Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
FREE Admission & Parking

Protecting the Force: Air Base Defense

"It is easier and more effective to destroy the enemy's aerial power by destroying his nests and eggs on the ground than to hunt his flying birds in the air."
- Gen. Giulio Douhet, noted air power writer, in 1921

In previous wars, most air bases were far behind the front lines. All of South Vietnam was a battlefield, though, making air bases there vulnerable to ground attack. The U.S. Air Force Air Police (later called Security Police) planned, organized and conducted the ground defense of USAF bases in Southeast Asia.

After insurgents attacked U.S. air bases in South Vietnam, the U.S. sent Army and Marine troops in 1965 to defend the areas around them. The U.S. Air Force was responsible for defense within its air base perimeters.

Personnel in U.S. Air Force Air Police squadrons developed their new combat mission under challenging conditions. At the time, they did not have combat training and important equipment like heavy weapons and armored vehicles.

Air Force Air Police established and manned defensive positions along base perimeters -- including bunkers and watch towers -- and controlled access at entry gates. They also regularly patrolled along the perimeter, with an emphasis on the hours of darkness when attacks usually occurred.

Reflecting their larger mission, Air Police became "Security Police" in 1966. By then, the Security Police had improved their organization, training and tactics. Still, even though other Air Force assets like gunships were integrated into air base defense, they lacked needed weapons and combat vehicles.

In 1968 U.S. Air Force Security Policemen saw their largest combat actions of the war during the enemy's country-wide Tet Offensive. The ferocity and scale of the Tet attacks forced the Air Force to provide heavy weapons and armored vehicles to the Security Police. Also, under OPERATION SAFE SIDE, the Air Force formed specially trained, heavily-armed combat Security Police squadrons that could be quickly sent to threatened air bases.

As the U.S. began turning the war over to the South Vietnamese in 1969, U.S. Air Force Security Police numbers in Southeast Asia declined. By 1971, responsibility for the defense of air bases in South Vietnam reverted to the South Vietnamese military.

Click on the following links to learn more about the Southeast Asia War.

U.S. Air Force Dog Handlers
Security Police Weapons
The Threat
Cadillac Gage V-100 (XM706E2) Commando

Click here to return to the South Vietnam: Tet Offensive and Vietnamization Overview.