1st MIBARS In Vietnam!


Wings Over DaNang

Photo: View from the passenger seat of Good Guy 182, "B" Detachment's U6A deHavilland Beaver, in flight

Photo Credit: MIV


The Local Airfields:

Hubs of Activity in I Corps

"B" Detachment's Good Guy 182 somewhere over I Corps in 1967


"B" Detachment photo-observers flew with Forward Air Controllers from both the US Army and the US Air Force.  USAF flights originated from the DaNang Air Facility, the larger, dual runway installation more commonly known as DaNang Main Air Base, located near the city center.  Flights in US Army aircraft originated from the Marble Mountain Air Facility (MMAF), a single runway air field which was located away from the city of DaNang, across the the Han River. 


 DaNang Main Air Base

Photo: aerial view of the final approach to DaNang Main Air Base

Photo Credit: MIV

DaNang Main Airbase, used primarily for jet aircraft, was shared by the USAF (which used Runway 17L on the left) and the US Navy and US Marine Corps (which shared Runway 17R to starboard).  DaNang Main is pictured in mid-1967, with its parallel runways visible through the haze.  

DaNang Main At a Glance

". . . DaNang Air Base was the most northerly major air base in the Republic of Vietnam . . . located in the northeast coastal area, 85 miles . . . south of the Demilitarized Zone where the 17th Parallel separated [North and South Vietnam].   . . .Situated on flat, sandy ground on the south side of the major port city of DaNang, the area was ideal for an airfield, having unobstructed approaches to its north/south runways. Once little more than a provincial airfield, the base expanded to 2350 acres . . . with two 10.000 ft. . . . asphalt runways with concrete touchdown pads, parallel taxiways, and a heliport. . . . The base became a joint operating airfield when U.S. Forces came to the aid of the South Vietnamese. As the number of VNAF units at DaNang continued to increase, so did those of the USAF, and U.S. Marine air units swelled the capacity of the base beyond its limits. Covered and open aircraft revetments were constructed on concrete and asphalt parking aprons.  In addition to these permanent assigned combat units, the airfield was an on-and off-loading port for the huge, C-5s, and contract commercial flights of the Military Airlift Command, as well as a civil terminal for the various domestic airlines.  DaNang became the world's busiest airport in the single runway category. In the mid-1960s, 1,500 landings and takeoffs were recorded on peak days, besides having two extra traffic patterns for helicopters at the edge of the airstrip.  When a parallel runway was added in 1966, Da Nang rivaled Tan Son Nhut as the world's busiest airport. By 1968 an average month saw the number of takeoffs and landings of fixed-wing aircraft exceeding 55,000. With helicopter activities added, the figure approached 67,000. During the winter monsoon at least 4500 of these landings were normally ground-controlled approaches.  For the air war over North Vietnam, DaNang was considered the most suitable diversionary airfield in case of emergency. Landings of this nature became commonplace for Thailand-based USAF fighter bombers. reconnaissance aircraft, strike aircraft from the Navy aircraft carriers stationed in the South China Sea, and damaged aircraft of all air units stationed throughout South Vietnam

From: Wapedia.com

Images of DaNang Main That Linger In the Mind

Photo: a US Air Force F-4 Phantom fighter-bomber aircraft lifts off from DaNang Main Air Base

Photo Credit: MIV

Above: An F4C -- or Fox Four Charlie, in Vietnam War slang  -- takes off from DaNang Main in 1967

"It was probably Aug or Sept 1969.  The F4 had battle damage from an air strike and was coming back to DaNang.  He was going to land on Runway 17 Right and try to catch the arresting cable that was installed on that runway.  The landing gear on the F4 would not come down and the center line fuel drop tank could not be jettisoned, all of this and more, due to the aforementioned battle damage.  He tried to snag the cable but missed, he was going to go around and make another attempt but out of reaction, he pushed the thrust levers up too far and lit the afterburners on both engines.  This after the center line fuel tank had struck the runway and was leaking lots of JP4 jet fuel.  The aircraft, pilot and RIO [Radar Intercept Officer] became a very large fire ball ending up on the right side of the runway about 2/3d of the way down.  My crew chiefs and I watched all of this from our hangar in utter amazement."

Anyone remember the EC-121 (Super Constellation) that crashed at DaNang AFB, trying to land on Runway 35 Right?  Approximately January 1970 -- destroyed the Super Connie and about 6 F4's as it cart-wheeled into the wonder shelter revetments right in front of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing Headquarters.  . . . I watched it out of my office window, about 1500 meters away."

Ron Allari, "B" Detachment, Delivery Platoon, 1969-1970

"I have no idea if this is the same incident or not, but I was on a scatback run to pick up messages and witnessed an F-4 coming in with an obvious emergency.  Fire trucks were all out with lights flashing.  On his approach, I could see no obvious smoke or flames but upon landing, the F-4 began a slow spin, wheels still in contact with the runway.  It spun several times before coming to a stop and the trucks were on it immediately.  It never did explode but I heard later that both [crewmen] had died.  I have no idea of the date, but it seems to me it was in the evening, around dusk."

Ron Berryman, "B" Detachment and HQ, Imagery Interpretation, 1969-1970

"Bill Harris wants to know if anyone at Detachment B remembers this incident.  An F-4 crash on the airstrip at DaNang.  Evidently, the pilot panicked, tried to land the jet without ejecting fuel tanks, crashed and burned on landing, killing both pilot and navigator?  Bill can't find any information on this occurring.  He witnessed this, so he knows it happened but doesn't remember the date."

Don Skinner, "B" Detachment, Reproduction Section, 1969-1970

"I recall a B-52 crashing and buring at DaNang Main some time in '68.  Seems it had battle damage and enough 'uumph' for one pass.  Don't recall which runway, but it was south bound.  It touched down about the halfway point.  It didn't stop before it had passed over the Perimeter Road and out into the minefield.  Only survivor was the tail gunner.  I didn't witness this.  It was seen by the crew waiting on "the blue canoe" from Saigon.  The only thing left was the tail assembly, and that was still there when I went home in late June '68."

Bob Crowell, "B" Detachment, Delivery Platoon, 1966-1968

Marble Mountain Air Facility

Photo: aerial view turning to final approach to Marble Mountain Air Facility

Photo Credit: MIV

Above:  The Marble Mountain Air Facility served small craft and helicopters of the US Army and the US Marine Corps.  Lost in this poor resolution photograph are the many small aircraft parked on perforated steel plating (PSP) hardstands in the dark areas to the upper left and center.  "B" Detachment's U6A deHavilland Beaver, Good Guy 182, was based at Marble Mountain in 1967.  Successor "B" Detachment aircraft were based at DaNang Main. 

Below:  In this more detailed view of the air field, the photographer is following a flight of UH-1 Huey helicopters to landing.  Despite the multi-directional and hovering capabilities of rotary wing aircraft, they were obliged to follow the same contact, approach, landing and taxi procedures as observed by the pilots of fixed wing aircraft.  This flight, which is in an in "trail" formation -- strung out single file, one behind the other -- already has three aircraft on the active runway two others -- visible in the center of the photograph, just above the turn in the airfield's peripheral roadway -- approaching the "outer marker," or the leading edge of the landing surface.  These helicopters will move down the runway, hovering a few feet above the blacktop, like a fixed-wing aircraft, until they reach the appropriate turn-off from the active to a taxi-way leading to their unit's tie-down area or to a safe area for the unloading or disarming of weapons not expended during the mission.  The Marble Mountains, which gave the airfield its name and which were the site of considerable Viet Cong activity, are visible at the top of the photo.   

Photo Credit: Gene Zwarycz, "B" Detachment, Imagery Interpretation, 1967-1968

And A Lingering Image of Marble Mountain

 

". . . I do recall an F4C that augured in [Note: "augured in" was a military colloquialism for an essentially vertical, nose-in airplane crash at speed, a crash likely to dig the aircraft, and its pilot, into the ground, as a construction worker would use a power auger to dig into the ground - Site Administrator] just outside the wire at Marble Mountain.  It was some time in the summer of '67 (real hot), and I was pulling maintenance on Good Guy 182.  There was some commotion, some guys pointing up at two parachutes, then a huge explosion.  It made a hole outside the northeast side of the Marines' section of the airfield.  As I recall, it just missed a guard tower."

Bob Crowell

Hand-held Camera ORIGINS

First Mission

First Results

Flying With the FACS

Instructions From The Pilot

On Patrol With the 21st RAC

The A Shau Valley

Recollections From the Back Seat


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