The Tet Offensive
Bunker 051 Tan Son Nhut AB
Air Police search for remaining enemy troops the morning after an attack on Tan Son Nhut in December 1966.
The biggest test of security police combat effectiveness came during the Vietnam Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968. It was a Vietnamese holiday so no enemy activity was expected. On that day, Tan Son Nhut Air Base was attacked by a force of over seven Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army Battalions, totaling more than 2,500 enemy troops. The attack on Tan Son Nhut started shortly after 0300 with small arms fire being directed at various positions on the base. Heavy fighting commenced soon thereafter with extensive enemy fire concentrating on the west perimeter of the base. Blowing a hole in the west fence line, the enemy penetrated the base.
A five-man team positioned in Bunker 051 held off the enemy assault long enough for backup forces to respond and prevent further penetration of the base. Four of the five men in Bunker 051 lost their lives but saved countless others by their fierce resistance of the enemy attack. The men of Bunker 051 were Sergeants Louis Fisher, William Cyr, Charles Hebron, Roger Mills, and Alonzo Coggins (the only survivor). For several hours, the enemy occupied the bunker and used it against the defending security police forces. The security police forces fired constantly at the position, keeping the enemy pinned down. Army and security police forces worked together to eventually retake Bunker 051 and subsequently forced the enemy to retreat.
The Vietnam Conflict changed the threat to air bases and identified the need, under insurgent or limited war conditions, for revised doctrine. Specifically, a whole base protective system was needed, rather than one centered solely on weapons systems. There were no front lines, no clearly defined battle zones, and no safe rear areas. The North Vietnamese targeted air bases on a regular basis and destroyed a large number of aircraft. In 1965, each base was made responsible for its own protection, freeing Army maneuver units for other missions.
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Raw video from Tan Son Nhut AB
Tan Son Nhut Air Base was a major target during the 1968 Lunar "TET" offensive.