Use of Da Nang Air Base by the United States Air Force
Military Assistance Advisory Group
On August 19, 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy approved a long-range radar facility to be sited near Da Nang to observe and report Soviet flights across the Laotian border. On September 11, 1961 the deployment of a mobile combat radar system began from the 507th Tactical Control Group at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.
On June 15, 1962 personnel of project Mule Train arrived at Da Nang, operating two Fairchild C-123 Providers. These C-123s delivered supplies to distant outposts established by the Army Special Forces along the border with Laos, and to drop South Vietnamese parachute troops in operations against the Viet Cong. They were designated Tactical Air Force Transport Squadron Provisional-2.
By early 1963, Okinawa-based Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16) had established a satellite base at Da Nang, including a squadron of UH-34D troop transport helicopters, O1-E light aerial reconnaissance aircraft and support personnel, including a 30-man security platoon from the 3rd Marine Division on Okinawa. In an operation code named “Shufly,” the Marines ferried ARVN troops on combat operations, evacuated the wounded, helped keep supplies flowing to ARVN units in the field as well as Special Forces outposts in the rugged mountains along the Laotian border, and provided an air search-and-rescue capability in I Corps region of Vietnam well into 1964. Humanitarian efforts were also part of the Marines’ mission, including medical clinics by U.S. Navy doctors in remote villages and Christmas parties for Da Nang children orphaned by the war.
On Oct. 8, 1963, tragedy struck MAG-16 when nine Marines, a Navy doctor and two Navy corpsmen were killed when their helicopters encountered hostile fire and crashed in rugged mountains some 45 miles southwest of Da Nang. The two Marine choppers had been trying, at dusk, to locate and rescue a U. S. Air Force pilot and his Vietnamese observer, whose aircraft reportedly had gone down on a bombing run that afternoon. The names of the 12 Marines and Navy personnel, as well as the Air Force pilot, are among those on the first panel on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
The success of project Farm Gate and the Vietnamese AD-6s at Bien Hoa Air Base led to an expansion of the mission. This success eventually moved the SVNAF 1st Fighter Squadron to stage two AD-6s at Da Nang, flown by American pilots during 1962.
During April 1963 the arrival of the 777th Troop Carrier Squadron from the 464th TCW (Pope AFB, North Carolina) with sixteen C-123s augmented the airlift of the twenty-nine C-123s at Tan Son Nhut Air Base to support the US Special Forces in Vietnam.
By June Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) had 16,652 people, 4,790 of them Air Force. On the 28th, United States Secretary of Defense McNamara froze MACV strength.