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Tan Son Nhut Air Base

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Tan Son Nhut Airbase Vietnam

Tan Son Nhut Air Base is an air facility located in southern Vietnam, near Ho Chi Minh City. Today, it serves as an ordinary civil and military airport. But over the course of the past century, several governments wrestled for control of it. As a result, Tan Son Nhut has an interesting story to share.

Tan Son Nhut During French Colonial Rule

In the 1920s, French colonial administration in Indochina faced the need for a commercial airport close to Saigon. Thus, an unpaved airport was built in the Tan Son Nhut village. Known as Tan Son Nhut Airfield at the time, it facilitated flights to and from France and across South-East Asia.

Following the Japanese invasion of French Indochina during World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army seized Tan Son Nhut. Until its surrender in 1945, Japan relied on Tan Son Nhut as its transport base in Indochina. After its recapture by France, Tan Son Nhut resumed both international and domestic flights.

Use by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force

In the mid-1950s, Tan Son Nhut Airfield was operated by the Republic of Vietnam Department of Civil Aviation. At the same time, the Republic of Vietnam Air Force used the southwest airfield as its air base.

During this period, the US ICA government agency built a 10,000-foot concrete runway at Tan Son Nhut Airfield. Furthermore, the American RMK-BRJ company upgraded the airfield with terminals, air-control radar station, and the second concrete runway.

Tan Son Nhut, however, adjoined the headquarters of the South Vietnam Joint General Staff. This turned the airfield into a hotspot for various military coups taking place in the country. For instance, Tan Son Nhut became the venue for the 1963 South Vietnamese coup.

The Vietnam War and Tan Son Nhut

During the Vietnam War, Tan Son Nhut was a repetitive target for the Viet Cong. The attacks included major assaults like the 1968 Tet Offensive and the 1972 Easter Offensive. Though unsuccessful, the Viet Cong’s actions were predictable.

Throughout the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, Tan Son Nhut Air Base accommodated many critical USAF deployments in Vietnam. Namely, it was the base for the 7th Air Force USAF command and control headquarters, Tactical Reconnaissance, and Special Operations.

Along with Bien Hoa and Cam Rahn bases, Tan Son Nhut was essential to the U.S. military operations in Vietnam. In fact, Tan Son Nhut Air Base was where the last U.S. Airman in South Vietnam left from in 1973.

Tan Son Nhut Use After the Vietnam War

In the outcome of the 1975 Spring Offensive by the North Vietnamese forces, Tan Son Nhut Air Base was captured. From then on, Tan Son Nhut has been used as a military air base by the Vietnam People’s Air Force.

At the same time, the adjoining Tan Son Nhat International Airport has become the busiest Vietnamese civil airport. With the passenger traffic of 38.5 million passengers in 2018, it serves Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam.

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