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Remnants of the Vietnam War: Wrecks & Captured Aircraft

Sam Dickson

army-museum-hanoi-2

The Vietnam War ended almost 40 years ago but it is never going to be forgotten by any of the nations involved. The long and bloody conflict started in what was then French Indochina from 1946 to 1954.

This was the First Indochina War and resulted in the end of French Colonialism in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam during defeat at the 1954 Battle of Dien Bien Phu. What then became the Vietnam War spanned a time period from 1955 to 1975 with the fall of Saigon and the South Vietnamese government.

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French Troops in the trenches of Dien Bien Phu 1954

 

The fall of Dien Bien Phu May 7th, 1954 Viet Minh North Vietnam

 

A U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52F-70-BW Stratofortress (s/n 57-0162, nicknamed "Casper The Friendly Ghost") from the 320th Bomb Wing dropping Mk 117 750 lb (340 kg) bombs over Vietnam. 1965-1966

 

USAF Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers flying under radar control with a Douglas B-66 Destroyer bomb a military target through low clouds over the southern panhandle of North Vietnam on June 14th, 1966 (Photo Source: US Department of Defence)

 

The Vietnam War really ramped up in 1961 to 1962. The United States and her allies including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea started to commit more troops to the conflict and remained fighting there until 1972 when the majority of troops were withdrawn following major communist losses in battle during the Tet Offensive of 1968.

Hovering U.S. Army helicopters pour machine gun fire into a tree line to cover the advance of South Vietnamese ground troops in an attack on a Viet Cong camp 18 miles north of Tay Ninh northwest of Saigon near the Cambodian border, in Vietnam on March 1965

 

 

US Army Soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry fire on Thon La Chu during the Tet Offensive 1968

 

South Vietnamese ARVN Rangers defend Saigon during the Tet Offensive 1968

Despite the Paris Peace Accords of 1973 the communist forces from North Vietnam had not really stopped their offensive and the failing South Vietnamese government continued to fight on in a losing campaign until the fall of Saigon on April 30th, 1975.

The rest is history, but many visible reminders of the war remain in the towns and cities of Vietnam in the form of memorials, museum displays and the detritus of war: the wreckage of tanks, aircraft and equipment strewn across the country.

 

A smashed French Bison (M24 Chaffee) light tank in a field near the Dien Bien Phu airport in North Vietnam

I travelled extensively through Vietnam for a couple of months in 2010. My travels including visiting sites of historical military significance to Vietnam (North and South), France, the United States and my own home, Australia.

During my travels I came across the wreckage of various aircraft (mainly operated by the United States and South Vietnam). Many were piled up as a sort of war trophy and memorial combined. Given this is an aviation site I am going to mainly focus on the aircraft wrecks which make for a somewhat intriguing experience and makes you ponder questions such as what happened to the crews that flew these aircraft?

HANOI

Air Defence Museum

This museum has displays and weaponry from the air defence units of the North Vietnamese military. The wreckage of shot down USAF Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers are within the museum grounds.

B-52 wreckage in front of the Air Defence Museum in Hanoi

 

 

Tail section of B-52 Air Defence Museum in Hanoi

 

B-52 wreck Air Defence Museum in Hanoi

 

B-52 tail wreckage Air Defence Museum in Hanoi

 

MiG-21 Air Defence Museum in Hanoi

 

SA-2 SAM's that were used against US bombers Air Defence Museum Hanoi

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Army Museum

The Army Museum in Hanoi displays military equipment used by the North Vietnamese from tanks and artillery to aircraft.

They also have on display captured South Vietnamese aircraft and a monument made out of wrecked parts of French, USAF, US Navy, US Army and South Vietnamese aircraft shot down over North Vietnam.

Captured and destroyed aircraft at the Army Museum in Hanoi

 

Northrop F-5E Tiger II Army Museum Hanoi Vietnam

 

The wreckage of US and South Vietnamese aircraft piled up as a monument at the Army Museum in Hanoi

 

This is quite a dramatic photo of a woman dragging what appears to be part of a US Navy aircraft Vietnam War hanoi

 

Aircraft wreckage Army Museum Hanoi

 

CH-47 South Vietnamese (VNAF) Cessna A-37 Dragonfly attack aircraft Army Museum Hanoi

 

South Vietnamese (VNAF) Cessna A-37 Dragonfly attack aircraft Army Museum Hanoi

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B-52 Lake (Huu Tiep Lake)

This small lake contains the wreckage of a USAF B-52 bomber shot down over Hanoi in 1972. The information on a sign at B-52 Lake is an interesting read for many reasons not just the for the “anti-imperialist” propaganda!

Information with some anti-imperialist propaganda at B-52 Lake Hanoi

 

B-52 Lake Hanoi Vietnam

 

B-52 wreckage B-52 Lake Hanoi

The information is slightly incorrect though in that the B-52 was a D model not a G. USAF information indicates a different date too, but from what I have read only one B-52 was lost over Hanoi during Operation Linebacker II (bombing campaign of North Vietnam December 18th to 29th, 1972) and that was “Rose 1” a B-52D (No. 56-0608) lost on December 19th, 1972 over Hanoi after being struck by a North Vietnamese SAM.

B-52 wreckage B-52 Lake Hanoi

 

A memorial of sorts at B-52 Lake Hanoi

The B-52 was based out of U-Tapao air base in Thailand. 4 of the crew were captured and became POW’s (Captain Hal Wilson – Pilot, Captain Charles Brown – Co-Pilot, Major Fernando Alexander – Radar Navigator and Captain Henry Barrows – Electronic Warfare Officer), the other 2 unfortunately died in the crash (Captain Richard Cooper – Navigator and Technical Sargeant Charlie Poole – Gunner).

USAF B-52D releasing its 60,000-pound bomb load on enemy targets in Vietnam. It could carry up to 84 500-pound bombs or 42 750-pound bombs internally and 24 750-pound bombs externally on racks under the wings

 

Vietnam People’s Air Force Museum

The VPAF Museum displays the history of the air forces of North Vietnam and the unified Vietnam. Numerous soviet origin aircraft are on display along with captured South Vietnamese fighters and helicopters that were used by the VPAF along with the wreckage of various US aircraft including the unmistakable airframe of a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II multi-role fighter (US Navy).

VPAF Museum Hanoi Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed and Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-19 Farmer fighters

 

VPAF Museum Hanoi F-4 Phantom II Wreckage

 

VPAF Museum Hanoi Aircraft Wreckage F-4 Phantom II US Navy

 

Parts of shot down US aircraft and pilots helmets inside the VPAF Museum Hanoi

 

Captured aircraft used by the VPAF: Douglas A-1 Skyraider Bell UH-1 Iroquois and Northrop F-5E Tiger II

 

KHE SAHN COMBAT BASE (DMZ)

The famous former US Marine Corps and South Vietnamese military base near the Laos border was the target of a massive artillery bombardment and 77 day siege by North Vietnamese forces in 1968. This was also a diversion for the start of the Tet Offensive by the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerillas in South Vietnam. Today just a few remnants of the base remain along with some captured equipment and helicopters.

USAF Bell UH-1 Iroquois and US Army Boeing CH-47 Chinook at Khe Sanh DMZ Vietnam

 

Aircraft and UH-1 helicopter wreckage at Khe Sanh DMZ Vietnam

 

Aircraft and UH-1 helicopter wreckage at Khe Sanh DMZ Vietnam

HO CHI MINH CITY (SAIGON)

War Remnants Museum

This War Remnants Museum is the major military museum in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon in the former South Vietnam). Here you can find numerous captured US and South Vietnamese aircraft and equipment. There are lots of “anti-imperialist” messages in the information signs around the museum. These are kind of amusing in this day and age, especially with all the consumerism and capitalism in a communist run country!

US Army Boeing CH-47 Chinook at the War Remnants Museum Ho Chi Minh City

 

US Army Bell UH-1 Iroquois at the War Remnants Museum HCMC

 

Douglas A-1 Skyraider at the War Remnants Museum Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

 

USAF Douglas A-1 Skyraider at the War Remnants Museum HCMC

 

Northrop F-5E Tiger II at the War Remnants Museum Ho Chi Minh City Saigon Vietnam

 

Cessna A-37 Dragonfly at the War Remnants Museum HCMC

Military Museum

A small collection of vehicles, tanks, equipment and artifacts used by the North Vietnamese including captured equipment and aircraft wreckage. One of the T-54 tanks that burst through the Presidential Palace gates during the fall of Saigon in 1975 is also on display.

A captured South Vietnamese Northrop F-5E Tiger II at the Military Museum in HCMC

 

Aircraft wreckage at the Military Museum Ho Chi Minh City

 

North Vietnamese T-54 tank used in the attack on the Presidential Palace during the fall of Saigon on April 30th, 1975 Military Museum HCMC

I can only imagine what wreckage still lays out in the forests and mountains across Vietnam. War memorial or war trophy these aircraft represent a major conflict of the Cold War and one that should never be forgotten. Lest we forget.

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