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Republic of Viet-Nam Air Force (VNAF)

VNAF 1st Air Division insigniaOn 1 June 1951, the French established the Vietnamese Air Training Center at Air Base 194 in Nha Trang. The opening of the training center was seen as the first step towards the creation of a South Vietnamese Air Force independent of the French Armee de l'Air. The Vietnamese Air Force of this period was under the command of the Republic of Viet Nam Armed Forces (RVAF) that operated under strict control of the French until the signing of the Geneva Accords in 1954.

By July 1951 the Vietnamese Air Force office was officially open in Saigon and the 1st Air Observation Squadron (AOS) was established. While the 1st AOS was ostensibly an independent unit, in reality its crews were generally used as replacements for French squadrons.

Training

During the early 1950s, Vietnamese pilots and aircrews were routinely trained in France, Morocco and Algeria. In Viet Nam however, Vietnamese pilots generally flew only training and observation missions and the French granted few leadership responsibilities, resulting in an Air Force with low morale and generally inexperienced personnel. The cover in Figure 1 was sent 23 April 1953 to 2nd Lieutenant Pham Ngoc Sang at the Marrakech Air Base in Morocco.

Vietnamese Air Force Training in Morocco cover
Figure 1. Cover sent to Vietnamese Air Force training facility in Morocco


Vietnamese Air Force Training 1951-1955
Viet Nam
    Nha Trang Air Training Center / Air Instruction Center
France
    Auxerre Air Base (Communications)
    Avord Air Base (Transports)
        View 1954 cover >
    Chamberry Air Base (Mechanics)
    Orleans Bricy Air Base (?)
    Rochefort Air Base (Mechanics)
    Salon Air Base (Air Force Academy)
    Toulouse-Francazal Air Base1
        View 1955 cover >
Morocco
    Marrakech Air Base (Fighters)
        View 1953 cover >
    Meknes Air Base (Fighters)
    Fez Air Base (Air Navigation)
    Khouribga Air Base (Fighter Gunnery)
Algeria
    Blida Air Base
Source: Flying Dragons - The South Vietnamese Air Force, Robert C. Mikesh, except 1 based on cover in author's collection.


VNAF Training at Graham Air Base Cover
Figure 2. Many VNAF pilots trained in the United States.


By 1955 France had withdrawn most of its troops from Viet Nam and the United States, who had provided economic and material support for the war since 1950 via the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP), began its first steps towards establishing a significant military presence in the country. On 1 July 1955, the South Vietnamese Air Force (Khong Quan), more commonly known as the VNAF, was established as a distinct military unit with 58 aircraft and some 1,300 personnel. Over the course of the following 20 years, the VNAF would eventually become one of the world's largest and most experienced air forces.

VNAF United States Training Locations 1957-1972
Arizona
    Williams AFB (F5-A training)
California
    Naval Air Station LeMoore, San Diego (Attack Squadron 122)
Florida
    Graham AFB, Marianna
        View 1959 cover >
Georgia
    Moody AFB, Valdosta (1961-1963)
Hawaii
    Hickam Air Field, Honolulu
Mississippi
    Keesler AFB, Biloxi
        View 1971 cover >
Ohio
    Clinton County AFB, (Training for AC-119 air craft)
Texas
    Randolph AFB, San Antonio
        View 1970 cover >
    Naval Air Station Corpus Christi (Aviation Training Unit 301)
    Lackland AFB (Defense Language Institute)
        View 1971 cover >
Source: Flying Dragons - The South Vietnamese Air Force, Robert C. Mikesh.

Many Vietnamese aircrews headed for training in the United States underwent English language training at the RVN Armed Forces Language Institute in Saigon or the English Language School in Nha Trang.

VNAF Training Viet Nam Locations 1955-1975
Bien Hoa
    Bien Hoa Air Base - Air Base 23*
Binh Thuy
    Binh Thuy Air Base
Da Nang
    Da Nang Air Base - Air Base 41
Nha Trang
    Air Training Center - Air Base 12
        View 1975 cover >
Pleiku
    Pleiku Air Base - Air Base 62
Tan Son Nhut (Saigon)
    Technical Training Center - Air Base 33 (KBC 3011)
        View 1967 cover >
    Officer Training Academy (KBC 4324)
        View 1971 cover >
* The first digit of the Air Base number indicates the order in which the airfield was established as a military base. The second digit indicates the Military Region in which it is located.
French Vietnamese Air Force Training Covers - TF02

VNAF training cover - Avord France

Avord Air Base (France)

Cancel: 01 March 1954 Gia Dinh

Address:
   Sous Lieutenant Pham Ngoc Sang
   Mess Officers
   Base aérienne 702 (Avord)
   France

The French Air Force established an Air Training Center in Nha Trang by 1 June 1951 to train Vietnamese Air Force personnel. Flight training during this early period was provided in France, Morocco and Algeria. This cover sent to 2nd Lietenant Pham Ngoc Sang training at Avord Air Base in France, which focused on transport aircraft.

French Vietnamese Air Force Training Covers - TF02

VNAF training cover - Avord France

Avord Air Base (France)

Cancel: 01 March 1954 Gia Dinh

Address:
   Sous Lieutenant Pham Ngoc Sang
   Mess Officers
   Base aérienne 702 (Avord)
   France

The French Air Force established an Air Training Center in Nha Trang by 1 June 1951 to train Vietnamese Air Force personnel. Flight training during this early period was provided in France, Morocco and Algeria. This cover sent to 2nd Lietenant Pham Ngoc Sang training at Avord Air Base in France, which focused on transport aircraft.


VNAF US Training Covers - TU03

VNAF training cover

Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi

Cancel: Vinh Long / 29 May 1971 / Vietnam (civilian postal service)

Rate: 48 dong

Address:
   Nguyen Phat Dat
   PSC #3 - Box 427
   Keesler AFB
   Mississippi, 39534
   USA

This cover was sent to the same recipient as "Training Cover 02". Mr. Nguyen, by May 1971, was located at Keesler AFB where he presumably continued his training.

The cover was sent by Miss/Mrs. Phuong, a teacher (G/V) at the Public High School (TTHCD = Truong Trung Hoc Cong Dong) in Long My, Cong Thien - a village in the southern part of South Vietnam.
VNAF US Training Covers - TU02

VNAF training cover

Randolph Air Force Base, Texas

Cancel: Cuong Thien / 29 December 1970 / Vietnam (civilian postal service)

Rate: 32 dong

Address:
   Nguyen Phat Dat
   CMR # Box 3669
   7202 B Randolph AFB
   Texas, 78148
   USA

VNAF US Training Covers - TU04

VNAF training cover Lackland Texas

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas

Cancel: Saigon / 15 July 1971 / Vietnam (civilian postal service)
Backstamp: Lackland AFB / 29 July 1971

Rate: 20d stamp on cover - at least on stamp missing

Address:
   2Lt (2nd Lietenant) Hoang Van Phuoc
   PSC #2 Box 743 Viet Nam
   Lackland AFB, Texas 78236
   USA
VNAF Air Training Center at Nha Trang

VNAF military cover

Air Force Unit at Tan Son Nhut

Cancel: 10 January 1975 (military postal service)

Rate: Military unit-to-unit free rate (Quan Thu = Military Correspondence)

Address:
   KSHSQ: Huynh Van Ngoc (Khoa Sinh Ha Si Quan - NCO Trainee)
   Khoa 1/74 SDHQ
   SHSQ Va BSCM
   KBC 4721

Return Address:
   KSHSQ: Lam H Nam (Khoa Sinh Ha Si Quan - NCO Trainee)
   Khoa 3/74 SDVK
   BTL KQ.HL.TKTcnTSN (Air Force Headquarters Training Tech Center, Tan Son Nhut)
   KBC 3011

The recipient also received cover 01; now he's with a different unit. Note that this cover was sent from Mr. Huynh's previous unit at KBC 3011.

VNAF Tan Son Nhut Officer Training Academy Cover 01

VNAF training cover


Tan Son Nhut Officer Training Academy

Cancel: 26 May 1971

Rate: 3 dong (correct military rate for the period)

Return Address:
   Nguyen V. Dong
   SVSQ/PH (Sinh Vien Si Quan - Officer Trainee / Phi Hanh - Flight)
   Company 7010
   KBC 4324

Cover sent by an Officer Trainee Cadet at the Republic of Viet-Nam Air Force (VNAF) Training Academy. The abbreviation "PH" stands for Phi Hanh, or "flight". These initials could potentially mean "Pha Huy" (demolition), or "Phao Ham" (gun boat) if it were not for the fact that KBC 4324 has been positively identified as serving Tan Son Nhut Air Base.

VNAF US Training Covers - TU01

VNAF training cover

Graham Air Base, Florida

Cancel: Saigon / 28 July 1959 / Vietnam (civilian postal service)

Rate: 9 dong

Address:
   Pilot Nguyen Quoc Phuen
   Box 678
   3 300th Pilot Training Group 8
   Graham Air Base
   Mariana, Florida
   USA


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                      ThaiDuong 530 Fighter Squadron, A-1 Skyraiders, Cu Hanh-Pleiku Air Base, Vietnam