Thailand’s Influence on the Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, approximately 80% of all U. S. Air Force strikes over North Vietnam originated from bases in Thailand.

U. S. Air Force bases in Thailand during Vietnam war.

These were the major bases the U. S. Air Force operated from in Thailand:

  • Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand – During the early years of the Vietnam War (1961–1966), Don Muang was used as a major command and logistics hub of the USAF under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Thirteenth Air Force. After the expansion of U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield in 1966, most American units and personnel were transferred from Don Muang, however a small USAF liaison office remained at the base until 1975.
  • Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand – From Udorn, unarmed RF-101 and RF-4C reconnaissance planes of the 432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing flew over target areas before and after a raid to photograph the damage so attack assessments could be made.
  • Ramasun Station, Thailand – This was the home of the 7th RRFS (Radio Research Field Station). When construction began at Ramasun, bulldozers discovered and removed large nests of cobra in the process. The initial site, little more than a tent city, was given the callsign “Cobra-7”.
  • Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand – From Takhli, F-105s of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing had the job of knocking out SAM sites. In 1968, the first F-111 “Aardvarks” (an unofficial nickname, since the F-111 never was graced with an official one) arrived at Takhli from the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Nellis AFB.
  • U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand – U-Tapao had the largest airfield in Southeast Asia. From here, KC-135 refueling tankers took to the air and refueled the aircraft before and after missions over North Vietnam. In March 1967 the Thai Government approved the stationing of B-52s at U-Tapao. Under Operation Arc Light, these bombers flew over 35,000 strikes over South Vietnam from 1967 to 1970.
  • Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand – F-4s and F-105s of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing were responsible for bombing missions over North Vietnam.
  • Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand – F-4s and F-105s of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing were responsible for bombing missions over North Vietnam. Two F-111A squadrons, the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron and 429th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing were transferred to Korat from Takhli RTAFB on 12 July 1974.
  • Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand – This was home of the 56th Special Operations Wing who flew CH-3 (Jolly Green Giants) helicopters to rescue downed fliers.

There were certainly many other units that played a vital role in the operation of Thailand bases. The ones in charge of different aircraft were mentioned here.

Thank you veterans for your service.The Veterans Administration (VA) for a long time viewed Vietnam-era veterans who served in Thailand differently from those who actually were stationed in South Vietnam. The VA seemed to feel that veterans who served in Thailand were not actually part of the Vietnam War. A major area of concern is the use of Agent Orange and other herbicides during the war.

The VA has relaxed their view of Thailand veterans somewhat, but they still have restrictions on which veterans can receive compensation benefits for Agent Orange exposure while stationed on Thailand bases.

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We Thailand veterans must stay informed to understand what benefits are available to us and how to apply for them. If you want to take part in this information pipeline, I welcome your comments and guest blog posts on this Disabled Veterans Thailand website.