The Attack on Biên Hòa
At 2:00 am, a Việt Cộng mortar team penetrated the Biên Hòa base perimeter. The 30-minute barrage destroyed five B-57s and three A-1H Skyraider attack aircraft. A Kaman HH-43 Huskie helicopter and two Douglas C-47 Dakota transport aircraft joined the list. Vietnamese communists killed four US and two South Vietnamese personnel. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended reprisal attacks against the North Vietnamese. However, President Lyndon Johnson ordered the replacement of the lost aircraft instead. He convened a National Security Council group to consider available political and military options.
On 6 November the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) launched a 32 aircraft retaliatory attack. Led by Air Vice Marshal Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, the ARVN claimed to have killed 500 soldiers.
Michael M. Myers shared his own personal experience of the attack on Biên Hòa Air Force Base.
“We were sleeping on Halloween night when at about 0200 hours on 1 November I woke to what I first thought was thunder but soon realized were mortars. Being in Ordnance, I headed to our Spads [Douglas A1 Skyraiders] on the flightline where a lot of the mortars had already destroyed several US aircraft including at least three B-57s. We were lucky; none of our Spads were hit. It was quite some time before retaliation was granted and at that point the hit and run VC [Việt Cộng] were gone and Army choppers lit up the sky with 50 calibre machine gun rounds and tracers. We found out later that the VC were firing their mortars from our bomb dump within our compound. I’m not sure how many military personnel were killed and injured. There was a direct hit on our dispensary and the injured and dying were housed in the chow hall next door. After I left the flightline, I was asked to comfort two dying soldiers. I found out later that they were two soldiers I saw the night before celebrating going home the next day.”
Michael M. Myers, Ordnance, Navy Squadron VA-152 Det Zulu, 13 March 2019
REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES:
- Larry Feldhaus, 2013, History of Navy Squadron VA-152, 23 May 2013, Scribd.
15 Replies to “1 November 1964: Biên Hòa Air Force Base Attacked”
My father was there that night. He was an Air Traffic Controller. He pasted away October 2018 of cancer. I am a veteran as well and we got to spend a week together before he passed away. My dad showed me his EPR which is paperwork showing feedback for the past year. That’s how I found out he was there Nov 1st . He never went into detail about Vietnam. I am so proud of my father and have so much respect for what he did for our country for 24 years!
My father was there as well and I have up close photos of damaged air craft- He worked on the T6 and was his last three weeks there- he rarely spoke of this night until a few years before his death-
Hello Dale, thank you for leaving a comment on Vietnam: The Art of War and sharing your father’s experience of working on T6 aircraft at Biên Hòa air base. We are happy to hear that you have kept the photos of damaged aircraft – excellent and important documentary evidence of that time.
I was knocked out after my generators and gas were blown up. All my unit that were on Tran Compound could see were fire and smoke from my radio site. I had an M14, an M2 carbine and a 40 cal revolver with me. I went to a bunker that we had built at about 5 yards from my radio hut about the same time that VC and NVA started coming across the wire and through the gate. I fired my M14 and then my M2, When Puff the Magic Dragon came by and took out everything between me and the fence line maybe 20 to thirty yards. I was down to my 40 cal Revolver. My site was still smoking and burning the next morning when I got relieved. My unit was surprised that I was still there, and without a scratch.
Mr. Luther, thank you for sharing your experience with Vietnam: The Art of War. A number of US veterans have shared their experience of the attack on Biên Hòa Air Force Base and we appreciate them all. Please feel free to engage with other contributors on this page and throughout the website as a whole.
I was on radio watch by the gate and the Jupiter Club. One of the first things that was taken out were my generators and my Gas cans which stopped any Como out. I lived on Tran Compound with Advisory Team 95. I Was assigned to VMAG. The VC were pentrating through the gate and fence line when Puff came by and took them out. My unit thought I was a goner. I was relieved the next morning without a scratch.
Today I interviewed my father Freddie Blaine La Marca on his account of this attack. He would later be awarded the bronze star for saving one of his fellow navy men who was injured by mortar fire. After getting him to safety he later went on to help with triage in the mess hall where he and another comrade carried a fellow soldier, with a sucking chest wound, on a gurney towards medical staff. When they finally got him to a doctor he had unfortunately died.
After I transcribe his account of the attack I will post it here. My father is 78 and starting to lose his memory.
To those who served, thank you for your service.
Hello Ben, thank you for leaving a comment on Vietnam: The Art of War. We would be very interested to read your father’s account of the attack at Biên Hòa. These first-hand accounts are very important memories of events and engagements at that time in Vietnam. We appreciate your father sharing his experience and for you taking the time to share it with our growing community here.
I was an Air Traffic Controller advisor at Bien Hoa during the time of the attack. The day of the attack the Vietnam Controllers advised me that there would be an attack that evening. I advised our chain of command but they gave the information very little credibility. The tower cab windows were blown out that nite. I always wondered why the number of reported deaths was so varied. I personally was aware of more than reported. The Army area was hit the heaviest. It was a bad nite.
Hello Daniel. Thank you for sharing your experience of the attack on Biên Hòa Air Force Base. We are extremely grateful to all the ex-servicemen who have contributed first-hand accounts of events during this period of Vietnamese history. You can learn more about Vietnamese artists from the videos on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-KlscmQFHg44SnWeZGor4Q.
Thanks Daryl and Michael for your pesonal accounts. I am currently researching this event having pickd up 12 unpublished photos of the aftermouth of the attack showing the damage and wrecked aircraft. They were taken by a an airforce NCO.
Of interest, is one of the photos which has penciled on the back, “this is where the attack came from” depecting a hill overlooking the base. Perhaps this is another location from where the VC launched its mortars?
Hello Victor. Thank you for your comment. The photos you mention sound interesting. Very valuable pieces of history.
Actually the attack took place around 0015 hours on the morning of the 1st November. I was in the military air police squadron and had been on patrol (around the base, flight line and around the runway). Scheduled to get off duty at midnight (31 October Halloween). I took one last trip around the runway perimeter and got back to air police headquarters about 0005 hours. A friend and I were walking back to our huts when the mortars started landing on the flight line. A small grove of trees separated us from the aircraft parking ramp and flight line. A base water tower was located right near the grove. It wasn’t unusual to see strafing runs and bombings going on around the base (usually 5-10-15 miles away and mostly during daytime) but this one seemed a little close. We were going to climb the tower to see if we could see where the shelling was coming from (or hitting) when we realized it was right on base. We ran back to AP headquarters to find the on-duty sergeant radioing Tan Son Nhat AFB near Saigon that we were under attack. All hell was breaking loose. We gathered a small squad and went out into the field taking an offensive posture, luckily there was not a ground offensive by any VC forces but the rest of the evening kept us on pins and needles. I specifically remember the time of the incident because I was about 5 minutes late from turning in my equipment and getting my patrol vehicle to my relief supervisor so he could post his troops. He (a1c bud Garmon) was posting his troops out on the flight line when the mortars landed all around him, blowing up the A-1Es and Canberra jets. We later examined his truck and found a gaping hole in the cab just behind the driver’s seat. The pacific stars and stripes newspaper reported four killed (mortars hit an army helicopter crews Quonset huts located right near the aircraft control tower. About 72 other military personnel were reported injured in the attack. I think this incident was the event that soon caused a massive military buildup in early 1965. The attack soon got buried on the back pages. Bien Hoa was the first American military land installation that had been severely attacked in the war up to this time. 56 years ago and counting.
God bless the United States military and the United States of America!
Thank you for the detailed and informative eye-witness account, Daryl.
Actually the Bien Hoa attack took place at approximately 2 a.m. on November 1st Bien Hoa time not the evening of November. Also this articial does not mention the American military deaths and injuries. I was there during the attack with VA-152 DetZulu. Michael M Myers.