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7th Air Force In Southeast Asia


7th Air Force Pamphlet 55-1

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Seventh Air Force was in command of all USAF assets used in Vietnam under Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV).  This pamphlet provides an overview of all the 7th AF operations.  This is a large file (53 MB) and you should right-click it and use "File Save As..." to download a copy to your own machine.


The following history was provided through the untiring efforts of Robert Blaylock, our Historian.



Lt. General Joseph H. Moore — January 1963 - June 1966 (includes 2nd Air Division)

General William Momyer — July 1966 - July 1968

General George S. Brown — August 1, 1968 - September 1970

General Lucius D. Clay — September 1970 - July 1971

General John D. Lavelle — July 29, 1971 - April 7, 1972

General John W. Vogt — April 10, 1972 - October 1, 1973



January 1963-April 1, 1966 (as 2nd Air Division) — Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN

April 1, 1966-March 28, 1973 — Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN

March 29, 1973-June 30, 1975 — Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand

Inactivated on June 30, 1975

Assigned to Pacific Air Forces on August 20, 1986, and

Activated at Osan AB, South Korea on September 8, 1986



Seventh Air Force evolved from the Hawaiian Air Force that was originally established to control a growing number of air units arriving in the Territory of Hawaii in 1940.  The command was twice renamed before settling as 7th Air Force on 5 February 1947.


The 7th Air Force’s involvement in World War II was best summed up by its air and ground crews as “Just one damned island after another.”  7th AF fought the Japanese from Hawaii 2,000 miles southwest to the Gilbert Islands, then 600 miles northwest to the Marshalls, 900 miles west to the Carolines, 600 miles northwest to the Marianas, 600 miles north to Iwo Jima, 1,000 miles west to Okinawa.  A map story of the 7th AF would cover 3,000 miles north and south of Midway to Fiji, and 5,000 miles east and west from Pearl Harbor to the Ryukus.

The Seventh was the first air force to feel the weight of Japanese power and the first to draw blood against the empire.  It flew longer to battle, used a wider variety of aircraft, and covered more territory than any other land-based air force.  It fought around the clock, flew long reconnaissance missions, dropped every type of bomb and munitions, laid mines and sunk enemy shipping.  The men of the 7th served on islands and coral atolls, received very little recognition, and endured months of monotony.  Quoting the official 7th AF history it was, “by necessity a precision bombing unit.”  Its WW II commander, Major General Willis Hale, summed up its work in the war by saying:  “The target had to be directly hit.  The difference of 40 feet one way or the other meant that bombs would either land on the lagoon on one side of the island or the ocean on the other.  And we didn’t fly 2,000 miles to kill fish”.  The command was inactivated June 1, 1949.


The 7th Air Force was reactivated on March 28, 1966 and designated a combat command at Ton Son Nhut AB, Republic of Vietnam.  It functioned as the air component of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV).  From April 1966 until 1973, the command assumed responsibility for most Air Force operations in Vietnam and shared responsibility with 13th Air Force, headquartered in the Philippine Islands, for operations from Thailand as 7/13th Air Force.  It was an unwieldy command structure.  Southeast Asia, except for Vietnam, was the area of responsibility for 13th Air Force, which had no combat role in the war.  Operational control was held by 7th Air Force.  This strange arrangement fit the views of U.S. Pacific Command, who wished to maintain control of the air war over North Vietnam.  In addition, B-52 operations were controlled by the Strategic Air Command. 8th Air Force on Guam commanded all the B-52s, tankers, and strategic reconnaissance aircraft in Southeast Asia.  They did have a liaison office at MACV headquarters. 

In June 1966, the first air attacks near Hanoi and Haiphong were flown when 7th Air Force planes bombed near these two cities.  In July 1966, US forces struck North Vietnamese forces inside the DMZ following the North’s violations of agreements not to put military forces in that area.  From March 2, 1965 until the 1968 bombing halt, the 7/13th Air Force flew Operation Rolling Thunder over North Vietnam. They also operated in Laos in support of the “secret war” on the Plain of Jars and against the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  These Laos operations were marked by “complex and difficult” command relationships with the ambassador to Laos.

One of the most famous battles of the Vietnam War was the siege of Khe Sanh in early 1968.  Seventh Air Force flew “Operation Niagara” and dropped over 110,000 tons of ordnance in attacks that averaged over 300 sorties per day.  More than 24,000 tactical and 2700 B-52 strikes were involved with the operation.  The combat base was resupplied by the airlifters of the 7th’s 834th Air Division.  The Division’s C-7, C-123 and C-130 transports air landed and air dropped tons of essential material to enable the Marines and other fighting men to hold the base.  At night, AC-47 and AC-119 gunships kept flares burning to light the night and fires raining down on the enemy troops attempting to overrun the base.

In August 1968, General George S. Brown began to oversee the process called “Vietnamization” of the air war.  At the same time, as American ground strength dropped, 7th Air Force was counted upon to bring the heavy support needed by the ARVN as South Vietnamese forces took more and more of the ground combat role.  7th Air Forces units played a heavy role in the defeat of the Easter Offensive in 1972 and again in the Linebacker operations that forced the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table.  The first USAF units to leave Vietnam were released in 1970 and the withdrawal of forces continued to accelerate.  On 29 March 1973, the command transferred to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand.  As a result, 7th Air Force controlled air assets and operations in Thailand and served in this role until deactivation on 30 June 1975.


In September 1986, the U.S. Air Force reactivated 7th Air Force as the USAF component to the US and Republic of Korea (ROK) Combined Forces Command.  Its mission is to deter aggression from North Korea against the ROK.  7th Air Force today consists of approximately 10,000 USAF personnel located primarily at Osan AB and Kunsan AB and in five other collocated bases in South Korea.  It flies the F-16 Falcon and the A/OA-10 Warthog aircraft, along with intelligence, logistics, planning, communications, and liaison duties.  The men and women of 7th AF carry on a proud tradition of service in the Pacific.

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28 Jul 2011 10:18 PM