6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK)
C Btry, 6th Bn, 56th Arty Selected for Deployment to Thailand

C Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) Selected for Deployment to Thailand

During the month of December 1968 the 97th Artillery Group (AD) received a requirement from U.S. Army Vietnam (USARV) to prepare an air defense study of the Bangkok, Thailand area. Department of the Army had dispatched a message based on the requirement of employment of a HAWK missile battery to the government of Thailand. A Group study was completed. It contained a detail analysis of the Bangkok Thailand area, considering the use of one, two, three and four HAWK batteries. The following items were addressed:

(a)    Command and Control           (b) Concept of operation (c) Site selection    

(b)   Construction  (e) Maintenance  (f) Communications

During the month of January, two officers from the 97th Artillery Group (AD) met in Bangkok Thailand with representatives of the Royal Thai Army (RTA), the American embassy, US Army Pacific (USARPAC) and the 7/13 Air Force. The members present were briefed on the HAWK missile the concept of employment, site selection and contraction. They Royal Thai Army (RTA) expressed their desire to visit HAWK units in Vietnam and Taiwan. They further requested that representatives of the 97th Artillery Group (AD) be made available to return to Thailand to assist in site selection and the structure to take place after completion of visits and preliminary studies.

The 97th Artillery Group (AD) had been informed that the HAWK battery for Thailand may be provided by the Group. Therefore, planning had been initiated to ensure that the unit will be available to move to Thailand when directed.

As previously reported, the 97th Artillery Group completed an air defense study of the Bangkok area, dispatched officers to Bangkok for as series of conferences with representatives of the Royal Thai Army (RTA), the American Embassy,  MACT, and the 7/13 Air Force. These conferences resulted in an agreement that the RTA would form committees to begin work on site selection and construction, visit South Vietnam and Taiwan HAWK units, and the 97th Artillery Group (AD) representatives would return to Thailand to assist in site selection and construction. The 97th Artillery Group (AD) was informed that the HAWK battery for Thailand might be provided from the Group assets.

During this reporting period two additional visits were made to Bangkok. During this period 26 February to 1 March 1968, two Group staff officers visited Bangkok to assist the RTA in selection, design and layout of a HAWK site. A site drawing of a typical site was left with the RTA together with a fact sheet to help explain minimum and maximum separation distances.

During the period 26 – 28 March 1968, the following personnel from Thailand visited the 97th Artillery Group (AD) to view and study standards of construction of U.S. Army HAWK battery facilities in RVN. This was to provide a comparison with what had already been seen in Taiwan and to assist the RTA in finalizing their construction plans for HAWK facilities in Thailand.

1.      Col George W. McIntyre, MACT J3  

2.       2. LTC Dale J. Crittenberger,  MACT  J3 Plans

3.      Col Vibul Rowsathien, RTA, J3, Sup CMD HQ Forward

4.      Col Seri Herabut, RTA, J4, Sup CMD HQ Forward

5.      Col Pavatawong Hatasevi, RTA,  C/S AAA Div. RTA

During the period 7 April to 17 April 1968, the Bangkok project officer of the 97th Artillery Group (AD) visited Thailand to assist the RTA in preparation of a TOE for the HAWK battery and to discuss a possible deployment fate for a U.S. Army HAWK battery to Thailand.

There are indications here that there could be a desire on the part of the Thais to delay the deployment. It is known that the Thais are deeply concerned with the effect of the deployment on the Military Assistance Program (MAP) funding. Operational Report of Headquarters, 97th Artillery Group (AD) for the Period Ending 30 April 1968 secret

In (Joint Chiefs of Staff) JCS secret message 2042, 081616Z Jan 68, had the following comment: Btry C, 6th Bn, 56th Arty has been selected for deployment to Thailand and will be available 30 days after notification. The battery will deploy minus the 13 man security section, but will require and augmentation of 41 personnel for direct support HAWK supply and maintenance, VHF communications, command and control, liaison and advisory duties. Operational Report of Headquarters, 97th Artillery Group (AD) for the Period Ending 31July 1968 secret

The planned deployment of Battery C, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery from Vietnam to Thailand is delayed until December 1970. As a result of the delay, USARV recommended that the battery be either inactivated in country or returned to CONUS, pending deployment to Thailand upon completion of tactical site facilities at that location. The proposed concept called for the reactivation of the unit in CONUS approximately six months prior to deployment to Thailand.

On 12 March 1969, Department of the Army directed that Battery C be inactivated in Vietnam and equipment shipped by 1 June 1969

On 4 April 1969, COM7AV released Battery C from the air defense mission in the Saigon/Tan Son Nhut area. Operational Report of Headquarters, 97th Artillery Group (AD) for the Period Ending 30 April 1969 secret

C Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was selected for deployment to Thailand, but never sent.

An artillery battery of Hawk missiles was scheduled for the Bangkok area but was cancelled because of the high cost relative to the air defense provided. AIR DEFENSE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA 1945 – 1971, 17 JAN 73, HQ PACAF, Directorate of Operations Analysis, CHECO/CORONA HARVEST DIVISION

                               
 

Thailand’s Support was crucial to the Vietnam War Effect.

The deployment of B-52s in Thailand meant a saving of US $8,000 per round trip for each plane, as compared to coast for a round trip from Guam, nearly 2,000 miles away. Utapao Airbase, Thailand was the workhorse of U.S. air bases in Thailand, responsible for the majority of the 1,500 weekly bombing runs flown between December 1965 and November 1968. Thai-based U.S. aircraft accounted for nearly 80% of all ordnance dropped on North Vietnam and Laos during this period.

Air Campaigns Flown Out Of U-Tapao

Operation Arc Light, 18 June 1965 - 15 August 1973

Arc Light was the name given to the SAC B-52 conventional bombing missions in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The first Arc Light mission was flown 18 June 1965 when Guam-based B-52s were used to attack a Viet Cong jungle stronghold with conventional 750-pound and 1,000-pound bombs. B-52s were used primarily in saturation bombing of Viet Cong base areas, but also were used in direct tactical support of operations such as the Marine Corps’ Operation Harvest Moon and the First Cavalry Division’s fight in the Ia Drang Valley. In 1966, operations were mostly against targets in S. Vietnam, but expanded to include approaches to the Mu Gia Pass in North Vietnam on 12 and 26 April 1966, to interdict the northern Ho Chi Minh Trail. Bombing activity increased tremendously in 1967, almost doubling the number of sorties flown in 1966, supporting ground troops and attacking enemy troop concentrations and supply lines in the A Shau Valley.

The 1968 defense of Khe Sanh was the largest and most significant air campaign to date in Southeast Asia, helping to break the siege on Khe Sanh and force the North Vietnamese to withdraw. In 1969, the B-52 conventional bombing operations in Southeast Asia continued at a steady pace with greater emphasis on harassment and disruption of enemy operations than in previous years, particularly around Saigon. SAC bombers also continued to hit enemy supply dumps, base areas, troop concentrations, and the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The number of sorties flown in support of Arc Light bombing operations declined from November 1969 until ceasing temporarily in August 1970.

Guam-based B-52s resumed flying in February 1972, in a surge of Arc Light activity named Bullet Shot, reaching a peak by mid-1972 exceeding all previous records of Arc Light performance as the U.S. pushed the Communist forces hard to force peace negotiations. After the Paris Peace Accords ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam in January 1973, Arc Light operations continued in Laos and Cambodia, until the end of U.S. combat operations on 15 August 1973.

The Arc Light Memorial at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, is dedicated to the 75 men who lost their lives flying Arc Light B-52 missions.

Operation Menu, 18 March 1969 - 26 May 1970

Menu was directed at Cambodian base areas and logistics networks supporting Communist operations in South Vietnam. President Nixon ordered these raids to punish Hanoi for their continued fomenting of fighting in South Vietnam while they simultaneously avoided serious peace negotiations and to gain time for Vietnamization to prepare S. Vietnam's forces. Anti-war protests in the U.S. limited President Nixon's options since further bombing of North Vietnam would be politically unacceptable, so the Cambodian sanctuaries were targeted.

During the Menu series of raids, B-52s flew 3,630 sorties and dropped 100,000 tons of bombs. Individual missions in the Menu series were named Breakfast, Supper, Lunch, Dessert, and Snack, thus the name Menu bombing. Menu raids continued until 26 May 1970, when the bombing campaign was exposed by the New York Times after the start of the Cambodian Incursion by ground troops.

While the Arc Light raids were open and authorized through channels, Menu missions were not. The classified missions were directed by the White House and personnel involved had to deceive USAF officials and falsify official records. Knowledge of the operations was highly compartmentalized; even the Air Force Chief of Staff and the SEC-AF were not informed. Arc Light raids were used to cover the Menu raids. Formations were sent together, sometimes in the same groups, sometimes at the same time. While Arc Light groups hit southern targets, Menu groups crossed the border into Cambodian air-space. Menu pilots later falsified reports, stating they had bombed South Vietnam.

Operation Linebacker, 6 April 1972 - 23 October 1972

Operation Linebacker, the aerial interdiction campaign against North Vietnam which began on 6 April 1972 with attacks in the southern part of the country expanded rapidly. On 16 April, B-52s, escorted by fighter and aircraft specializing in electronic countermeasures and suppression of surface-to-air missiles, bombed the fuel storage tanks at Haiphong, setting fires that, reflected from cloud and smoke, were visible from 110 miles away. Shortly afterward, carrier aircraft joined Air Force fighter-bombers in battering a tank farm and a warehouse complex on the outskirts of Hanoi. When these attacks failed to slow the offensive, naval aircraft began mining the harbors on 8 May, and two days later the administration extended the aerial interdiction campaign, formerly known as Freedom Train but now designated Linebacker, throughout all of North Vietnam.

In terms of tactics employed and results obtained, Linebacker was a vast improvement over Rolling Thunder. During Linebacker, American aircraft attacked targets like airfields, power plants, and radio stations which disrupted the flow of supplies and reinforcements to the units fighting in the South. Laser-guided bombs proved effective, especially against bridges, severing the bridge at Thanh Hoa, which had survived Rolling Thunder, and the highway and railroad bridges over the Red River at Hanoi. However, the enemy made use of alternate methods of crossing the streams, usually traveling at night on ferries or movable pontoon bridges. Electronic jamming as in Rolling Thunder confused the radars controlling the surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft guns. North Vietnamese MiGs gave battle throughout Linebacker but they failed to gain control of the sky, in part because American radar detected enemy interceptors rising from runways, enabling controllers to direct Air Force F-4s and Navy fighters against them.

Nixon’s use of air power to disrupt supply lines and kill the enemy on the battlefield stopped the offensive and helped drive the enemy back a short distance without a reintroduction of the ground forces he had withdrawn from the South. In fact, the last combat troops of the U.S. Army departed in August 1972 while the South Vietnamese were counterattacking. Only 43,000 American airmen and support personnel remained. Yet the very success of the American aerial campaign caused misgivings in Saigon, where the South Vietnamese armed forces dependence on the Americans troubled President Thieu. When Thieu's commanders failed during a recent offensive, the advisers took over, bringing to bear a volume of firepower that the South Vietnamese forces themselves could not generate. Thieu realized the Americans' unilateral departure would leave South Vietnam at the mercy of the North Vietnamese forces still in his country. He balked at accepting what had come to be called a cease-fire in place, and the North Vietnamese also seemed uninterested in a settlement. President Nixon sought to remove first one and then the other obstacle to peace. He obtained Thieu’s reluctant assent to an in-place arrangement by offering "absolute assurance" that he intended to take "swift and severe retaliatory action" if North Vietnam should violate the terms of the agreement. He sought to remove the other roadblock, the stubborn attitude of the government in Hanoi, by ordering a resumption of the bombing of the heartland of North Vietnam.

Operation Linebacker II, 18 December 1972 - 29 December 1972

Operation Linebacker II operations were initiated on 18 December 1972 and were directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to continue until further notice. The primary objective of the bombing operation would be to force the North Vietnamese government to enter into purposeful negotiations concerning a cease-fire agreement. The operation employed air power to its maximum capabilities in an attempt to destroy all major target complexes such as radio stations, railroads, power plants, and airfields located in the Hanoi and Haiphong areas. Unlike previous bombing campaigns, Linebacker II provided the Air Force and U.S. Naval forces with specific objectives and removed many of the restrictions that had previously caused frustration within the Pentagon.

During these operations, Air Force and Navy tactical aircraft and B-52s commenced an around-the-clock bombardment of the North Vietnamese heartland. The B-52s struck Hanoi and Haiphong during hours of darkness with F-111s and Navy tactical aircraft providing diversionary/suppression strikes on airfields and surface-to-air missile sites. Daylight operations were primarily carried out by A-7s and F-4s bombing visually or with long-range navigation (LORAN) techniques, depending upon the weather over the targets. In addition, escort aircraft such as the Air Force EB-66s and Navy EA-6s broadcast electronic jamming signals to confuse the radar-controlled defenses of the North. The Strategic Air Command also provided KC-135s to support the in-flight refueling requirements of the various aircraft participating in Linebacker II operations. The impact of the bombing was obvious in the severe damage to the North Vietnamese logistic and war-support capability. By 29 December 1972, the 700 nighttime sorties flown by B-52s and 650 daytime strikes by fighter and attack aircraft persuaded the North Vietnamese government to return to the conference table.

The United States paid a price for the accomplishments of Linebacker II. During bombing raids, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy aircraft encountered intense enemy defensive actions that resulted in the loss of twenty-six aircraft in the twelve-day period. Air Force losses included fifteen B-52s, two F-4s, two F-111s, and one HH-53 search and rescue helicopter. Navy losses included two A-7s, two A-6s, one RA-5, and one F-4. Seventeen of these losses were attributed to SA-2 missiles, three to daytime MiG attacks, three to antiaircraft artillery, and three to unknown causes.

A special thanks to the dedicated men and women who served at Utapao Airbase, Thailand and all the other bases in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Welcome Home.

Attacks on Airbases in Thailand During Vietnam

U.S. units were stationed at Udorn, Khoat, Don Muang, Takhi, U-Tapao, and Nakhon Phanom Royal Air Force bases during the Vietnam War. By December 1967, 505 USAF aircraft were stationed in Thailand. During the Vietnam War there were five attacks on airbases in Thailand.

Udorn – Attack 1

The first of these attacks (attack 1) was against Udorn Royal Thai Air Base (RTAB) on July 25, 1968. At 10:25 p.m., approximately 25 attackers from four separate locations opened fire with automatic weapons against the northwest corner of the base.

Quick-reaction forces responded within 2 minutes of the original attack and engaged the attackers with small arms fire. The attackers then retreated. The attack caused heavy damage to a C-141, moderate damage to an F-4, and light damage to a HH-43. And light damage was done to four USAF vehicles, a power unit, and a light unit.

Ubon – Attacks 2 and 3

The next attack (attack2) came one year and two days later, at Ubon FTAF. At 1:30 a.m. on July 28, 1969, a Security policeman and his dog were wounded when they detected three sappers attempting to leave the base.

Ubon was attacked again in 1970 (attack 3). A local villager reported seeing 16 armed Vietnamese 3 kilometers from the base at 10:30 p.m. on January11, 1970. The base was put on alert, with 363 security personnel on duty. At 2:01 a.m. on January 12, a sentry detected and fired on an enemy sapper 30 feet inside the perimeter fence. In the resulting firefight, five of the sappers were killed and the attack stopped; 35 satchel charges were found with the bodies.

U-Tapao – Attack 4

It was two years before a base in Thailand was attacked again. This time the attackers chose U-Tapao, considered the safest base in Thailand (attack 4). At 2:22 a.m. on January 10, 1972, three sappers penetrated the base perimeter and approached to within a few hundred yards of a B-52 aircraft when they were detected by a guard dog. The sappers fired on the sentry without effect. One sapper disappeared, and the other two ran toward the B-52s. The sappers threw a grenade and four satchel charges into 3 B-52 revetments, causing moderate damage to 1 B-52 and minor damage to 2 others.

Ubon-Attack 5

The final attack (attack 5). On June 3, 1972 Thai provincial police reported seeing a man just inside the perimeter fence running toward an AC-130 revetment 50 yards away. The police exchanged fire with the sapper and he was killed. Eight satchel charges were detected on the body. Additional attempts to penetrate the perimeter were detected that night. No other penetrations succeeded, and there was no damage to aircraft.

After this attack, there were three separate contacts with the remainder of the sapper force in the vicinity of the Thai-Laotian border. In the final engagement, Royal Laotian Army forces killed two of the sappers and identified them as regular NVA solders.

USAF, Attack on Udorn (July 26, 1968): project CHECO Southeast Asia Report, Hickam AFB Hawaii Headquarters, Pacific Air Forces, December 17, 1968, pp 3-4

Udorn Royal Thai Air Base (RTAB) 
Udorn Royal Thai Air Base (RTAB)
 
   
C Battery, 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK) Tan Son Nhut Airbase   
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