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My Wartime Memory
Eugene J Traczyk Jr.
Airman Second Class
Bien Hoa Air Base South Vietnam
Submitted on Tuesday, October 08, 2019 at 00:13:34

Place and time: Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam 0025 hrs.
Unit: 34th TAC Group,Crash Fire Rescue,1st Air Commando Squadron, Detachment 2.

    On 1 November 1964 at 0025 hrs, Vietnamese Communists or Viet Cong, (VC) troops, initiated a surprise attack on Bien Hoa Air Base,located approximately 25 kilometers northeast of Saigon.

    Positioning six 81-mm mortars about 400 meters north of the base,the enemy VC gunners fired 60-80 81-mm rounds onto parked B-57 and A1E aircraft loaded with bombs and fuel,including staged bombs that were stacked next to aircraft on the flight line for quick turnaround.

    (Note, Their were no aircraft protection or revetments separating aircraft and bombs on the flight line during that time.

    Mortars fired by the VC also hit huge portable fuel bladders filled with thousands of gallons of aircraft fuel,rocket magazines, troop billets, the fire station and related nearby storage facilities and hootch's.

    Fire and explosions encompassed the entire aircraft flight line with bomb and rocket explosions lasting throughout the night and next day.

    Many of the aircraft were uploaded with bombs that contained time delay fuses set to detonate at various times after they hit the ground. As a result, firefighting, along with Search and Rescue operations were made exceptionally dangerous.

    Several off duty firefighters including myself,immediately responded from our hootch to the fire station,located several hundred yards away, and started the slightly damaged crash trucks. The firefighting crash trucks (011-A) were hit by shrapnel however, they were still able to function and fight fire. Aircraft fires were fought throughout the early morning hours that continued throughout the next day despite the high risk of additional ordinance detonating due to the time delay fuses on the bombs and numerous spot fires.

    Note, that additional loss of life occurred the following morning as a result of a bomb (250lb or 500 lb), that exploded due to having a time delay fuse before EOD personnel had a chance to de arm it.

    Our fire truck had to be replenished with water and foam several times throughout the night and next day in efforts to cool and stop fire from spreading and to mitigate the threat of further potential explosions and loss of life.

    Their was a lack of adequate defensive bunkers and very little protection around the make shift fire station that sustained shrapnel from incoming mortars. The very close proximity of the mortar explosions near the station and lack of adequate defensive barriers forced on duty firefighters to flee and look for cover at a distance from the fire station and flightline.

    The VC then withdrew after accurately lobbing in 60-80 mortars on the flight line, undetected and virtually unmolested. The barrage killed several military personnel and wounded over 30. Of the 20 B-57, jet bombers hit, 5 were destroyed, 8 severely damaged, and seven were slightly damaged. Also in the carnage, were several destroyed or heavily damaged (A1E Spad)single prop fighter aircraft and two damaged H-43 B, fire/rescue helicopters.

    The Air force was ill prepared to meet such an enemy threat at the time and it was only after that major attack and mass destruction and loss of life that safety, and defenses of air bases, received much higher attention and priority.

    I have a lot to be thankful for.

Note, some information in this article was taken in part from an article entitled "AIR BASE DEFENSE IN THE REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM 1961-1973.
Office Of The Air Force History United States Air Force Washington D.C.,1979.

Eugene Traczyk Jr.
Msgt, USAF, Retired
Email Eugene

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