21 Replies to “1 November 1964: Biên Hòa Air Force Base Attacked”

  1. I was with the Navy Sguadron VA 152 that night . A mortor round came through the roof of are make shift readyroom and offices , are ordanace we’re located in the corner of same metal building the shrapnel injure one shipmate a head wound I don’t know what became of him.i also took pictures super 8 mm film of thing prior of attack and after of damage done.the quonset hut that two of the fatalities we’re leaving in the morning we’re totally destroyed except the back screen door.next to the side walk at the front entrance was a 1962 USMC motor round.l sent the film to Hawai to be developed it was confiscated there I learned later. There was a documentary on tv. A brief shot of my film was shown.stars an stripe photographer taking film of damages.

  2. I arrived at Bien Hoa AB in August 1964. President Johnson had ordered B-57 Canberras sent to Bien Hoa and a number of airman, such as myself, had been picked from bases in the Pacific area and sent to Vietnam in support of Pierce Arrow. I was assigned to Crash Rescue at Bien Hoa since I had been stationed at Wheeler AFB in Hawaii and was in the Fire Department there since June 1962. Another fireman, Airman Sniffen and myself had been called into the flight office in early August 1964 and was told our base had been assigned to sending two firemen to TDY in Vietnam and asked if we would be willing to volunteer for the assignment. Both Sniffen and myself, being good friends and fellow firemen, looked at each other, smiled and asked when would we leave and was told as soon as our orders are cut. So we soon got our orders, got our shots, then went through through the terminal at Honolulu International with full field packs and carbines, was met by another airmen firefighter from Hickam AFB (Airman Logoncion) and a whole planeload of us and others, left for Vietnam via a commercial flight, World Airways. We landed in Than Son Nhut AB and the three of us was soon checked in and was taken to Bien Hoa AB which was 15-20 miles from Saigon. We checked into the Fire Station there which was just across the taxiway from the hot pad where all the B-57s were parked all in rows. The three of us were well settled in and worked 24 hour shifts, most of the time setting in our crash trucks in the cut offs between the active runway and the taxiway, on standby, as the Vietnamese Pilot Training Program proceeded. Things changed on 1 Nov 64. I was off duty that night and had been at the Jupiter Club which was nearer the main gate of the base and probably 500 yards, or less, from the American Cantonment Area (ACA). The club closed at midnight and the girls that served and sat with the GIs were loading in the bus to go back to Saigon and I was proceeding to walk toward the ACA. Little time had passed, no more than 15-20 minutes, when I noticed a streak in the sky over the hot pad area and in a manner of seconds, I saw the first explosion and and felt the concussion of the explosion against my chest every though it was still some distance away. I started to run toward the ACA and my hotch was located at the far corner of the ACA away from the explosions and across from the taxiway. All I could think about was getting out of my civies and into my fatigues. I then saw tracers going overhead from the area of the control tower which I would have to run toward to get to my work station. I first went to the center of the cantonment area where others were heading. The gun vault door was open and M16s and bandoleers of ammo was being dispensed. I got one of the rifles and about 300 rounds of ammo and some clips and headed toward my work station as I could see multiple areas of fires. As I ran down the warehouse area alleyway, I saw a small white building I had to pass which seemed to glow from the fires and noted it was pocked with bullet holes and the tracers were still going overhead. Since I feared for my life due to friendly fire, I headed back toward the center of the ACA. I did not know the base that well. Generally, when headed to work, I just went from my hotch, down the alleyway by the warehouses and that white building and I was not going down that way tonight. I went back to the area of the gun vault I nearly tripped over somehing near the back of the chow hall. Lying there, covered in transparent plastic were several bodies, 3 or 4, lying side-by-side, which obviously were american soldiers, wounded and/or killed, but as I thought more about it, were likely killed very recently from what was going on. At this point, I saw a bunker behind a row of hotches and I went in there assuming the mortars might soon be redirected to my vicinity and I felt I needed to get prepared for an attack that very well could be forthcoming. In the bunker was only one individual, a pilot, but very little was exchanged since we spent, or I did, a considerable amount of time, staring out my gunport, waiting for the killing or being killed. The mortars lasted only a short time but after an hour or so, possibly sooner, possibly later, flares with small parachutes started falling over the base and the light from these flares made everything outside my gunport appeared to be moving, which was quite unsettling but I soon realized that it was due to the somewhat flickering nature of the flares. The two of us spent the night in that bunker. In daylight, we knew the danger was likely over for now but each night thereafter was not as relaxing as before. Fear was my companion that night and I challenge anyone who experienced that night to say differently. A couple things that I know that are factural about that night, are as follows: There was never an actual attempt to enter or overrun the base at Bien Hoa that night. The mortars and the damage done by them, including the death of 4 Army personnel, was the total of what happened that night. No enemy personnel tried to rush the front gate and as someone said in these comments and “Puff” never entered our airspace at all that night. We had one Skyraider that attempted to take of but crashed and burned but the Vietnamese pilot walked away (what I heard) and the fire apparently set off a 500 lb bomb because we later went out to the wreckage and the very large crater made by the bomb explosion. I also heard the bomb go off from where I was located. Not until the next day did I see the damage that was done to the B-57s from the mortars and the damage done by the shrapnel to these planes, the control tower and surrounding buildings. I might also state that I am also very proud of the crash crew that was on duty who exited the fire station quickly at the start, but soon came back while the barrage was still going on to protect what they could with the crash trucks. Two were awarded the Silver Star for the action they took that night and another airmen (I heard)(not a firefighter) won the Silver Star for pulling a flare off one of the collapsible fuel bladders which contained, maybe 50,000 gallons of aviation fuel, and next to that, was 4 other bladders each with a similar amount of fuel. I do not know when that latter airmen got his metal but the two firefighters from our fire crew were not awarded theirs until 1972, or at least that is the information I was given. One last point, the attack at Bien Hoa commenced shortly after midnight, 1 Nov 64, not at 2 a.m. as indicated by some. If those that say the attack started at 2 a.m., they might be right from where they were, but if so, then they weren’t at Bien Hoa that night, period. The air force AP who made the comment that the barage started at 0015 hours is likely right on the money. Finally, to all of you who have served or are still serving, my sincere thanks, and may God bless you for your service to our homeland and may you continue to keep the wolves from our doors.

  3. I was there lying on the ground no bunkers like it was –day pol got silver star my buddy for putout flar on rubber fuel storage tank

  4. 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!

  5. 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-

    1. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. Hello Ben,
      thank your father for his service. Would be interested to learn more about him especially his parents and possible relation to my family. I have found his name on my DNA match as a strong match. My family is from Arizona so not too far from NM. Please contact me at [Admin note: we remove email addresses from comments to avoid them being harvested for spam but will gladly pass on this email address on request] and I can show you how his name shows on my DNA profile. I am a interested in family research and war history and his stories would be of great interest to me and our family.
      Kind regards,
      Daniel Kay

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

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