Viet Cong Raid On An Air Base During the Vietnam War.
Above Photo: Viet Cong sapper squad prepare for an assault during the Vietnam War. (© unknown)
USMC Gunnery Sergeant Paul Moore was interviewed by Peter Alan Lloyd as part of his research for BACK (see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/)
In June 1968 I was instructed by the Advisory Group Hq at Saigon on the Tan San Nhut air base, to go to Binh Thuy air base, in the Delta area, where a new “Attack Group” was being formed This group was to consist of AD-1 Attack Bombers (Skyraiders) and H34 Helicopters.
The mission was to assault an enemy position with the Skyraiders, and then to land infantry with the helicopters. My task was to advise on the maintenance, logistics and operation of the helicopters, a task made somewhat more complex by the configuration mix of the H34 fleet, because different models had different hydraulic, fuel and other systems, all of which caused maintenance, logistics and pilot operation complications.
I flew into Binh Thuy around noon, and when I arrived artillery was constantly firing out from the base and Viet Cong rockets were landing inside it. It was so intense that I didn’t even get a chance to see the Skyraiders and the helicopters I’d been asked to inspect. Instead, we had to spend the whole afternoon in and out of a sand bag and wood bunker.
As night approached, the Viet Cong crept closer to the base, putting it within range of their mortars, and we remained in the bunker the whole night surrounded by gunfire, mortar rounds and loud explosions, as the VC over-ran the base and a sapper team blew up our aircraft.
We called in C-47 gunships and throughout the night they flew in circles around us.
Because there were no SAMs in that part of Vietnam, they came in at low altitude, and the sound was unforgettable; the long bursts of machine gun fire sounding like huge buzz saws cutting through tough logs.
In the morning we heard strings of large bombs alongside the base as an “Arc Light” B52 raid went in, which shook the ground like a mini-earthquake.
Later in the morning we were able to get out of the bunker as the local military regained control, and I was then able to take some photographs of the damage caused by the team of VC sappers who had blown up the aircraft and hangars, when they had penetrated the base. Even then there was still firing from some of the enemy who remained in the vicinity, including a sapper who was trying to hide under water.
I believe eight H34 Helicopters and eight Skyraiders were destroyed, on a night where I thought, “What a hell of a way to end my life after three wars and four years here!”
After that, I was immediately placed aboard a C47 and flown back to Saigon.
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A US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant, Retired, Paul is a veteran of three wars, World War Two, Korea and Vietnam. In Vietnam, Paul flew and test-flew helicopters and acted an as advisor to all VNAF squadrons in Danang, Nha Trang, Saigon and Binh Thuy for four years (1964-1968).
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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