This Day In History: The First Sorties In Operation Farm Gate Are Flown (1962)

On this day, in 1962 the first sorties are flown in support of the South Vietnamese were flown by the US air force.  These were the first Farm Gate missions. Operation Farm Gate was designed to provide air cover for the South Vietnamese as they battled communist forces in their country. The first sorties as part of Operation Farm Gate were flown by  T-28 fighter helping a  South Vietnamese outpost under Viet Cong attack. Within a month, the operation had flown over 200 sorties. The first planes that were part of the Operation had only been stationed in South Vietnam as part of a training mission. The 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron arrived in Saigon in 1961.  Their mission was to train the South Vietnamese Air Force.  The unit was specially formed by the air force to train the South Vietnamese air force. However, the security situation in Vietnam was rapidly deteriorating and the South Vietnamese were losing ground and this led to changes to Operation Farm Gate.

Operation Farm Gate was first designed to be only a support operation but soon the US planes were involved in combat. By late 1961, President Kennedy, was so worried by Communist advances that he ordered a further expansion of Farm Gate.  He authorized American aircraft to be used in combat roles and permitted them to be used in strikes against the communists. Modern combat aircraft were sent to South Vietnam and they began to take part in combat missions.  The President stipulated that one South Vietnamese serviceman was on-board during these missions. This was to make sure that the US air force could keep up the pretense that were only engaged in an advisory role.  Later the US pilots were authorized to carry out recon missions that sought to gather intelligence on the Viet Cong. In the first few years the US planes that took part in Operation Farm Gate could only be used against the Viet Cong and not used against North Vietnam. In early 1964, Farm Gate was expanded again when Washington sent the latest fighter-bombers to the war-zone.  The original aircraft involved in Farm Gate had South Vietnamese marking but by 1965 the US government ordered them to have US air force markings. The planes that were part of Operation Farm Gate soon were supporting the South Vietnamese army on a regular basis and provided the bulk of the air support for the South Vietnamese army. When the US air force officially took over the role of providing air cover the Farm Gate squadrons were moved to Thailand in 1967. From here they launched clandestine missions that targeted Communists targets in Laos and Cambodia.

B-26 at Bien Hoa (1962)