This period was from November 1, 1969-April 30, 1970.
While Viet Cong and North Vietnamese military activity in South
Vietnam continued at a low level and U.S. forces gradually withdrew, the
Republic of Vietnam re-equipped and modernized its armed forces in a
program called “Vietnamization.” To meet the VNAF ‘s needs for
trained personnel, the USAF in the fall of 1969 began training programs
both in South Vietnam and the United States. On December 1, 1969, the
AC-47 gunships flew their last combat missions as U.S. aircraft: subse-
quently, the United States transferred the AC-47s to the VNAF and the
Royal Laotian Air Force (RLAF). A few weeks later, on January 22,
1970, the U.S. Air Force began transferring to the VNAF the Tactical Air
Control System that handled air defense, tactical attacks, and air traffic
control in South Vietnam. On March 15 the USAF inactivated the 37th
Tactical Fighter Wing at Phu Cat, an air base on the coast 250 miles
northeast of Saigon, and the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cam Ranh
Bay, 180 miles northeast of Saigon. The USAF began withdrawing civil
engineering units in April.
The USAF might reduce its forces and operations in South Vietnam, but
other events prompted increased U.S. involvement in Laos. On Novem-
ber 1, 1969, with the onset of another dry season. the USAF began
another intensive air campaign. COMMANDO HUNT III. in the Laotian
panhandle to counter an increasing flow southwards of enemy troops and
supplies. The 14th Special Operations Wing's AC-119 and AC-130
gunships. although only flying a small number of the total sorties along
the Ho Chi Minh Trail, accounted for almost half of the destroyed or
damaged trucks. Meanwhile. tactical air and B-52 aircrews focused on
area targets and antiaircraft positions.
While the USAF effort in the Laotian panhandle focused on interdiction.
aerial action in northem Lam involved close air support. In January
1970 the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese mounted a major offensive
against Royal Laotian forces. On January 4 the Seventh Air Force sent a
helicopter squadron to Long Tieng, an airstrip 100 miles north of
Vientiane, for operations around Muong Soui. It also dispatched
AC-119K gunshipe to Udorn Air Base. Thailand. on February 15 to
provide armed reconnaissance along major roads in northem Laos and
close air support for Laotian forward bases. Two days later. in an effort
to slow the enemy advance. the USAF used B—52s against North Viet-
namese and Pathet Lao positions in northern Laos. Despite the intense
air attacks. the Communist forces captured Muong Soui on Febuary 24
and advancing over the Plain of Jars. by March 17 threatened Long
Tieng. The Seventh Air Force helped fly in reinforcements of Thai and
Laotian troops to Long Tieng and evacuated refugees, while its tactical
aircraft provided close air support to the beleaguered troops. By March
30 the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese forces once again had retreated.
and Long Tieng appeared safe, at least until the next dry season.
‘The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong for many years had used Cambo-
dia as a sanctuary with relative impunity, although the USAF as early as
March 1969 bombed targets in Cambodia with B-52s. Then, in March
1970, a new Cambodian government challenged the Communist military
presence. The Communists reacted with a military campaign against
Cambodian forces. As the conflict escalated, on April 20 Cambodian
Premier Lon Nol formally sought U.S. aid. On the 24th the USAF began
flying tactical missions against enemy targets in Cambodia, and 5 days
later, the ARVN entered Cambodia to destroy enemy bases and supplies
and assist Cambodian troops fighting the Communists.