These are eyewitness accounts of the Skyraider crash at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, just outside Davis Station, Oct 1966. If you were there, send your comments to Chui and they will be added here.
A special thanks to Walter Chisholm, 175th RR Co., for the article about the crash and to James Callahan for the crash site photo. After reading the comments on this page, be sure to go to "More crash site photos and comments"
Tino "Chui" Banuelos
There was a soccer field down the road from Davis Station and there were
hundreds of "Buddhist Boy Scouts" gathered there. They had pitched tents
and were there for a some kind of Scout Jamboree.
You asked about the Skyraider that crashed at Tan Son Nhut. Yes, I was in the EM club at Davis Station that afternoon. We heard the crash and ran over there, but the Air Police arrived about the same time we did and they wouldn't let us get close. The Vietnamese Boy Scouts were having a "jamboree" or something. President/General Ky, himself a pilot, arranged an airshow for the Scouts. They (Skyraiders) made a low pass and one of them struck a concrete machine gun guard post at an intersection on Tan Son Nhut. The plane bounced, careened and ricocheted across the rooftops of several buildings before finally coming to rest in the barber shop. The others landed hurriedly and came to the crash scene in a car. As I remember, the pilot and maybe 2 or 3 on the ground were killed.
I remember. It was slightly overcast and a few spotty
clouds. The air was
heavy with moisture. There were two A1E's, I believe and they were
doing acrobatics over Tan Son Nhut for the scouts. The one plane either
lost control or got heavy with moisture on his wings, he did a roll and
couldn't come up in time. I understand that he broke off to his left
to keep from hitting the scouts and took out a concrete building
instead, down by the first aid station. He bounced off of that and
started down the row of Ba Mui Ba stands and RVN quarters. He came to
rest next to the Ba Mui Ba stands where we used to get chinese soup.
I was also at Davis Station at the time. In fact, I had just left the front gate headed for those Ba Moi Ba stands near Camp Alpha when the crash occurred. The planes had already made one or two passes (including barrel rolls) over the Scout encampment. If memory serves, the plane that crashed was making a very low level pass, belly up, when his tail hooked the guard tower roof. I think I still have some pictures of the smoke, etc afterwards, albeit from a distance. Although I had a camera with me, I didn't have any interest in pictures of the planes as they were performing, so I wasn't in position when the crash occurred. I tried to get close to the site, but was unable to. In fact, as I was heading that way, I ran across an Air Force combat controller I knew who had just had his camera confiscated long enough to have the film removed and exposed to the sun by the VNAF police, under orders, he was told, of General Ky. I decided discretion was truly the better part of valor and diverted back to the girls at the Ba Moi Ba stand. I'll see if I can find the pictures -- they were 35mm slides, and I have no idea what condition they are in. I think it occurred in September of '66, but I'm not sure. I know it was before November, because that's when I moved up-country.
Your Friend and fellow ASA'r
Jerry King aka Spyone
Yes, I remember this event. It was an Air Show being put on for the Boy Scouts. I was headed to the EM/NCO club at Davis Station when all of a sudden we saw a plane coming real low over the buildings and then it disappeared and there was a ball of fire and black smoke. We all ran over to see what had happened. When I got there they were taking the body of the pilot out of the plane. Standing only a few feet from me was Nguyen Cao Key himself, looking quite dapper in his flight suit and brilliant scarf. There was a lot going on, but I really don't remember anything about any of our guys pulling out any injured personnel or anything like that. But that was 32 years ago.
90th Replacement Co./58th Transportation
I had just come out of the TSN NCO/EM club about a block away from where the incident happened. I was walking in the direction of the field where the Boy Scouts were having their Jamboree when I noticed a flight of 4 Skyraiders approaching from the east and the ead plane rolled over and held the inverted flight while the other 3 planes did the same. They held that formation for a few moments and then the lead plane rolled himself upright and was then followed by the rest of the flight; one plane at a time. The last plane decided to pull a backward loop and stalled the plane. I saw the plane dropping and just missing the water tower and the 1st Aviation Brigade's HQ building. He started to get some lift just before hitting the ground but ran into the concrete machine gun bunker that was part of the 1st Aviation's compound. He was very close to hitting the ground but the lift he got was enough to carry him above the first few homes that were across the street. It is then that he began to break apart and hit the top of a house which caused him to tumble and finally he crashed by the bicycle shop. A large mushroom fireball followed the crash and I was already running toward the crash scene. The plane's fuselage was sitting upright with the canopy intact but it was also engulfed in flames. I could not see any activity in either one of the plane's seats. I was the first person on the scene and I could hear the screams coming from the many homes that were burning from the crash. What did not help matters is that he crashed within the approach path for the Army Heliport. As a result, a Huey stopped to gawk and was hovering at about 100 feet and fanning the mess out of the flames. An Army major appeared and started to gesture to the pilot to leave and the crew chief and gunners were standing on the skids of the chopper looking down at the wreck. When the major signaled for them to leave, they gestured back as if asking; what do you want? The major next chambered his pistol and fired two rounds into the air and the pilot got the message and moved off. By now the flames were really going and the ammo that was in one of the wings started to explode. Prior to this and just upon arriving, I heard a piercing yell coming from one of the houses and it was a small girl running toward me; her body smoldering from being burned. I turned to help her and as I turned I heard a crash behind me which proved to be a building that had collapsed. Coming out of that building was a man whose whole body had been burned and exhibited large breaks in the skin similar to when a sausage breaks open while cooking in the oven. His entire body was black and no clothing was left on him. He was walking toward me as if he wanted me to help him. I started to walk toward him to help when an ambulance arrived and the medic placed a towel around the man's waist to cover him; as if that was going to make a difference. He guided the man onto the ambulance and when the man took a step into to the ambulance, the towel came off, taking with it the man's skin. The major who had directed the Huey to leave next turned to me and motioned for me to leave. He did not have to order me to leave because I was already set to run when some of the ammo in one of the wings started to explode.
George R. Torres A2C
USAF Base Supply
I had some free time off before my next work (evening) assignment 1800 to
0600 at base supply, when I and two other airmen went to the local Ba
mui Ba stand to pick-up some GI fatigue pants I had tailored.
Returning back to my unit I observed a large crowd gathered, mostly
young students where Premier Ky was in attendance. It was then I
noticed an aircraft coming towards my direction from the left, it had
just performed a roll maneuver, and was inverted in flight approximately
100 feet or less in altitude, when I saw the plane dip down towards the
ground, I told my two airman companions they'd better "hit the deck",
the plane was going to crash. My fellow airmen had other thoughts
(survival I think) and went further down the road, but I chose to stay
put, falling to the ground along side the roadway, covering my head to
avoid any flying shrapnel. The plane crashed into a wooden structure
(house) located across the street from me, striking it from the rear.
Once I knew there was no debris coming my way, I went across the street,
to the burning building, where I first encountered a young male child
just outside the burning building who was bleeding from several
lacerations, and his body red hot from the extreme heat coming from the
flames. I carried the child a safe distance from the inferno. I went
inside the burning building, and noticed two/three ladies crouched down
in the interior. At this point other U.S. Army troops were on the
scene. I then proceeded further into the structure to see if anyone
else was present, when I heard what I thought was a child crying. The
military police also were present getting everyone (including me) out of
the engulfed structure. Before leaving the site I told the MP'S that I
heard a baby crying to be alert. It was then the infant was located
under a beam and debris I was standing on. The baby was rescued, and
taken to waiting medical personnel. I then left the scene, catching up
with my two fellow airmen who I had been with earlier, returning to my