Bien Hoa Air Base - USAF Use During The Vietnam War - 34th Tactical Group

34th Tactical Group

The war continued to spread as enemy forces grew. By June 1963, the United States Air Force presence in Vietnam had grown to almost 5,000 airmen. As the buildup continued, USAF directed the activation of a more permanent organizational structure to properly administer the forces being deployed to Bien Hoa Air Base. The 34th Tactical Group was established, and activated, on 19 June 1963, taking control of the USAF assets on 9 July.

The 1st Air Commando Squadron was also activated at Bien Hoa. To preclude the need for an increase in personnel, it would absorb the Farm Gate men and equipment. The airmen began to prepare for the reorganization. But the missions continued, and on 20 July an SC-47 crew flew an emergency night mission to Loc Ninh and, disregarding enemy fire, strong winds, and blacked-out conditions, landed and rescued six severely wounded South Vietnamese troops. The 602nd Air Commando Squadron also was activated, flying A-1E Skyraiders.

Eight days after the Loc Ninh mission, the 1st Air Commando Squadron was activated and Farm Gate was subsumed. Air Force Special Operations Command today traces much of its lineage to Farm Gate. It is the heritage of the air commandos.

Between October 1961 and July 1963, 16 Farm Gate air commandos were killed. Also lost were one SC-47, four T-28s, one U-10, and four B-26s. Within a year of its establishment, the 1st Air Commando Squadron had shed its B-26s and SC-47s and grounded some of its T-28s after two more went down due to catastrophic wing failures.

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