused on air-to-ground gunnery. At the specific direction of King, the air commandos honed their skills for night operations.

The 4400th commandos were never told where they would be going. Most speculation focused (erroneously) on Cuba.

Combat operations began at Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam. The former French colonial facility was in poor condition by the time the US arrived in 1961. This 1964 photo shows the flight line, where the steel-plank runway needed constant repair.
(Photo by George Rose via Warren Thompson)
Into Vietnam

As the military conditions in South Vietnam continued to deteriorate, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara actively began to consider dispatching military forces to test the utility of counterinsurgency techniques in Southeast Asia. In response, LeMay pointed out that the 4400th was operationally ready and could serve as an Air Force contingent for that force.

On Oct. 11, 1961, President Kennedy directed, in NSAM 104, that the Defense Secretary “introduce the Air Force `Jungle Jim' Squadron into Vietnam for the initial purpose of training Vietnamese forces.” The 4400th was to proceed as a training mission and not for combat at the present time.

And the mission was to be covert. The commandos were to maintain a low profile in-country and avoid the press. The aircraft were configured with South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) insignia, and all pilots wore plain flight suits minus all insignia and name tags that could identify them as Americans. They also sanitized their wallets and did not carry Geneva Convention cards.

Such subterfuge was a necessity. In dispatching the air commandos to South Vietnam, the United States was violating the Geneva Accords of 1954 that established the two Vietnams. The American leadership wanted to be able to plausibly deny that it had military forces operating in the South.

The deployment package consisted of 155 airmen, eight T-28s, and four modified and redesignated SC-47s. The unit later received B-26s from a repair facility in Taiwan, where they were being rebuilt for the mission.

Capt. John Cragin poses with a B-26 in this 1964 photo. In 1962, McNamara reluctantly ordered additional B-26, SC-47, T-28, and U-10 aircraft to Vietnam.
 (Photo by George Rose via Warren Thompson)
The unit would be officially titled Det. 2A of the 4400th CCTS, code named “Farm Gate.”
On Nov. 5, 1961, the Farm Gate detachment at last departed Hurlburt for Southeast Asia. The four SC-47s flew to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. The eight T-28s flew to California where they were disassembled, packed on C-124s, and flown to Clark; after reassembly there, they and the SC-47s were flown to Saigon and then Bien Hoa Air Base 20 miles north of the capital. All of the initial aircraft were in place by the end of November. The B-26s arrived in late December after modifications in Taiwan.
The airmen of Farm Gate were not impressed with the Bien Hoa facility. Built by French forces, the old colonial airfield was in bad shape. It had one 5,800-foot steel-plank runway in constant need of repair. The American presence at Bien Hoa was, of course, strictly hush-hush, and the airfield was off-limits to the press.

In those first weeks, the commandos belonged, administratively and operationally, to the Air Force section of the Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) Vietnam. They would turn out to be the nucleus of an expanding Air Force and American presence in Vietnam.
Headgear

While settling in at Bien Hoa, the Farm Gate troops noticed that some Vietnamese soldiers were wearing “bush” hats similar to the traditional hats worn by Australian troops. Finding them superior in jungle conditions to the US-issued baseball caps, the Americans began to buy and wear their own bush hats. Even King had one.

Within days of arrival, the T-28s and pilots were ready for orientation flights. The Farm Gate pilots launched with VNAF escorts and delivered their ordnance, but, when mission reports were reviewed, the crews were told not to conduct independent air operations. The cover story was
that the Americans were in-country to train South Vietnamese pilots.

On Dec. 26, 1961, Washington issued new regulations directing that all Farm Gate missions would include at least one South Vietnamese national onboard every aircraft. McNamara further amplified this requirement by stating that the Vietnamese would fly in the backseat position.
Training was a facade because, at least in the beginning, the South Vietnamese pilots did not need much training. Participants knew the backseat rider requirement was political, but, as the demand for VNAF pilots grew, the experienced ones returned to their own units and the replacements actually were unskilled. Many were cadets awaiting orders to flight school

Farm Gate's SC-47s conducted “psyop” leaflet and loudspeaker missions. The T-28 and B-26 operations focused on reconnaissance, surveillance, interdiction, and close air support. In the above photo from 1962, a B-26 performs a low-level strike.
(Photos via Warren Thompson)
One SC-47 pilot, Capt. Bill Brown, recalled that his Vietnamese riders “never were allowed anywhere near the controls of the aircraft.”

Americans, with Vietnamese aboard, were soon flying to destroy Viet Cong supply lines and forces. Flying from Bien Hoa and air bases being improved up-country at Da Nang and Pleiku, T-28 and B-26 operations emphasized “training” for reconnaissance, surveillance, interdiction, and close air support missions.
The SC-47s began flying airdrop and “psyop” leaflet and loudspeaker broadcast missions to forward bases where the Army's Special Forces teams were working with the rapidly growing South Vietnamese Civilian Irregular Defense Group.

Command Confusion

Command and control of Farm Gate became confused in early 1962, when all Air Force units in Vietnam were reorganized under 2nd Advanced Echelon (2nd ADVON) of 13th Air Force, which had been activated the previous November. The assigned mission was to conduct “sustained offensive, defensive, and reconnaissance air operations aimed at the destruction or neutralization of Viet Cong forces, resources, and communications within the borders of South Vietnam.”

Accordingly, the 2nd ADVON detachment commander at Bien Hoa tried to take operational control of the Farm Gate group. King said this violated the guidance that LeMay had issued when he set up the unit.
When King tried to resolve the operational control issue at the new 2nd ADVON, he was told by the operations officer that, under their plan, the Farm Gate aircrews would probably not be able to fly daytime combat sorties. King, however, was not going to allow anyone to prevent his unit from engaging in combat operations.

At the time, the VNAF only had one squadron that could perform air strikes, and it was not properly equipped for night flying. King, however, had trained his men for night operations. He directed his weapons officer, Capt. John L. Piotrowski, to obtain some flares. (Piotrowski later rose to four-star rank and served as Air Force vice chief of staff and commander of NORAD and US Space Command.) Maintenance troops then rigged one of the SC-47s to drop the flares and validated the tactics.

Later, a South Vietnamese outpost came under night attack. An SC-47 and two T-28s took off and struck the enemy force by the light of the flares. The timely air strike broke the enemy's attack and drove those forces from the field. This became a successful tactic for nighttime operations, as the communist forces often disengaged at the mere sight of the flares.

Farm Gate's SC-47s conducted “psyop” leaflet and loudspeaker missions. The T-28 and B-26 operations focused on reconnaissance, surveillance, interdiction, and close air support. In the above photo from 1962, a B-26 performs a low-level strike. (Photos via Warren Thompson)
A few weeks later, King returned to the United States and was replaced in command by Gleason. The unit was visited by the US Pacific Command commander, Adm. Harry D. Felt, who immediately noticed the distinctive Farm Gate headgear. He was not impressed. Felt made it clear that the bush hats had to go. Gleason saluted smartly but sent a back-channel message to Hurlburt concerning the admiral's wishes. Twenty-four hours later, he got an official message from Air Force headquarters saying that the hats had been designated official headgear for the members of the unit. It was signed by LeMay.

First Loss

In February 1962, a Farm Gate SC-47 on a leaflet drop mission in the highlands near Bao Loc was shot down, killing the six airmen, two soldiers, and one Vietnamese crewman on board. This was the first of several Farm Gate losses.

As additional Air Force units were sent to Vietnam, 2nd ADVON was deactivated and replaced by 2nd Air Division of 13th Air Force. Parallel to the growth of Air Force units in South Vietnam, the VNAF also was expanding. More pilots were needed, and the cadets flying in the backseats were sent off to flight school. To continue the backseat subterfuge, however, many South Vietnamese noncommissioned officers were rounded up and forced to fly.

Enemy attacks were increasing across the countryside, and there were rising calls for air support to embattled ground troops. Forward operating locations were opened at Qui Nhon and Soc Trang. Commanders at 2nd Air Division could see that the South Vietnamese Air Force could not meet all needs, and they increasingly turned to Farm Gate crews to fly the sorties.

Realizing that he needed more assets, the commander of 2nd Air Division, Brig. Gen. Rollen H. Anthis, asked for additional Air Force personnel and aircraft for Farm Gate use. Anthis wanted 10 more B-26s, five more T-28s, and two more SC-47s. McNamara reviewed the request, but he was cool to the idea of expanding Farm Gate units for combat use. His goal was to build up the VNAF so it could operate without American help. Still, McNamara approved the request for additional aircraft and also assigned two U-10s to Farm Gate.

Shortly thereafter, McNamara directed the commanders in Vietnam to develop a national campaign plan to defeat the Viet Cong. The plan, finished in March 1963, called for a much larger VNAF. The South Vietnamese Air Force was to increase its force structure by two fighter squadrons, one reconnaissance squadron, several squadrons of forward air controllers, and several more cargo squadrons.
The year 1963, however, had started ominously with a serious defeat of South Vietnamese troops at the village of Ap Bac in the Mekong Delta. Civilian and military leaders realized the Vietnamese were not ready to fight on their own.

The war continued to spread as enemy forces grew. By June 1963, the United States Air Force presence in Vietnam had grown to almost 5,000 airmen. As the buildup continued, USAF directed the activation of a new outfit-the 1st Air Commando Squadron-at Bien Hoa. To preclude the need for an increase in personnel, it would absorb the Farm Gate men and equipment. The airmen began to prepare for the reorganization. But the missions continued, and on July 20, an SC-47 crew flew an emergency night mission to Loc Ninh and, disregarding enemy fire, strong winds, and blacked-out conditions, landed and rescued six severely wounded South Vietnamese troops. (The SC-47 crew would receive the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious air mission of 1963.) Eight days after the Loc Ninh mission, the 1st Air Commando Squadron was activated and Farm Gate was subsumed.


This SC-47 was part of the initial deployment to Bien Hoa, and-like the T-28 at far right-was repainted in VNAF colors. The transport was even given a new tail code: The O-15773 replacedUSAF's designation of 43-15773.
The term “Farm Gate,” however, remained in use a while longer for certain logistics pipelines. Eventually, it was replaced by other code names as the war effort continued to expand and diversify. “Things just got bigger,” one crew chief later explained. “It wasn't Farm Gate anymore. It was war.”

US forces certainly were engaged in combat. However, even after the 1st Air Commando Squadron took over Farm Gate, the public legal status of the operation was ambiguous. According to the then-commander of Pacific Command, Adm. Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, US forces as late as July 1964 were still officially carrying out “an advisory mission, and our personnel were not participating in military action at [that] point.” That fiction would disappear with the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in August 1964.

Between October 1961 and July 1963, 16 Farm Gate air commandos were killed. Also lost were one SC-47, four T-28s, one U-10, and four B-26s.

Within a year of its establishment, 1st Air Commando Squadron had shed its B-26s and SC-47s and grounded some of its T-28s after two more went down due to catastrophic wing failures. According to retired Lt. Col. W. Dean Hunter, a pilot who flew T-28s throughout this period, the T-28 section lost a total of 36 pilots in the war. Some pilots were awarded medals for heroism-from the Air Force Cross to Silver Stars.

The unit was re-equipped with AD-6s, later renamed A-1s. It would continue to fly combat operations until its final mission on Nov. 7, 1972, over northern Laos.

Farm Gate can now be seen for what it really was: the first step in a very long war. One can fix the exact date of its start. In a real sense, however, it had no precise end date. Farm Gate simply was absorbed into the larger US war effort. The parent unit, the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron, was deactivated in 1969. During the course of its official life, however, the outfit spawned 11 different squadrons, several wings and groups, and the Special Air Warfare Center, which inherited the original Jungle Jim mission.
Indeed, Air Force Special Operations Command today traces much of its lineage to Farm Gate. It is the heritage of the air commandos.
Darrell Whitcomb is a career aviator and freelance historical writer. He served three tours in Southeast Asia plus a short tour in Iraq and is the author of The Rescue of Bat 21 and Combat Search and Rescue in Desert Storm. This is his first article for Air Force Magazine.