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Tactical Air Control in Vietnam and Thailand, 1962 - 1975

 

 
During the Vietnam war the 505th Tactical Control Group was the organization primarily responsible for controlling the tactical air resources of the US and it's allies in South Vietnam, Thailand, and to some extent Cambodia and Laos.  Carrying out the mission of providing tactical air support required two major components, radar installations and forward air controllers (FAC's).  The radar sites provided flight separation for attack and transport aircraft which took the form of flight following and, in some cases control by USAF Weapons Directors.   Forward Air Controllers had the critical job of telling tactical fighters where to drop their ordinance.  FAC's were generally attached to either US Army or ARVN (Army of Vietnam) units and served both on the ground and in the air. 

As many as 11 different radar sites were set up in Vietnam and 6 in Thailand.  Locations of the radar sites in Vietnam ranged from Swissboy (Phu Quoc Island) and Playboy (Ca Mau in the Mekong Delta) in the south to Waterboy (Dong Ha) and Pamper (Quang Tri) near the DMZ.  Some sites were short lived, (Playboy, Penthouse, and Swissboy were all shut down by 1968)  while others such as Paris, Panama, and Lion remained in service virtually from the beginning to the end of the conflict.  The primary radar equipment was generally state of the art, but, especially in the early years included some of the oldest radar in the USAF inventory (the primary search radar at Pyramid was a TPS-1D, built in 1947). 

To understand where the radars sites were located and as an aid to navigating this site, go to the SEA Map.  From the map, you can click on the radar icon for a site which will take you to the page for that location.  To date, I have been unable to pinpoint where the FAC detachments were located.  Army units moved, Special Forces camps closed and where the Army went, the FAC's went.  Probably the truest and safest thing to say is that the FAC's probably flew over every square mile of land in Vietnam during the 7 years of the war.  

Headquarters for the 505th was located at Tan Son Nhut AB in Saigon.

At various times the 505th TCG was comprised of three radar squadrons, several  Tactical Air Support Squadrons (TASS)*, and a Maintenance Squadron.  These units were:

  • The 619th Tactical Control Squadron with responsibility from the Delta to Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands,

  • The 620th Tactical Control Squadron with responsibility from Pleiku to the DMZ this varied; (at one time Peacock at Pleiku was part of the 619th).

  • The  621st Tactical Control Squadron which supported tactical air operations in Thailand).

  • The 19th TASS which operated mainly from the Central Highlands south,

  • The 20th TASS based in Danang

  • The 21st TASS headquarted in Pleiku

  • The 22nd TASS based in Binh Thuy

  • The 23rd TASS in Thailand.

The TASS units flew either the O-1G Birddog, O-2 Skymaster, or OV-10 Bronco.

Maintenance support was provided by the 505th Tactical Control Maintenance Squadron first based in Saigon and later in Bien Hoa.  Many of the radio operators for FAC's in the TASS squadrons were assigned to this unit under the name Pack Rat. 

* A Note regarding the Tac Air Support Squadrons. At the time this site was originally built, I was under the impression that all the TASS's were part of the 505th TCG.  I have since learned that such was not the case.  However, because of the close ties and the fact that I've already got information here, unless someone screams loud and long, I'm going to leave the TASS squadrons in.

Lineage and Honors

For information on the official U.S. Air Force History of the 505th Tac Control Group (now the 505th Air Control Group), click on the AF Outstanding Unit Citation icon below.

Pictures

Pictures are organized into albums for each unit and/or locations.  So, for example, to see pictures of Ban Me Thuot, go to the 619th TCS page, select Pyramid, and there will be a link on that page that will take you to the photo album for that site.  If you don't find a link on a page for pictures, it probably means that we haven't received any.  If you've got pictures to submit, please be sure to read the guidelines for submittal before you send them in.  We have gotten in excess of 500 pictures so far, and it's really important to submit using the guidelines so that I can do a better job of getting them posted. 

How come a 505th TCG website?

I was stationed at Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands of Vietnam from August 1965 to August 1966 as a Flight Follow Tech.    Since that time, I've not only lost contact with everyone I was stationed with there, but I've also wondered about how Pyramid managed throughout the Tet Offensive and what happened to the Vietnamese we worked with when the whole thing fell apart in 1972. I expect that many of the other folks who were stationed at various 619th detachments have also lost track of their buddies and wondered about the places they knew. After seeing the success of the Airborne Early Warning Association's web site, I was encouraged to start this site. My hope is that this site will do at least two things:

  • provide a means for the people who worked in the tactical air control business during those years to get back in touch, and
  • to become a focal point for documenting some of the history of tactical air control throughout the Vietnam years.

Of course, what will make this thing "fly" will be your contributions.  So keep those "cards and letters", AKA "no shit stories" and pictures, coming in.  Also please sign the Logbook.  It's a great way to let people know where you are and how to get in touch.  In addition, I maintain a mailing list of people interested in the goings on with this site.  If you want to be kept posted on changes, updates, etc. send me an email at webmaster@squawk-flash.org letting me know that you want to be on the list.

Ken Kimbrough
SSgt
(Pyramid 36)
1965 - 1966

I also maintain a Yahoo Group which is a Discussion area where you can participate in on-going dialogue with other members.  To join, enter your email address in the block below.  The first think that happens is that Yahoo will send a confirmation message to the email address that you've entered to ensure that your are actually who you say you are.  This keeps someone else from enrolling you.  You'll get a message with a link back to Yahoo.   I like to suggest to new members that they at least fill in some of the information requested in the enrollment so we'll know who you are.

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This is an Unofficial site, prepared and maintained by a U.S. Air Force veteran. It is not in any way sponsored by, approved by, or otherwise sanctioned by the United States Air Force.  Please email the webmaster at webmaster@squawk-flash.org if you experience difficulties with the site.

Copyright, 1997-2007 by Kenneth L. Kimbrough