[Image Source: VSPA.com]
Attack On Air Base 62
In the month of February in 1965 the North Vietnamese attacked the military base in Pleiku. The North Vietnamese killed eight and wounded more than one hundred people in Air Base 62. This was a significant occurrence in the vietnam war because of what it led to in the Vietnam War. Soon after the assault on the Pleiku Air Base, the North Vietnamese attacked another air base not too far from the Pleiku Air Base where they attacked and killed twenty three American soldiers and wounded another twenty one. This was something President Lyndon B. Johnson could would have to respond to, for his response he launched the famous campaign Operation Rolling Thunder. Some of the impacts of the Pleiku attack were in a messed up way good for the United States Government. It allowed some sort of justification for us continuing to fight in Vietnam which is what President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to happen so he could get re-elected for office, which in the end turned out to bite him in the butt. The attack on Pleiku and the ensuing attacks on other bases in the region marked a new phase of the war. General Westmoreland believed that they could no longer ignore the question of whether or not protecting our troops in Vietnam with the occurrences of direct attacks on American personnel and facilities. He declared that, “These are numbers of a new order of magnitude, but we must face the stark fact that the war has escalated,” (Westmoreland). With the fact of acknowledging that led to the escalation of the war against the North, it also pointed out vulnerabilities in military bases that without even realizing, saved a huge number of American soldiers lives. Some of the new changes in military tactics did not reach their desired effect with operations such as Rolling Thunder. The assault on Air Base 62 was a significant turning point for both sides of the war because it showed the people how things escalated in Vietnam and pushed many people to support or continuing their support of the war.
[Image Source: War-Stories.com]
United States Involvement
Because of the increase of North Vietnamese infiltration across the Laotian and Cambodian borders, the importance of Air Base 62 increased as well. Because of this and the lack of VNAF force groups in Pleiku, the USAF would have to step in as help for the South Vietnamese. When the USAF started to roll into the base, base facilities had to be improved and expanded. Some of the changes they made were extending the air runway to 6000 ft. and improving the housing quarters. These upgrades had to be done by USAF civil engineer workers because the VNAF did not have the appropriate workers to do these renovations successfully. The 633d Combat Support Group was activated in March of 1966 and was the first United States Air Force unit to move into the base for a permanent basis. That unit took over smaller units that were consistently moving in and out of the base that were overseeing base construction and other activities. Now that all of the construction was finished, it was time for United States Air Force units to make it a real air force base. To do that, the US Air Force designated Air Base 62 to joint operations between the United States Air Force and the South Vietnamese Air Force and also as a base for United States Special Ops. The special ops units played a huge roll in Air Base 62 activities because they were the most valued by the United States Air Force; They called these special ops units Air Commando units. The 1st Air Commando Squadron also arrived in 1966 at the Pleiku Air Base. This Air Commando Squadron arguably was the most important unit in the entirety of the air base because of their specific jobs. They operated the A-1 Skyraider to fly interdiction along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, flew as cover to pilot rescue mission where without their help a significant amount of people would have died, and also flew air support to ground crews the same as all Air Commando Squadrons. Another reason that the 1st Air Commando Squadron was a crucial piece to the abilities of the Pleiku Air Base because this Air Commando Squadron trained United States Air Force crews and South Vietnamese Air Force groups in unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, physiological warfare, and civic actions. More United States Air Force units came and went as needed, but units like the 6th and 9th Air Commando Squadrons were long lasting units that provided a stable base for Air Base 62. Each of these squadrons were formed as a unit of the 1st Air Commando Wing. The final aspect that made the Pleiku Air Base different from so many other bases was that the United States used it as a joint base between the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines.
Although the United States Air Force carried the bulk of the weight at the Pleiku Air Base, the South Vietnamese were not completely helpless. They had their own units there consisting of the 6th Air Division, 72d Tactical Wing, 118th Liaison Cessna, 530th Fighter Squadron, 229th/235th Helicopter Squadron bell, and 259th Medivac Helicopter Squadron. Each of these units were trained in different types of warfare and more by the United States Air Force’s 1st Air Commando Squadron.