The 481st TFS/the Nature of Temporary Duty (Jul 1965)

The 481st TFS was typical of the many USAF squadrons that temporarily deployed to Southeast Asia during 1964 and 1965 before squadrons and wings were assigned on a more permanent basis.  The 481st was one of four F-100 squadrons belonging to the 27th TFW based at Cannon AFB, New Mexico.  In the spring of 1965 the Squadron was alerted that it would be sent to South Vietnam on temporary duty in June of that year.  The deployment was brought forward at short notice and 18 F-100s took off on 12 June under the deployment code name Operation Two Buck 16.  The aircraft staged through Hickam AFB, Hawaii and arrived at Clark in the Philippines on the 14th.  The F-100s were refuelled across the Pacific by KC-135s, which also provided navigational support.  The ground element of the Squadron flew over in C-130 transports.  The Squadron was held at Clark for a week until the 21st when it flew to Tan Son Nhut, which would be its temporary home for the next six months.  The Squadron flew its first combat mission over South Vietnam on the very day it arrived.

Although still nominally a 27th TFW squadron, on arrival at Tan Son Nhut the 481st was attached to the 33rd TG that was renamed the 6250th CSG on 1 July.  Thirty pilots were assigned to the 481st including several reinforcements from the 522nd and the 524th TFSs, also from the 27th TFW.  Only four of the Squadron’s pilots had any combat experience when they first arrived in Vietnam.  The CO, Lt Col Harold E Comstock,was a Second World War fighter ace with seven victories to his credit and three of the Squadron’s pilots had already served tours in Vietnam in a variety of aircraft types.  In the first two months of its stay at Tan Son Nhut the Squadron flew an average of 30 sorties each day.  Most of the sorties were pre-planned close air support missions but these were interspersed with alert missions that were flown in response to VC attacks.  Missions were flown day and night, even though some pilots had done very little night flying until they reached Vietnam.  Almost every mission was flown under the control of a ground-based or airborne FAC and permission was required from Vietnamese District chiefs before pre-planned targets could be struck.

The 481st was due to return to the USA in August but this was postponed and eventually the tour was extended to November.  Unknown to the Squadron at the time the delay was caused by the need to prepare replacement squadrons to deploy to Southeast Asia on a Permanent Change of Station basis rather than on temporary duty.  From November 1965 onwards most of the USAF TDY squadrons in South Vietnam and Thailand were replaced by PCS squadrons permanently assigned to PACAF.  The change in status had many implications for personnel including the requirement to fly 100 combat missions before an individual could return home to the USA.

The last of the 481st TFS personnel were flown out of Vietnam on 27 November, having left their aircraft at Tan Son Nhut for assignment to other squadrons. The Squadron had been in Vietnam for six months, which was two to three months longer than most TDY rotations.  During this time the 481st had flown around 3,600 combat missions in a total of 5,025 hours.  Twenty-one of the Squadron’s pilots had each flown over 100 missions.  The hard-working ground crews had enabled the Squadron to achieve an amazing 98 per cent in-commission rate for the Squadron’s aircraft and not one combat mission was aborted because of a technical problem.  The ordnance expended by the 481st included 3,829 x 750lb bombs, 1,681 x 500lb bombs, 155 x Mk82 Snakeye bombs, 3,952 x 750lb napalm cannisters, 18,961 LAU-3 rockets, 25 x AGM-12B Bullpups, 640 CBUs and 1.6 million rounds of 20mm cannon shells.  During its tour the Squadron lost six Super Sabres with two pilots killed in action.

© Chris Hobson and David Lovelady. All rights reserved.