1970 Bien Hoa Friendly Fire Incidents

This topic contains 5 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Webmaster Webmaster 4 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #3486

    mike3sps
    Participant

    I was at Bien Hoa AB from May 1969 to May 1970. In addition to the various rocket attacks while I was there, we also had three Friendly Fire incidents. I am looking for anyone else (especially Security Police or Augmentees) who may have additional information on any of these incidents.

    Two of the incidents occurred on the same night within 4 hours of each other on Feb 17 and 18, 1970. At about 2230 hrs on the 17th, I had my QRT crew out on a sandbag detail near the Twinkle III mortar site in Charlie Area on the East perimeter of the base. We heard the sound of an artillery piece being fired somewhere south of our position and heard the sound of rounds going over our heads. Within a second or so there were impacts within the Bien Hoa Army Post adjacent to the Northeast perimeter of Bien Hoa AB. Immediately afterward, “Incoming” was reported by one of our posts and everyone started running for cover as the air raid sirens started to wail. The rounds sounded as if they were from south to north directly over our heads at a low trajectory. The second incident occurred between 0100 and 0130 hrs and was an exact duplicate of the first incident. Luckily, no AF personnel were injured in either of these incidents. However, there were a number of Army casualties, including at least two KIAs. Although there have been different versions of the events reported over the years, the information I received soon after the incidents was that in both cases an ARVN 105mm Battery located at the ARVN Special Forces camp on adjacent to the Southeast perimeter of Bien Hoa was responsible for firing the rounds. One report suggested that a fire control officer made an error in calculations and gave the artillery unit the wrong coordinates. Another version is that the NVA or VC had sent a bogus message with a fake fire mission and coordinates.

    While the details are limited, I have two articles that were printed in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Feb 19 and 20 that refer to the two incidents.

    The third incident as I recall occurred sometime earlier in 1970 or in 1969, but I have no records that have survived the last 45 years. In this incident I was working the Charlie Are SAT and we were delivering coffee at Bullseye 13 tower near Bunker Hill 10. As we were standing at the bottom of the tower, suddenly Willie Peter rounds started impacting outside the East perimeter fence. The last of the six rounds impacted approximately 100 years from our position. Since all the rounds hit outside the perimeter and there were no casualties or damage, not in the way of records were kept by individuals. According to the reports afterward, the rounds were fired by a fire support base somewhere to Northeast of Bien Hoa and the incident was blamed on a miscalculation of 4,000 yards for an authorized fire mission.

    I would really appreciate any information others who were at Bien Hoa at the time of any of these incidents may have that will help with my research.

    Mike Kennedy, 3rd SPS Bien Hoa 69-70

  • #3488
    Webmaster
    Webmaster
    Keymaster

    Mike, first let me say WELCOME and second THANKS for the info and your SERVICE. I served at Bien Hoa with the Det #6 600th Photo Sq. for 1 1/2 years from 18Jun69 to 17Dec70. I do not remember the incidents and have never heard of them as friendly fire. Your info is the reason for this website! To preserve the history that we lived thru.

    If you have any further info about Bien Hoa Air Base, your Unit 3rd SPS, building #’s, barracks #’s, events, or anything you remember about Bien Hoa AB during your tour of service there, please post it on this website for others to see and for the preservation of our History.

    A question that I have for you is, in looking at the Grid Map of Bien Hoa AB, could you point out the location of the K-9 kennels? I think they were in the North West corner of the base and West of the bomb dump, but I really do not remember.

    Again Thanks!

    Wavelen Fielder
    Bien Hoe AB
    18Jun69 – 17Dec70

  • #3489

    mike3sps
    Participant

    Wavelen,

    Thanks for your note. Regarding the three Friendly Fire incidents I mentioned, they all occurred before you arrived at Bien Hoa. While there is some documentation on the Feb 17-18, 1970 incidents, even though I witnessed the earlier incident, I can’t find any records of it. I have friends and a VSO who keep pushing me to file a PTSD claim and records or witness accounts would help, but so far I cannot find anything.

    I think you are right about the location of the 3rd SPS Kennels, but because of my assignment, I don’t remember if I ever visited the kennels. I am going to send an email to a couple of the 3rd SPS K-9 troops and get an answer. I have a large scale 1969 era map of Bien Hoa that I found on eBay several years ago and I would like to plot all the Security Police posts (bunkers, towers and flightline positions), but I haven’t bee able to find many people who can help with that either.

    Mike Kennedy, 3rd SPS Bien Hoa 69-70

    • #3490
      Webmaster
      Webmaster
      Keymaster

      Mike, since I was there from 18Jun69 thru 17Dec70 I had to of been there during the incidents you are talking about. I arrived in country 1 month after you and DEROS’ed 7 months after you. I wish I could help you but after 45 years I have lost a lot of the memories that I had.

      Have you seen the MAP at the following link?
      http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/world_cities/txu-pclmaps-bien_hoa-1968.jpg

      The map above indicates TOWER locations but I cannot vouch for the accuracy! I noticed that the map on the bottom left corner is dated ’68, which cannot be correct because there are 2 runways on the map. The 27R – 09L runway was not constructed and completed until late ’69 early ’70, if my memory serves me right. But after 45 years I could be wrong!

      I want to thank you for seeking the info on the K-9 kennel location via emails.

  • #3491

    mike3sps
    Participant

    Wavelen,

    I’m sorry, I misread you message and transposed your dates as I was responding to your message. Obviously, as I reread the dates now, you obviously were there at the right time. Since all of these incidents occurred in the middle of the night, it is not surprising that others outside of the Security Police or Army Military Police might not be aware of what happened with a particular incident. Most people on the base would probably only recall the incidents as possible rocket attacks because they were rudely awakened in the middle of the night by wailing air raid sirens. The Feb 1970 incidents did not kill or wound any Air Force personnel because the rounds actually went over the air base and struck in the Army Base.

    In the earlier WP artillery incident, all of the rounds struck outside the perimeter of the base and there were no casualties or damage. The book “Air Base Defense in the Republic of Vietnam” referenced in another message, contains a listing of all attacks on air bases during the Vietnam War. I question a couple of the incidents reported in the book because I remember different totals for the number of rockets. In one of the heavier attacks, the number reported in the book is around 30 while our count in the field was in excess of 60 rounds. Anyway, while I have little doubt many may debate the reason(s) why, there is no listing or reference in the book regarding “Friendly Fire” incidents. That was one of the first things I looked for when I first obtained a hard copy of the book many years ago.

    Thank you for the link to the other map. I have not seen this map before. The map I have is similar to one of the other maps posted on the website. The only tower location that I do recognize for sure is the one that is just east of the end of the south runway, where the perimeter road turns north. I don’t recall the designation, but that is the farthest east SPS perimeter tower when we were there. Where the perimeter road turns east near the south runway is where Bunker Hill 10 was located. We had another tower on the East perimeter (not shown on map) located about 20-30 yards directly south of BH-10.

    I am still waiting on an update regarding the SPS Kennels, but for your reference, the Security Police hootches and motor pool were located near the West ramp between gridlines 98 and 99 and above gridline 13 next to the taxiway.

    I am not sure either about the exact date on the completion of the second runway, but I thought it was sometime in 1969.

    Interestingly, if you go to the following coordinates in Google Earth or Google Maps, you can view a photo from 2010 that shows Bunker Hill 10 in the bottom right corner. This is one of the few Security Police positions or facilities still recognizable at Bien Hoa AB (10° 58′ 25.51″ N 106° 50′ 9.55″ E).

    Mike

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