Thursday, October 1, 2015

VNAF 83rd Special Operations Group KQVNCH

A Douglas A-1 Skyraider of the 83rd Special Operations Group, mid-1960s.

              The 83rd Special Operations Group of the VNAF (sometimes referred to as the 83rd Special Air Group) was formed in the mid-1960s to act as an elite air combat unit. The unit most famously flew Douglas A-1 Skyraiders. The pilots of the 83rd were highly skilled, and came to have a reputation as an effective fighting force. The unit was closely linked with Nguyễn Cao Kỳ with many pilots being personally selected for the unit by him.

Pilots of the 83rd Special Operations Group
with Nguyễn Cao Kỳ (second from left, bottom row), mid-1960s.
83rd Special Operations Group squadron patches.
Right: hand embroidered, Left: printed, RVNHS Archive.
              The 83rd was also associated with the 518th Fighter Squadron with many pilots officially serving in both units. The 83rd achieved a number of battlefield successes during its history, but as the war progressed and the VNAF was restructured with different individuals assuming command, the pilots of the 83rd were eventually transferred to other units.

Pilots of the 83rd Special Operations Group with 518th Flight Squadron insignia
 on flight suits and planes, names annotated on photo, 1965.

            Pilots of the 83rd were well known for wearing black flight suits. Former member Hoi Ba Tran, states the change to black flight suits was done in 1965 at the bequest of the unit's new commander Lưu Kim Cương. Black flight suits were also worn by individual VNAF personnel in other units throughout the war, and period photographs also show some members of the 83rd in standard olive-drab suits after the 1965 change.

Lưu Kim Cương during his time with the 83rd Special Operations Group.
He was later killed in action in 1968.

83rd Special Operations Group pilots at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, 1965.
Back row, left to right: Ly Ngoc An, Nguyen Huu Bach, Nguyen Huy Cuong,
and Nguyen Quoc Phien. Front row, left to right: Nguyen Cao Ky and Hoi Ba Tran.
Hoi Ba Tran in 2012 at the VNAF MAC exhibition in Little Saigon, Orange County.
Members of the 83rd Special Operations Group in olive-drab flight suits with US Advisor, 1965, RVNHS Archive.

1 comment:

  1. My father, Phan Khoi, was in the 522nd Fighter Squadron, 83rd Special Operations Group, Than Phong... I am hoping to find anyone that went to training with him from 1959-1962 and fought with him from 1962-1966.
    Thank you,